The Next Generation: Lives of Purpose

Two of our bloggers embrace causes to make the world a better place.

Of Space and Belonging

By Mayisha Rahman ’21

Mayisha spent four weeks over the summer working in a Rohingya refugee camp in her native Bangladesh.  

For four weeks, I worked in a daycare center and taught the most wonderful group of kids English and Bangla. They’re fairly well-versed in Arabic. I would also assist in translating for foreign officials who would work in the distribution of relief goods and medicine. Sometimes, I would help the doctor-on-duty keep records of the patient’s history.

During one such instance, I chanced upon a 20-year-old girl. She was pregnant and said her husband had been taken away by the military as they were trying to escape. Their first child was a stillbirth, and this was their fifth attempt at having a baby. Her face full of hope was soon replaced with tears of confusion when the doctor told her she was HIV-positive. ... The very same day, I also learned that hundreds of Rohingyas are HIV-positive.

I hit my breaking point that night. Let me tell you why: We live in a world where we obsess over 20-year-old celebrities getting pregnant as opposed to coming together to help this 20-year-old refugee and hundreds like her.

I continued to work around diphtheria-stricken people and cried with mothers who had lost their sons, daughters who had been raped and left to rot, fathers who had failed to keep their promise of a better tomorrow.

The living conditions in the camps are terrible. I’d fall almost once every day as I tried to tread the “stairs” to the day care. Toddlers would clutch the ground in an effort to climb from one piece of land to another. The huts are primarily made of wood and plastic. During monsoons, Bangladesh tends to be a victim of the worst floods ever. Imagine what will happen to those plastic 
houses then.

A Busy Week

By Paola Salas ’19

A Posse scholar, Salas is a senior independent major in public health interested in how health and social justice interconnect.

Last Wednesday, Sadie Nash, an after-school program that aims to promote leadership and activism among young women, brought their high school juniors on a tour of Bryn Mawr. ... It was so nostalgic watching their eyes light up when they first saw the Cloisters and hearing them enthusiastically ask questions about college. It reminded me of when I was in their position, exactly four years ago, looking at colleges and falling in love with Bryn Mawr. I, too, attended a girls-centered after-school program, called Girls Inc., that was like a second home to me and taught me about feminism, social justice issues, and who I wanted to be. ...

The day after I led this tour, I flew back home in to attend the Girls Inc. National Luncheon. My sister was invited to be the alumnae speaker, and I was so excited to see the women who helped me get to where I am today. The luncheon was such an emotional experience, as I got to see the girls who were freshmen in high school when I was graduating. They were now the ones graduating and picking colleges. ...

That following Saturday, I attended the Love Your Magic Conference in Boston. It was a conference designed to help elementary school girls learn self-love and sisterhood. I was ecstatic to see so many little girls talking about why they’re worthy of love and how they support one another. I kept picturing where they would be 10 years from today, graduating high school and selecting colleges.

There are so many things that impact a person’s willingness and ability to go to college. Sadie Nash, Girls Inc., and the Love Your Magic Conference attempt to inspire girls and to support them in their academic journeys so that they might one day be at a place like Bryn Mawr. I am constantly grateful to Girls Inc. and all of the people and programs in my life who have helped me get here. And now I am grateful to Bryn Mawr and all of the professors, students, and mentors I’ve met here who are helping me make plans for post-grad.