Thursday, November 01, 2012

FSD- AIDS Activitism in Bolivia

When University of San Francisco senior Lucas Waldron went to Cochabamba, he expected to work with the Instituto Para el Desarrollo Humano (IDH), an HIV prevention organization. There, he helped increase knowledge about AIDS, encouraging behaviors that favor prevention, and improved the attention to and care of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in health care centers. He also worked with the communication department, specifically in graphic design for IDH's events and programs, in addition to attending sexual health workshops at local and rural high schools and middle schools.

But along the way, Lucas discovered a community that had been not only underserved, but almost completely marginalized: the transsexual sex workers of Cochabamba. As a result, Lucas shifted his attention to their special needs, especially in the areas of education and prevention, in alliance with an organization called Mesa de Tabajo Nacional, founded by one of the sex workers herself, and in conjunction with Igualdad LGBT – Santa Cruz.

To further this process, Lucas wrote and designed an instruction booklet, “Trans en Bolivia: Información Sobre las diferentes identidades de género (Information on Varying Sexual Identities)" that was distributed to 200 high school students. As a film production minor at USF, Lucas also saw the opportunity to meld his creative filmmaking talents and he wrote and directed a film, "La Identidad de Justicia: Mujeres Trans en Cochabamba (The Identity of Justice: Transsexual Women in Cochabamba)" that was ultimately distributed, in DVD form, through IDH events and partner organizations.

“I wanted this film to be not only a frank look at HIV transmission and prevention, but about the lives of these trans women,” Lucas said. “LGBT people are marginalized in Bolivia, these sex workers even more so. Of the approximately 70 transsexual women I knew about, virtually everyone is HIV positive. I wanted the film to be instructive, but not necessarily academic, so that the realities of their lives could be expressed in a meaningful and touching way—and to give them a platform to speak.”
Heartened by the positive response from the film thus far—including a screening the AIDS Expo in Bolivia and by his faculty advisors—Lucas is now entering the film in festivals around the country. He has already been invited to show at the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival on Nov 8th-11th and looks forward to future acceptances in the coming weeks. “In many ways, “Lucas said, “my internship taught me about the power of community, how courageous marginalized people can be, and of the transformative nature of film.” Whether he elects graduate school in film, further studies in politics, or decides to gain on-the-job experience in film and video production, it’s clear that Lucas Waldron’s work will help empower people in the LGBT community and beyond. In the meantime, Lucas--and all of us--have been encouraged by media interest in his work which is being profiled in The Huffington Post, Lesbian News, Bay Area Reporter, and bestselling author Michelangelo Signorile's national radio show.

The project’s sustainability was commended by Mauricio Ramirez, FSD’s program director in Cochabamba, who said, "Lucas' contribution was very important to the organization where he worked and also to the FSD team in Bolivia. The area in which he worked is still very new and taboo for many sectors of society. The video that he made is serving to educate youth about transgender persons. IDH organizes a large event to educate youth about AIDS issues, respect for human rights, and sexual education. About 17,000 young students attend and the material developed by Lucas is part of this Exhibition, which helps many people understand the transgender struggle in Bolivia. Lucas did an excellent job and his work will continue to be important and affect many lives in the future."

FSD Intern's Story- When Humanity Meets Fashion

A recent participant has turned his experience in community development into a long-term career goal. Kappes Chatfield, an intern in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua is mixing his principles of sustainable social philanthropy with a small clothing company he runs with two friends.

The clothing company is called ‘Give Tanks,’ and was started by Kappes and two college roommates, Mikael and Mark. Their idea was hatched last year as they brainstormed how to mix their personal humanitarian dreams with a product they loved and intentions they admired. They settled on the idea of selling tank tops with images that remind people to be ‘tankful’ for the little things in life. A full quarter of the profits were to go towards community-based development programs in overlooked communities around the world. As Mikael stated, “Give thanks for the little things. Give back. Tank tops. Give tanks! Could the universe have possibly scripted it any more awesomely than that?”

While starting any business is hard, starting a business that incorporates international philanthropy can be especially challenging. Gaining familiarity with the issues of a community—and of community partners—is arguably the most important part of the development process. Luckily, Kappes had traveled to Ciudad Sandino several times before and had worked with the Fenix Foundation. This prompted his decision to work with Fenix again during a FSD Internship in Nicaragua this Summer. He arrived in Ciudad Sandino in June and taught an empowerment class through creative writing and the basics of filmmaking. For Kappes, this experience has greatly influenced the future of Give Tanks’ philanthropy, stating “FSD has shown me how much sustainable development benefits communities, and ever since my internship we knew that we wanted to expose this method of service to the rest of the world.”

