Jaclyn Dobies '15

Monday, March 6, 2017

Jaclyn Dobies ’15, was one of the first Duke students to work at the Centre for Health and Wellbeing, formally the Ballymurphy Women’s Center, in Belfast in the 2012 DukeEngage Northern Ireland program. The center, which now serves men and women, started as a women’s health center and continues to provide alternative healing therapy services to the community.

How did you come to choose the DukeEngage program in Northern Ireland?

I was eager to join the DukeEngage in Northern Ireland program because of the focus on human rights and the opportunity to volunteer in an NGO, the Centre for Health and Wellbeing in Belfast. I was interested in learning first-hand about the issues of division in society, peace building, and conflict resolution in Northern Ireland. With Robin Kirk as director of the program, I knew I was in for an immersive and challenging experience.

Why are you interested in human rights?

To me, human rights is about working with people who have experienced conflict and making emotional connections with them. Sharing stories and relating to people in Northern Ireland has had a profound impact on my life. I am passionate about working on issues of equality in terms of gender, race, socioeconomic status and other areas of social justice. I love getting involved with organizations that bring people’s voices forward, specifically the unheard voices.

What did you hope to learn during that summer?

I hoped to learn a lot about the conflict in Northern Ireland and more generally why conflict happens. I wanted to learn first-hand about the history of the place, the people, and the nature of conflict of Northern Ireland. How does one recover from conflict, individually and as a place? How do you create peace after such violence and pain?

What did you do at the Centre for Health and Wellbeing in Ballymurphy?

I assisted with phoning clients and helped with a class for older women on relieving stress. I also participated in a group for youth who are considered high-risk. We worked on issues of criminal justice and talked about hate crimes. Most of the youth I worked with were all Catholic youth, although the youth worker also worked with a cross-community group of both Catholic and Protestant kids. 

What did you gain from your experiences? 

I definitely made a lot of relationships and my partner, Nicole Daniels, and I became especially close with our two supervisors. I could never pay back my supervisors and the people who welcomed me. Northern Ireland is a beautiful culture and place, and a lot of pain still exists.

I gained a real understanding about what the community feels about this conflict and how hard it is to achieve peace. We talked about achieving peace at the sake of justice. Sometimes you have to make compromises…there were sacrifices that had to be made for peace and people still don’t know who killed their loved ones; there still remains a lot of hurt. I also learned that there is a difference between peace and the absence of violence. In Northern Ireland, I would say there is an absence of violence. There are often no bombings or riots but there are walls everywhere in the community; there isn’t fighting but there isn’t a whole community. Thankfully, organizations such as the Centre for Health and Wellbeing and our other DukeEngage community partners exist, working to change this and to create an active peace in Northern Ireland.

Currently Ms. Dobies is spending summer 2013 in Bangalore, India with a grant through the Duke Internships in India Program. She is interning at Dream A Dream, an organization that works on Life Skills development in children from vulnerable backgrounds through Football and Creative Arts. As part of her work, she is networking with several large Indian NGOs to improve the program monitoring and evaluation processes at Dream A Dream.