Clayton Boeyink ’10 travels the world to help those in crisis.
Only six years after graduation, Clayton Boeyink ’10 is a man with a passion and a plan. The international/ global studies major has seen the dark side of world crises, yet finds inspiration in helping refugees, those whose circumstances are “mind-blowing, and it’s why I’m dedicating my personal and professional life to this cause,” he says.
Boeyink developed his passion for assisting refugees while working as an employment specialist for Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement Program in Iowa in 2013-14, and helping those displaced find jobs.
“I wanted to see what they experienced before coming to the U.S. so I got a master’s of science degree in Africa and international development at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and conducted fieldwork among Somali refugees in Nairobi, Kenya,” Boeyink says.
His fieldwork occurred just two weeks after the April 2015 terrorist attack at Kenya’s Garissa University College where 148 people were murdered by Al-Shabaab militants.
“My research examined the social determinants of vulnerability for Somali refugees and demonstrated how the Kenyan government’s response collectively punished Somalis and made a vulnerable population even more vulnerable,” he says.
Boeyink recently presented his thesis research at the Nordic Migration Conference in Oslo, Norway, an organization that examines aspects of international migration and ethnic relations such as integration, ethnicity/race, culture, religion, marginalization, citizenship, nationalism, discrimination and racism.
This fall Boeyink began a doctoral program in African studies at the University of Edinburgh. His dissertation research will examine cash transfers in refugee camps.
“Camps traditionally provide food aid to refugees,” Boeyink says. “This food is often culturally inappropriate and insufficient nutritionally, and the recipients usually sell the rations on the open market. A ‘cash revolution’ is currently taking place in humanitarian situations to substitute cash for food in order to create a more efficient aid system, and allow for dignity and agency for those receiving the aid.”
Boeyink will conduct a year of ethnographic studies in refugee camps in Kenya and possibly Uganda or Greece to look at the social effects of these humanitarian interventions.
FROM THE CLASSROOM TO THE REAL WORLD
“I would shrivel and die if my professional career didn’t converge with service to those who have been dealt a rough hand.”
Boeyink’s social justice efforts started while a student in response to needs in Haiti. His intense interest in Africa also began in his early days at Central. “I really developed a love of learning at Central. Many professors, including Jim Zaffiro, Keith Yanner, Keith Jones and Jon Witt, inspired me to explore our social world and not take it for granted,” he says.
In particular, a freshman-year course in African Civilizations with Zaffiro caused Boeyink to fall in love with learning about the continent. He says, “The history, politics and cultures of Africa are incredibly captivating to me. There is so much innovation and resiliency within this group of people.”
Boeyink saw this resiliency firsthand while working as a mental health program coordinator for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. In this role, he screened and referred refugee clients to mental health organizations and trained those organizations in culturally appropriate practices.
“There is a global trend of xenophobia and fear, and governments around the world are restricting movement for those who need it most. There are few ends in sight to many of the conflicts going on, and countries blessed with many resources are keen to close the gates on refugees fleeing violence and persecution,” Boeyink says.
“Where I take heart is in the relationships I have been fortunate to build with individuals and families. I have supported people to get jobs that pay better than mine did, and they’ve purchased homes, and I’ve played a part in catching the most vulnerable from medical and psychological free-falls. It’s impossible to not be inspired by these folks.”
Africa will likely not be the only continent to benefit from Boeyink’s drive for human rights, poverty alleviation and humanitarian relief. “I want to visit Bhutan, a country in southern Asia that is home to many of the refugees with whom I work,” he says, urging others, young and old, to pursue their passions too.
“Working 40-plus hours a week is the largest chunk of our waking hours. I would shrivel and die if my professional career didn’t converge with service to those who have been dealt a rough hand. I wouldn’t be fulfilled if I did it on the margins of my time.”
Boeyink has found a way for his work to overlap with his passions. He says, “Life’s way too short and incredible to do otherwise.”