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The latest updates from our 2012 summer fellows:

Fellow: Katie Greenman

Hey all!!

I just arrived to Oakland, CA, and am getting increasinglyexcited to begin the on-the ground portion of my Empower project.  With the flexibility of the funding,I’ve restructured the project around my interviews and a workshop and begantoday.

The intention of this fellowship is to develop, and beginimplementing, a workshop for college students that offers tools andperspectives to foster healthy self-expression, effective communication and basicallybringing more joy to the crazy human experience of young adulthood.

The information and tools that will be offered in theprogram stem from research in Social Psychology and Human/Child Development,and, after this trip, will also stem from the work and experience of variousactive professionals in the field.

My California Agenda:

1. The first and most exciting experience, beganthis morning as I started attending a three day workshop entitled “Living theChange” hosted by Challenge Day Founders Rich & Yvonne Dutra St. John (aninternationally acclaimed not-for-profit organization that hosts experientialworkshops to cultivate “a world where every child feels safe, loved andcelebrated.”) Rich & Yvonne host this specific workshop “designed toempower participants with the tools and vision to Be The Change in every areaof their lives”.

2. Following the workshop, I’ll lead a focus group ofyoung people from the Challenge Day community to bounce ideas, hear theirexperience of college and gather suggestions and input for this program.

3. On Monday, I’ll connect with Soul Shoppe FounderVicki Abidesco and employee Jen Ferlito. Soul Shoppe hosts the CollegeLeadership Program that “challenges participants to look at their own personalleadership strengths.”

4.  Afterwards, I look forward to meeting with Ryanand Kristi Joslin, founders of I Be Me workshopat the Grand Performing Arts center in Pleaston, California. There workrevolves around promoting self acceptance through theater arts and Improvactivities.

5.  Lastly, on the formal schedule, I have a meetingwith Alara Castell, known as a “Sassy Spiritual Guide,” who empowers heartbased women entrepreneurs and has offered to consult me on building a financiallysustainable approach to launch this project.

I look forward to offering another update as the project progresses.

Fellow: Colleen Flanagan, Tufts Timmy

¡Hola amigos¡

Just letting you all know that I have safely arrived in Xela (also called Quetzaltenango), Guatemala. I moved in with my host family on Friday night and will be starting work on the biosand water filter project this week. Another member of Timmy Global Health (from Indiana University) has actually made some headway on the project and completed the first water filter as well as established relationships with suppliers, testing facilities, and a new partner  organization on the ground here in Guatemala. The original plan was to construct the filters under the umbrella of Pop Wuj, the Guatemalan organization partnered with TGH, but it became clear that they were ambivalent about taking on another project (Pop Wuj is already runs a school, a medical clinic, along with numerous social work projects). The group we are now working with is named ACAM, a women’s health organization based here in Xela. The first filter, built at ACAM, will be ready for water testing this week, so that will be my first move on the project. I am hoping to build four filters while down here, preferably in family homes, as this is the setting that will be most useful for the communities we work with.

Upon my arrival in Xela, I was informed about some possible problems with the project. The community, called La Victoria, who received the first round of replaceable water filters (from a manufacturer, not biosand filters) have grown quite attached to using them. Pop Wuj has also formed a deal with EcoFiltro, the manufacturer, and seems to be selling them at low prices to members of the community both in Xela and in La Victoria. This presents a few problems, considering the filters have to be replaced every year and, even at a lower price, present yet another financial struggle to families. The biosand filters, however, are capable of lasting 7-10 years and are made relatively cheaply. I am hoping that we can have at least one family in La Victoria accept the biosand filter (perhaps a family that cannot afford the EcoFiltros) so that we can at least have a case study of how well the filter works in this community. In addition, I am hoping that ACAM will aid us in locating other families in the area that will want the filters.

Of course the overall goal is to teach others how to build the biosand filters, but we have to make sure that they 1) work at killing microbial and parasitic agents in the drinking water that cause medical problems 2) can be and are properly used in the setting of a family home 3) increase ingestion of clean water (instead of other substitutes, such as soda) and 5) find out exactly how a family uses them (cooking, washing, drinking, etc). Therefore, it is important that I build the filters and monitor their progress. During this process, I will be working in conjunction with the Timmy member who begun the project to create instructional videos and manuals that we will distribute to community leaders either during the fall or when the Tufts Timmy chapter returns to Xela in January.