At the end of his internship, Kappes collaborated with his business partners, Mikael and Mark, for a service project funded by a portion of Give Tanks’ profits from the past six months. They allocated $2,500 for their projects, which funded a microfinance start-up of local dressmakers who plan on making affordable school uniforms for children, and supplied a local library in Ciudad Sandino with a new fan, paint, and 83 new books.

During his time with Fenix, Kappes made it clear to his bosses that he had a passion for skateboarding--and believed it could be used as a tool of community development and empowerment. Fenix already intended to create a skatepark on their property, and wanted to bring Kappes in to help. Together, Give Tanks and the Fenix Foundation have developed a project to construct the Give Tanks BMX/Skate Park for the Arts. This park would succeed at both giving at-risk youth a valuable alternative to drugs and gang life and increasing Fenix's recognition and positive influence among the city youth. Income generated from this park through regional competitions, equipment rentals, and the sale of homegrown fruits and vegetables will not only help sustain the park, but help to subsidize start-up Fenix Art Programs such as dance, music, painting and crafts. It’s especially heartening when our interns can combine development projects with their own passions and goals. If you would like more information on Give Tanks, the Fenix Foundation, or their progress on the BMX/Skate Park, take a look at this video.

Join their movement and become a part of the conversation on Facebook. Support their efforts and ‘give tanks’ yourself by checking out the colorful, innovative designs on their website.

FSD Public Health Intern - Fighting Malnutrition in Bolivia

In Bolivia, malnutrition remains a national concern--especially for children under three, for whom its effects constitute a significant portion of Bolivia’s child mortality rate of 6.5%, the highest in South America and the second highest in Latin America. 65% of these deaths take place in rural areas, where children often lack access to proper nutrition, health care, and rehabilitation programs. Under the direction of Program Director Mauricio Ramirez and in conjunction with FSD's community partners, FSD interns are working on the ground to address this pressing issue. One of those interns is Billy Baumgartner, who interned with El Centro de Rehabilitiacíon Infantil (el CRIN) in Anzaldo, Bolivia this summer.

El CRIN is a rural development organization that provides educational and health services to local communities. During his internship, Billy worked on infant health issues and identified an opportunity to support CRIN's efforts in addressing the local problem of malnutrition among young children. While el CRIN’s rehabilitation programs showed immediate improvements in a child’s health and overall wellbeing, they noted that there were ample cases of malnutrition relapse once children rehabilitated at el CRIN exited the program. With the help of the organization's staff, Billy designed a public awareness program to address malnutrition in the community.

Thanks to a proposal development by Billy, el CRIN won a grant from FSD. With these funds, CRIN garnered support from local professionals and field experts to provide training to adults in health & cleanliness, nutrition, agriculture & gardening and microfinance. The program, SaludAdelante, reached dozens of children and adults in the countryside and is still making an impact on malnutrition prevention. SaludAdelante was aimed at the root causes of malnutrition; namely, educating families on nutritional requirements so that malnutrition does not become a recurring problem when rehabilitated children leave el CRIN.

Billy ensured the sustainability of the program by collaborating with the staff to create reusable training materials that were designed with the specific needs of this community in mind. All printed material was developed in a way that could be easily understood by the members of the community, no matter their level of literacy. Billy's project demonstrates the commitment that CRIN staff, local teachers, and healthcare personnel have made in this multifaceted approach towards nutrition education and health awareness.

The foresight and planning in the sustainability of Billy’s project, especially after his departure, is emblematic of FSD's work. Our partners and interns are uniquely committed to implementing sustainable, asset-based development initiatives in the communities they work, and they continue to inspire us everyday.

Click here to read more about our past interns and their projects in the field!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Lowering Child Mortality Rates in Uganda

In a highly positive development, a new UNICEF report advises that worldwide child mortality rates have dropped by over 40% in the past two decades. Despite this significant decrease, however, preventable and treatable diseases continue to claim the lives of roughly 19,000 young children around the world everyday. One of the areas most affected is Sub-Saharan Africa, where in countries like Uganda, preventable diseases such as diarrhea and malaria account for 34% of the deaths of children under five. The United Nations cited the reduction of child mortality rates as one of its “Millennium Development Goals” to be reached in 2015; FSD intern Elizabeth Gilbert has been part of this initiative at our site in Jinja, Uganda.

