Jean Luc '10PUBLIC RELATIONS MAJORRwanda
Jean Luc Dushime '10 was born in Rwanda. He grew up between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. He survived the Rwandan genocide and the long walk across the Congolese jungle. Since graduating from Champlain, he has used photography and video to advocate for and shine the light on social issues locally in Vermont and internationally.
We talked with him about his work and travels.
I came to Champlain College through the Community College of Vermont. What attracted me to the school was the class sizes. The classrooms were small enough for me to have all the attention I needed from my teachers. The facilities were top-notch and I can say that the New American scholarship from Champlain was an unbeatable offer. I majored in Public Relations.
For years, I thought of efficient ways to tell my story. During the war, I have seen how photojournalism has played an instrumental role in getting the world's attention. That's when I became aware of the power of images.
However, I have also seen the devastating impact of images when taken out of context, so I decided that if there would be someone to tell my story, it would have to be myself.
I don't exactly remember how I started taking photographs, but the first camera that I ever owned came from a raffle I won at Champlain. I'd never won anything before, but this time I did...and it was an Xbox. Instead, I asked the school to give me a gift card to Best Buy, and the next day I went and selected a camera from the store.
I started by taking photographs of my family and friends. I never stop asking questions of my friends who are photographers. My senior year, I enrolled in a class to learn the black and white negative film processing in the darkroom. Shooting film taught me to slow down while I shoot and to think hard about composition and light before I press that shutter because film is expensive. Shooting film made me a better digital photographer.
I just spent three weeks in Rwanda with a group of 20 high school students from Harwood Union High School (HUHS), teaching them multimedia and storytelling skills along with another instructor. Before that I was in India for a month traveling and working on a multimedia project.
I went to India to document the Siddi community-a community of Indians of African descent. I spent 12 days with different families traveling by motorcycle covering around 60 kilometers a day in remote areas of the Karnataka region. The Siddi were brought over by the Portuguese some 500 years ago as slaves from Africa. They now live isolated lives since the Indian government hasn't given them land, so they make a living by farming for others.
They have limited access to healthcare and the children are not being educated in English. They have been told that they are backwards intellectually, dropping out of school when English proves too difficult and they become discouraged.
I ate, played, and slept in their homes. Their hospitality was remarkable and life changing. I am grateful to them for allowing me to be part of their lives.
My goal is to raise money to put five young Siddi folks through grad school. I want to be part of this process of creating leaders for tomorrow. When they finish they will be education advocates for their own community and inspire children and parents, showing that education is important.
Going back to Rwanda was a major step. I have wanted to go back home for years but never found the strength to do so. When I returned from India, a friend called, inviting me to join him on the HUHS educational trip. This time I was ready. It was the perfect time; my bag was still packed. I was ready to face my past.
Going to India gave me strength and courage to go home. For the last eight years spent living in Vermont, I felt very African, but as soon as I landed in India I realized how American I have become. My way of thinking, reacting, and saying things had changed. Traveling to Asia took away my fear of traveling outside America for the first time.
Rwanda had also changed. I had to ask someone to take me around because I couldn't remember places. It felt unreal walking in a place where everybody spoke my language and looked familiar. The food was amazing; my body reacted to familiar sweet smells of passion fruits and bananas. I hadn't been so excited for food in a long time.
I saw my grandmother who I had not seen in 16 years. She is very old, but I was happy to hold her in my arms. I went to see her in my mother's village where I spent every summer growing up. It is a place I cherish in my memories. I also went to my dad's birthplace. The last time I was there I was around age 5. It was very emotional to see family members. I also went to many genocide memorials and cried for friends I lost during the 1994 tragedy. I can say that as hard as it was, I was able to find closure. I freed myself from irrational fears and faced the real ones. As much as I belong there, I also belong here. I have grown so much in the last two months. I feel like I have traveled to my past and back again.
The hardest part of this journey I am on is working hard to stay true to myself and to keep pushing forward, creating compelling work that is not only beautiful but also educational.
Jean Luc Dushime will speak at a TEDx talk in Los Angeles on June 29. Click to learn more. An exhibit of his photos from India is planned for this summer. You can see more of his work online at his website, www.dushimejeanluc.com.
