SMHS Grad Has Rotary to Thank for International Education, Career Path

Photo by Larissa Althouse / OUTLOOK Jennifer Binley, a San Marino native, studied at the University of Cape Town in South Africa as a Rotary Club Global Grant Scholar.
Photo by Larissa Althouse / OUTLOOK
Jennifer Binley, a San Marino native, studied at the University of Cape Town in South Africa as a Rotary Club Global Grant Scholar.

Rotary Clubs value service to their communities and the rest of the world, so San Marino High School graduate Jennifer Binley has certainly justified her being awarded the San Marino club’s Global Grant Scholarship.
The USC alumna used the scholarship to study for her master’s degree at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She devoted her keynote at the club’s recent Paul Harris Fellow Recognition Luncheon to her service during that time.
“From my experience, I cannot emphasize enough what a fantastic time I had in South Africa,” she said. “I feel like this opportunity really helped me grow so much as a person.”
Cape Town was a natural destination for Binley, whose familial roots include connections to South Africa and Zimbabwe. (Her mother also has Australian ties.) While at USC, Binley joined a group dedicated to raising awareness of the decades-long societal and political strife in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Just from my family alone, I became interested in different cultures and how they interact. This curiosity is what led me to study international relations at USC,” Binley explained. “I realized that even from Southern California, you can make a small impact in a place as far away as the DRC. It really made me want to focus on international development as a career path.”
Binley said South Africa is a nation still recovering from its apartheid rule, in which the minority white population held all the political power until the election of Nelson Mandela — the nation’s first black leader and first overall president by election — in 1994. The various ethnic groups in Cape Town still live relatively segregated from each other, and waves of protest and marching this year ultimately led to the resignation of President Jacob Zuma, who faces allegations of corruption.
“I actually observed the protest,” Binley said. “It was quite amazing, the number of South Africans who turned out. I didn’t think it would happen, but recently the president stepped down. I found this to be extremely promising for South African politics. I’m hoping this will be a positive trend to end the corruption in South Africa and rebuild the nation, but only time will tell.”
Local Rotary Clubs in South Africa helped Binley along the way (she delivered an accumulated collection of club flags to Rotary Club of San Marino President Denise Wadsworth last week), and part of her service work in South Africa included participating in research projects on local alcohol abuse and on violence prevention. Her master’s thesis ended up being a study on nearby Rwanda in its post-genocide development.
Binley said she even managed to find a similar development in Cape Town to her native Los Angeles: a shortage of water.
“Cape Town is looking to be the first major city to run out of water,” she said. “They’re limited to one-minute showers a day. They’re only allowed to flush the toilet twice a day. I find this a really fascinating case study to look at because this could easily be Los Angeles one day.”
Binley said she looks to remain on the African continent for the foreseeable future. After she finished with her master’s degree, she interned with the Carter Center in Atlanta, and she also was set to be an official observer of Kenya’s 2017 repeat presidential election until one of the main candidates withdrew his name, effectively ending the contest. Binley said she is moving to Madagascar in April to start work with a British nongovernmental operation there dedicated to water, sanitation and hygiene issues.
“It’s definitely an adventure and I’m extremely excited for it,” she said. “None of this would be remotely possible without the global grant scholarship.”

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