Donate $10 today to support public health projects across the world. If you donate before 3:00 pm EST on November 6, you can help GlobeMed win a $50,000 prize from America’s Giving Challenge on Facebook Causes.

How you can help us win:

1) Click on the donation button to contribute $10 to our campaign.
2) If you would like to donate more than $10, come back tomorrow and donate again! Each day you donate gets us closer to winning $50,000 (it’s better to make two donations of $10 each, than one donation of $20).
3) Reach out to your friends and family to ask them to donate too!

If you support GlobeMed in this challenge:
1) 100% of your donation will go directly to a project to improve health in an impoverished community.
2) You will show your support for global health equity.

If we win the $50,000 prize:
1) We will be able to form 15 new partnerships with grassroots health organizations.
2) We will grow our network from 500 students to over 1,200 students passionate about global healt

GlobeMed is a network of university students who partner with grassroots organizations around the world to improve the health of the impoverished. Through their involvement today, students commit to a life of leadership in global health and social justice.

The GlobeMed Network currently includes 19 chapters at university campuses throughout the country and a national office in Evanston, IL. The grassroots organizations supported by GlobeMed chapters span the world from Mexico to Nepal. Since 2007, GlobeMed students have raised over $140,000 for public health projects in 21 communities around the world.

For more information visit

Posted by: nickysmith | November 5, 2009

Support Community Kitchen for Tibetan Refugees

From my friend Anoop who has been working day and night on this cause…

Thousands of Tibetans have been displaced since the Chinese invasion of their homeland in the mid 1950s. Many have fled to countries all around the Himalayan region, including India. McLeod Ganj, a small mountain town in the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is the official home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. Because of this, many Tibetan refugees cross the treacherous Himalayas by foot and try to make their way to McLeod Ganj. The journey is often done in large groups and takes any where from 1-2 months.

Most Tibetan refugees arrive in India with little more than the clothes on their back. As global awareness of the continuing struggle between Tibet and China increases, NGOs supporting the Tibetan cause are becoming more and more prevalent not only in the Himalayas, but wherever Tibetan refugees end up. These NGOs provide basic services such as cultural immersion programs, job and language training, and programs for displaced children.

However, one of the most basic necessities is often overlooked. Clean water and food are absolutely essential for the welfare of these refugees. Because money is extremely tight amongst the refugee community, healthy and affordable food is not always accessible.

The LHA Charitable Trust located in McLeod Ganj is one NGO that is desperately trying to provide these refugees not only with the skills that will help them stand on their feet tomorrow, but with the food and water they need to survive today. The LHA needs $25,000 to construct a community kitchen that will provide discounted food to refugees (please see attached document for breakdown of costs). Your donation will go directly to making this a reality.

I have set up a donation page which offers more information about the cause and you can see it at, Any support you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

If you have any questions, or need any more information, please let me know. Thanks for your time.

Best Wishes,

Anoop Jain

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” – Rabindranath Tagore

Do you know teachers who are awesome and out to help make the world a better place?

The Asturias Academy, a non-profit school that works with Guatemala’s poorest children, would like to meet them! We are looking for teachers who want to raise awareness with their classes about the lives of poor Guatemalans. Our goal is to connect 20 classrooms in the US with our 20 classrooms in Guatemala so that through the relationships we’re building we can make improvements in the lives of Guatemala’s young.

According to a recent government report, 75% of all Guatemalans earn a living in the informal economy (selling gum, shining shoes, etc.). These low-wage jobs keep most of the country locked in poverty and anguished parents need to choose between food, education and medicine. The result for many families is disastrous.

The answer is education. By building the Asturias Educators Network you will be helping us find the solutions that will help folks lift themselves out of poverty and into a happy dignified life. Please send contact information for educators to and we will make contact with them so that we can build a strong network that can spread the word about the crisis in Guatemala and the plan for change.

