Seniors Use Ignite Fund to Conduct Research in Rwanda

Allyson Noenickx

Editor in Chief

This summer two Holy Cross seniors, Izzi Lambrecht ’19 and Tessa Varvares ’19,  travelled to Kigali, Rwanda to conduct research on gender-based violence and how it is addressed in the country. Their self-designed, interdisciplinary research project was made possible in part by Holy Cross’ Ignite Fund.

On Thursday Oct. 18, Lambrecht and Varvares presented the results of their research in Rehm Library in a talk titled “An Examination of Gender-based Violence in Rwanda: Isange One Stop  Center as a Multi-sectoral Government-based Institution Fighting Gender-based Violence in Kigali, Rwanda.”

For several weeks the duo lived with a host family and conducted research at an Isange One Stop Center (ISOC) in Kigali, Rwanda, the nation’s capital. The IOSC program is aimed at providing psychosocial, medical, police, and legal services to adult and child survivors of gender-based violence and child abuse occurring in the family or in the community at large.

As a part of their research on the efficacy of different facets of the ISOC program, Lambrecht and Varvares  interviewed lawyers and doctors working at Isange as well as government officials at the Ministry of Gender. The pair assessed the different ways in which the center addresses forms of gender-based violence such as HIV, and suggested potential areas of improvement.

Lambrecht, a public health major and an Africana studies concentrator, and Varvares, a political science major with a concentration in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies and an Africana studies concentrator, were grateful that they were able to collaborate through the Ignite Fund in such an interdisciplinary manner. “The fact that we really got to combine our majors in a lot of ways and consider a multi-sectoral approach–the whole experience was just so rewarding every day,” said Lambrecht.

For Varvares, one of the most rewarding parts of the experience was spending time with their host family. “They were just so excited to have us. Just the relationships that we were able to build were really incredible,” said Varvares.

Lambrecht recalled the serendipitous nature of their project’s beginning. “We were studying in Tanzania and I was really opposed to coming back to the States after the semester ended. I was reaching out to people that I knew who had connections on the continent in general,” recalled Lambrecht. It was her boss from Bruegger’s Bagels who initially connected her to someone at the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion in Rwanda. “It all just kind of worked out. We were very lucky that we were able to go to the J.D. Power Center, to Professor Klinghard, and to tell him our idea. At first I think that he thought we were kind of crazy, but he worked closely with us to figure out how to makes this happen and make it a reality.”

The J.D. Power Center for the Liberal Arts in the World  is Holy Cross’ hub for experiential learning––learning by doing. In 2017 the center launched the Ignite Fund to provide financial and administrative support for student led projects. In the ways of Saint Ignatius, students are encouraged to “go forth and set the world on fire” by putting scholarship into action through their own self-designed, self-implemented projects.

Have a research idea of your own? The next deadline to submit your research proposal for the Ignite Fund is Nov. 30. A second round of applications will also be accepted in the spring with a March 29 deadline.

Photo by Hui Li


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