Fellow: Sarah Hymowitz
Fellowship site: University of Minnesota Human Rights Center/International Indian Treaty Council, Minneapolis, MN



 

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Name of Fellow:Sarah Hymowitz


Fellowship Site: University of Minnesota Human Rights Center/International Indian Treaty Council


Brief History of Organization (founding and salient steps): The University of Minnesota Human Rights Resource Center produces and distributes educational material nationally and internationally and conducts trainings for human rights educators and advocates.The International Indian Treaty Council is an organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the human rights of Indigenous Peoples throughout the world.


Departments/Programs in the Organization: Indigenous Peopleís Human Rights Handbook and Curriculum Project


Responsibilities/Duties/Tasks undertaken by the Fellow: Coordinator of Indigenous Peoplesí Human Rights Education Project


Accomplishments: Produced Executive Summary for International Indian Treaty Council Conference in New Zealand, coordinated participants of Indigenous Peoplesí Human Rights Handbook and Curriculum Project, co-authored Overview of Handbook, edited Handbook and Curricula, researched issues for Handbook/Curriculum, wrote project updates for granting organization.


Challenges:It was difficult to coordinate the work of writers/activists across the US.It is much easier to work as a team when everyone is in the same place, but thatís not always possible.

Conferences Attended:United Nations Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


Other projects/works started or completed: Grant writing, grant editing.

 

Personal Essay Section:


How has this fellowship changed the ideas and expectations you had before leaving?

††††††††††† While I did not travel any distance for this fellowship, it has undoubtedly changed my ideas and expectations for my career.I have always been committed to human rights work and have been an advocate in several different areas, but Iíve never worked directly in human rights education.Although I am now pursing a career in human rights law, I know that human rights education will always be a significant part of my career.To this end, I am planning to participate next year in a program in which law students teach constitutional law to high school students in the Washington, D.C. area.One of my goals as a teacher in this program is to teach basic concepts of law in a human rights framework.

Perhaps more importantly, I have gained a better understanding of how human rights advocacy can be connected to and incorporated into any kind of work.In the Indigenous Peoplesí Human Rights Education Project, we strove to organize the teachersí guide (Handbook) and curriculum in a human rights framework.It doesnít seem like such a radical idea to do that, but we oftentimes forget or are not taught to view social issues as fundamental human rights issues.Now it just seems natural to me to examine any social issue through a human rights lense, but I donít think I did this nearly as much before my fellowship.

 

How has your motivation for human rights work changed/altered or remained the same?

††††††††††† I was motivated to do human rights work before, but I think I have a better focus now.As a result of my internship and the inspiring people I worked with, I realize more now that human rights work is so much more than a job Ė itís incorporated into everything you do in life.Iím anxious to join the community of human rights advocates and to be continually inspired and motivated by the advocates around me.

 

Who had the greatest effect on you during your fellowship experience and why?

††††††††††† My fellowship mentor, Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, undoubtedly had the greatest effect on me during my fellowship.To begin, she has an extensive background and vast experience in human rights education/advocacy and, as a result, is more knowledgeable about the issues, advocates, organizations, and movements in the field than anyone Iíve known.†† I benefited from her work and experience because she was willing and took the time to really introduce me to advocates, organizations, issues, and new ideas.She is extremely busy at work, but she always found time for me and was kind enough to include me in meetings, bounce ideas off of me, entrust me with new work, and make me an important participant in the project.These things she did from the first day I met her, and it really made me feel great to be given challenging work and succeed in it.Kristiís mentorship was one of the most rewarding parts of my fellowship and one that I will always have in mind when I serve as a mentor to someone in the future.

 

How did your perspectives on the world change from interning at a local/national/ international human rights organization? After completion of your fellowship, how do you anticipate bringing your fellowship experience back home to your local community?

 

††††††††††† I donít know that my perspectives on the world changed in any drastic way, but I certainly learned more about Indigenous Peoplesí Human Rights issues than I ever knew existed.Before my fellowship, I thought that I would eventually go back abroad and do human rights work in another country.While I was never deceived that human rights work was not essential in the US, I am more convinced now that my place to do human rights advocacy may be here in America.I learned so much about the issues of Indigenous Peoplesí Human Rights and feel committed to being an advocate, so I am continuing my work by volunteering with the Indigenous Rights Training Institute that will be held at American University this spring.

 

What quote would captivate ďa momentĒ that you had during your fellowship?

†††††††††††

††††††††††† No quote comes to mind, but an amazing moment that I will always remember is when I first walked into the opening session of the United Nationsí Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.†† Entering the conference room, I expected to see a large group of people sitting at their desks in suits and ties, as is fairly commonplace in those types of meetings.†† But when I entered the room, I saw hundreds of people wearing vibrant colors and foreign dress, people from all corners of the world embracing each other and acting like old friends, and heard Aboriginal music playing.The atmosphere in that room was really intense, but in a joyful, kind of inviting way.Listening to each speaker Ė all of whom had traveled from great distances to be thereĖ I had an opportunity to experience the profoundness of everything I had learned about during my fellowship Ė even if only for a moment.Just seeing and hearing all of these people, some from the most remote corners of the earth, all working towards the same goals, was really an experience and one that I will certainly never forget.

 


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