Natalie Jesionka has spent much of the last decade pursuing a joint calling as a journalist and human rights activist. Her call to “witness history,” as she puts it, leads her to “forgotten, neglected, and underreported stories’’ that often involve marginalized groups living in impoverished exile.
The child of Polish immigrants, Jesionka was raised with a global outlook. What prompted her particular take on the world, however, was losing a friend at an early age to domestic violence. Larger human rights causes became “a way to process it,’’ she explains.
She got involved in international campaigns by joining Amnesty International at age 13 and made a foray into journalism soon after, filming a documentary on Chinatown youth gangs that was sponsored by P.O.V., the PBS television series that broadcasts documentary films. She has not looked back since.
In 2004, while a Rutgers undergraduate, Jesionka traveled to Ansan, Korea, to document the country’s treatment of refugees, people she described as “living in shadows with few social supports or skills training.’’ She focused on a group from Congo, living at a migrant shelter. The group came to her attention following the death of a 3-year-old boy who was refused medical treatment.
UNESCO distributed her documentary, and it was picked up by Korean broadcasters. Similarly, her films on the perils of mining in South Africa have been shown on television stations in that country.
During her visit to Grace Wilday on Friday, April 3rd, 2009, she will talk about how she ended up teaching English to monks hidden in the Thai jungles amongst other topics.
(Biographical details excerpted from a FOCUS article by Tracey Regan <http://news.rutgers.edu/focus/issue.2009-01-20.2858251382/article.2009-01-20.3255947970>)