On the Record: Linda Tobin


Interview by Njera Keith, Reporter

Linda Tobin is a sociology professor and has been with ACC for 12 years. Tobin has

taken her interest in sociology out of the classroom and made it a personal experience by volunteering at refugee camps in Africa.

ACCENT: Tell us about your work with refugees.

TOBIN: I wanted to offer my sociology students a different type of lecture by speaking from my own experience. Four years ago,
I spent seven weeks volunteering in Zambia, and this past summer, I spent three weeks in Uganda.

ACCENT: How did the conditions under which the refugees lived change?

TOBIN: Before becoming refugees, they lived normal lives, earned livings, worked in small towns and had healthy families. After being displaced, they’re trying to feed their children day to day. They’re trying to figure
out how to get their kids in school.

ACCENT: How did the experiences you observed differ between Uganda and Zambia?

TOBIN: In Zambia they were more stable, resilient and hopeful because they’d been refugees for so long. In Uganda, the refugees had just recently fled the Congo, and the despair was still fresh for them. They aren’t able to focus as much on hope for the future, because they had to focus on survival.

ACCENT: How did these experiences change your world view?

TOBIN: It made me realize the magnitude of the global refugee problem, and it’s made me want to do more. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are more than 10 million refugees under the care of the United Nations around the world. I wish we could all realize how fortunate we are.

ACCENT: Do you have a most memorable experience from your time in Uganda and Zambia?

TOBIN: During my stay, children would always yell “mzungu! mzungu!” (How are you?) when they saw me
on my bike. During one of my rides,
a little boy reached out his hand and just grabbed mine. He was so thrilled. I was thrilled. That really stuck with me, because he was really happy. I
just thought bless his soul. He was a child in that situation yet so happy.

ACCENT: Did you take hope from seeing proof that kids are still kids? Even in a situation such as the one in Zambia?

TOBIN: Absolutely. As a human, you want nothing but the best for the future of the world and you hope that these refugees will have the best.

ACCENT: How can students get involved?

TOBIN: The easiest answer is
to become involved in our own communities. We have huge needs here, and there are many nonprofits that offer volunteer opportunities. But for those who want an international focus, many international organizations can be found on the internet.

Editors Note: This article has been edited 

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