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Praxis Interns Serving Far and Wide

Lisa Rivera AC’05 in Lima, Peru

When she’s not at work translating a Web site from Spanish to English for a Peruvian artisans’ collective, Lisa Rivera AC’05 is off taking in the culture of the cities and countryside of Peru.

Rivera recently attended a pollada, a Peruvian fiesta, in the mountains surrounding Lima, the country’s capital, at which she feasted on chicken and danced a “Guino,” a native step. A few days later, she participated in a Panchamanca, a Peruvian pig roast to celebrate planting and harvesting.

“These experiences are difficult to describe,” she recently wrote from Peru, “from the hospitality of the Peruvians to some of the traditional and modern customs. That’s just a flavor of them.”

As a Praxis intern this summer, Rivera is one of 70 Smith students in 39 foreign countries who are gaining skills on the job, assisting organizations that can’t always afford to hire high-skilled interns, and getting a taste of foreign life in the bargain.

Praxis: The Liberal Arts at Work, a CDO program now in its fifth year, provides interns with a summer stipend of $2,000 for a 220-hour job. The program, which is open to all Smith students, allows them to seek internships and experiences without the concern of generating income. Praxis funds about 450 to 480 internships each year.

By day, Rivera works for SERRV International, a nonprofit trade organization based in Lima that markets the products of artisans and farmers in 34 developing countries in an effort to alleviate poverty and economic inequity. Rivera’s main responsibilities are revising and translating into English the main Web site for CIAP, Central Interregional de Artesanos del Peru, a partner company with SERRV International. Rivera is also assisting with the coordination of a new social tourism project.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the globe, in Bangkok, Thailand, Fleur Birch-Atkinson ’05 worked for the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that serves the country’s rural poor, in July.

Birch-Atkinson, who speaks Thai, worked mainly on compiling a program for youth delegates to the XV International AIDS Conference, which took place in Bangkok in mid-July. She also participated in the conference, compiling questionnaires and supervising a team of volunteers.

“With her proficiency in both English and Thai, her energy, as well as her prior knowledge on issues of HIV/AIDS, Fleur was a real asset to the conference staff,” remarked her supervisor at PDA, Wolfgang Frank. “Fleur also contributed some of her original work to PDA that will be useful as an educational tool.”

Birch-Atkinson was featured in the Bangkok Post during her stay when she distributed condoms for part of a PDA project among newspaper offices and on the streets of Bangkok.

And somewhere on the high seas of the north Atlantic last month, Eileen Marum ’05 plied through a torrential thunder and lightning storm aboard the R/V Albatross IV, a 187-foot trawler and registered research vessel out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

“A lightning bolt unleashed its fury within 25 feet of the bow and the thunder that emanated shook the ship,” described Marum, who spent three weeks in July aboard the Albatross. “It was an awesome display. We were rocking and rolling with water spilling across the fantail. One of the seasoned crew members said the storm was the second most violent he has seen in his entire life at sea.”

Eileen Marum AC’05 aboard the Albatross IV

It was Marum’s second stint aboard the Albatross. She had a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) internship aboard the ship last summer.

Her July trip on the Albatross was actually a break from this summer’s Praxis internship working for the NOAA’s Northeast Regional Office in Gloucester, Massachusetts. There, Marum is working to raise awareness of the inadvertent bycatch and direct exploitation of seabirds in the north Atlantic, such as the albatross. She recently represented the NOAA regional office and helped with a poster presentation of marine bird bycatch at a workshop on the issue in Wakefield, Massachusetts.

Some other Smith Praxis interns in faraway places include:

  • Ahmed Swarnali ’05 and Nashat Farhana Moin ’06, both working in Bangladesh
  • Lillian Sullivan ’05, at Eracambi Atlantic Rainforest Research in Brazil
  • Meraia Rasiga Racule ’06, at Goodman Filder International, Fiji
  • Hanna McGaughey ’05, at the Center for Health and Rights of Migrants, Japan
  • Elen Shrestha ’06, South Asia Watch on Trade, Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Anne DeVine ’05 and Ashley Pushkarewicz ’05, both in Uganda
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