Elizabeth Welch ’22

Nyanam Widows Rising, Kenya

This summer, I had the privilege of working as a communications intern for Nyanam Widows Rising, an NGO based in Kenya’s Lake Victoria region. The women we help experience incredible social stigmatization and economic empowerment, including blame and shame by community members, accusations that they killed their husbands, sexual exploitation by widow inheritors and fish traders, and land theft. Nyanam works to empower these women to be voices of change in their communities, transforming their social and economic positions through group support and capacity building. The women meet in “Leadership Circles,” where they share their stories, give and receive emotional support, and create new economic pursuits. Nyanam facilitates various capacity building workshops, such as land rights education and micro-enterprise training.

Elizabeth Welch '22 on laptopAs a communications intern, by first role was to revamp the organization’s social media platforms. This involved learning a bit about social media marketing, collecting information about the organization, creating content, and managing engagement across platforms. I hugely enjoyed learning more about the Nyanam’s past and present, while also developing my writing skills in order to convey the organization’s mission and purpose. In order to fundraise for International Widows Day Covid-19 relief kits, I worked with the fundraising team to create a social media campaign to raise awareness. I also expanded these skills into writing the June newsletter.

My second main project was helping to develop future programming for the widows’ children. The Covid-19 crisis had closed the schools, disrupting social networks, education, routing, and school-provided meals. When prompted, the widows explained that the three main needs for their children were counseling, educational support, and something for the University-aged kids back from school to do. In response, we applied for a large grant for a peer support network. I helped imagine how the program would work, developed a peer support training curriculum based off of my training as a peer educator for Peer Health at Williams, and worked on the grant writing. Although we are not sure if we will get this grant, we hope to incorporate as much as possible into our future programming.

This internship was an incredible experience; one that I am very proud of. My work incorporated a host of my passions that I hadn’t previously imagined tying together—from public health and sexual and reproductive health, to female empowerment, to mental health and peer support, to writing and marketing. Working with Nyanam expanded and complicated my future aspirations in the best way possible, opening my eyes to the many pursuits that my passions could lead me. I continue to be incredibly inspired and in awe of the way the global Nyanam family welcomed and supported me. The kindness of my supervisor and the team at-large inspired a creative approach to our work and made me so excited to get back to it each day. Beyond the programs I worked on, I learned the impact of a supportive, collaborative, and imaginative team; one full of individual attributes that I hope to carry moving forward.