Natalie Jesionka, International Correspondent, Documentary Filmmaker and Professor Comes to Dublin

“What would you do if someone offered you a basket of bamboo worms as a sign of hospitality?” So began Friday morning’s presentation, delivered by Natalie Jesionka. Natalie’s resume is so extensive that it’s best to read her biography: “Natalie Jesionka is an international correspondent and human rights  documentary filmmaker. Ms. Jesionka worked closely with United Nations and Amnesty International to promote global human rights through media and film. Her work includes reporting on human trafficking in Southeast Asia, the arms trade and civil war in Sub-Saharan Africa, and resistance movements in Southeast Asia. She teaches Human Rights, Women and War and International Media at Rutgers University and serves as the Executive Director of the PRIZM Project, the first global human rights education organization for young women. Natalie is a Fulbright Scholar and is currently researching how photography and journalism  promote cross-cultural dialogue in Thailand.”

Jesionka came to us through Hong Jung Yun ’02 of the Admissions Office. Jung explains: “When I worked at UNESCO in Korea (summer of 2005), I organized an International Youth Camp which brought people from all over the world. Natalie was a participant camper from the U.S. The theme of the camp was "Be the One to Change" and we talked a lot about global issues and ways to make things better. We kept in touch after the camp and because I was studying in Boston, we met in the years following. Even after I took the job at Dublin, we kept in close contact and she came to visit me couple of times in the last several years that I've been at Dublin. When I found out that she got a Fulbright scholarship to go to Thailand, I was eager to hear all the stories from her trip. She has been speaking all over United States, and I was glad that she was able to come to Dublin to talk to our students about her unique experience.”

Natalie introduced the major themes of her presentation through a discussion of local dishes served around the world, and how food- particularly the act of sharing it- is a common denominator across cultures. She went on to discuss her work with human trafficking in Southeast Asia. As Natalie has traveled extensively, she also addressed questions and told anecdotes regarding her time visiting and working in countries such as Burma, India, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Cambodia and Palestine.  In her presentation, she challenged students to “rethink the way the media gives us images and information” and to carefully consider the difference between forced and voluntarily human trafficking. She also urged the students to remain optimistic and joyful, even in the face of disturbing realities or inequalities: “Despite the bad moments, there are moments of hope that are incredible…moments when I can transcend culture and assimilate enough of it to say to any person, ‘I show you respect.’ There becomes no wrong or right.”

Jesse Garrett-Larsen ’15 writes: “I have never heard anyone lecture about human rights in person before. I thought that it was really interesting, but also very sad…I don’t think that there would be anything better that someone could do with their life.”

Reef Rogers ’15: “Our guest speaker opened my eyes to how little I know about the world’s countries. Whether it’s their culture, politics, policies or issues, somehow I’ve been blind to them.”

Hannah Whitesel ’15 says: “I found Natalie’s speech very interesting, if not a little disturbing. The thing that I found most prominent about her speech was the information about human trafficking. Before her speech, I had never really known anything about it, let alone how some people choose that life. It makes me sad to know how much harder those people have it than we do.”

Kelsa Danforth ’15: “Natalie’s presentation on human trafficking made a depressing topic sound almost hopeful…In my everyday life, I look at my rights as a constant: the property of my own body, my intellectual curiosity, and my rights as an American are all mine, plus some. For others, though, they are lucky to have primary authority over their body. This would be true for many human trafficking victims and is why organizations like Natalie’s are so crucial to make others aware that human rights shouldn’t be a gift, they should be a given.”

“To fight for what you believe in is one thing, but to find out as much as you can about what you think that you believe in is something else. By traveling the world, Natalie Jesionka has not just learned more about human rights, but she has experienced cultures that only a few people have experienced.” –Grant Holliday ’15

 

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