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!