Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Sarah Burford ’08 and Mai Schwartz ’10, recently selected as Humanity in Action Fellows, will be attending a six week program this summer to learn about human rights, along with other activists from around the world. The Humanity in Action Foundation is based around the idea that young people should be educated about human rights so that they will be committed to fighting intolerance.
Burford and Schwartz will start their summers in Washington, D.C, where they will, along with the other American fellows, visit the Holocaust Museum and speak with the curators. This is especially interesting for Burford, who is persuing a career as a museum curator. In fact, this is one of the reasons that Burford applied in the first place. “I may go into how museums present the Holocaust,” she says, emphasizing the fact that she is very interested in how museums can be “a vehicle for raising awareness and social change.”
After Washington, Burford and Schwartz will go to their particular programs, which could be in New York, Paris, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Berlin, or Copenhagen. They don’t yet know where they will be, but Burford guesses that they will not be placed together. At their program sites, they will begin the program by strengthening their background in the Holocaust and human rights issues since World War II by meeting with recognized leaders of human rights organizations, politicians, diplomats, philanthropists, journalists, scholars, artists and authors and visiting sites near their program city.
The final part of the program involves intensive research and putting together a report on a human rights or minority issue in their host country. Burford says that she doesn’t know yet what she will write about, since reports are usually “shaped by what city you’re in.” However, she has some ideas. For example, if she were placed in Warsaw, she would like to answer the question, “What does it mean to be a Jew in Warsaw?”
The program is known to be incredibly intense. Burford says, “It’s a very challenging program emotionally” due to the “constant barrage” of heavy material. The subject material, though, is important and interesting to her, since one of the reasons she applied is that the program fits with her “really strong interest in the Holocaust” and in museum curating. “I’m very very excited about it,” she says.