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."