Elizabeth spent the summer working with the Phoebe Education Fund for HIV/AIDS Orphans and Vulnerable Children (PEFO) at FSD’s site. After winning a grant of $335 from FSD, she helped design and implement educational workshops with a focus on disease prevention—specifically, the knowledge, skills, and health practices of the 63 grandmother caretakers in the community.

By addressing the root causes of child mortality in the region, distributing first aid kits, and initiating leadership training, Elizabeth’s project has reached over 270 community members and continues to thrive even after her return to the United States.

According to Jinja Program Director Margaret Amanyire, "The momentum of the project has been steadily maintained. Grannies are able to meet and discuss issues of health, encourage each other to promote public health and confidently walk into community health centers as well as invite health workers to their weekly meetings to answer their questions on health issues. They have managed to make a monthly contribution towards re-equipping their first aid kits. The most inspiring observation is that these women have developed so much interest in talking about their health plight and doing something about it, however small.”

As for Elizabeth, she is “certain that working with FSD was the most beneficial learning experience she could have received in her undergraduate education.” Lizzy, now a senior at Northeastern, plans to pursue graduate school in the global development field related to international health rights.

Doors of Knowledge Opened in Tola, Nicaragua

In 2010, former FSD intern and Tola IPC, Steve Merritt, catalyzed change in the small rural community of Limon 2, Nicaragua. Steve identified the nearby luxury resort, Rancho Santana, as an untapped asset to the local community, and sought to make connections between the luxury homeowners and local village leadership. Through a series of community meetings, representatives from Limon 2, FSD, and Rancho Santana decided that a great way to move the relationship forward was through the creation of a library that would expose children and adults of the community to literature, as well as host free activities such as art projects, tutoring, and sports.

Today, two years later, the library—now named Doors of Knowledge (Puertas del Saber) after a community vote—caters to over 20 children per day and has hosted a number of community events, such as the Day of the Book, where over 80 people gathered to honor books and reading. The Puertas del Saber library is now an official FSD Tola community partner that has hosted interns and serves as a hub for community organizing in the town of Limon 2.  Ruth Obando is the town’s ‘reading promoter,’ who rides her bicycle from household to household engaging families in the art and entertainment of reading and focusing on inspiring young children and adolescents to read stories. Ruth says, "I get a very positive reaction from the children who show much interest and satisfaction when I share stories with them. The children do not want me to leave and beg me to read just one more book." She has said to the parents, "take advantage of this opportunity that is being offered to you", that parents can be "a great help in the education of their children and they should help them in any way they can."

The library president, Sonia Noguera, has been invited to attend the second largest book fair in the world, the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of scholars, teachers, professionals, adolescents, and children come to this iconic event to share stories, debut publications, and network. Through support of donors, FSD is sending Sonia to help her further develop the Puertas del Saber library in Limon 2  From a part of a brainstorming session in a community meeting to a full-fledged community center, the Puertas del Saber library has come a long way, and FSD is proud to have been there for every step!

New Approaches to End Child Trafficking in India

The trafficking of humans, whether for sex or forced labor, is without a doubt the darkest of black markets that exist. Indeed, the non-profit Doctors at War estimates that “human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world” and that over 50% of all victims are children. As many as 40 million men, women, and children in over 135 countries are functional slaves in this global trade (UNODC estimate). The heightened media focus on their human tragedy has resulted in a positive development: substantial contributions in the fight against trafficking are made everyday by individuals, organizations and the partnerships they build.

This past summer, FSD intern Amy Koch submitted an ambitious, multi-faceted proposal to evaluate the nature of trafficking in Udaipur, India, where many children are forced to work on cotton farms during the harvest season. Under the guidance of a local NGO, the Prayas Centre for Labour Research and Action, Amy helped develop a strategy for testing the familial link to forced child labor. She used an existing survey of 5,479 children in 2,867 households of Udaipur to determine how poverty status, missing parents, and school attendance impact participation in the cotton field. Amy and the Prayas Centre also initiated a series of public seminars to inform the local population of the human rights issues involved in child trafficking. In addition, the community distributed literature to commercial farmers to discourage the use of forced labor. Finally, Amy’s proposal called for the implementation of vehicle checkpoints at the Udaipur border to intercept trafficked children brought in during the harvest season.

