Vacation should be a time for rest and relaxation, not for finding a job. However, Erin Papworth ‘03, English major and business minor, did just that during an African safari in 2003. After getting into a political debate with a safari guide, Papworth realized that despite her interest in Africa she knew far too little about its reality. To her surprise, he offered her a job and lodging in exchange for her commitment to truly understanding the continent’s problems.
“He was completely right,” Papworth said. “I had to learn about the region, political history and communities of a continent first-hand before I attempted to assist in its development.”
Papworth became familiar with many political and social issues because of her various jobs. After working for the safari company, she worked for Bana Ba Lesatsi, or Children of Water, a school for orphaned children living with HIV /AIDS.
“There is a lack of understanding of what actual life is like in Africa,” Papworth said. “The continent has very functional societies and truly rich cultures in its 52 countries.”
Papworth also worked in Darfur, Sudan for Doctors Without Borders, a private, international medical relief agency, providing humanitarian aid in a war zone. She helped to distribute food and organize medical care for a camp of 70,000 internally displaced people.
“Western ideas don’t always fit in with African ideology,” Papworth said. “We helped the refugees establish the means for everyday life, and then let them solve the problems in their own cultures.”
Papworth was introduced to international politics while on a LMU study abroad program at Oxford University, England. She took a comparative government class examining the difference between British and American governments, and learned about the global influence of British colonialism.
“LMU opened my eyes to the broader world of international politics,” Papworth said. “I wanted to take the work I was doing in college and apply it to the suffering I saw in the world.”
Papworth hopes to combine her education with her field work. She has been accepted into a master’s program in public health at The School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, starting spring 2008.
As for those interested in pursuing an education or a career in international politics, development or conflict, Papworth offered this advice:
“Start small and learn about the roots of the issues” Papworth said. “Begin with one country, and that will open the door to the rest of the continent.”