The Beyond Sciences Initiative (BSI), a not-for-profit international organization, provides a platform for dialogue among young scholars around the globe. www.beyondsciences.org
Dr. Eleanor Fish founded BSI in 2013, specifically to create a network for young scholars that would develop lasting relationships throughout their professional careers, cognizant of the diversity and inequities around the globe. The first founding Chapter of BSI was in Toronto, affiliated with Trinity College, Toronto and the University of Toronto. To date BSI has representatives in over 100 countries. BSI’s mandate is to foster academic and personal growth while empowering young scientific leaders to make lasting and influential change within their local and global communities. This is accomplished by increasing cultural understanding among geographically separate communities, and by ensuring unrestricted access to scientific knowledge through mentorship, STEM workshops, a lecture repository and an annual international online conference.
BSI has three main objectives:
- Bridging the gap in access to academic knowledge through global communication
- Increasing cultural understanding among geographically separate communities
- Participate in outreach within the local community
A major focus of BSI is the organization of the Annual International Remote Conference: Science & Society. The first was held on January 23-24, 2016, and this year will be the 9th. See the announcement poster for dates and further information.
These real-time online conferences are intended to be fully accessible to scholars from around the globe, who share their research experiences in the disciplines of cancer, chronic diseases, global health, education and technology. There is no registration fee and if registrants require access to a reliable internet provider, funds are provided to purchase whatever is needed. In addition, each conference includes short informative documentaries from students, that showcase culturally sensitive issues from communities around the globe. Information is on the BSI website: www.beyondsciences.org/conference/.
In 2023 there were 1200 registrants from over 100 countries participating in the 8th Annual International BSI Conference.
BSI members around the globe have reached out in their respective communities to encourage youth to consider careers in STEM. BSI members advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion.
BSI members engage with their local and global communities in different outreach activities, focusing on supporting marginalized youth and the disadvantaged. Some examples are:
Local Outreach Initiatives in Toronto, Canada
Into the Cold: BSI students provide care packages with food and warm clothing to support the homeless in Toronto. The motivation behind this program is the desire to provide some relief, and also to educate students on the fragility around food security and poverty by personal interactions with individuals.
St. Clare Multifaith Community Dinner: Residents in this housing complex include adults and families who have been subject to abuse and/or substance addictions and are supported by government assistance. At month’s end, assistance funds have been spent. With the support of food services at Trinity College, BSI members assist with the organization of community dinners for the residents.
Global Outreach Activities
Kakuma Mentorship Project, Kenya
Kakuma Refugee camp is located in Turkana District in the Northwestern Region of Kenya, Turkana County, Kenya. The camp was established in 1992 by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the Government of Kenya. It occupies more than 12 square kilometers in North Western Kenya and is one of the largest refugee camps in Kenya. Currently, the population is around 200,000 with the predominant nationalities being from South-Sudan (49.2%) and Somalia (31.7%). The camp falls under the jurisdiction of the Kenyan government and under the Department of Refugee Affairs. The majority of the population is aged below 17 years (55.5. %) The camp has secondary schools run by humanitarian organizations like Windle Trust Kenya. The BSI Moi University Chapter undertook a project in partnership with Windle Trust Kenya. The aim was to initiate a mentorship program in secondary schools within the camp while identifying barriers to girl child education in the camp. The camp has five secondary schools: 4 day schools and 1 boarding school. BSI members traveled to Kakuma, spent time there and interacted with students, offering mentorship and a number of lectures on respectful behaviors, self care, sexual and reproductive health and motivational talks on the value of education. On learning that many of the female youth did not attend school because of lack of sanitary pads during their monthly menstruation, BSI members secured a yearly donation of menstruation supplies, changing the lives of these young women.
Tumaini Mentorship Program, Eldoret, Kenya: The Tumaini Innovation Centre is a centre for the street children/youth around Eldoret where they learn and develop skills to help these youth who in the past had been neglected by society. The intent is to enable the youth to become self-supporting and independent. At present, the centre houses children from vulnerable and troubled social situations, where they faced considerable stigmatization and social neglect. The BSI-Moi University Chapter has established a mentorship program at the Tumaini Children’s Centre, which connects the youth at the centre with individuals whom they can confide in as their peers.
Kabete Library Project, Naiorobo, Kenya
In 2019, BSI Nairobi established a children’s library at the Kabete Rehabilitation Centre in Nairobi. Hundreds of books were purchased, sufficient to send 500 to Eldoret, to give to every child patient in the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital’s Children’s Oncology Wing – more than 50. Each patient, when discharged, took home 2/3 books.
Amani Shelter, Kenya
BSI members provide mentorship and big sister/brother companionship to orphaned children living with HIV in the Amani Shelter, located close to Eldoret, Kenya. Weekly visits are organized, jam packed with activities the children enjoy. Some of the books diverted to Eldoret were also added to the Amani Shelter library. Recently, the children were ecstatic when they were given tablets – to assist with their learning, and of course installed with games as well as educational apps.
The Rainmaker Project, South Sudan
BSI member James Thuch Madhier, born in war torn South Sudan and conscripted as a child soldier, came to the University of Toronto in 2014, through the World University Program; he was identified as an exceptional refugee student. The Rainmaker Project was James’ concept to bring sustainable development to rural farming communities in South Sudan. James proposed installing solar water pumps to provide year-round irrigation for crops and livestock, thereby reducing the tension among farmers for their limited and precarious access to water. The intent was to develop peaceful communities, employ and train the local workforce, sell the farm products to wholesalers and re-invest any profits into the farming cooperative. BSI helped raised funds to purchase 25 acres of land in Tonj, South Sudan, and to purchase panels and the first water pump for the Rainmaker Project – now an ongoing enterprise spearheaded by James on a fulltime basis.
A partnering initiative among BSI members in Canada, Kenya and the UK, to provide a networking platform for undergraduate STEM students, founded in 2021