From Kathya Cibelle Abreu de Sousa Dawe,
April 2, 2012
When I was chosen by the Fulbright Commission to come to the United States as a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow, it was just the beginning of a big change in my life.
The University of Minnesota is one of 18 U.S. universities that host Humphrey Fellows. The close contact with professors and students was enlightening. My group (from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Zimbabwe, Kirghizstan, India, Philippines, Russia, Palestine, and Brazil) was spectacular in all respects: We made our countries more familiar to each other and, along with Fellows from over 90 other countries, we lived in an atmosphere of learning and friendship.
As part of my Fellowship and my professional affiliations, I taught tango to grade-school children and teenagers in two schools. Sharing my passion for tango with the students was such a priceless experience. They shared with me so much love during those classes! I also made several presentations about Brazil, my profession, and the prison system to NGOs and to various Minnesota state prisons and visited prisons to observe their conditions.
After finishing the Fellowship, I went to Minneapolis Television Network to host and produce television shows. After five months, seven episodes of my show "Behind the Bars: Voices and Stories from Prison" have aired. They include interviews with former inmates, a prison warden, a sociology Ph.D. and specialist in the prison system, a social worker, a University of Minnesota professor and former federal public defender, and the founder of a toy shop. The first three episodes can be seen at www.blip.tv/kathya.
In addition, I created two pieces about the Humphrey Fellowship Program featuring the 2011-12 Humphrey Fellows and interviews with Dean David Wippman, co-director of the Human Rights Center Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, and Director of the Institute of International Education Judy Gibson.
In January 2012, I was surprised to learn I had been nominated for and won the Sullivan Ballou Award for Human Rights Service, created in 2003 in Minnesota to recognize the work of and honor members of the community who devote heartfelt energy to those around them. I was the 60th person to be honored with the award.
Advancing human rights through the media is one of my goals. I have done interviews in Brazil and the United States, and I am working on two new projects to keep human rights topics in the forefront, keep interest alive, and most of all, make human rights a global conversation.
While my professional life was going through many beneficial changes, my personal life changed as well. I fell in love and married a U.S. citizen. Now, as I focus on my endeavors to help improve human rights, I add a little bit of immigration work to my personal agenda, too.