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Colombia

Foreign Fulbright

Let’s See the Big Picture

August 15, 2019
By Jenny Melo, Fulbright Foreign Student from Colombia

With a learning and service journey to Williamson, West Virginia, I finished my first year as a grad student studying rural sociology & sustainability. I joined a group of 11 international Fulbrighters interested in first-hand community service experience to see how this rural Appalachian community has developed and changed throughout the years.

When I applied to the Fulbright Amizade program, my knowledge of Williamson was limited to information in the news. If you do a quick search, you will find mostly unflattering stories on the opioid and coal mining crises. There are fragments of reality in that, but I knew that was an incomplete story. I am Colombian, and I know from personal experience how the media can disseminate harmful stereotypes and create distorted and incomplete representations of particular communities, and even whole countries. Understanding communities is not monochromatic; it requires a complex and nuanced perspective. My experience in Williamson confirmed that for me, and I am grateful for it.

We spent a full week together in the town, visiting and volunteering at different health, well-being, farming, and education initiatives, and learning of community organizers’ unique perspectives on Williamson. I also spent an afternoon with a mother of three, talking about how the deterioration of the coal mining industry has negatively impacted her family. These conversations expanded my understanding of what systemic community interventions look like, and reinforced my belief in going beyond stereotypes and one-dimensional views in order to develop a multidimensional approach that includes political, economic, environmental and social dynamics.

One of the initiatives that impacted me the most was the Williamson Health and Wellness Center (WHWC), a project led by Dr. Christopher D. “Dino” Beckett. This initiative uses a holistic approach to community development and is a collective response to the crises that Williamson’s citizens face, including the downturn of the coal mining industry, unemployment, and the opioid crisis. Far from a simplistic approach focusing only on access to health care, the WHWC utilizes multidimensional practices, such as access to healthy food, parks and recreational activities, safe community spaces, education, transportation, housing, and economic diversification. With these resources, everyone has an opportunity available for them. The WHWC understands that a 360-degree problem requires a 360-degree solution.

The WHWC and Williamson face several challenges created from national and international dynamics. However, the community is doing its part to thrive despite difficulties, and is reclaiming the right to tell their own story. Williamson Forward is a local news initiative fighting against stereotypes by sharing other, positive sides of community life.

This journey was a genuinely compelling experience for me, a grad student working in rural areas, who believes in the need for community resistance and collective action. I hope to come back to this Appalachian beauty someday.

Enrichment Foreign Fulbright

PHOTO ESSAY: Williamson, West Virginia, Revisited.

August 15, 2017

Editor’s note: In April 2017, twelve Fulbrighters engaged in a week-long service learning project in Williamson, West Virginia, an Appalachian community with valuable lessons to share about sustainability, perseverance and revitalization. This is one in a series of blog posts from the Fulbrighters who visited Williamson. This post by Fulbright Foreign Student from Colombia, Jorge Caraballo, who accompanied the group as a photojournalist, captures the Fulbrighters’ experiences in Williamson, as well as their engagement with local American community leaders. Visit the Fulbright Amizade 2017 Storify for more details on their journey.

Last year I had to interrupt my first visit to Williamson because of a family emergency. I remember flying over the Appalachians on my way back to Boston feeling a soft window-seat nostalgia: This small city in southern West Virginia reminded me a lot of Colombia, my home country. I also grew up surrounded by mountains and immersed in a culture with a strong sense of belonging. Three days were enough for me to create a strong connection with Williamson and its people.

By Jorge Caraballo, 2015-2017, Colombia

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U.S. Fulbright

Five Tips for Fulbright Applicants and Grantees from a Fulbright Alumnus to Colombia

November 14, 2016
nick-brown-1

Nick Brown, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Colombia

Are you considering applying to or have you recently been awarded a Fulbright grant? If so, this article is for you.

I just completed a year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Colombia. Since the experience was the best year of my life, I want to share five tips to help you with your application and/or grant.

Tips one and two are for applicants while tips three through five are for current grantees, and may also be useful to Fulbright hopefuls.

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U.S. Fulbright

High Risk, High Reward: Focusing Prevention on the Most Vulnerable Populations from Bogotá to Boston

June 13, 2016
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Giffin Daughtridge, 2011-2012, Colombia, and fellow 2011 Fulbright U.S. Student to Colombia Emma Din at Monserrate, a chapel overlooking all of Bogotá, during their orientation week.

Francesca and I were both 22 when we first met in 2011. She was a transsexual sex worker, and I was doing street outreach with the Fundación Fénix as part of my Fulbright U.S. Student grant to Bogotá, Colombia. Through our conversation, I learned she had undergone multiple surgeries from unlicensed street side providers to augment various parts of her body, consistently used a range of drugs, and engaged in sex work with up to 12 clients per day.

I enjoyed our conversation, but it also left me frustrated. Francesca was at extremely high risk of contracting an infectious disease like Hepatitis B (HBV), but she was also at extremely low likelihood of having access to the HBV vaccine. She was deeply distrustful of the public system stemming from years of abuse from police and stigma from healthcare providers, and she refused to go to any clinic or hospital to get the vaccine.

As a result, I dedicated my year to delivering Hepatitis B vaccines to the populations at highest risk of contracting the disease. In Bogotá, this was the female and transsexual sex worker population. By leveraging the healthcare resources of the Bogotá Secretary of Health and the community network with the sex worker population of the Fundación Fénix, we administered HBV vaccines to almost 200 high-risk individuals in their work places.

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Enrichment Foreign Fulbright Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project

One Year Later: Fulbright-MTP Participants Reflect

May 22, 2015
The Fulbright-MTP Participants after a panel at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City at the end of the 2014 MTP journey. Form left to right, Ammar Mohammed from Yemen; Alyas Widita from Indonesia; Katie Nikolaeva from Russia; Anser Shaukat from Pakistan; Silvia Tijo from Colombia; and Patrick Dowd, Fulbright U.S. Student Program alum and MTP founder.

The 2014 Fulbright-MTP Participants after a panel at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City at the end of the 2014 MTP journey. From left to right: Ammar Mohammed from Yemen; Alyas Widita from Indonesia; Katie Nikolaeva from Russia; Anser Shaukat from Pakistan; Silvia Tijo from Colombia; and Patrick Dowd, Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumus to India (2010-2011) and MTP founder.

The 2014 Fulbright-MTP Participants after a panel at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City at the end of the 2014 MTP journey. From left to right: Ammar Mohammed from Yemen; Alyas Widita from Indonesia; Katie Nikolaeva from Russia; Anser Shaukat from Pakistan; Silvia Tijo from Colombia; and Patrick Dowd, Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumus to India (2010-2011)  and MTP founder.

For the second year, the U.S. Department of State is funding Fulbright participants to join the Millennial Trains Project (MTP) journey as an enrichment component of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. Last year, five Fulbright Foreign Students joined 20 other riders on the MTP journey to gain an in-depth understanding of life in the United States and to strengthen their leadership, social entrepreneurship and communication skills.

Here, the 2014 Fulbright-MTP participants update us with where they are now and their advice for this year’s six participants:

Silvia Tijo, a Fulbright Foreign Student from Colombia studying at Georgia Institute of Technology (GT) joined the Fulbright-MTP journey to experience sustainable building technologies existing along the train route from Portland to New York. Today, Silvia has finished her second year of Ph.D. studies in Building Construction, where her main interest is conducting research in sustainable building design and development.

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