Thank you,

Steve Mullaney
Director of Development
Miguel Angel Asturias Academy
Guatemala phone: (502) 5317-6711
US phone: 763-219-1450
Skype: StevenMullaney

NU & Mumbai Sister City Initiative Proposal

Hey above is a link to the proposal a group of Northwestern students have been working on about global partnership and a sister city idea with Mumbai.  Please check it out and let me know your thoughts (it’s pasted below if the link doesn’t work).  Sorry for the lag in my posts, but I’m busy preparing for Truman Scholarship interviews (for public service and grad school) and organizing my research on migrant communities on the urban periphery of Mexico City (I’ll post that here soon too) so stay posted as soon they’ll be another cool post (I’ll also make some posts on thoughts about gender, history and development here in Mexico and politics in the US ha).   Thanks for reading, Nicky

In a world where over half of the world’s population lives in urban spaces, the dynamics and problems of the city are increasingly defining the nature of global political, social and cultural phenomena. The pace of urbanization in the developing world has been overwhelming, as continents such as Africa and Asia, traditionally known as places of agrarian, pastoral culture, begin to face issues of slum living, cultural globalization and public health. Many top tier universities, recognizing concerns in the impact of these transformations as well as educational institutions’ role in developing global leaders, have moved to increase their commitment to internationally focused classes and programs. However, just as student involvement and initiative are vital parts of the campus educational experience, so they should also be used to supplement university efforts abroad. In order to facilitate effective, creative and efficient student outreach on an international scale, we propose the formation of a sister city program between Northwestern and Mumbai, India.

The idea for a sister city program arose out of a series of conversations concerning the work of several students with various experiences abroad. Together, we recognized the obstacles inherent to any student-led project overseas with respect to acquiring funding, establishing contacts on-site and using time abroad for valuable research, outreach and exchange. We felt that a program that encouraged a geographically concentrated and topically collaborative process between students of diverse backgrounds would help mitigate many of these problems and lead to new possibilities in the ways in which such work is done.

This grant will fund the initial steps in building this relationship.  Specifically, this seed money will be used to send a task force of students to visit with a variety of organizations in Mumbai, India (the organizations are outlined at the end of this Proposal in the “Mumbai Organizations” section).  These different organizations will represent various sectors (government, business, academia, civil society) and address a variety of issues, in order to fulfill the vision of a multi-disciplinary center for exchange. At the end of the visit, students will return to campus and compile all of the information collected into a student resource book full of practical living information, organizational profiles and contact information for allies and partners in India.  In addition, the task force will generate an assessment that will evaluate the successes to date, the benefits and obstacles of Mumbai as a sister city candidate, and a comprehensive plan for next steps in creating a formal partnership.

With this initial survey, resource book and action plan completed, we will be able to assemble a coalition of students, professors, university administrators, and community allies both in Mumbai and at Northwestern that will develop a vision and long-term plan for what this partnership will look like and what it will take for a meaningful, reciprocal partnership to be sustained.
Background Information

A university “sister city” project is a unique model that, according to our research, as not been implemented by any of our peer US universities (as determined by The Consortium on Financing Higher Education or COFHE).  A sister city would be a geographically concentrated area in which Northwestern maintained formal, academically-based partnerships with local institutions and people. This initiative would create the foundation of a partnership abroad that promised stability, continuity, and high quality experiences for Northwestern students and faculty.

We envision a set of programs that brings together students, community members and significant faculty support, through both curricular and co-curricular engagement,  to generate a unique collaborative experience among disciplines, sectors and countries. After considering our observations and interaction with the global engagement and education initiatives at Northwestern, we have determined that this partnership would have three main facets:
1.    Co-curricular short term engagement: this would include student group engagement abroad, such as tours by performance groups, Alternative Student Break (ASB) trips, etc.
2.    Individual research and/or volunteer opportunities: our contacts would allow deeper, more meaningful experiences for students going abroad with Undergraduate Research Grants for their thesis or other independent research, as well as students who want to develop a more academically focused element to international volunteerism.
3.    Curricular hub: In the past several years, Northwestern has developed study abroad programs in a variety of countries, including Croatia, Mexico, Uganda and China.  A similar study abroad program would create a hub for the educational objectives of the sister city initiative.  This program, which will be developed in partnership with Northwestern University, Kellogg, and professors at universities in Mumbai as well as university administrators and staff at the Center for Global Engagement, will involve a for-credit “lead in” course, a specific academic program in Mumbai that centers around cross-sector interaction in a globalized world (various “tracks” for students with different interests and study of the intersections of those issues), a formalized internship, and group process and team development through immersion experiences.

