We Can Do Better Together

The white San Xavier del Bay Mission stands out starkly against a blue Arizona sky

Two days left for the SUSI for Scholars 2022 participants to return to their respective countries after five weeks of undergoing various activities at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism of Arizona State University.

We started this final week with a passionate 4th of July celebration. The crowd’s roar when watching the Arizona Diamondbacks vs. the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field brought us cheering and clapping enthusiastically. (It could be that this enthusiasm arose because we watched the game with all-you-can-eat popcorn, hot dogs, and cold drinks.)

This week was extraordinary for us. Not only is it our last week in Phoenix, Arizona, but we’ve been meeting people who play a significant role and are passionate about doing better for their community.

It’s great to know that the Native community in Arizona has a platform to show who they are. But unfortunately, it is not a new issue that Indigenous and local communities are often neglected in favor development and modernization, and their voices are not heard. Issues of discrimination, low access to education, health, economy, and violence are part of the suffering of Indigenous communities. Yet, some were evicted from their land and uprooted from their cultural identity. Indian Country Today, a media outlet that cares about the issues of Native people, is an important space for the community to have a voice. Their voices are influential in conveying who they are and opening the eyes of many people to care about their existence. Aliyah Chavez, as anchor and producer, is successfully doing just that.

Aliya Chavez anchors the ICT newscast
Aliya Chavez anchors the ICT newscast

Dr. Rafael Martinez also managed to inspire us that the commitment to fight for the issues of Indigenous and immigrant communities should not just be about slogans. His concern for these issues shows through his studies and research on immigrants and borderlands. Not only that, his real work is to invite people who care about the topic to appear on his podcast program, UNDOCUTalks.

The strong desire to jointly solve problems in local communities was also evident in the presentation by Chairman Austin Nuñez of the Tohono O’odham Tribal Nation. According to Chairman Nuñez, building a local community that is economically independent, educated, and still maintaining cultural traditions is not easy. Still, it is not impossible if we do it together. He said people should first work together to build their own community before helping others.

This togetherness was also an important message in the session of Dr. Bill Silcock for us, SUSI participants, to build a Global Scholarly Community. According to Dr. Silcock, we can do more if we work together as representatives from 15 countries worldwide to make scientific and research collaborations. Doing things together makes everything possible. Complementing each other’s capacities and advantages will lead to broader benefits.

Of course, all of this requires a process, not an instant. It takes time and patience to make progress. In many success stories, we often have to get out of our comfort zone to find new challenges and extraordinary things that are very important in order to achieve the best.

This week closed very pleasantly. We enjoyed the Kartchner Caverns in Southern Arizona, a stunning cave with impressive stalactite and stalagmite. Mission San Xavier del Bac Church, Tucson, delighted our eyes with its beautiful decorations both outside and inside the building. The combination of classical architecture with clear, cloud-studded skies and a stretch of cactus around it enriched our memories of this country.

The altar of San Xavier del Bay Mission near Tucson
The altar of San Xavier del Bay Mission near Tucson

Finally, we had dinner with a Mexican food menu and relaxed while discussing various topics such as family, hobbies, work, shopping, and even finding the best hair coloring expert. It showed that we can share many things even though we have only known each other for five weeks. Friendship and togetherness are the greatest blessings of this program, enabling us to overcome our homesickness during the program and return home with the spirit to do our best. Together.