What does it mean to be a global citizen? The World Issues Forum provides a weekly opportunity for students to take a few hours consider their relationships to the rest of the world.

Each week, the World Issues Forum brings a distinguished speaker to campus. The forums, which are hosted by Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, began in 2001 in response to students’ concerns about September 11.

This week’s speaker is Anne Treat, a Western student. Treat is a senior at Fairhaven and spent 10 months last year in Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Her talk is entitled, “Challenges to the Cultural Integrity of Thailand’s Ethnic Minority Populations.”

Treat will speak about the effects economic development has had on Thailand’s ethnic minorities. According to Treat, Thailand has urbanized and rapidly developed over the past few decades. Ethnic minorities, like the hill tribe populations, receive less access to ecological and educational resources. Tourism has grown with the economy— including cultural tourism, or marketing cultures as an attraction for visitors— but the hill tribe populations receive little of that income.

Treat worked with the hill tribe populations through the nongovernmental, nondenominational aid organization Heifer International.

“Heifer has a unique approach when addressing the issue of poverty,” said Treat. The organization doesn’t provide short-term relief, but instead, provides individuals and communities with tools and resources to create their own economic sustainability.”
In Thailand, that livestock was often pigs.

“We spent a lot of time in pig pens!” said Treat.

Treat said Heifer International also helped set up community funds and worked on bio-gasoline projects to creatively help villages ensure economic stability.

In Thailand, Treat said, Heifer International is staffed entirely by Thai people.

“The important thing to me about Heifer is that it’s not an organization that goes into communities and imposes its goodwill on people,” said Treat. “The organization responds to people who request its presence.”

Treat traveled on the Adventure Learning Grant, a travel grant created by an anonymous donor that is awarded annually to three Fairhaven students. ALG recipients return to Fairhaven the following year to share their experiences with the community.
Treat speaks this Wednesday, February 7, in the Fairhaven College Auditorium at noon.

The World Issues Forum illustrates the connection between Western, the United States, and the global community.

“Discrimination based on minority status often presents consequent problems with human rights and poverty,” said Treat. “Poverty becomes an issue because access to resources are challenged, and that’s a worldwide phenomenon, not only one that occurs in developing countries like Thailand.”