We are focusing on Mumbai because currently, Northwestern does not have any formal programs or partnerships in India.  Considering the fact that India is a key player in the globalizing world, and Northwestern has committed itself to increasing partnerships with countries in the East, Mumbai is an ideal place for this Sister City Initiative to be based.  Northwestern faculty have strong ties to India, and there is a strong presence of Indian leadership on Northwestern’s campus (including economics, industrial engineering, and Kellogg) as well as in Chicago. Northwestern is currently in the process of establishing a journalism program in Qatar, joining the movement of prestigious U.S. universities setting up branches in the Middle East, and a program in India would solidify Northwestern’s presence in that part of the world. If we are looking for a consistent city that links many students with organizations and on-the-ground contacts, Mumbai’s size and prominence allows for diverse student skills and interests to connect with communities.

In summary, the goals of this grant would be to build a foundation for these structures by:
    Creating a “free flow” of people and ideas between NU students and various actors in Mumbai from a variety of sectors and specialties
    Establishing a directory of “on the ground” contacts and begin to build relationships to facilitate future student interest in working in India
    Facilitating further learning about the emerging global presence of India and its relationship to the United States in an increasingly globalized world

How the Topic will be Addressed
As a first step in the establishment of a Sister City Initiative, we propose sending five students to spend time in Mumbai developing the resources necessary to facilitate future outreach work in the city. This group will be composed of students of varying academic disciplines and personal backgrounds and will spend two weeks fortifying existing and exploring new ties with NGOs, academic contacts and other organizations in Mumbai. The five students are: Robert Kett (a Musicology and International Studies double major), Samuel Kleiner (an American Studies major), Ian Epstein (a Performance Studies and Urban Studies double major), Rae Shih (Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences and Social Policy double major), and Nikolai Smith (a Social Policy and International Studies double major). The Grant funding will be used for (1)  meeting with a small select group of organizations/institutions that we have identified and have made contact with in order to identify potential partners (listed at end of this proposal); (2) gathering information about needs and resources; and (3) laying the groundwork to establish an organization structure for a sister cities program that will be the basis for applying for further funds.

The final product of this first excursion will be a guidebook to be used as a tool for future student initiatives. This resource will first be published online and, with proper funding, in pamphlet form. These materials will provide historical context, social background and discipline-based resources in Mumbai, along with suggestions concerning funding sources and contacts for those looking to perpetuate the Sister City Initiative. In so doing, we hope to provide a means of bypassing what can be long, inefficient, and often prohibitive planning processes as students look to become involved in international initiatives.

Following this preliminary work, the group will seek to create an organization on campus that will be capable of promoting the program amongst the Northwestern community, offering assistance to students and student groups looking to do work in Mumbai, and creating opportunities for effective debriefing and continued involvement in Evanston. Should these efforts be successful, the Sister City Initiative will not be limited to the work of individual students, but will become a lasting tool for outreach and international involvement at Northwestern.

Our group has already thought about funding sources for these future phases of the project. From our different experiences abroad, we have an array of contacts, both at Northwestern and abroad, that can help us with implementing the initiative and connecting it with our past experiences abroad. The Sister City Initiative fits with the diverse interests and skills of our group as many members of our group have had funding for projects and study abroad experiences that have led to an interest in the Sister City Initiative and which the Initiative builds upon. In terms of our past global engagement and education experiences, Rae Shih, Nikolai Smith, and Jacob White participated in the Engage Uganda Study Abroad Program this past summer, and Nikolai and Jacob received a Northwestern Research Fund to do work in educational policy and historiography. Also during the last summer, Ian Epstein received an Undergraduate Research Grant to do research in Brazil, while Kelly Kirkpatrick has spent the past fall on global engagement in Thailand.  Currently, Nikolai and Robert Kett are doing the Global Cities Program, and Robert received a Study Abroad Research Grant for studying musicology in Mexico City and Paris.  These experiences have provided us with an understanding of the different study abroad experiences that Northwestern and our peer institutions offer, and a desire to create new programs for students who want a global education and engagement experience that fits their background, interests and skills.

