"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."
It is just past 9 in the morning and the sun is already near noon. It will stay up high nearly all day, beating life into the earth and calling forth the lush vegetation to explode in dense growth, almost as dense and lush as my hair. Almost, but not quite. The sun is different, here in Panamá. Everything is different here in Panamá. I have been here one month tomorrow and I am just now comfortable.
In retrospect, the summer schedule I had made previously seems so entirely naïve that it’s hilarious. How did I expect to plan out my summer when I really had no idea of what I was getting myself into? It was like planning a walk through a city I have never been to where I give myself directions to turn at streets I do not know exist. If I had followed my initial summer guide I would be terribly, terribly lost. The sun is different in Panamá.
I was recently told by a dear friend that in new situations, he noticed I have a tendency to hang by the fringes and observe before I act. As a Development Studies concentrator, this trait is crucial in not overstepping my role in a community. I need to be cognizant of social norms and expectations so that I respect the people I am working with. Yet the sun is different in Panamá. The trees are different, the air is different, the language is different, the daily schedules are different, the transportation is different, the education system is different, the men of this rural town who farm and ride horses are different, the children who are experts with machetes are different, even the other interns in my program (a group of 19 young women from mostly southern and Midwestern states) are different. As someone who waits to observe a community before deciding my place in it, I suddenly was an observer everywhere I went. Neither the local soccer court, nor the living room of my house where spaces of comfort for me. So I turned inwards to the one stable platform I still knew I belonged: books.
Although I certainly enjoy travel, I cannot deny the fact that community building is exhausting. It also requires a firm sense of self. My immersion back into books gave me just the slightest foothold of self to ground myself before moving outwards and constructing a more stable platform for myself in this place. The more I step outward, the more I am supported by helping hands as faces that were once different become familiar. An older woman I had approached once for a tentative local food project saw me yesterday and invited me to her house to discuss it further. A young man I play soccer with invited me over to watch the U.S. – Panamá World Cup qualifier in his living room. A teenager I had tutored at an after schools program helps me spread the word to his school about an online education program I wish to start. The schedules are now in place for two iTeach-related programs in two nearby communities to begin. Both programs are being advertised, attended, and organized with the help of individuals I whose faces have become familiar over this past month.
The sun is different here in Panamá. Yet it is now becoming familiar.
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