Students from all over the world gather at Fairfield University JUHAN conference
(Posted on June 26, 2012) More than 100 students from Jesuit universities worldwide, including residents of the Philippines, India, Qatar, Lebanon, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Australia, convened at Fairfield University for the Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network (JUHAN) Student Leadership Conference for young people with a calling to work in the humanitarian field.
The students, including many from member institutions of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), came to learn from humanitarian relief experts and academics as well as from each other at the four-day conference entitled "Global Perspectives on Humanitarian Action." Organized by Fairfield University's Center for Faith and Public Life, the event featured leaders from such organizations as Catholic Relief Services, Jesuit Refugee Service, and Save the Children who met with the students, most of whom are intent on embarking on careers in social justice, humanitarian action, and community activism.
Alexandre Khouri, of Normandy, France, who attends college in Beirut, has worked on a JUHAN project to help Iraqi refugees, and attended to hear the practical advice of leaders of relief agencies. Keerthana, a graduate student from India who wants to be a social worker, came to learn global perspectives on humanitarian action. "I am very to proud to attend the conference," she said. "Being a woman I would like to be a voice for children and women who are helpless."
Fairfield rising junior Jesus Nunez was interested in how he can work for a non-governmental organization (NGO) when he becomes a nurse. "Now I know how [NGOs] work with each other, foreign governments, donors, the media, and the people they serve," said the Texas resident. "For instance, I learned about the NGO All Girls Allowed, which works to alleviate the troubles the One-Child-Policy has afflicted on the women and girls living in China."
JUHAN was founded to prepare undergraduates for humanitarian action whether as a career or related to their own civic responsibilities. Roundtables and presentations offered best practices on service/immersion trips, simulation exercises on humanitarian crisis, and frameworks for helping people in politically unstable environments, to name a few.
JUHAN efforts at Jesuit universities and colleges involve curriculum, action on campus and community service.
Students from Ateneo University in the Philippines discussed their project to organize stakeholders in its community to respond to disasters like typhoons that plague the Pacific Ring, efforts involving connecting students via text messages. They have already had the opportunity to put this plan into action. Sanaa Chadda, an International Development Studies major at Australian Catholic University, gave a presentation about how development programs are helping alleviate poverty in India. Seniors Maria Clinton and Nargis Alizada, founder of Fairfield's Muslim Student Association, discussed their JUHAN project, Stand For: Pakistan, aiming to create media awareness of the monsoon floods that hit many provinces there.
Other Fairfield students shared lessons learned from spring break experiences in Joplin, Missouri and New Orleans, where they repaired homes damaged by natural disasters. Recent Fairfield graduate Sara Hoegen, one of the presenters, will soon be working for the Augustinian Volunteers, a Catholic service organization. "The mission statement of [JUHAN] and my zeal for the Jesuit value of men and women for others were what pushed me to do whatever I could for those who could not do more for themselves," said Hoegen.
Kelly Ryan, acting deputy assistant secretary for immigration policy for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, told the students: "If you believe you are called to be men and women for others, this is one of the best ways to live it."
Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., director of the Center for Faith and Public Life and professor of sociology, noted: "The project reflects the Jesuit value of developing individuals to look to the humanitarian needs of the world."
Dr. Gita Rajan, professor of English at Fairfield, was one of numerous Fairfield faculty taking part. She discussed "Impact India," her research project with the Center for Faith and Public Life exploring India's sex ratio imbalance crisis. Dr. Ana Marie N. Siscar, project director of the JUHAN Teagle Assessment project at Fairfield, observed of the event: "The [participants] felt incredibly welcome in Fairfield and the broader JUHAN community, and thus motivated to grow JUHAN in their respective campuses," she said.
It was the third biennial JUHAN student leadership conference, with the two previous meetings taking place at Georgetown and Fordham Universities. Those institutions as well as Santa Clara University and Fairfield organized the event. Numerous American Jesuit schools had many students and staff attending. For more information, visit www.fairfield.edu/cfpl/cfpl_juhan_conferences.html.
Images: top) Fairfield School of Nursing student Jesus Nuñez, a rising junior, left, with Gaelle Isazu, a rising senior, at the recent JUHAN conference. "My favorite part of the conference was all of the students that came from different Jesuit universities," said Nunez. "It was touching to see so many people care about such causes."
middle) Dr. Ana Marie N. Siscar, center, project director of the JUHAN Teagle Assessment project at Fairfield, speaks with students from Georgetown University Qatar, political science majors Dana Qarout, left, and Mak Selimovic, right.
bottom) Fr. Ken Gavin, S.J., assistant international director of Jesuit Relief Services in Rome, participated in a plenary about the Jesuits and social justice.
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