Mumbai Organizations

Northwestern students have many relationships with diverse multi-faceted community organizations in Mumbai, which will aid in involving diverse student groups and interests.  Mumbai also has less barriers to cross as other third world-cities as English is the first language, there are many flights between Chicago and Mumbai, and many current Northwestern students and alumni have studied, volunteered, worked, and lived in Mumbai, including the current Chief Justice of the High Court in Mumbai.
Northwestern students involved in our Sister City Initiative have connections with the following organizations that work in Mumbai:
•    Marketplace: Handwork of India ( Evanston-based Indian fair trade NGO that sells products in the Northwestern bookstore and who Nikolai Smith has interned with for the last two years
•    Veerayatan ( connects different kinds of volunteers to different projects in education, development and humanitarianism
•    Indicorps ( based from the US and takes college students to India to intern for two years and has different innovative volunteer programs
•    Asha for Education ( also US-based student organization dedicated to the support of basic education in India
•    Pratham ( an extensive network of societal missions to achieve universal primary education in India
•    International HIV/AIDS Alliance ( works with a variety of community organizations throughout India and also receives funding from the Gates Foundation and the Abbot Fund (located near Northwestern and already supports GlobeMed, a Northwestern-based group)

Hola amigos (as everyone who is trying to sell me things yells at me),

First, HAPPY YEAR OF THE RAT!  The Chinese New Year is upon us (I’m going to Mexico’s Chinatown tonight!), and you know what they say: “Rats sing, they dream, and they express empathy for others”  They also sniff out mines and diseases: check out and donate to the amazing NGO APOPO, which trains sniffer rats to detect explosives and diagnose disease.

Back to my blog.  Sorry for the long lapse in posts. Our group has been traveling a lot including to Puebla, the second-largest city in Mexico, and Oaxaca with amazing natural beauty, but the things that have stuck with me from those places are The Plan Puebla Panamá and the obvious discrimination that the large indigenous populations of Oaxaca and Chiapas experience in land rights and access to education and health resources (good article on Mexican poverty). Oaxaca reminded me a lot of large U.S. cities and cities like Dubai where they have a beautiful, clean tourist and business part of town and then your remember that you’re in a city that has a huge concentration of poverty (in the case of Oaxaca, the second most). Both Puebla and Oaxaca were amazing and beautiful, but there’s another side of them that we don’t see in the tourist parts of the town or that is easy for us to ignore.

Another thought I keep having is the concept of a third world country. In my Jan 17 post, I mentioned a talk by Hans Rosling, a global health expert and data visionary, who debunks myths about the so-called “developing world” using extraordinary animation software. He warns against assuming third world countries have everything worse off than first world countries, that you can group all the third world countries, group all of sub-Saharan Africa. Instead, there are vast differences between each of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, even within each individual country, and the differences between “first and third world countries” is not that easily defined especially when looking to the used indicators: life expectancy, infant mortality, etc.

In our NAFTA lecture here (we’ve had three talks that have focused on it), a former Mexican Ambassador to France, discussed how when Mexico wanted to be a part of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), that Mexico was “conscious of their reality” and wanted to be a part of GATT, but “needed the advantages given to a third world country”. He then added that today’s Mexican officials need to be reminded of Mexico’s “third world status”.

As the 15th largest economy, but having poverty levels anywhere from 20-40% of the population (depending on what level you use: less than $1, $2, etc.), Mexico doesn’t fit the UN’s third-world designation, but many people within Mexico and outside development authors, describe it as such. I even read a lot about Mexico City in my Northwestern Anthropology class: Third World Urbanization, where the recent work Planet of Slums focuses a lot about the world’s largest slums, the most gargantuan of which is in…Mexico City (at a population of 4 million it’s larger than the City of Chicago!).