Since Amy’s departure in August, the Prayas Centre has continued the campaign against human trafficking in India with a variety of partners and measures aimed at raising awareness. The Dakshini Rajasthan Majdoor Union (DRMU) is an ally of the Prayas Centre that organized a high-profile sit-in last month in front of the Udaipur Collectorate, a state government building. This event drew media attention and gave Prayas and DRMU a platform to condemn trafficking and demand the rescue of children working against their will. Additionally, Prayas and the DRMU are conducting ongoing visits to commercial farms (where child labor is known to take place) in order to apply pressure on the owners and force a humanitarian solution. FSD’s partnerships with NGOs like Prayas enable interns like Amy to make tangible improvements in young people’s lives. We look forward to sharing new developments in the legacy of their work.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Challenges of Gender Equity and Health Education Facing India

FSD's interns Julian Cooper, Caroline Patterson and Jessica Nelson took to the web to share the outcomes and challenges of their work abroad and spread awareness about the issues facing the communities they worked with this summer. Julian spent his internship working with the grassroots organization, Vikalp Sansthan (JVSS), in Jodhpur, India. Their mission is to fight the gender-based inequality and violence that is still prevalent in India’s patriarchal society.

For his project, Julian organized a cricket tournament for the boys in the community that included sports training, but also workshops on the importance of female education, improving the boy-girl relationship in society, and violence against women. The recreational backdrop provided a safe, comfortable atmosphere for the boys to open up and discuss these sensitive, but pressing issues. “I felt the biggest achievement of the workshop was the shift in the way the boys discussed gender-based violence and gender-based inequality,” Julian recalls. “They no longer looked at girls as though they were objects controlled by Indian society and tradition, but as individuals with dreams of their own.”

Jessica and Caroline interned with our partner PCB Trust to tackle limited health education for female sex workers in the surrounding communities of Jodhpur. They interviewed one hundred sex workers and documented their difficulties in accessing HIV testing and treatment. Distance and transportation costs prevent these women from taking advantage of the only free HIV testing center in the area. The interns were surprised to discover that one tenth of the sex workers they interviewed did not understand the causes of HIV, while one fifth had never heard of condoms. Working with PCB Trust, Caroline and Jessica developed strategies for the many complex obstacles facing sex workers.

Although these challenges may seem insurmountable at times, they had a good perspective on the roles of interns in the field. Comparing their challenges to a parable about a boy’s effort to save hundreds starfish that washed up on shore, she said, “We certainly can’t expect to clean up the whole beach in a 9-week internship, but maybe our educational materials can help throw one starfish back into the water. That would be enough for us.”

A Poultry Farm for Sustainable Community Development in Kenya

Sustainability Times Three!

Aman Bali of Duke University spent nine weeks in Mombasa, Kenya, working with the organization Total War Against AIDS Youth Foundation (TWAAYF), based in the Likoni district. Together, they designed and developed a community project that embodies the spirit of sustainable development and FSD’s model approach.

In the Likoni district, widespread poverty and disease have affected community members of all ages. Children, though, are especially impacted: many parents are either afflicted with disease or unable to provide them with an education and basic resources. TWAAYF works to support these youth by offering them a haven from the streets, basic education--and a chance at a better future. However, a lack of sufficient funds can sometimes hinder their mission of youth empowerment. Using a grant awarded through FSD, Aman and TWAAYF put a project in motion that will both empower these children and produce consistent funding for the organization.

The idea—creating a poultry farm on TWAAYF’s grounds based on egg laying—reflects a tridimensional approach to sustainable development. First, the program will be a source of reliable income generation for the NGO. Second, it will teach children about nutrition and improve their diets, and it will give them valuable professional experience through capacity building and skills training. Third, by reinvesting a portion of the profits into the maintenance of the project, its sustainability is assured.

Aman helped to build the coop and led health and diet education classes for the children, and TWAAYF will continue on with poultry farm training sessions and the development of the program. Aman reflected that although he encountered several obstacles and complexities over the course of the project, the experience was extremely rewarding: “The most inspiring part of my work was probably just seeing all the good that was being done by my organization through the children. Between their orphanage, their community school, and their project rehabilitating street children, I saw first-hand TWAAYF's dedication to the children they are helping. Not a single child I came across during my time there seemed unhappy, a testament to the work they are doing.”

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Beekeeping Brings Financial Freedom in Kenya

Thanks to the efforts of nineteen women from the Lihalakha Women's Group in Kakamega, Kenya, the Sustainable Beekeeping Empowerment Project (SBEP) has made tremendous progress since its inception a early 2012. Prior to the project's execution, the self-dubbed “community-care group” exhibited strong commitment to managing an income generating activity that would serve as a means of financial empowerment and support. The FSD intern Supriya Prakash conducted interviews of several women's associations to assess their business experience, project goals, and group dynamics. At the conclusion of all surveys, Supriya's host NGO, the Western Education Advocacy Empowerment Program (WEAEP), plucked Lihalakha from twenty-two similar women's associations.

