By Mina Chiang, Rotary Global Grant Scholar to University of Sussex, 2017-18
I will never forget the miracle that changed my life. I call it a miracle because the sheer chance of it happening is close to zero.
I was living in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, at the time supporting the establishment of a new science university for a local Catholic church. There was a small museum next to the university that tells the story of the town’s role as a major port and central hub during the slave trade centuries ago. I have always had a passion for helping the vulnerable and deprived, and had secured master’s degree offers from some of the best International Development programs in the world. But my family and I lacked the resources for me to pursue an advanced degree.
Some 10,000 kilometers away, a Rotarian in Taiwan replied to my email seeking help obtaining a scholarship. It had been forwarded several times. He said that he was impressed by my experience and dream, and would assist me in finding a potential scholarship. Tears were in my eyes when I read his words.
Within a few weeks of receiving the email, I received a Rotary Global Grant Scholarship, covering not only tuition fee but also cost of living. Grateful is not enough to describe my feeling at the time. I thanked every Rotarian who made my Master’s degree possible, and I thank God for the miracle.
I started my master’s degree in Development Studies in the world’s best-ranked program, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex. With classmates from more than 50 countries, this diverse and inclusive environment constantly blew my mind and widened my horizons. The experience transformed me, and gave me global skills that I am confident will help me contribute to making the world a better place.
While I was pursuing my degree, my knowledge about Rotary grew. I met the kindest and most inspiring individuals in my sponsor and host club. They are able to balance their career and home life all while living life to the fullest. After volunteering on several service projects, I saw how they dedicate their time to the community and good cause and knew I wanted to be a Rotarian one day.
Ending modern slavery
After graduation, I started working as an independent consultant for organizations like the International Labor Organization and Seafood Slavery Risk Tool, specialising on ending modern slavery. Modern slavery is an atrocity that I believe the world has the moral duty to fight against. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get the attention it needs. There are a whopping 40 million people today in modern slavery, including situations like human trafficking, forced labor, and forced marriage. I worked with government agencies, NGOs, and academia, contributing to the investigation of human slavery and helping shape policy. I also founded a consultancy company that is a social enterprise, Humanity Research Consultancy, aiming to train and bring more consultants from developing countries to work on this issue.
Rotary Action Group Against Slavery (RAGAS) was the natural place for me to connect with others passionate about this issue. When I first learned about the group, I thought about the verse in the Bible (Romans 8:28) that says God works all things for good. Rotary not only provided the scholarship to empower me with skills and knowledge that I use, but it’s also one of the pioneers on fighting against modern slavery. How amazing.
In 2020, I started to serve as a coordinator and board member for RAGAS, and it has allowed me to stand with a group of beautiful human beings who are also passionate about this cause. Collaboration is what makes us stronger, and I believe that ending slavery is a milestone that Rotary can help achieve, together.