Urbanization and the rise of slums is not only a concern for Mexico City, but for the world. According to the UN Chronicle | The State of the World’s Cities Report 2006/7, the year 2007 will signal:
….when the world entered a new urban millennium in which the majority of its people will live in cities. It will also see the number of slum dwellers cross the one-billion mark, when one in every three city residents will live in inadequate housing, with no or few basic services.

I’ll leave you with that fact and with the above thoughts on third world designation and global urbanization. I have a problem with making my blog posts too long so I’ll try to post short ones more regularly. Stay tuned as over the next week I will be discussing:

-Mexican Democracy? and the “Poverty Problem”

-Bottom-Up Community Development vs. Top-Bottom International Development (IMF, WB, WTO, Washington Consensus)

-Role of Women in Development and International Feminism



Other random things I wanted to share:

MSF’s Top 10 Underreported Humanitarian Stories…PLEASE CHECK OUT

Neat article on options for making positive social change in whatever you do:


What do you want to talk about?

Are there topics you want to get the world to talk about? What do you want to comment on or find out what others think about?


First off, my Mexico photos so far are at the end of this post.

Second, the image at the top of blog is of an aerial view of Mexico City as I wanted to show how extremely big this city is and even walking and exploring small neighborhoods are like thousands of cities in themselves (the Metro train that we take moves 3.6 million miles a day!).

We are finishing up our second week of classes here. We learned a lot about the history of Mexico City and the founding of Mexico, which are extremely interesting as you have the old Aztec city (which was built on islands on a lake creating a town of canals), which was then demolished by Cortez who built another city on top of that (in the now dried out lake) and the city is just huge. Also really neat is their recent transformation to
democracy (as they had the same political party in power for 70 yrs) so we’re studying the specifics of that now. We travel to Puebla (3 hrs away, 2nd largest city) this weekend as two of the guys on our trip are from there and are taking us around (but we’ll still be watching the Packers game!). When discussing the Mexican government, our teacher brought up an interesting point asking what are the minimum qualifications to participate in the global economy? This was important for Mexico as it transitioned into a democracy, and he argues that this transition was forced on them so that they would be fit for the global market (foreign investors could trust their businesses there and such). A thought to think about. We also do Friday cultural excursions, including tomorrow to the colonial part of the city (such as The Metropolitan Cathedral, the oldest in Latin America).

I also got the chance to speak to the director of Fundación Cedros, who works with “niños de la calle” (street children) throughout Mexico. He asked if I would teach English at their shelter on the weekends so I am going to be starting that soon. Ojala que (I hope that (derived from Insha’allah, the Arabic phrase for “God Willing”)) will help my Spanish as I help their English.

This will also help in my research of community-based development in Mexico (see the Coady Institute for ways how this type of development is done throughout the world) so if you know of any cool community organizations or people in Mexico City (or Paris or Shanghai for that matter), please let me know. I am also ending all my posts with a link to a talk from, a site with tons of free talks from some of the world’s best thinkers. In this talk, Lakshmi Pratury discusses the lost art of letter-writing, which my host mother here in Mexico loves to do, and which we should all do more often. It’s ironic as I use a blog to communicate my thoughts instead of sending letters. It makes you ask the question of when was the last time you wrote a letter? Let me know what you think of her talk and send me your address if you want a postcard from here!

Speaking of my host family, it is going great. We live with an older couple in a house that has been in my host mother’s family for hundreds of years and has a dance studio on the first floor (where she taught ballerina since she was 12 and now Salsa is taught there), and I watch Simpsons in Spanish and listen to the Juno soundtrack with my French roommate Jean.