The idea for an apiary unfolded in May as Moses Mckaya, a Kenyan intern with prior experience with honey production, noted how lucrative the industry is in Western Kenya. Aside from constructing the hives and training the beekeepers, caring for a bee farm is quite manageable. Bees are efficient and hardy insects, so the women's primary responsibilities are harvesting and selling the honey.

FSD's Peter Ingosi, the former Program Director in Kakamega, introduced Honey Care Africa to the project to install the hives on Lihalakha's compound, an often tedious and sticky process. In the symbiotic union between Honey Care and Lihalakha, Honey Care staff will train the women on harvesting techniques and hive management while Lihalakha will become one of their honey suppliers.

In early July 2012, the hives were constructed and placed around the compound to attract and capture bees, which can take up to two weeks. After bee colonization, Lihalakha's seven beehives can be formally placed on the apiaries, marking the beginning of the harvesting phase. In addition to hive construction, the projects also serves to further strengthen Lihalakha's group dynamics through collective seed-planting. From an economic standpoint, the initiative expedites honey production—and provides a source of sustainable income in the time to come.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Art Therapy in Bolivia

Utilizing the power of art to help schoolchildren, International Programs Officer Julia Mergendoller was responsible for an FSD-led Global Service Trip (GST) on the ground in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Julia spent the first leg of her journey with the FSD site team in Salta, Argentina, where she met new Program Director Victoria "Vicky" Valle. Vicky and her Salta team were busy with preparations to welcome summer session interns, who will be involved in programs in the environmental sustainability, youth development and education, healthcare, and microfinance sectors.

Julia spent nearly two weeks in Cochabamba where she consulted with Program Director Mauricio Ramirez Parra. Mauricio is spearheading a team of Masters of Art Therapy students from NYU in a revelatory—if unconventional—approach to interacting with disabled students and hospitalized children.

Hailing from NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, the students and their department head, Ikuko Acosta, partnered with NGOs CERECO and Movimiento Sonrisa to conduct art therapy activities with their beneficiaries. With CERECO, they harnessed art as a means of combating feelings of distress, isolation, and apprehension in developmentally disabled schoolchildren. The schoolchildren used art as a form of communication and psychological expression, and the NYU students trained the staff in the art therapy techniques, which were novel approaches to the NGO. “The school staff were open to learning new educative and communicative techniques, and I feel they will incorporate these activities into their curriculum,” Julia said.

The team also conducted work with NGO Movimiento Sonrisa in a hospital for chronically ill children, where the young patients often have problems communicating because they speak the indigenous dialect Quechua, while the hospital staff speaks Spanish. Julia reports that “art helped to transcend and dissolve intercultural barriers between the patients and the staff, as well as with the GST team, who found that they were increasingly able to communicate with the patients throughout their three-week stay.” Julia also noted the “excitement of seeing the balance between the short-term benefits of the activities with the children and the sustainable outcomes with the partner organizations.”

Among FSD's other work in Bolivia, Julia observed FSD's progress with partner NGO Instituto para el Desarollo Humano--Institute for Human Development (IDH) to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention in local communities. FSD Interns are currently working with IDH's communications team to strengthen HIV transmission and prevention awareness messaging. Furthermore, they are supporting IDH’s work at the organization's clinic and within the local schools to teach community members about reproductive health, and to de-stigmatize and facilitate dialogue about gender and sexual minorities.

Upon her return, Julia reported a great deal of positive feedback from her stay in Bolivia. The near palpable dedication and optimism from the Site Teams inspire hope for the continuation of FSD's efforts toward sustainable development in Bolivia.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Education Camp in India and Bangladesh

Bangladesh—Despite legislation prohibiting the marriage of girls under the age of 18, arrangements forcing young girls to marry are still all too common in Bangladesh. 

Recent surveys suggest that as many as 20% of girls under the age of 15 are forced into marriage; due to the government’s limited capacity to regulate the laws prohibiting these offenses, it is often NGOs that step up to the task. Obvious consequences of early-age forced marriage include depriving girls the innocence of childhood and opportunities for social and economic independence; but marriage at such a young age can also pose serious risks to girls’ physical and mental well-being. 