Overall, I am optimistic about the success of the project and excited to get started. I hope all of you are safe, happy and experiencing as much success as possible on your projects!

Fellow: David Schwartz, GroupShot

Dear Empower fellows,

Reading all of these updates has been incredible–all of you are up to such fantastic things. Best of luck to everyone still working on his or her projects and the prolific aftermath of publication, monitoring, and evaluation.

I realize there hasn’t been an update from the Impact + Scale trip, a development-by-design research workshop directed by Adam White, founder of Groupshot and Tufts alum. Our project began in the beginning of June, starting in Bangalore and continuing through Hyderabad, Jaipur, and Delhi. The on-the-ground work involved researching and understanding the differences between cultures and conditions, integral, inseparable facts that give breadth and individuality to specific contexts. Our work was particularly interested in how cultures and conditions are subjects of scale, which is why our research focused on four different cities in India. While we saw similarities (e.g. the importance of business in Hyderabad and Bangalore and the importance of tourism in Jaipur and Delhi), the differences were really what defined each area. Religious makeup, languages spoken, and ethnic diversity gave each of these four cities a different space in which we had to work.

Our work was multifaceted as well. Part of our workshop involved researching the implications of introducing the Leveraged Freedom chair (LFC), a wheelchair designed by MIT for rural usage, throughout India. This involved meetings with doctors, government officials, and specialists in each area to understand specific cultural perceptions about wheelchair-bound inhabitants and what their lives are like. Researching the different types of environments, services available, and notions about immobility in different parts of India were essential for the success of this project. One way we did this was by following around one wheelchair user in each city and developing an extensive ethnography afterwards. This combined with our other research and our meetings with a variety of professionals helped Impact+Scale to publish a report for the LFC with advice on how to maximize its impact in its implementation phase and what decisions must be made as it moves out of the prototype.

Another side of our research was problem-focused as opposed to solution-focused. It followed the problem-solving process employed by human-centered design organizations like Ideo. Because Adam had experience designing a social entrepreneurial project for English language education in the past, the group decided to focus on studying the spaces in which spoken English language learning exists in India. Our goal was to conduct extensive research in each city on this topic, and, at the end of the trip, develop an idea for the most impactive English education project. We arranged meetings with students, teachers, tour guides, hotel owners, and business and NGO owners. We went to summer camps, arcades, and parks to understand the multiple manifestations of concepts like “confidence” and “recreation” and “incentivization.” We mapped English interaction spaces, urban instances of English, untapped time blocks in a student’s schedule. We consistently refined our ideas, zooming in and analyzing the fine details and zooming out to more theoretical understandings, pivoting from potential projects that would not be as helpful nor as needed. In the end, we developed the SPoken English Assessment Certificate (SPEAC), a benchmark/assessment program that encourages school youth to practice English with each other and sign up for certifying oral examinations to earn specific “badges.” These scores and certifications will then be sold to telemarketing companies as a service, as 99% of employees in these Indian organizations don’t speak the required level of English. Having a proper benchmark and a more elucidating record for English speaking, these companies will be able to hire with more ease and efficiency, all while providing school youth with a more fun, productive, incentive-oriented system for spoken English language learning.

Our systems-focus on this project played into the last tenet of our research, which was the pure study of social enterprise. We saw and toured the largest telemedicine center in the world, started by Cisco as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. We met with Simpa, a pay-as-you-go solar energy organization, a representative of TOMS shoes, an Affordable Private Schools rating organization… the list goes on.

My experience in India was eye-opening. During that month, I began to see the difference between output and impact, the importance of area-specific nuance, and the incredible opportunity that social enterprise offers for international development. What’s more, though, is I witnessed the full process of ground-up human-centered design of a social venture–a lifecycle which involves pivoting, or observing and adjusting, in order to avoid failure and guarantee some sort of success.

Our work has just begun, though; we’ve been generating deliverables and other publishable outputs like design concepts and problem briefs all summer. I’ll be sure to share them with the Empower community once we’ve finished. Thank you for taking the time to read about our project!

