Anna Spethman is one of our international students studying MA in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response. Anna was born and raised in Nebraska, USA and started her studies at HCRI in September 2019.
Having grown up in the small town of Omaha, Anna’s early interest in international affairs began to blossom from an early age when she befriended primary school classmates from Nigeria and Cameroon. ‘My friends in school were always speaking French around me and I wanted to know what they were saying, so they offered to teach me lessons.’ Learning French combined with the diverse perspectives of her friends sparked Anna’s interest in African affairs that continued with her through university.
Anna always wanted to study medicine and was fascinated by infectious diseases and public health. Fate however had a different path. After a week of studying Chemistry at the University Nebraska Lincoln, Anna quickly realised her passions lay elsewhere, sparked by her other courses in international relations. She made the decisiono change her major to Global studies, with a focus specifically on African human rights and policy. It was during this time that Anna came across a student at the University, Jacob Manyang who was one of the famous Lost Boys of Sudanho were displaced during the civil war between 1987 and 2005. Jacob invited Anna to help in his student organization providing malaria nets and school supplies to orphans and widows in refugee camps across East Africa. Motivated by this work at the end of her University education, Anna founded Education Refuge alongside Jacob, a non-profit organisation working to promote education as the driving force behind individual empowerment in East Africa. They focus on education for adults and children who have been based in long term resettlement camps, such as Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Education Refuge is currently funded by private donors and all donations go directly to educating the amazing refugees in the camps.
Alongside founding Education Refuge, Anna travelled to Morocco on her course to study Arabic as well as Islamic society and politics. The experience really inspired her to continue on her path of continued self-development in both language acquisition and refugee advocacy. After graduating in 2017, Anna started working for a local resettlement agency in Nebraska as a case manager, helping to integrate newly arrived refugees into the local community and serving as their immigration advocate. Anna reflected she, ‘predominantly worked with refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan however, after the change in the political climate, we went from handling the cases of approximately 180 families a year to less than 30 cases. This meant that there was not enough work and I was made redundant from work.
I decided to come to study in Manchester after lots of research. I had a huge spreadsheet of institutions around the world, but the work of Rony Brauman, the attraction of the research trip to Uganda and studying about refugees was certainly a huge reason towards coming to study at HCRI.
So far Anna has enjoyed her experience at HCRI. ‘I have been to many events led by the institute and really enjoy the lectures. The programmes are quite diverse, bringing people from countries all over the world, so the discussions we have are often stimulating and valuable. This course has really furthered my critical thinking skills and will help towards my dream of working for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees back in the USA’.
Anna went on to say, “Coming to Manchester has exceeded all my expectations, I have been able to build my network of humanitarians and learn so much in the process.” Her favourite quote by Aristotle gives a great insight towards her reason to studying here and working with refugees, ““Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.”