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Summer Fellows Learn, Promote Human Rights Around the World

Japsimran Kaur is a summer fellow in India
Publication Date: 
Aug 01, 2017

This summer, funding from the Handa Center enabled 14 students to work in seven countries on issues such as child rights in Brazil, environmental law in Washington, D.C., LGBTI rights in Ghana, mental health law and policy in India, and development programs for migrant and local communities in South Africa.

Engaged in applied work, summer fellowships provide ample opportunities for learning and reflection.  Chanel Kim and Tanya Ittimeykin are both interns at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia.  “I feel like the work I am doing is so important. Through it, I have learned so much about the work environment at Tuol Sleng and the history of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. I admire my co-workers greatly for their hard work and dedication to making this museum so great,” states Tanya.  Chanel adds, “I've been given meaningful work that I would not have found outside of this internship. The moral and psychological questions have been riveting…I am definitely learning.”

Summer internships are student-driven: students identify areas they want to delve into more intimately, with guidance from the Handa Center. Hanna Smith, an intern at the United States Institute of Peace, states, “My work is incredibly meaningful. I've been researching the peace dividend of Colombia and drafting a special report on that topic…thanks to the Handa Center's mentorship (and the phenomenal team I'm working with at USIP), I've been pushed, inspired, and enthused by this challenge.”

Challenges can be both personal and professional, as many students adapt to working in different cultures, languages, and contexts. For example, Graziella Camata, a Handa Center Children’s Rights Brazil Summer Fellow says, “Even though I speak Portuguese, I've found that working with lawyers presents a huge language barrier,” which she must overcome to accurately represent the organization she works with while redesigning their web site.  Even weather can be a new challenge for students engaged in field work, as Japsimran Kaur reflects: “It feels very meaningful to continue a project that I started working on at Stanford and see it come to life in India. The monsoons and other challenges have delayed our project but we have finally been able to begin our data collection.” 

Yet summer is not all work and no fun! Students take advantage of being in new places with new friends. Andrew Quirk says, “Weekends have been absolutely packed. I'm trying to everything Cape Town has to offer- I went on safari, parasailing, a rugby game, markets, comedy clubs, countless hikes, wine festivals, the Cape of Good Hope… I could not be more stoked.”

This year’s human rights fellows and interns are at the following sites: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Cambodia; Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Washington, D.C.; Community Empowerment Lab, India; Solace Brothers Foundation, Ghana; United Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C., Center for Defense of the Rights of Children and Adolescents, Brazil; Center for International Environmental Law, Washington, D.C.; Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, South Africa; Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy, India; and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Canada.

Through summer fellowships and internships, combined with the newly launched Minor in Human Rights, the Handa Center bridges study in the classroom with real world application. The Handa Center is a key partner for Cardinal Quarter, a university-wide initiative that supports students to pursue full-time quarter-long public service experiences, locally, nationally, and globally. 

Ultimately internships ensure students have meaningful, applied research and work opportunities to complement their studies, inform future career pathways, and make an impact on challenging matters. You can read about current Handa Center internship and fellowship opportunities here