Fellow: Hafsa Anouar

I greet you with a very warm greeting from Morocco. I am enjoying my summer back home after a splendid National Entrepreneurial Camp (NEC)

To be on the same page, I will share with you how did NEC start:

My name is Hafsa Anouar from Morocco. I am a graduate of the African Leadership Academy. Located in Johannesburg, this pan-African school strives to develop the next generation of African leaders. There, I focused on entrepreneurship as the process of identifying needs, and designing and implementing solutions. Eager to engage others in social entrepreneurship, a group of my Moroccan friends and I initiated Rabat Entrepreneurial Challenge (REC), a six-day summer training program that promotes entrepreneurship amongst youths in Morocco. This year REC evolved to a National Entrepreneurial Camp (NEC), which won this year’s Kathryn Davis Peace Prize.

As the Co-Founder of NEC, I have been has been engaged in various steps of making the camp a successful one from pitching the idea to donors, writing proposals, developing the curriculum, contacting guest speakers, and reaching out to entrepreneurs. One of the accomplishments that I am really proud of is signing a partnership with a the largest mining company in Morocco, called OCP to sponsor the camp. I remember the day when Mr.Belafrej, the Director of Sustainable Development in OCP, called me in his office and asked me to pitch the idea to him and at the end of the short meeting we had together. He smiled to me and said; “Well, I guess we should start on the paper work. I am looking forward to working with you” I almost jumped from my seat. Up until now, my parents and my family members cannot believe that I actually met Mr. Belafej and signed a long-term partnership.

Despite the tremendous challenges I and the rest of the team faced in looking for sponsors and guest speakers, designing the curriculum, etc, spending one week with motivated and energetic youth from all around Morocco is an enjoyable experience that made me forget the challenges I passed through and the sacrifices I had to make to develop a great camp. The most rewarding thing about organizing this camp is to witness the development of the youth. When they first come, they are really shy, they do not really talk that much ; but after spending one week in the camp, they are able to speak out, develop their business plans, pitch their ideas confidently in front of the judges and most importantly develop long lasting friendships.

The last day of the camp was the final competition. We had three winners with outstanding projects in various fields: recycling, e-marketing and tourism. The NEC team is currently working on developing a strong follow up system for the final projects to see the lights. Thus, I am still busy working after the NEC and I will always be. But, I really enjoy what I do!!

To conclude, the camp was a blast! I am really proud of all the participants, who showed great interest in learning the fundamental skills of entrepreneurship and knew more about themselves and their communities.

 

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Note to the reader: this post was originally posted on my personal blog. I am currently in the midst of a one-year fellowship working with both Fundación Gente Nueva and Fundación PETISOS in Bariloche, Argentina.

Do you consider yourself to be lucky in life?

Twitter, my newfound love (addiction) asked me this, then directed me to an online discussion about poverty and international aid. Completely reorients the conversation, when you stop looking at numbers and start looking at experiences.

Today was the first official meeting of Madres Verdes, a new initiative ofPETISOS. A microenterprise offered to the mothers and family members of child laborers, the team will be producing and selling household and living accessories made from recycled products (think Bead for Life). Ultimately, the money earned from the microenterprise is intended to alleviate some of the monetary pressures that compel families to send their children to scavenge for useful materials in the garbage dump. Very triple-bottom-line.

Instead of jumping right into training and production though, our first day was dedicated to team-building exercises and get-to-know-each-other activities to explore the different realities that we come from. Because the Madres Verdes team is composed of two groups of four mothers, each one coming from one of the two barrios where PETISOS has a community center, they promptly divided along those lines to explain “como es mi barrio.”

The majority of responses that followed illuminated the hardships that these women lived through on a daily basis: “the city still hasn’t installed running water or gas in our neighborhood,” “the bus only comes every hour and usually there isn’t enough space for everyone waiting to get on, so I’m often late to work” and “one of my walls is made of cardboard, but we don’t have enough money to buy the materials to construct a new wall.” The last is particularly difficult, given that Bariloche’s winters are incredibly wet, cold, windy and long (and I say this having spent four winters in Boston).

