"My name is Gwendolene Mugodi and I am a writer and the founder of Paivapo Storytellers, a movement that aims to provide better access to local, good quality literature to the children in Zimbabwe--and eventually beyond. Our work would not be complete without the help of local artists like Abel Zvorufura who I met through the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. As two different artists we spent about a month and a half going back and forth on this book until we got to a place we were both happy with. I look forward to sharing that full book in a few months, but for now here's a little bit about Abel and why he does what he does."
Facing Obstacles in Real Time
This past semester, during numerous sessions of “what did you take away from this Starr workshop/meeting/dinner," I responded with confidence that I had come to understand that progress is slow and that, although we tend to create a picture-perfect plan for our ventures, it is more than likely that the summer ahead would belligerently attempt to derail these plans every step of the way. I was sure that I had mentally prepared myself to face the inevitable obstacles and failures that come hand-in-hand with social entrepreneurship. Well, I was lying to myself. My first week in India has confirmed many of the insecurities and worries I had about working with Let’s be Well RED to combat iron deficiency anemia in the new location of Surat, Gujarat. With Let’s be Well RED’s success in Mumbai, I think I (secretly) believed that success in Surat was bound to run smoothly, but as I have been told numerous times since landing in India, the culture difference between these two cities is immense.
Before leaving the states, I could list all of the hypothetical roadblocks to success with all of their hypothetical solutions by memory, but the key word here is “hypothetical." The feelings of frustration that accompany continuous effort matched with poor outcomes are always a figment of our imaginations. That is, until they are carelessly dropped on our doorsteps as the rickshaws, cows, and mango carts meander by as if nothing has happened.
In the past ten days I have meticulously made phone calls, sent emails, and visited in-person numerous schools, both far and near, just to be able to speak with a principal or vice principal. In doing so I faced a great deal of disorganized bureaucracy and worst yet, apathy. In all of this, however, I have met one assistant to a head administrator who has been open and willing to fight for my cause alongside of me, and one teenager who, despite not knowing what anemia even is, is more enthusiastic about my work than most (If not all) of the highly educated professionals I have come in contact with thus far.
Therefore, I have realized that, as much as you can convince yourself ahead of time, you never truly understand the difficulty of an obstacle or failure until it happens. You may look back and scoff at how optimistically naïve you once were, but in truth, there really is nothing else you can do other than to think positive. Of course it is essential to be realistic and improvise, but focusing on your successes, however small, and being optimistic about the future of your work, however naïve this may make you feel later, is equally important. Thus, as I enter my second full week on the ground in India I will remain dedicated with my head up, and if anyone else is facing similar issues, I recommend the same. Hopefully in doing so, we will all have plenty more to say when it comes to actually discussing “what we all took away from our Starr summers."
August 11, 2016
June 13, 2016
Lauren Maunus '19 is starting a bold new venture.
Its goal: To help eliminate food waste and bring healthy, affordable food to "food swamps" in Rhode Island and beyond.
March 15, 2016"If little girls like me were saying Barbie is the pretty one and the brown one is the ugly one, that's a problem."
Yelitsa Jean-Charles studies Illustration at RISD with a a concentration in Gender, Race & Sexuality. She identifies as a visual activist, and believes that artists have a responsibility as society’s image-makers. Her doll company and book series, Healthy Roots, combats internalized racism and colorism by getting to the root of the problem: altering beauty standards and cultviating self-love for young girls through education, diversity, and positive representation.
March 12, 2016An Excerpt
Mina is a Brown-RISD Social Innovation Fellow. She traveled to her home in Iran last summer and brought back a cultural souvenir: the book she wrote, Taste of Culture. She explores Iranian families, streets, stores and the stories and spirit embedded in the recipes of Iranian food. She hopes to start a conversation about the benefit of knowing cuisines of different cultures to connect societies.
This year's class of Brown-RISD Social Innovation Fellows have just begun their yearlong foray into the world of social entrepenuership. Check out their projects here.
December 16, 2015
Ria is a 2015 Social Innovation Fellow and co-founder of No Country for Women (NCFW), an internationally-recognized gender education initiative that aims to combat systemic gender-based discrimination in India. Ria and her co-founder, Shreena Thakore ’16, who grew up in India, were awarded the Projects for Peace fellowship and used this grant to launch the project in May of 2014. NCFW was set up to educate the people in India on gender, rape culture, and misogyny through a series of workshops and initiate informed discussions about social change.
I was inspired by Ria’s story because she was determined to start a conversation about an issue in a country that fights hard to keep such issues silent and hidden. We reflected on Ria’s experiences, her interactions with young people, most of whom had never thought about this obvious form of discrimination before, and her moments of self-doubt and extreme conviction.
October 2, 2015