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Turning toward suffering

Jenna Karic Staff Photographer
Jenna Karic Staff Photographer

Austin Meyer, the 2015 winner of an international journalism trip with the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, visited Marlborough on Monday, Feb. 16. Speaking at an All-School Meeting and later with the Girls Go Global club, Meyer described how he was inspired by Kristof’s columns and book, Half the Sky, to challenge himself to confront issues in impoverished communities in Baltimore, India and Nepal.

“I read Half the Sky and was completely blown away by these stories that I kind of knew were out there in the world…but I had never given it my full, undivided attention. I had never turned towards that suffering,” Meyers said.

After submitting a homemade video application and essay in December, Meyer received a phone call from Kristof himself to congratulate him on the news; the two were on the trip by June 1, 2015.

As he covered stories of suffering and others of hope, Meyer said he most valued his ability to understand how important the lottery of life is and learned to be humble about how much he did not know. In his presentation, Meyer explained how prevalent childhood malnutrition was in India, starting as early as the prenatal stage of a mother’s life. In Nepal, many villagers are not as fortunate as to have access to simple cataract surgery–they live the majority of their lives with impaired vision because they could not afford the ophthalmological procedure.

Meyer’s and Kristof’s trip mainly consisted of interviews of the locals while traveling to Baltimore, Maryland, India and Nepal, all of which Kristof chose beforehand. Later, such interviews would be in both Kristof’s and Meyer’s articles in the New York Times. More specifically, in India, the two would spend the majority of each day driving around with the Head of Nutrition of India and the Head of Nutrition for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. After talking to the leaders of each town, Meyer and Kristof would split up and talk to local villagers to get specific points of view that correlated to the articles they were respectively writing. In Baltimore, Meyer wrote mostly about heroin use and poverty; however, in India and Nepal, most of the interviews were focused around malnourishment and cataract surgery.  

Meyer also detailed how important it was to give a voice to those who don’t have one due to their social or economic status. Many students, including Girls Go Global co-president Christina ’16, were in agreement with Meyer and thought his presentation about his work with Kristof was inspiring.

“I thought his presentation was really impactful and also opened me and the rest of the school to new topics surrounding women around the world that I had not really considered so closely…his stories give a personal face to these specific issues,” Christina ’16 said.