When it was my turn to speak, I was somewhat embarrassed to share with the group what my ‘barrio’ is like. Unlike them, I do have running water and gas. I have a car to take me wherever I want—on my own time–and I have a house that is not only well-constructed, but has central heating and air conditioning, should the weather outside not exactly suit my comfort level.

However, this kind of mentality is an incredibly detrimental and progress-inhibiting one for the following reason: the way I (and perhaps some of the other women) perceived the situation in that moment was solely through a quantitative lens. Summarizing and analyzing our respective realities exclusively based upon these measures fails to properly reflect the complete story. Because it discounts qualitative experiences of growth, progress, and happiness, it necessarily victimizes an individual lacking basic resources, regardless of whether that individual does in fact perceive him or herself to be victimized. True, 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day—which undeniably compromises several of their human rights—but that does not mean that they are among the ‘unlucky ones.’

If we’re really going to make any kind of meaningful changes to the international aid and development machine, let’s start by abandoning the one-sided poverty pornography paradigm that depicts poverty exclusively as a situation of hopelessness and disrepair.

After the draft of the Libya report was completed, I began two major projects: telemedicine research and an emergency investigation checklist.

After PHR completed the draft of Witness to War Crimes: Evidence from Misrata, Libya, I began researching the validity of video conferencing as a means to conduct a psychiatric or forensic evaluation.

The reasoning behind this new project, called telemedicine, was that telemedicine could be used instead of sending doctors to foreign countries to perform evaluations. Telemedicine would be especially helpful in countries that have travel bans. For example, Bahraini doctors have been detained for treating patients harmed during protests against the government. These detentions violate the principles of medical neutrality. If PHR could use telemedicine to determine that recently released doctors experienced trauma, it would have a stronger case to advocate for the release of the remaining doctors.

After an extensive search of academic articles and comparable studies, a fellow intern and I determined that telemedicine could replace in-person evaluations, opening a window of opportunity for PHR and potentially saving PHR several travel costs.

The other project I worked on after the Libya draft was a checklists of everything that goes into an emergency investigation. I made three checklists: trip preparation, packing lists, and research.

During this project, I learned the extent of work that went into an emergency investigation, from project planning stages to distribution of the report and advocacy. There were several items that I had not encountered before – the project proposal, ERB (ethical review board) approval, budgets, press, arranging interviews for investigators, contact with the UN and governments… the list goes on and on. To make the checklist, I began conducting interviews with many of the people in the office. I had the opportunity speak one-on-one with established professionals in several fields and get a sense of what they do on a daily basis.

This was one of my favorite projects because I know the checklist will be used long am I was gone. It also gave me chance to understand the roles and organization of a successful social enterprise. I am incredibly thankful for my experience and cannot wait to hear about all of yours!

If you have any questions or comments, please post!

 

-Erica Goldstein

 

Hello all! My name is Erica Goldstein. I am a rising junior at Tufts University, double majoring in Engineering Science and Biology. I am passionate about global health and human rights. This summer, I have the pleasure of interning at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in Cambridge, MA. PHR uses science and medicine to advocate for human rights, performing investigations to prevent mass atrocities, protect civilians, and prosecute the guilty. Please see my blog for more detailed posts.

In January 2011, PHR published an epidemiological report on the prevalence of crimes such as murder, torture, rape, and group persecution in the Chin State of Western Burma, an area typically neglected by human rights organizations and news reporters. The governing junta in Burma has committed many of these crimes, targeting ethnic Chins. PHR surveyors interviewed 702 households and determined that forced labor was the most prevalent crime. The regime forced families to execute unpaid labor, giving them fewer working days, and forced some families to work on jatropha farms, decreasing the number of edible products.

Upon arriving at PHR, I began the sequel to that report, which will document how the crimes in Chin State have affected health and food security. I gathered research from the last year and a half from several sources: UN reports, human rights organizations’ reports, news reports, and Burmese government documents.

After this research was completed, the Burma project was momentarily set aside as a more urgent investigation – one to Libya – began. The UN began documenting reports of violations such as mass rape, attacks on civilians, the use of humans to shield weapons, and the use of indiscriminate weapons. PHR also began receiving first-hand reports from contacts in Libya. To validate reports and advocate for the appropriate next steps, PHR began an emergency investigation.

