Heeten Kalan, Founder & Director Ravi Dixit, Co-ordinator Board of Directors Internships & Opportunities
In 1992, while working for the National Toxics Campaign Fund (NTCF), Heeten Kalan was sent to West Dallas, Texas to cover the story of the community affected by the lead smelter. These 3 days probably changed his life because as a South African he began to make all sorts of connections with his home country. Images of South African black townships surrounded by smokestacks and oil refineries popped up when he looked at West Dallas. These formative days spent with the African-American and Hispanic community forced Heeten to question the environmental injustices of apartheid.
Upon his return to Boston, he started an in-house South Africa project at NTCF and spent 6 weeks conducting a needs assessment for the project in South Africa. Shortly after his arrival from South Africa in February 1993, NTCF closed down and Heeten founded what is now the South African Exchange Program on Environmental Justice from his bedroom in an apartment he shared with three others. He had consulted extensively with allies in the US and counterparts in South Africa about the need for such an initiative, and the overwhelming response was supportive. Three months later, in August 1993 SAEPEJ and Heeten moved to a larger apartment which could easily house the offices. In November of 1994, after months of work and laying the foundations for SAEPEJ, Heeten Kalan was invited to address the First Community-based Conference on the Environment outside of Cape Town. He was asked to speak on environmental racism/justice. He also participated in the Greening of the RDP Conference and the launching of the Environmental Justice Networking Forum while he was there. Heeten also has a column in the Environmental Justice Networking Forum's quarterly newsletter.
The impetus for founding SAEPEJ was grounded in the transition process and the rebuilding of a new society. A year prior to the first democratic elections, SAEPEJ was laying the groundwork for post-elections work in South Africa and in identifying areas of concern. Anti-apartheid activists all over continue to transition themselves from bringing down a regime to rebuilding a just, non-racial, non-sexist society. SAEPEJ's work has presented a way for anti-apartheid activists, especially in the US, to re-engage in South Africa work.
Ravi Dixit, Co-ordinator
Born and raised in Boston Massachusetts to Indian immigrants,
Ravi Dixit has been involved in social justice work since 1994,
while he was in High School. Beginning as a youth intern at the
Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth (CAPAY), he worked
on issues of racism and injustice as it pertained particularly
to Asian American youth growing up in the city of Boston. A year
later he became the Co-Chairperson of the organization and helped
organize two annual conferences for 500-700 Asian American youth
each. While working in and leading CAPAY, Ravi became exposed
to other organizations and issues of social justice locally and
internationally. He participated in two trips to the South of
the US and one trip to South Africa with Project HIP-HOP (Highways
Into the Past, History, Organizing, and Power). Project HIP-HOP
takes youth from the Boston area down to the South of the United
States to study the Civil Rights Movement and the roots of racism
and injustice in the US. Upon returning to Boston students, like
Ravi, give presentations and lead discussion on the Civil Rights
movement, racism, and injustice in the US. In the summer of 1996,
Ravi was a part of a special delegation which Project HIP-HOP
took to South Africa to study the Anti-Apartheid Struggle.
In the Fall of 1996, Ravi began his undergraduate university
education in Boston, but he keep his connections to social activism
as he continued to be involved in Project HIP-HOP and also continued
on the activist funding board of Haymarket People's Fund. In
the Summer of 1998, Ravi worked with VISIONS Worldwide in New
Delhi, India as an HIV/AIDS peer educator with high school and
college students. In the Spring of 2000, He graduated with a
degree in Social Studies and a certificate in Urdu and Hindi from
Ravi has been lucky to have the privilege to travel to many
parts of the world. He has been to China, India, Cuba, Europe
(Portugal, Italy, Poland and France), and South Africa.
Dr. Richard Clapp, Boston University School of Public Health
Penn Loh, Alternatives for Community and Environment
SAEPEJ encourages individuals to seek internships and volunteer positions throughout the year. Interns participate in the day-to-day running of the organization along with tailored projects, such as research papers, fundraising, outreach and program management. Volunteers are always welcome to assist with projects.
Opportunities are available year-round. Please send cover letter with résumé to SAEPEJ or email Heeten Kalan.