Additionally, childbirth at a young age is often complicated and may cause damage to internal organs, leaving young mothers physically challenged and socially ostracized. 

FSD’s efforts to end girlhood marriage (observed by our traveling giving circle participants in 2010) have included supporting an educational camp designed to educate rural girls and their families about the negative aspects of child marriages. In our Jodhpur, India site, we are working with Vikalp to provide viable alternatives to forced underage marriage.

Change is gradual, as these societal norm are ages-old, but we are heartened to work with our community partners in these initiatives.

Nutrition in Nicaragua: A Community Takes Charge

In Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua, fresh produce is a luxury that many families cannot afford. Strikingly, in this lush tropical nation whose climate facilitates agriculture of all kinds, people eat vegetables on average no more than five times per week.

In the communities surrounding Ciudad Sandino, the prohibitive price of vegetables has contributed to widespread malnutrition that can lead to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Silvia Elena, Director of Los Cumiches Pre-school in Ciudad Sandino, explains, “The children don’t have a healthy level of nutrition because of the economic conditions of the families. Sometimes they are unemployed, or their families are so big that it complicates their abilities to offer food and basic necessities to all members of the family."

Ironically, families in Ciudad Sandino have one unlikely resource with the power to improve nutrition: their trash. Biodegradable food waste and empty containers—common household byproducts—are presently being utilized for container gardens to grow nutritious vegetables and fruits. This spring, FSD interns Caroline White-Nockleby and Jamie Wozniak are working with NGOs MASINFA and Cantera to implement urban vegetable gardens to improve community nutrition. They, in conjunction with our community partner, MASINFA, are training 20 women in farming techniques to provide them with the skills to start their own agricultural collective.

Caroline describes the project as a collaborative effort and a genuine community investment. “I think of this project as not the forming of something from scratch, but simply the coming together of different resources that already existed: food waste, empty containers, knowledge, enthusiasm, need, labor, space. But when they are brought together, they create a whole greater than the sum of the parts. And so the project belongs to the communities involved; everyone feels ownership and personal connection.” MASINFA will soon begin conducting workshops that highlight the importance of home gardening as a means of food security, as well as show the community how to incorporate homegrown produce into traditional recipes.

Jamie is developing an urban garden project with Ciudad Sandino-based NGO, Centro de Comunicación y Educación Popular (Cantera). Her project, Vegetables for Children, will construct a demonstration garden at Los Cumiches Pre-school to provide an immediate source of nutrition for the students as well as serve as a model to parents for urban gardening at home. As neighbors come together to build home gardens, these techniques will be tranferred thoughout the community. “The children will gain the knowledge and ability to make their own vegetable gardens when they move out into their own houses. This will continue to cycle down through the generations, which will result in a healthier community with a higher level of food security here in Ciudad Sandino,” Jamie explains. These sustainable vegetable gardening projects will impact Ciudad Sandino for generations to come.

Both Jamie and Caroline understand the importance of inter-generational training for sustainable growth. To this end, they are both engaging students in the building of their demonstration gardens, involving youth in organic gardening methods that include natural pest control and composting. A local organization and longtime expert in agricultural training, Fundación Fénix, has been instrumental in educating FSD program participants and MASINFA in the agricultural techniques that have been implemented throughout Ciudad Sandino. By providing youth, their families, and community leaders with these urban garden trainings, MASAYA and Cantera ensure sustainable projects that lead to long-term outcomes—in this case, gardens that help feed a community and ensure its nutritional health.

Caroline has been working with members of two different communities in Ciudad Sandino—Transatlantico, a middle class neighborhood where the demonstration farm is located, and San Fernando, an underserved urban community. Her favorite moment of collaboration: …was when the technical expert tried to flip a tire inside out, which gives a better shape to plant in. The rubber was very stiff, and he was struggling a lot. A man from Transatlantico stepped in to help, and then a woman from San Fernando did the same. Everyone else was watching, calling out advice. After a few long minutes, the three of them shoulder-to-shoulder with hands, feet, and elbows pushing the tire, finally got it to flip. The entire group of 20 people started to clap and cheer. For me it was symbolic of the entire project so far, bringing many people together to make something constructive out of materials that are seen as trash.

Ciudad Sandino’s community effort to mobilize good nutrition through urban gardening methods is an encouraging example of what can be done with limited resources, exemplary knowledge sharing practices, and collective effort at the grass roots level—and how FSD’s asset-based approach can advance an entire community.