As the office prepared for the investigation, I helped prepare a list of contacts on the ground and gather recent statements from Libyan officials. Then, after the investigators left for Libya, I performed background research for the report and started to draft the following sections:

-a chronological narrative of the conflict in Misrata,

-a timeline of important international events regarding Libya

-Libyan domestic legal frameworks

-weapons used in Libya (landmines, phosphorous weapons, AK-47s…)

-background on previously documented violations

The research was different from anything I had done as an engineering student, but the work was rewarding. Soon after my internship concluded, I was able to see the final product from my internship. On 30 August 2011, PHR published the report on Libya, Witness to War Crimes: Evidence from Misrata, Libya. in which I was acknowledged for my contribution. Please check it out and contact me if you want to know more!

 

-Erica Goldstein

In May, we embarked on our summer journey to Xela in the crux of its rainy season. By this point, the filters Nitin and Patric had distributed over spring break had been in the community for about 2.5 months, and we were looking to evaluate the success of their implementation and determine how to allocate the remainder of our funding.

Lucia, Nitin, and Rebecca arrived in Xela on May 28th, and delightfully reunited with Molly and Patric, who had already been taking classes at the Pop Wuj Spanish School for about two weeks.

After a week of exploring and settling themselves back in Guatemala, Nitin, Lucia, and Rebecca returned to check up on the filters at La Victoria….

Holding true to the Guatemalan style, we headed out with Dona Isabel half an hour later than planned. La Victoria is a picturesque farming community built on a mountainside. Horses and colorful wild turkeys regarded us curiously as we struggled up the steep path. Dona Isabel served as tour guide, proudly introducing us to the nine women with filters.

At each household, we were greeted by children eager to be in our pictures. We stayed for a bit and asked a series of general questions, including:

–       How has your filter been working?

–       How often do you have to refill it?

–       Do your children like to drink the water?

–       Have there been any noticeable health differences since you started using the filters?

–       What do you use the filters for? Agua pura?…Coffee?…Cooking?

We received many similar answers from all the women:

–       The filter works well.

–       We refill it two to three times each day.

–       The children like the water, because it is very fresh (One woman described how her children eagerly drink water from their filter when they arrive home, hot and tired, from school each day).

–       Some said their families experienced fewer stomach aches and necessary doctor visits since the filters had been implemented.

–       All reported that the filters are used for agua pura, coffee, and other nourishment such as Atole.

The women were extremely hospitable and eager to please. The children pulled out little plastic chairs, and the women proudly presented snacks they had prepared. We arrived home just in time for Xela’s daily monsoon, feeling very satisfied with the trip, especially with seeing that the filters were being used for their correct purpose.

After the success of our previous visit, we next set our sites on providing La Victoria with more filters. Clearly, the current ones were being carefully maintained and utilized, and the women were thrilled to receive even greater access to clean water.

Lucia, Nitin, Patric, and Rebecca arrived at Pop Wuj early, to find a large Ecofiltro van parked outside the school. Two Eofiltro employees had driven all the way from Antigua to transport filters to La Victoria and give a presentation about how to use and maintain the devices. We led the way in a van, packed with Pop Wuj volunteers coming along to help and observe the clean water project in action.

The women and their children were waiting outside Dona Maria’s house. The community leaders gave introductions, which were translated into Mayan Mam, English, and Spanish for all to understand. The men from Ecofiltro then gave a presentation about the proper ways to assemble, fill, and clean the filters. The women seemed eager to learn, and asked to clarify points of confusion, such as how often the filters should be cleaned.

We had also prepared surveys for the community. There were two separate sets of questions. The first was for those who had received filters in the spring, and focused on how the filters were working and their impact on the family’s overall health and economic stability. The second survey was a baseline for women who were about to receive filters, and included questions pertaining to their current medical and financial states (the surveys are attached at the bottom of the blog). We split into groups and interviewed the women, and then distributed the new filters to the eagerly awaiting families.

