Adam Barton on the ESJ Project

Author: Adam Barton

January 30, 2020

What did you study through the ESJ Project? What are some of the larger take-aways from your research?

I was connected to this organization called Pastoral da Criança, the Children's Pastoral Agency. They were founded in the south of Brazil, which at the time had just an incredible number of child deaths that were caused by preventable illnesses, mostly dehydration and malnutrition. The central activity of Pastoral is community health education. It’s all about empowering local community members to go into the homes of their friends, neighbors, and family members to educate on the best practices in preventing maternal and childhood illness.

My principal finding was that the central tenet of Pastoral, what made it more unique than any other health education program and the reason why I think it continues to thrive, is solidarity. Pastoral brings the Catholic vision of standing with and for those who are most suffering and struggling to the fore. With that vision of solidarity, it is not just your duty but rather your privilege to deeply get to know all of the community members around you and help them live life in abundance.

What was it like studying social justice at a Catholic institution abroad, especially having attended Georgetown? 

At Georgetown, I felt empowered with the language of social justice in a way that I never had been before. I found what really energizes me and what I want to do with my life: to live in the service of others. Through the Center for Social Justice, I found the concepts I needed to understand what service meant, how to be in solidarity with communities, to develop the relationships that are needed to meaningfully support each other.

It was also Georgetown—and my ESJ experience—that really taught me about the value of community at large and what it means to live with and for others. 

How did you change during the course of the ESJ Project? 

I left the ESJ Project and Georgetown so firmly believing that community is solidarity, that community is what we need in order to help every person, young and old, thrive in this world.

Seeing the value that an expectant mother took from her community volunteer, that vision of human flourishing, is what I took away from ESJ and has morphed into the way that I study the world and the way that I want to impact the world through participatory design and co-creation for social change.

How did your involvement in the ESJ Project inform your plans after the program? 

It is hard to emphasize enough how much the experience impacted me. I came into Georgetown not knowing that I cared about research, yet ESJ helped me discover this passion for research to effect social change. To have my research training be grounded in community needs and experiences is what drove me to seek out further research opportunities, from a Princeton in Latin America Fellowship to a research assistant position at the Brookings Institution to a Henry Luce Scholarship in Japan.

Adam Barton