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University Honors Program

Spotlight: Moral Courage Project 2020

By Kaitlin Lewis

The Moral Courage Project is a storytelling initiative that works to tell the stories of individuals who stand up in their communities during moments of crisis. The project is a collaboration between the Human Rights Center and PROOF: Media for Social Justice, a non-profit that uses photojournalism as a way to promote human rights. Twelve students are a part of the team for this year’s project, including Claire Sullivan, a senior honors student studying biology with political science and sustainability minors. The team of students also work very closely with Dr. Joel Pruce and Dr. Natalie Hudson, professors in the political science department and members of the Human Rights center here at UD.

The team started working in January on this year’s Moral Courage Project titled “Poison and Power: The Fight for Water,” which focuses on the right to clean and accessible water in Appalachia and Flint, Michigan. Students collect interviews from community members and activists in these local areas to ultimately produce a podcast, website and zine later this semester. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the students' fieldwork for the project was virtual this past summer, but Sullivan said the team adjusted well to the roadblock. 

Sullivan first became interested in the Moral Courage Project after seeing an exhibit for last year’s project displayed in the same hall as her on-campus job. 

“I thought it was impressive and when I found out students were behind it, I kept an eye out for it,” Sullivan said. “I used to want to pursue Marine Biology and have always been drawn to water in general, so when I saw the theme for this year was water, I knew I had to apply!”

Sullivan is a part of the podcast team for the project, which involves writing scripts for the podcast episodes. Due to her biology classes, Sullivan was able to apply much of what she has learned in the classroom to the Moral Courage Project’s theme this year. For example, learning about different ecosystems of water and the human impact on waterways helped her better understand the pollution that was occurring in waterways in Flint. Sullivan also said that due to her minors in political science and sustainability she was able to make connections between the relationship of science and politics. 

“There is a great lack of understanding of science today and taking actions that help reduce this understanding and prevent divisions are really important to me as someone who is interested in both science and human rights,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that working on this project has deepened her empathy for those affected by human rights issues, such as accessibility to clean water. 

“I knew water access was an issue before joining the project, but I did not know the breadth of the issue and I only knew it from a statistical level that was not as connected to my emotions,” Sullivan said. “I think if everyone could hear these stories and other stories of those exhibiting moral courage in our world, we would be a lot better off in how we understand and empathize with one another.” 

The Moral Courage Project for 2020 will be released within the next few months. Both this year’s and previous years’ podcasts are available on Moral Courage Radio from wherever you get your podcasts. For updates on when “Poison and Power” will be released, check on the Human Rights Center website for announcements and how to access the material.

Feature photo courtesy of the Moral Courage Project website. 

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