Mahmoud '15 COMMUNICATIONS MAJORHebron, Palestine
Mahmoud, an international student from Hebron, Palestine, can only be described as inspiring. In 2012, Jabari gave a TEDxTeen Talk titled Bringing Peace with More Reporting as a Global Teen Leader through the We Are Family Foundation, where he narrates his experience of growing up as an activism journalist in a city plagued with conflict.
Before coming to Champlain in January 2012, Jabari reported for World Youth News and Al-Jazeera Talk, and was elected Youth Mayor of the city of Hebron from 2005 to 2008, where he led many social initiatives as he now does as a student leader at Champlain. His peers describe him as earnest and benevolent; he seeks out countless opportunities to tell his story and advocate for social change. I heard many interesting stories while interviewing Jabari about his transition from Palestine to Champlain College.
In the summer of 2010 I attended a youth leadership retreat hosted by Miracle Corners of the World at Champlain College, which led me to apply.
Ever since I was 10 years old, I wanted to come to the United States because I was interested in politics and wanted to create more opportunities for my people. The government schools in Palestine don't prepare students for school in the U.S., so I taught myself English from the time I was in sixth grade. After the Youth Leadership Retreat at Champlain, I knew it was the starting point for a transition in my life.
For the past year, I have worked in Champlain's Emergent Media Center (EMC), which enabled me to bring the game Breakaway to my homeland in the summer of 2012. Breakaway is an online soccer game promoting teamwork and gender equality. At one of the summer camps I brought the game to, boys and girls played soccer together on the same field for the first time. The EMC has been very supportive of my interests and beneficial to my studies as a communications major.
In April I attended the Clinton Global Initiative University's annual meeting in St. Louis for a weekend after creating an action plan for poverty alleviation in Palestine.
A group of students and myself, with the help of BYOBiz director Robert Bloch, have developed Abraham Market International, an online content hub that sells handmade goods from Palestine and tells the stories of the artisans dedicating their lives to making them through journals and multimedia. This will provide an opportunity for Palestinian people to raise their standard of living and educate their children.
Based on my experience, I think youth from all cultures and nations are able to overcome political, religious, and cultural borders, and become unified based on their common dreams: to create a world in which they'd like future generations to live.
Lawuo '14ACCOUNTING MAJORGbarnga City, Liberia
I got a scholarship to come to the United States when I was 15, and I went to high school at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont. I decided on Champlain because I like the size of the school, and I heard they have a great accounting program.
I like the community. It's not a big college, so most of the people I see are people I see all the time. I've really gotten to know them and get close to them.
I'll be doing one this summer at an investment banking company downtown called Oleet & Co. They are starting a big project involving the EB-5 program, which is basically where foreign nationals invest in U.S. businesses to secure jobs for U.S. workers in exchange for a green card. It's my first internship, and I'm really excited.
It's helpful because you learn a lot about other cultures. For example, in The Secular and the Sacred, you learn what certain people practice in their religion. You learn what is good and what is taboo, so when you come in contact with people who practice that specific religion later in life, you know what to do and what not to do, which is very important.
I am the facilitator of the Cultural Community Alliance Club. Our membership includes international students who educate everyone about their culture and a handful of U.S. students who educate us as well. This past year, we celebrated International Education Week with a speaker series and other fun events. It's a great way to make friends.
I am thousands of miles away from home, so that can be challenging. But I have a host family here, and they're my family away from home. Last summer, I was the International Student Orientation Leader, and new international students came to me with many questions like "What do I do? I'm homesick." And I could say, "Yeah, I've experienced that," and I was able to help, and that felt great.
I'm already a practical person, so when I learn something in class I like to practice it right away. That's why I'm so excited about my internship. The professors really stress the value of internships. And they stress not just reading the textbooks because you have to or so you can get an A. It's about actually studying so you can remember the information and practice it. They really emphasize that.
The people in Burlington are really friendly. If you're walking down Church Street and you see someone, they're going to smile at you and say "hello." I like that. It's a great community.