The Advocates for Human Rights may be based in downtown Minneapolis but the nonprofit works across the world, offering programs in international justice, human rights education, refugee and immigrant rights, and women’s human rights.
Given that many Mac students and alumni have a similar commitment to advancing human rights, it’s not surprising that connections have been forged between the college and Advocates. This year alone, almost a half dozen Macalester student interned at Advocates for Human Rights.
One of these students, Cameron Kesinger ’15 (Redmond, Wash.), worked in the organization’s Refugee and Immigrant Program, handling clients, researching country conditions, writing up cases and summaries, and using his Spanish skills to translate interviews and legal documents. Says Kesinger, “I was able to work closely with clients and was exposed to many inspiring individuals who have overcome unspeakable hardships. Hearing their struggles every day continuously pulled me out of the ‘Mac bubble’ and encouraged me to recognize the relative insularity and privilege of my life, both as a U.S. citizen and a college student.”
Sasha Lansky ’14 (Amherst, Mass.) also interned at Advocates during the most recent academic year. As an anthropology/international studies major and French minor with concentrations in African Studies and Human Rights and Humanitarianism, she found that the internship “perfectly combined and drew upon all my academic interests and skills.”
The knowledge and experience she gained while studying in Cameroon— where she conducted field research on Cameroonians helping provide humanitarian aid to refugees from the Central African Republic—made her “much more prepared to cope with the harrowing stories that our clients share with us.”
Macalester coursework, especially the Writing Human Rights, and Culture and Globalization classes, also helped prepare her for the internship with Advocates, says Lansky. Likewise, “the hands-on experience I was having at the Advocates meant I could get so much more out of my courses. The work I did there complemented the theoretical frameworks I learned in my international studies courses, allowing me to see broad trends in various countries I had researched through the lens of individual lives.”
Both Lansky and Kesinger broadened their understanding of human rights through their Advocates internships. “One of the most challenging aspects of the work is the need to keep things in perspective while simultaneously being sympathetic with each of our clients,” Lansky says. “It’s important not to rank our clients against each other in terms of their suffering. Each person deserves an opportunity to live free of fear.”