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Smith (left) and White (right) with selections from the VoW book series.
Smith (left) and White (right) with selections from the VoW book series.

Spotlighting Human Rights

Shannon Smith ’15 and Kaziah White ’16 are interning this summer with Voice of Witness (VoW), a San Francisco nonprofit that uses oral history to illuminate contemporary human rights crises around the world. The organization is built around a book series that presents the stories of people who experience human rights injustices. The accompanying Witness Education Program uses the stories in the books to introduce teachers and students to oral history-based curricula that address pressing social issues and meets common core standards. The VoW internship is sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship through their domestic partnership program.

White wanted to work for Voice of Witness since her senior year of high school, when she read their books about the United States immigration and prison systems and was inspired to change her views. She says that as soon as she saw the internship posting, she knew she had to apply. VoW’s mission fits well with her major in anthropology, concentration in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights, as well as her post-grad plans to work in human rights.

Smith says that she was attracted to Voice of Witness because it allows her to apply her academic interests to a humanitarian purpose. “As an English major and anthropology minor,” Smith says, “I have learned to look for socio-political influences in stories, novels, and poems.”

The internship allows Smith and White to do “a bit of everything”: fundraising, updating the website and social media accounts, assisting with the organization’s education program, and editing and fact-checking drafts of the organization’s latest book, Palestine Speaks, which comes out in November. Though Smith and White agree that it can be wearing to read stories about human rights abuses for many hours, they find great value in giving personal voices to complicated issues. “The work we’re doing is empowering to our narrators and informative to readers who would otherwise be unaware of such stories,” says Smith.

—Sam Fox ’14

The ramp from Magill Library with Ryan Gym and Sharpless Hall in the background.

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