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First-ever Human Rights fair held

BY CORY PORTER | SEPTEMBER 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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Students had the opportunity on Wednesday to meet with representatives from various human-rights organizations at the University of Iowa and in Iowa City, thanks to the first-ever Human Rights Opportunity Fair.

The UI Students for Human Rights organization hosted the event on the T. Anne Cleary walkway.
“The group thought it would be a good idea to try to get as many service-based or human-rights-associated organizations on campus to be in one area,” said UI senior Leila Mustafa, who serves as president for the organization. “So that people on campus can see how many different opportunities there are to get involved.”

Tables and chairs were set up all along the walkway, with representatives from each group stationed at tables, handing out fliers and brochures and talking to students.

Mustafa said that more than 30 groups attended the fair.

“The purpose of this fair … is really to bring together, in one place, exposure for all of the educational and experiential internship and career-related opportunities around human rights for students,” group adviser Edward Miner said.

Sam Odeyemi, a 2013 graduate from the UI, was at the fair representing Proteus, a nonprofit group that helps migrant and seasonal workers who come to Iowa by providing them with emergency assistance, including rent, gas, and groceries.

He said he enjoys his job as a caseworker with Proteus, because he believes the work is rewarding, for him and his clients.

“When you meet some of these clients and these people and you see the struggles they go through, how much they’re fighting, it’s empowering,” he said.

Marco Yu, a fourth year Ph.D. student, said he arrived from Hong Kong last week and wanted to visit the fair.

“I wanted to look if there was some useful information for me to get used to here,” Yu said.

Further down the walkway, UI junior Marina Bekovic and UI senior Heidi Brown sat at a table for the Center for Human Rights and talked to people as they walked by.

Bekovic said the members of the center, which is housed in the College of Law, mainly focus on raising awareness for human-rights issues in the community.

A certificate for human rights is available through the organization, as well as internship opportunities, which have proven popular for people from majoring in a variety of different fields.

“We have people from the engineering colleges and business schools, everybody wants to be involved, which is really great to see,” Bekovic said.

UI junior Tarun Kaduru stopped by the fair to get ideas and network for a newly formed task group he is a member of called “Herky Cares.”

The group’s goal is to promote sustainability and social justice on campus and he hopes to get first-year students involved.

UI sophomore Adrianne Peterman was walking through the fair on her way to study and stopped to look at the different tables.

“I saw the Peace Corps [table] and was interested in it, and I’ve gone from booth to booth now,” she said.

Miner stressed that when students came together in these groups, to make their voices heard, they could do big things.

“[The fair is] really to try to build towards a cohesive community of people that are broadly interested in human rights,” he said.


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