Monday, April 02, 2012

FSD's Global Service Trip with students from University of Maryland

Adam Eads, FSD's former International Programs Officer led a Global Service Trip of University of Maryland students and attended a summit of our program directors in Jinja. At the same time, he was fortunate to meet with governmental leaders, including Uganda’s Vice President—and thus gain a wide-view approach to current challenges and assets alike. Here is his full report:

"This was a unique opportunity to support our present interns and NGOs in the field—people whom I greatly admire. As our discussions took place, I saw light bulbs go off constantly—above all of our heads. I have to say as well that this trip totally reinforced my commitment to the GST approach. This was in many ways a model FSD project. The UMD students profited from several months of classroom activity leading up to the trip, so they were absolutely prepared to make the very most of this experience. In just a few (long!) days of work, we were able to construct three energy-saving cook stoves, three water harvesting tanks, and several tippy taps. We also planted a couple dozen fruit and lumber trees, which will help augment the community’s agricultural and financial sustainability.

The stoves were made using resources solely from the homes where we were building them. Mud, grass, homemade bricks and banana tree trunks were all that was needed to construct a stove that will cut wood fuel usage in half, and essentially eliminate inhalation of smoke from cooking. I was personally very impressed with how simple this model was to construct, but more importantly it was great to be a part of passing along this knowledge to the people of the village. The same learning mode was used in teaching the community how to refine the building of water tanks. In many ways, these projects are archetypes of the FSD sustainable approach, and it was absolutely inspiring to see this knowledge transfer in action.

The ‘face time’ with our programs team was phenomenal. We spent hours discussing the challenges and highlights of each program, and how to make current field practices better through streamlined internal communication, as well as building support among NGO partners—and there are about 25 of these at each site. Adam also observed the importance of political affiliations and regional bonds in Uganda. Mr Ssekandi is originally from the village where we were working and had heard about the projects we had supported there over the past several years. He allowed our group use of his compound to meet for lunch each day, and made a trip from Kampala at the beginning of the week to meet the group of Maryland students. It was an exciting opportunity for the students and I think Mr. Ssekandi really appreciated the opportunity to see first-hand the progress being made in his home community."

Thursday, March 01, 2012

FSD supports Likoni Community Library in Kenya

In Kenya, over 1.7 million children still remain out of school, the majority of whom are street children living in slums or in marginalized pastoralist communities. Informal or alternative basic education is viewed as "second class" education, and does not receive the recognition or acceptance required to be optimally effective.

While Kenya did implement universal primary education—meaning that eight years of schooling are provided free—additional costs of uniforms and books prevent many from attending school. Families who are able to pay for these primary school costs (and forgo the opportunity cost of not having their children work) often can not afford the fees to pay for secondary school. Secondary schooling, which properly equips children for the next level, is extremely expensive and rarely accessible in under-served areas. At the root of the problem is a drastic decline in education funding and social services by the Kenyan government and international donors.

The poor education system and subsequent idleness of these adolescents create a dangerous combination that frequently leads to drug abuse, early pregnancy, crime, and other at-risk behaviors. Similar to education, a decline in spending on social services has led to minimal care available to children who have been orphaned, leaving them highly vulnerable to exploitation and disease.

Hatua Likoni is equipping Likoni's first library, which provides students with a place to study, read, and take computer classes. FSD is pleased to support Hatua Likoni, a community-led NGO dedicated to helping young people from poor families gain the skills and credentials they need to continue to and benefit from Kenya's growing economy.

Hatua Likoni has worked tirelessly to construct and equip Likini's first-ever community library, to provide students with a much-needed facility for self-study and education. Our grant of $1,000 will support Hatua Likoni in its quest to further education, including preparation of students for university, in this deserving community.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) and FSD - Saving energy, growing micro-economies in India

In India, over 260 million live in poverty. The poor are plagued by high levels of unemployment, low levels of income, and significant debt. Many are trapped in this financial position. They rarely can offer collateral against their loans and therefore are continually denied access to formal credit institutions. Even when loans are awarded, high interest rates and unrealistic repayment schedules leave families unable to escape the poverty cycle.

FSD partners with locally run organizations in Udaipur and Jodhpur who work with women to create financial "self-help groups." These groups enable women to build savings and credit, and form linkages with banks. The organizations also coordinate meetings to encourage women to participate in management level activities and provide workshops that focus on skills training. Microentrerprises arise from these trainings.

FSD also supports programs that educate the poor about local bank policies and works to establish revolving funds for those in need. With continuing help and financial support, these micro-enterprise/micro-finance NGOs can empower the poor through education, training, and micro-loans that will drastically improve their financial possibilities.