Our final gesture was a surprise for La Victoria. We gave a large, sixty-liter filter to Dona Ana, the community midwife and nurse. This filter was to be placed in her medical clinic. We felt assured that this filter would be put to good use, as Dona Ana had previously told us that she wished she had more clean water to provide for both her own family and all the sick people who came seeking her help.

–Tufts Timmy Global Health (Clean Water Initiative)

Hello everyone!  I’ve made a lot of progress since I last posted.  Due to all the previous setbacks, I had to sit down and rework my workplan with one of my bosses.  It’s a tight work plan, but doable.  There just isn’t much room for error!

I met with the community leaders in Barlonyo these past two Fridays.  The first training went really well.  We talked about documentation in general: what to document, why documentation is important, and different ways to document.  Then we talked about written documentation, focusing on taking minutes at meetings.  Everything went smoothly and we even finished earlier than expected.

 

The next day was busy busy at the office.  We were preparing to distribute maize, bean, and vegetable seeds to Barlonyo since the hailstorm destroyed their crops.  The Red Cross was in the office with us helping.  I was in charge of making the “AYINET” and “AJWS” stencils for painting the seed bags.  The construction paper stencils kept falling apart once they got wet so we ended up making stencils out of old X-rays.  Then things really got rolling!  And then the power went out.  Fortunately, we were able to borrow a generator, which was critical.  When the Red Cross left the office at eight, I left as well to eat and shower, but I went back again at ten.  When I reached the office, everyone was outside bagging beans.  Half an hour later, we were all scrambling to transfer the beans inside the office before the rainclouds reached us.  AYINET’s kitchen was literally taken over by beans, floor to ceiling.  The reception area was full of bags of maize.  After all the seeds were safe, I finally left the office…at three a.m.

After a few hours of sleep, I went back to the office.  The Red Cross gave AYINET a break and took over loading the seeds onto two big trucks. .  My job for the day was to photograph and take video.  Good thing, too.  I was too exhausted to spend another day throwing 20-kilo bags around!  After the trucks were loaded, we headed out.  One of the trucks got stuck on the side of the road on our way over, which was a slight setback, but the distribution itself went very smoothly.  Victor, AYINET’s director, says any time there is a distribution you can never be sure what will happen.  There is always the possibility of a riot breaking out.  The success was exciting for all of us.  So many challenges kept popping up, but everyone handled them well and with positive attitudes.   Thanks to everyone’s hard work, we had really fantastic results.

 

The following Friday Denis and I went back to Barlonyo for the second week of training.  Although all the cameras died by the end of the training (poor planning on my part), everyone except for some people who came late got a chance to try at least one of the cameras.  After I taught a few people how to operate cameras, they caught on quickly and did a great job of teaching other.  I was concerned the training would either be too easy or too difficult, but it wasn’t either.  I checked in to see if there were any questions often and people had something to ask about half the time.  We also discussed the multimedia tools.  We decided on stickers and posters with general peace messages that all the groups and the whole community will be able to use.  Next Friday we’ll be going over video, but we’ll also go back to photography for those who didn’t get a chance this past Friday.

Saturday I went back to Alito for the second time.  We got through written documentation, photography, and video.  We also discussed multimedia tools and decided on stickers and posters.  I’m designing the stickers now and I’ll be drafting up the posters toward the end of the week.  Only eleven of twenty people showed, so we decided to wait until next week to talk about the importance of documentation and brainstorm specific ways it will be of use to the different groups.

 

Besides being busy at work, I’m still enjoying myself here.  I continue to learn something new or make progress in some way every day.  I’m actually getting quite good at speaking Luo.  Also, I’ve been learning stick shift and yesterday I finally learned how to ride a motorbike!  It’s not looking like I’ll be able to do everything I want to do before I leave, but that’s normal.  I only have two weeks left, so if I’m able to do four new things I’ll be satisfied.

Hello everyone, we are the Clean Water Initiative from Tufts Timmy Global Health. Our current project—to provide clean, potable water to the community of La Victoria, Guatemala—is the product of three years of data collection and collaboration with community members and generations of Timmy volunteers alike. The five representatives who travelled to Guatemala this summer were Molly Goodell (Anthropology, LA’13), Lucia Smith (Biology, LA’13), Rebecca DiBiase (International Relations, LA’13), Nitin Shrivastava (Biochemistry, LA’12), and Patric Gibbons (Biochemistry, LA’12).

