Honors senior Kara Haselton inspired by international internship with Preemptive Love Coalition

By Lakin Stevens, Editor of the Honors Wednesday Memo

November 10, 2021 


Summer of 2021, Kara Haselton, a Wilson Scholar and Honors College senior, interned with Preemptive Love Coalition (PLC) based in Iraq. Haselton is an interdisciplinary studies major with an individually designed concentration in photojournalism and social justice paired with minors in communications and photography. From June 3 through July 31, 2021, Haselton worked as one of five communications interns, out of eight total interns, for PLC. She reported that she has wanted to be a photographer since she was ten and became invested in social and global issues, specifically the refugee crises, while in high school. Through non-profit experiences that introduced her to the ethics of humanitarian aid and the importance of grassroots, people-first aid organizations, Haselton learned she could combine her passion for photographic storytelling with her passion for advocacy.

Photo above features the beautiful mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan at sunrise. Photo by Kara Haselton.

PLC is an Iraq-based non-profit organization that has branched out to locations around the world. According to their website, they seek to unmake the effects of violence that leads to war in communities around the world. Haselton explained, “In Iraq, they largely work with providing aid on the front lines of war as well as creating job opportunities for refugees and internally displaced peoples. As a whole, they seek to build up a network of peacemakers and educate people on the reality of humanitarian issues around the world.”

Working in the role of an intern is a challenging position that Haselton navigated while living abroad in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Haselton stated, “It was… never a dull moment.” With vaccines, traveling was easier but she still faced challenges as different countries required different requirements for entry. In Iraq, she was able to live “pretty normal lives in the new realm we found ourselves in.” She attributed her success to collaborations with her intern group. They faced the transitions and challenges together. Haselton explained,

"All the challenges we had—being in a different country, different weather, different cultural expectations—we faced together. The nature of the work PLC conducts is challenging. We talked a lot about the nuances of social issues, politics, aid, and photographic representation, both interpersonally with the intern group and with the Iraq office staff. The biggest challenges and rewards often coincided with each other, teaching us that often the best things are also the hardest things. It was difficult figuring out how to live and work in another country with different expectations and languages. However, we found that the best relationships and experiences were built out of perseverance through those difficulties and a willingness to try new things. The local friends I made were some of the most impactful from the whole experience. Ultimately, I walked away with a new understanding of the full importance and value of community. Relationships are the best teachers and most rewarding aspects of life.”

Photo above features Kara Haselton (second from left) with other PLC interns and the internship coordinator she lived with (left to right): Lucia, Kara, Julia (internship coordinator), Amanda, Abby, Lottie, Ansley, Destinee, and Rawan. Photo submitted.

Being an Honors student, Haselton felt prepared to take on these challenges after her experiences in Honors seminars. As a requirement of the Honors College, Honors students complete nine hours of interdisciplinary seminars in the Honors College. Haselton took three Honors seminars that prepared her to “discuss more philosophical concepts regarding photography as well as the way we impact the world around us.” These included: HON1515 Ethics of Travel and Adventure with Lindsay Pepper and Beth Cramer, HON2515 Take my Picture with Dr. Garrett McDowell, and HON3515 Slavery and American Capitalism with Dr. Louis Gallien. Haselton also attributes, Dr. McDowell, who serves as her honors mentor, for providing her with the support that allowed her to feel prepared to pursue the internship.

“The biggest thing that the Honors College has given me is a belief in myself and the support necessary to pursue intimidating experiences, and I think the importance of that should never be overlooked,” Haselton explained.

Haselton discovered this internship opportunity having followed PLC for several years. She described, “I’m super passionate about ethical aid and sustainable community development in the aid industry and PLC is one of the best examples of grassroots, people-first aid and development work that I’ve found. I got very interested in refugee issues at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 and started following the work of several non-profits serving on the front lines that are also seeking to educate people in the West.” When searching for internships, PLC was her top choice because she knew it would introduce her to the career she has wanted to pursue.

As a communication intern, with her background in photography, Haselton was “tasked with organizing and photographing product shots and various events happening in the office or at their various sites.” For the last month of her internship, Haselton collaborated with a fellow intern “Lottie” on documenting recipes to explore popular dishes made by women in the Syrian refugee camp. Haselton recounted,

“We connected with three women in the camp and spent several days at their respective homes, getting to know them, building relationships, and documenting the cooking processes and history behind different dishes. In the process, Lottie and I grew very close to the translator from the camp that we worked with and with the women we learned from. This was an incredible lesson in working on larger documentary projects as well as the importance of relationships in photography and representation… I walked away with a new understanding of the kind of work I want to pursue, as well as with new friends and new recipes.” 

Photo above shows Suaad, a woman from Syria, making Maklupa with her daughters. This photo by Kara Haselton is from the food project series she worked on with fellow intern Lottie. 

For her Honors thesis, Haselton is currently working on an analysis of relationships in holistic photo storytelling, a reflection on the photos she made in Iraqi Kurdistan while completing her PLC internship this summer. She is working with Pearson Ripley, adjunct professor in the Department of Art at App State as her thesis director. Her second readers are Dr. Alexandra Sterling Hellenbrand, professor of German and Director of Global Studies and Dr. Garrett McDowell, academic mentor and Honors faculty in the Honors College.

Photo above is a selfie by Kara Haselton (far right) taken on her last day visiting Fadia, the local translator that Lottie and I worked with in the Syrian refugee camp. Here, they are with her mother and two children whose voices she now hears regularly over WhatsApp.

After graduation, Haselton plans to spend a gap year investing in community learning, as well as applying for the National Geographic Fulbright program to financially support her in creating a photo story. Haselton looks forward to continuing to develop her skills in photography and storytelling through hands-on experiences. She described, “I’m wanting to continue my education informally, learning from the world around me before I try to establish myself in a career. I still have a lot to learn and experience to become a better storyteller and photographer and so I want to allow myself time to do that.”


Top photo features Kara Haselton at an Internally Displaced People’s camp in Iraq. She explained, “Whenever I went places to take photos, I liked to give my camera to any kids that were nearby so they could have a chance to be the photographer in the situation. This photo of me was taken by a local boy who knew exactly how to make good images.”



Published: Nov 10, 2021 7:56am