HARTFORD, CT, August 17, 2012 – There’s an oft-cited Chinese proverb that goes: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
It could be said that that proverb is the guiding principle of Oxfam, an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice. With operations in more than 90 countries, one of the objectives of Oxfam America’s program is to train college students to become actively engaged in Oxfam’s work. As such, it has created a national student leadership program for U.S.-based college students in which it selects 50 students a year to participate in its CHANGE Initiative.
After a competitive selection process, William Schreiber-Stanthorp ’15, was chosen as a 2012 CHANGE Leader. According to Oxfam, “CHANGE develops capable leaders who are informed voices for positive social change, and who inspire greater global awareness in others. CHANGE Leaders are introduced to the social justice issues directly related to Oxfam America’s mission; and are supported by Oxfam staff as they undertake Oxfam campaigns on their campuses and in their communities.”
A Posse Scholar from Chicago who hopes to major in neuroscience but is also interested in political science, Schreiber-Stanthorp said he hadn’t known about Oxfam and its work around the world until he read about the CHANGE Leadership program on Trinity Today.
“I looked into Oxfam and became intrigued by its mission,” said Schreiber-Stanthorp. “My academic load in my first year was significant but I felt it wasn’t enough just going to class. Students have an obligation to do something beyond going to class and socializing.”
Thus, he was inspired to apply to the Oxfam program. He filled out the application, which consisted, in part, of writing several short essays and a phone interview. The program also requires applicants to have a campus mentor. Schreiber-Stanthorp approached Stefanie Chambers, associate professor of political science, who readily agreed to be his mentor. Schreiber-Stanthorp found out at the beginning of May that his candidacy was successful and he was invited to participate in a weeklong conference and training session in Boston in July.
One of the things that struck him about Oxfam, as opposed to other humanitarian organizations, is that Oxfam “is not paternalistic” in that it establishes infrastructures that allow people to permanently improve their lives.
Schreiber-Stanthorp discovered at the conference that Oxfam is involved in a broad range of activities, from educating citizens in Central and South American countries – such as Guatemala and Peru -- that they should be entitled to a share of the profits from mineral rights, to helping to solve the food crisis in West Africa.
He described the conference as “pretty phenomenal” in that he met many people who have worked globally to make a difference in peoples’ lives. “Part of it was very humbling but part of it was really inspiring. Its overarching mission is one that everyone shares.”
One goal in particular that Schreiber-Stanthorp found inspiring is that “Oxfam is seeking to find sustainable ways of feeding the planet. By 2050, there will be 9 billion people. Our food system can’t support that. We need to promote sustainable farming techniques.”
Schreiber-Stanthorp said that once the semester begins, he will seek recognition for a Trinity chapter of Oxfam. His goal is to gauge what other students are interested in and then set priorities. Oxfam will provide promotional materials and resources.
As the result of his being selected as one of 50 CHANGE Leaders, he is committed to hosting a certain number of events. He is also obligated to report to Oxfam to keep it informed as to what the Trinity chapter is doing.
“My hope,” he said, “is that we can continue to grow on campus. I’m looking forward to getting started.”