In 2017, the KLH Scholarship awarded a “runner-up” scholarship to Corinne Laporte. Here is her story published with permission:
My name is Corinne Laporte. I am a student in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, minoring in Anthropology. My interest in international development, and more importantly human rights, has always been a part of me. However it started to consume me when I was fifteen and had the chance of going to a school offering short trips as an introduction to humanitarian aid. That year, the teachers were going to Peru, to work in a youth centre called Cesavi.
When I was fifteen, I was lucky enough to travel to Peru in order to work with the population working at the Centre, but also to plant trees and repaint and renovate the house of a deceased priest. He donated his house to the Cesavi and our group helped with the renovation. We also brought donations from Canada, as much as we could fit in our suitcases, to donate to the neighborhood. We were also there as part of a cultural exchange initiative with youth coming from different schools of Peru. During that trip, I fell in love with sharing and understanding cultures, but also with the idea that all humans deserve an equal chance at life.
In the two years following, I went on another trip to Dominican Republic, and then to Haiti. Both of those trips had the same core idea as the Peru trip. Although now I understand that my “work” was much more along the lines of ‘voluntourism’ – the idea that we are inhabited with the ‘white savior syndrome’ when we go on trips we pay thousands of dollars for but that don’t really change much for the populations we visit – I can never regret my experience. Said experience is what made me who I am, and directed me towards volunteering with Amnesty International as well as participating in different congresses such as the Sommet du millenaire pour la jeunesse, which focused on teaching teenagers about the Millennium Development Goals.
My volunteering experience eventually led me to go to university in the two topics I was most passionate about: human rights and anthropology.
My university career has shown me how important it is to work with the populations affected in order to really bring change. The more I study in Conflict Studies, the more I realize the lack of Anthropology in most humanitarian approaches, reinforcing the idea of the white savior I mentioned earlier. Often the field of International Development has overlooked the communities it wants to help. I found that professors or conferences were showing how we could help or bring about international solutions, but sometimes I would find that local populations were barely consulted, or not consulted at all. Such ways of problem solving would then most likely fail, as they would fail to include the cultural aspects of those we mean to help.
In the near future, I will be applying to a Master’s program in Anthropology in order to concentrate on the anthropology of peace building and post-conflict building. I would therefore want to apply what I learned throughout my university career on the field, especially with local NGOs. In fact, the main reason I am applying for this scholarship is to hopefully participate in an internship offered by my University alongside the Canadian NGO Alternatives and the National Fisheries Solidarity Organization (NAFSO) in Sri Lanka. The latter describes itself as a “membership-based fisherfok movement of Sri Lanka that works with marginalized groups such as internally displaced persons, women and youth, to promote human rights and true sustainable development.” The group works extensively with victims of the civil war, especially those whose lands were taken by the army and who have not been given back what was theirs.
I would like to apply the knowledge I have gained in the past few years in order to work effectively with NAFSO. Going on such an internship would allow me to learn the process of how local groups encourage collective healing after the destruction of war. The help of the scholarship would allow me to pursue my studies in a field I am passionate about, but also approach the difficulties of disadvantaged populations with a more human eye, hoping I could bring them even the iniest parcel of hope.
I refuse to pretend I know better, or that I’ve felt worse, than those who have been affected by war. I refuse to assume that my university knowledge could make of me the best ally, or that they’d fail without me. I refuse to approach equality and human rights issues with a top down pattern: it’s clearly failed before. But maybe I could, with my schooling, bring them some hope that not all western missions are meant to appropriate their resources, and that understanding them, and their way of life is essential to build a strong future with them, and for them. I want to be their ally, and join strengths so that future populations aren’t displaced and hurt by the violence of wars.
My name is Corinne Laporte. I am a student in Conflict Studies and Human Rights. I won’t pretend I can save the world. But together, maybe we can.