 

As we reflect on each of our experiences over the past few months, the hardest question—as always—is where to begin. Compressing a summer’s worth of sights and sounds into a few paragraphs and picture captions is daunting in itself (though already, each of you has done so quite eloquently in each of your blog posts). Filtering through all of the events of our trip (which has since ended for the last rotation of our group) has required some focus and careful organization. Each day in Guatemala brought a fresh wave of experiences; each conversation and exploration added to our growing understanding our project and our purpose. Hurriedly, we wrote down what we could, wherever we could—in notebooks, on the back of café napkins, and occasionally in blog posts—lest we forget any experience before another pushed it aside. Often our greatest step forward came after taking one step back, a necessary pause amidst a busy day in order to consider the lasting impact of a newly gained perspective. For us, Empower will be a continuation of this process. While most of our instantaneous thoughts on the trip have already been posted on our Timmy blog site (http://tuftstimmycleanwater.wordpress.com/), the Empower blog will give us a unique opportunity to reflect on the progress we made this summer—as well as consider the work that still lays ahead. Hopefully, as we relive—and occasionally repost from our Timmy blog—some of the most memorable events from our trip, we will gain a greater understanding of how to use all of this new information to our advantage and how to keep moving forward.

 

However, before we discuss our work from this summer, a quick introduction to our organization and the history of the project up to this point. Timmy Global Health is a national nonprofit organization based in Indianapolis, Indiana, that works toward providing sustainable healthcare in the developing world. Tufts Timmy Global Health is one of 21 university and high school chapters across the country that advocates for global health awareness and participation, as well as fundraises for and organizes medical brigades to support various communities in Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, and Nigeria. Because each college chapter remains connected to specific communities year after year, students have the unique opportunity to develop a lasting relationship with the people they serve, as well as provide a reliable system of continuous care.  Every January, Tufts Timmy sends a medical brigade of about 20 students and five medical professionals to Xela, Guatemala. It’s an intense week of mobile medical clinics with our local partner organization, Pop-Wuj, to bring healthcare to rural, indigenous communities. As Timmy’s connection to these communities continues to grow, we have been able to implement new programs that meet the specific health and financial needs of the populations, including the Clean Water Initiative, the Nutrition Project, and the new surgery program (for more information about Timmy Global Health, please visit http://www.timmyglobalhealth.org/).

 

Through our commitment with Timmy, we have begun to understand the lasting impact that basic resources (or the lack thereof) have on the communities’ health and social wellbeing. Many of the health conditions we saw and treated were directly related to unsafe drinking water, water-borne illness, and parasites. These problems cause dehydration, malnutrition, and, in some cases, fatal disease; however, such morbidity and mortality can be prevented through access to clean, safe drinking water.

It was upon this basic idea that the Clean Water Initiative came into being. Within our usual large group, a subcommittee of about six ‘Timmies’ formed, and eventually grew to over 10 members.  Throughout the fall we met on Wednesday evenings to discuss various water sanitation methods, logistics, and how best to go about this process.  Eventually, we decided the only way to make a culturally conscious decision—one that would benefit the community the most—was to ask the people themselves.

On the annual medical brigade January 2010, members of the Water Committee spent an afternoon La Victoria, a neighborhood of Buena Vista, a community that the Timmy Foundation has been serving for a few years.  There, we held two focus groups with a group of about 30 women discussing possibilities.

When we got back to the United States, we eventually decided on buying water filters through a company based in Guatemala called Ecofiltro.  Two members of our group, Pat Gibbons and Nitin Shrivastava, traveled back to La Victoria, Guatemala in March to deliver 13 filters to the community and administer a baseline health survey. The five of us returned this summer in order to check on these filters, distribute new ones to the rest of the group, conduct baseline and follow-up surveys, and determine how to best move forward with the project.

This summer has been incredibly successful, more so than we ever could have imagined (with more stories than we could fit in just this one blog post). Now that we’ve laid out our background a bit, we’ll be back soon with more details about our experiences this summer. We look forward to hearing more about all of your projects; best wishes to everyone in the meanwhile!