SIT student nominated for Forbes award starts new project

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BRATTLEBORO >> Justin Bibee isn't your average college kid.

Although the SIT Graduate Institute student was not ultimately named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs, the efforts that got him nominated in the first place only continue to increase.

Bibee, who is currently in Morocco serving in the Peace Corps, received a letter from the magazine and wondered what it was all about. He was a finalist for the 2016 group.

"I was utterly surprised. I read the letter and had to reread it, this time paying attention to every word," he said. "I was recognized by Forbes for my founding of Humanac."

Previously known as People's Advocate Council, the volunteer-based human rights organization was founded in January 2015 under the premise that it would raise awareness around the importance of protecting human rights through various initiatives.

Homelessness, racial discrimination and intolerance were examples Bibee used as issues seen everywhere in society. Humanac wanted to open minds up to seeing new ways to face such challenges, he said. Not only should people be aware of human rights issues, his group would argue, but they should learn how to stand up to them.

Bibee said was, and still is, "sincerely humbled," honored and grateful for the nod from Forbes. But he says he's more thankful about the opportunity he's been given to help others.

"While it is wonderful to receive awards, knowing I have helped others is rewarding enough," he said. "I know the difference that positive inspiration can make in a person's life. Such inspiration has changed my life."

His latest project is a book of photographs. It will be published in hard copies and sold to benefit the Global Human Rights Project whose aim is to bring human rights activities to every country. Photos are being submitted from all over the world with people holding up signs in support.

The funds will allow for the expansion and development of human rights advocacy, said Bibee, who sees "extraordinary potential" in the power of photography.

"Photographs have a unique ability to move us and drive us to take action," he said. "This project is bringing people together from every country in the world. Photographs are enduring and history will show that the Global Human Rights Project succeeded in bringing together every race, religion and nationality for the advancement of human rights."

Returning from Peace Corps service in April, Bibee will keep working towards getting his master's degree at SIT. He plans to be back on campus in September.

"While everyone else was fighting to be the first to depart Morocco, I chose to be the last," said Bibee, president of the SIT Student Association in 2013. "I have no doubt that my Peace Corps service has prepared me to continue contributing significantly at SIT. I will continue my work with the United Nations Association of the United States of America, working with local communities and elected officials in Vermont to inform, inspire and mobilize Americans to support the principles and vital work of the United Nations."

He also plans to continue the third goal of the Peace Corps, which is to "promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans through organizing speeches and presentations about Peace Corps service and encouraging others to serve."

Bibee looks at human rights as something that should come before everything else in what he calls the fight against underdevelopment. Obligations around that should apply to all people no matter their location, he said, and acts of human rights violations wherever are criminal and cannot be justified.

"Underpinning my effort is a rational and deeply moral purpose," he said. "There are answers to the world's cataclysms, and that is the respect for — and fulfillment of — human rights."

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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