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Lydia Benkert, a 2012 Theatre graduate, has received a U.S. Student Fulbright Study/Research Fellowship. The Student Fulbright program offers fellowships for U.S. graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals, and artists to study, conduct research, and/or teach English abroad.

Benkert will go to Ghana, West Africa from August 2014 through June 2015.

“I will attend a semester of classes at the University of Ghana,” Benkert said. “While I am there I will interview and research about child trafficking. After a semester of Theatre and culture classes, I will move to Winneba and continue my interviewing and researching and start writing a play. This play will be used as an educational tool for the communities of Winneba and other villages that would like education about child trafficking. My play will be performed by willing participants/students from the school and we will perform it to the local communities.”

Her interest in Ghana and the problem of child trafficking emerged during a two-month trip to Ghana with the GVSU Honors Program while she was an undergraduate. She developed a Theatre program for a school where she and other students volunteered. She also started writing a play about child trafficking on that trip.

“We volunteered at a school called Challenging Heights,” Benkert says of the earlier trip to Ghana. “Challenging Heights is a school that rescues, prevents, and educates children that were trafficked into the fishing industry. There is a man-made lake in Ghana called Lake Volta. Many children are sold or taken from their homes and forced to work in horrible conditions on this lake fishing. The parents are inclined to sell their children in order to help their families survive.”

Benkert became interested in using theatre for social change as a member of ReACT!, a student theatre group on campus.

(Read more about ReACT! in the new issue of Expressions, the School of Communications’ annual report, now available online.)

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