Aided by the generosity of donors, McGill’s newest Rhodes Scholar is empowering the disadvantaged in Africa
McGill student Suzy Newing has always been interested in Africa, but it was an internship in Ethiopia with the Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT), a social enterprise founded by her mother, Janet Longmore, that transformed that interest into a true passion.
While filming an impact video in Arba Minch, a city in the southern part of the country, Newing met and interviewed Alem, a woman who had been stabbed seven times and left for dead by her abusive husband. Thanks to DOT’s support, Alem not only survived – she took charge of her life and started her own successful coffee shop.
“She had been through such a traumatic experience, but she still found the strength and courage to fundamentally change her life. It was truly inspirational,” says Newing, who is in her final semester of an Honours degree in International Development Studies, with a Minor in African Studies.
Fuelled by the desire to help people like Alem, Newing has spent the last three summers with DOT, working in Ethiopia and neighbouring Kenya. As a member of the organization’s communications team, she worked on a variety of projects documenting the successful transformation of young Africans into leaders of change in their communities.
“People in the west have a certain impression in mind when they think about Ethiopia, but the people I have met and the culture I have experienced are full of promise,” she says.
In addition to her work with DOT, Newing has also found time to get involved with the Student Association for Medical Aid, a humanitarian group created and run by McGill students. She and her colleagues teamed up with Ethiopian medical students to design a health project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, which has resulted in 2,500 children being screened for AIDS and HIV.
Newing’s capacity to give back has been fueled by the generosity of a McGill alumnus who graduated more than a half a century earlier. She is the recipient of a Clifford C.F. Wong Scholarship, which was established by the late Clifford C.F. Wong, BArch’60, to recognize outstanding undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts.
“The scholarship came as a surprise, but it has helped a lot. It is competitive to win such financial awards so it was very motivating to know that I was selected,” she says.
Newing’s good work hasn’t gone unnoticed. In December 2013, she received a Rhodes Scholarship, becoming the 136th student in McGill’s history to receive the prestigious academic honour. As such, she will start a Master’s in Development Studies at the University of Oxford this September.
Newing, a native of Chelsea, Que., says her Rhodes Scholarship will be the perfect preparation for her career goals: to go into international law or perhaps start her own non-governmental organization dedicated to empowering youth and women.
“I’m looking forward to expanding my education and connecting with other like-minded students who want to bring about positive change,” she says.
If things go Newing’s way, she’ll have the opportunity to empower many others like Alem to overcome adversity and improve their lives.