The Brueggeman Center for Dialogue

Past Fellows

2019-2020 and 2021-22 Trip Summary

Brenda Ratemo

Brueggeman fellow 2009

“My experiences as a Brueggeman Fellow have colored my decisions, occupations and the way I live my life. Now, as a mother, I hope to share my experiences in Kibera with my daughter.”

In the summer of 2009, Brenda Ratemo returned to her native Kenya to gather firsthand information on a health care system she one day hopes to improve.

“Even though I grew up in Kenya, I was given new eyes during my fellowship there, working with the Ministry of Health, the National Hospital Insurance Fund and other agencies to assess the public health care system. Kenya has a resource-poor and budget-tight health care system, like many countries. But I met community members who are establishing group finance schemes with their meager earnings to fund local health facilities. Community organization is a powerful tool in addressing some of our biggest problems, one that is often overlooked. I am currently studying to be a doctor at Dartmouth Medical School. I will return to Kenya when I’m finished.

“One day during my fellowship I visited a district hospital. It was around 7:30 a.m. and I had come to interview a doctor who worked in the pediatrics section. There was a line of about 50 mothers waiting to see her. Some had been there as early as cockcrow, 4:00 a.m. Others had returned who had not received help the previous day. The only doctor in the entire ward took a couple of minutes to talk to me in the midst of her morning. I asked her if she felt overworked. ‘If I do not do it,’ she said simply, ‘who will?’”

Katy Baldwin

Brueggeman fellow 2008

“Being a Brueggeman Fellow forever ruined me—ruined me for traveling as a tourist, ruined me for settling for the corporate ladder, ruined me for looking at the world as a bystander.”

In the summer of 2008, Nepal was emerging as a new democracy after an 11-year Maoist uprising dethroned the world’s last Hindu monarchy. Katy Baldwin traveled to Kathmandu to investigate.

On my second day, the King was forced out of the royal palace. I had a front-row seat to watch the country embrace its new democracy. As I trekked in the Himalayas and cycled through the rice paddies of the Terai, I conducted interviews with politicians, journalists and anyone who would share their stories. I caught mangoes falling heavy and ripe from the trees. I trudged through monsoon showers to language lessons and played hangman with students so enthusiastic about their education that one boy walked for two hours to get to school.

“My fellowship taught me to be independent, diplomatic and confident. But I also learned to be vulnerable, open and trusting. I was overwhelmed by hospitality and kindness. People explained giddily that my name means ‘girl’ in Nepali. They taught me better techniques for eating dal bhat (lentils and rice) with my hands.

“Nepal is a democracy started from scratch. From the outside, it looked chaotic and dangerous. Protests were frequent and tires burned in the street. I learned that democracies everywhere are subject to power struggles, partisanship and other pitfalls. A democracy of any age relies on the resilience and commitment of the people.

“I returned to the United States a better citizen. I voted in my first presidential election that fall, just as the Nepali Constituent Assembly did the same.”

Brandon Sipes

Brueggeman fellow 2007

“The unique international experiences the Center affords student Brueggeman Fellows are forging the leaders of tomorrow.”

In the summer of 2007, Brandon Sipes traveled across Northern Ireland, Croatia, Bosnia and France studying religious violence and reconciliation. In the midst of these countries’ fractious histories, he found the hope of redemption.

The historical conflicts in Northern Ireland, Croatia and Bosnia have deep religious dimensions. Protestants and Catholics have fought for centuries in Ireland, and the ethnic strife of the Balkan War divided Muslims and Christians. In France, the Taizé Monastery provides a sanctuary to people from all faiths.

“People hosted me in their homes or monasteries. I stayed only one night in a hotel when I wasn’t able to connect with my host in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In Northern Ireland, I stayed with a guy who is now a dear friend.

In Sarajevo, I stayed at the Franciscan monastery of Ivo Markovic. I had great interviews there, and great fun attempting the language with cab drivers. I still remember a few of the phrases I butchered. Da li govorite engleski means ‘Do you speak English?’ I used that one often.

“The fellowship helped me clarify exactly what I wanted to be doing. I knew I wanted to go into social justice work. Through my fellowship, I realized I wanted to be working with those in the midst of religious conflicts. This is exactly where I’ve ended up. I am a conflict mediator and facilitator. I have an ongoing project in Israel-Palestine, a new project developing with an arts center in Lahore, Pakistan, and have several projects here in Ohio.”