One of the projects FSD and our partner, the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), have been working together is to reduce dependence on fuel wood for the rural population. The project is just the first of a wide range of sustainable energy technologies to be built and sold by local entrepreneurs. Efficient cookstoves can reduce cooking fuel wood needs up to 65% while also providing a variety of other positive health, economic, social, and environmental impacts for the community in and around the Sanctuary.

FSD intern Carlyn Johnson worked around the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary in the Rajasthan state of India -- and led a pilot program to implement 30 fuel-efficient cookstoves as a potent energy-saving measure as well as an income-generating project for these villagers. 

It is a Win-Win -- Preserving biodiversity while providing micro-entrepreneurial opportunities. 

Monday, January 02, 2012

Volunteering in Uganda

    Ranked as one of the 20 poorest nations in the world, 50 percent of the population in Uganda lives below the poverty line. FSD has attempted to reduce global poverty by partnering with over 300 grassroots community organizations to provide community services to achieve the goal. FSD focuses on the following issues:
·         Micro-finance& Micro-enterprise: FSD engages programs that:
·         Supply capacity-building sessions that address budgeting, accounting, microfinance, management, and other small business subjects. Initiatives aim at supporting information sharing and networking between microenterprise leaders and those looking to develop small business skills.
·         Establish effective microfinance models that allow local clients to obtain loans for startup businesses, develop business plans, incorporate savings strategies, and invest in long-term enterprise growth.
·         Develop microcredit opportunities and provide vocational and/or life skills training for young entrepreneurs in rural communities. Initiatives aim at empowering youth with the tools needed to engage in the local economy.
·         EnvironmentalSustainability: FSD to provide support for programs and initiatives that:
·         Provide community outreach and trainings in farming, crop rotation, livestock rearing, food production, and vocational skills.
·         Create advocacy campaigns and increase community participation in proper sanitation practices, sustainable utilization of natural resources, and control of malaria and waterborne diseases. Initiatives shift environmental and health practices that affect everyday lives.
·         Advocate for policies, bylaws, and programs that enhance sustainable lake resource management (Lake Victoria).
·         Research and implement sustainable farming solutions and alternative income-generating activities that reflect environmentally sound principles.
·         Childand Maternal Health: FSD works to address health issues throughout the Jinja and Masaka Districts:
·         Train local community workers and educate communities to raise awareness on common diseases, malaria, prevention, and other health-related issues.
·         Conduct village-to-village public health programs that administer basic medical care, tropical disease treatment, counseling, nutrition, and reproductive health care.
·         Conduct follow-up assessments and research on the efficacy of subsidized mosquito net usage and the local treatment methods of malaria and other common diseases.
·         Provide medical treatment, care, and health education to orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs).
·         Coordinate projects that improve hygiene and sanitation in communities through workshop implementation, distribution of hygienic products, and installation of pit latrines in homes.
·         YouthEducation & Development: FSD works with local organizations to:
·         Teach adult and youth literacy courses focused on vocational skills development and life skills training.
·         Engage youth in the creation of dance performances, theater, script writing, and choreography aimed at raising HIV/AIDS awareness and supporting HIV/AIDS-affected youth.
·         Facilitate workshops with local youth on reproductive health, effective communication, self-esteem building, and positive decision-making.
·         Create sports-related clubs and activities that engage youth in confidence building experiences.
·         GenderEquity: FSD supports local programs and initiatives:
·         Provide training and sensitization for women's groups on management, financing, and enterprise development to increase independence and allow mothers to better support their families.
·         Create educational training materials on topics such as reproductive health, alternatives to high-risk behaviors, counseling, vocational skills, and self-esteem building.
·         Develop savings and microcredit opportunities to support the economic empowerment of women and discourage them from high-risk behaviors.
·         Organize media, theatre, and performing arts activities that promote the importance of good decision-making.
·         AppliedTechnology: FSD supports programs and initiatives:
·         Support the construction of primary schools, water systems, and sewage management. These infrastructure projects reflect community collaboration throughout the planning and building process.
·         Create and manage websites for local organizations to support information distribution and awareness building.
·         Train community members in areas of technical expertise and capacity building such as income-generating activities, life skills, nutrition, and youth development.
Working together at the community level throughout Jinja and Masaka, FSD provide our partners with grants and key training to ensure their goals are practical, sustainable, and minimize external aid dependency. To get involved with FSD, please apply for our International Internship Program or join our Giving Circle.