Our host family just told us their funny pet history so here’s a shortened version: neither the husband or the wife can imagine their life without pets. The husband found a turtle 20 years ago (the side of a thumbnail) on the street and put it in his pocket and gave it to his wife in an envelope and said here’s a gift (he later realized there was a pet shop right where he found it). The turtle, Shaka after the Zulu King (as the turtle was a fighter) died a couple months ago, but some funny highlights: it only ate human food (ham, salami, eggs) and would spit up turtle food (seapeople), it climbed out of its tank using the curtain that would blow by it, and their large dog would pick it up by its shell and bring it to the garden. They also had a rabbit and a small dog and since the rabbit was there first, the small dog imitated everything the rabbit did (laid like it, ate the alfalfa they planted for it and other rabbit food). My host father laughs as he says we had to tell our daughter that the rabbit went to the University as the dog ended up killing it. They now have two funny dogs that they found on the street who sneak in our room when they can and won’t leave. I think animals are funny, like us, and I hope you do too.

Hasta luego (see ya),



Universidad Panamericana (where I study) and la casa de mi host family (where I live, with two funny dogs)

El Zocalo y La Reforma (the busiest street downtown and the center of the city)

El Templo Mayor (center of the old Aztec civilization (not an empire we learned, no concept of that) which is the only chunk of the civ left in downtown (the rest was demolished by Cortez) and is now covered by today’s Mexico City)

Museo del Templo Mayor (Major Temple Museum)

Volantes de Papaya (guys flying around a pole with a flute)

Museo Anthropologia (One of the best in the world and home of La Piedra del Sol (the Rock of the Sun, many mistake as being the Aztec Calendar, but either way, amazing))

My work and research for the rest of the year will be a lot broader than the work I described in my previous blog post. I will be working with and researching refugee and migrant community organizations that utilize the Asset-Based Community Development model, which emphasizes focusing on the assets and successes of communities, rather than their needs and a problem-solving approach. I will specifically focus in on groups that are international in scope, in that they have offices in countries outside of their home country. I am going to study how much development is local as opposed to by “outsiders”, such as those outside of the community and outside of the country. This is especially important to target many of the national income inequalities that exist in Mexico between communities that are urban and rural, northern and southern states, and the rich and poor.

One of the main community organizations that I am working with and researching is Amextra, a fairly large bottom-up community planning and organizing group that works with urban and rural communities, mostly low income ones and specifically expanding communities created by rural migrants moving into the city and into new communities. They especially aid the migrant population in integrating into their new community and economy. I will be visiting communities that Amextra works with this upcoming week, and speaking with members of their staff to see the research needs they have and how their organizations utilizes the Asset-Based Community Development model.

Finally, the talk from that I encourage you to check out is by Hans Rosling, a global health expert and data visionary, who debunks myths about the so-called “developing world” using extraordinary animation software. See if it changes some of your perspectives on the “third world”.

Paz, Nikolai Smith

My last blog, which was on (Engage in Uganda), described my work this past summer with Chaford or Charity for Rural Development, an indigenous community organization in Gulu, Northern Uganda. A group of American students and I worked with Ugandan refugees and students who have been displaced from the over 23-year long conflict in the North. It was the first study abroad program in the North, and a very unique program as it combined studies, academic research and an internship with an NGO (Engage Uganda Program). If you’d like to see my blog from my Jordan State Department Trip 2 Summers ago, I recently found it (has a lot of history and current state of Jordan and surrounding area as I wrote it while the “2006 Lebanon War” was occurring between Israel and Lebanon).

I am on another unique study abroad program called Global Cities where I travel with groups of Mexican and French students to Chicago, Mexico City, Shanghai, and Paris to do research in teams, take classes and go on cultural excursions. In each of the cities, I am researching the relationship between the government and immigration and refugee asylum policies with community organizations that work for immigrant and refugee rights. I also will focus on a community organization in each of the cities to use as a case study and do interviews and hopefully research and work for the organization to aide our comparative academic yearlong research on the issue and also a research need they have.

