As a 2019 Vira I. Heinz awardee, Libby traveled and experienced multiple locations in South Africa including George, Cape Town, Soweto, Khayelitsha, Johannesburg, and more. Her time abroad brought learning both through excursions and with the curriculum of history and environmental social change. Throughout her classes, Libby was able to learn the history of the country she was living in and the role South Africa plays globally in environmental impact. Her primary goal of study was to first, contrast previous segregated political legislation to the United States, and second, analyze and understand the remaining social contrasts and promises of reparations. As a student majoring in political science, she improved her understanding of racism and privilege throughout her interactions with locals and her work with South African students. With her excursion in George, Libby connected with Nelson Mandela University students, discuss the decolonization of education, and learn different characteristics of South African culture. During her time here, she was able to enjoy braai with both cultures and learn new words in Xhosa and Afrikaans. Although unplanned, Libby also saw the variance in interactions between the different races of students and started to grasp the idea of lasting impacts of previous country’s legislation. Another highlight of Libby’s time abroad was meeting with different women leaders from the surrounding communities of Cape Town. Here, she met with the women of the Victoria Mxenge Community who have built over 5,000 houses for people living in informal settlements. Libby saw that these women were able to empower their surrounding community without the help of the government and with the predispositions working against them. Feeling inspired, Libby was able to better grasp the ways community leaders work to improve human rights. As she continues her future into the careers of politics and law, Libby realized that when it comes to improving the livelihood of the people around her, it is important to understand the impact either her actions or legislation has on human rights.
CEE Title: SOS: Save Our Societies
For the University of Pittsburgh, Oakland Campus, 2019 CEE, we conducted a CEE titled “S.O.S. Sustaining Our Societies”. The Pitt 2019 Viras and I aimed to create a workshop in which participants would travel through a path based on their answers to sustainability questions. At the end of the path, each participant would arrive at one of the four Vira tables. Here, we were able to connect our experiences abroad and the definition of sustainability. At the end of our talk, we questioned each participant on their own definition of sustainability and linked how their idea of sustainability is different in other societies. Considering the serious nature of these discussions, we incorporated food and activities in order to create an engaging environment for everyone. Here, we held an activity where individuals were able to design reusable tote bags, which would be donated to the food shelter. At the food shelter, people would be able to reuse these bags in order to carry their groceries. Our goal behind this was to bridge a further connection between the Pitt student community and the community of Pittsburgh. At the end of the CEE, we were able to see and experience the impact we made on our community. Additionally, listening to the participants perspectives not only changed but also improved my own perspective on sustainability in communities.