This past fall in Chicago, I researched the relationship between civic society and the unaccompanied/separated refugee children in Chicago, specifically the legal provisions, policies and organizations that are set up to protect them. “Separated Children” are children seeking asylum without their guardian, who they have been separated from them in many ways, such as war, trafficking, etc. A big problem in asylum law and international agreements is that they ignore children. When Refugee Law was being formed (post-WWII), immigrants/refugees were seen as traveling only in families or that kids were not traveling often. In addition, there were no advocates for children at the time.

The separated children phenomenon is considered new, as literature and studies on it have only been occurring for the past couple decades. Recent studies have shown that the issue is extremely important as about 5,000 separated children are detained every year in the U.S. (Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, 2002), and there at least 25,000 separated children at any given time in Europe (Separated Children in Europe Project). It is also a key political issue as there is mounting national and international concern about child trafficking, while there is little academic research on separated children and there are weak policies, throughout the world, in terms of there being few services and funding for these children.

For my work, I specifically looked at the ways civic society has responded to the lack of appropriate care for and attention to separated children. This is important given the gaps in refugee law from decades ago that are still in effect today and the omission of children as a special category for consideration in these laws. There have been many studies done by academics and ex-immigration officials on the failure of past and current policy both in their writing and implementation, but these studies have only focused on the failures of asylum law and what the government and the international community needs to do to strengthen the laws surrounding asylum law and separated children. Yet, none of these studies focus on the role of civic society in providing the services that the law and the government fail to ensure for separated children.

I have worked with refugee children in the past, through my work with an after-school program at Sullivan High in Rogers Park, Chicago, a school with almost one hundred different languages spoken and a huge amount of students who are refugees. I have also volunteered with organizations who work with refugees in Chicago, such as Interfaith Refugee and Immigrant Ministries and Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights. Yet, I have never explored what happens to separated children in Chicago. Through an interview with Dr. Edwin Silverman, Bureau Chief of Refugee and Immigrant Services for Illinois Department of Human Services, I found that there are a few main community organizations in Chicago, specifically for asylum seekers, and how separated children are treated as a subset of that. First, separated children are detained and then referred to the International Children’s Center (ICC) by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. The ICC is part of the Heartland Alliance division entitled Heartland Human Care Services. Although the disposition and care for the children are the province of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the US Department of Health and Human Services, civil society plays a role in pushing this Government Office to provide appropriate care. Following the International Children’s Center, the children are either repatriated, united with state-side relatives, or placed in foster care.

There are specific actors in civic society who are ensuring that the government is providing care that takes into account the specifically unique needs of separated children especially given that international law and US government practice ignore the special concerns of these children. One such proponent is Bob Glaves, Director of the Chicago Bar Association Foundation, who advocates the Federal Government for legal support for separated children. Another key actor is Mary Meg McCarthy, Director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, which staffs the International Children’s Center (ICC). Bob and Mary Meg have been instrumental in prodding the federal government to provide appropriate care for the children, service specific sites such as the ICC as opposed to criminal detention facilities, and legal service support for the detained children.

My research this past quarter, which I have described above, has been interesting and there is still much work to be done on the subject, but I look forward to my time in Mexico City (this winter), Shanghai (early Spring), and Paris (into the summer) to continue the research of the relationship between civic society and the government in terms of immigrant and refugee rights. There is still little academic research on the gaps of asylum laws, and it is important to know what is keeping asylum law from being able to protect children and why the community organizations that I have described are necessary to fill the gaps. Academic research on the importance of community organizations and the inefficiencies of asylum law can push these cities to have stronger policies and help their community organizations to have more support for intervening on behalf of separated refugee children.

Finally, I want to end all my blog posts with a link to a talk from, which shows videos of ideas and work from some of the world’s greatest thinkers. This talk is from Paul Bennett, a British branding and design guru, who describes “how his firm works to reframe the everyday realities of its diverse clients to create results that truly make a difference.” Some questions to think about from this talk are where we, the individual, individual organizations, and society as whole fail to look at issues from the person’s perspective that we are working “for” and hopefully with. For instance, for those are doing development work, how often do you look from the perspective of those your organization is working with?

Peace, Nikolai Smith

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