Friday, June 21, 2013

One Person’s Passion for Salta – and Why You Should Go Soon

As someone who has worked as a professional college consultant as the founder of ScholarEdge for over 13 years, I was very happy to learn about FSD’s wide-ranging programs around the world, especially in developing parts of Latin America. I wanted to offer a few perspectives as someone who not only counsels high school and college students, but also as someone who spent a year abroad and the impact it had on my life.

I chose to spend my year in Southeast Asia after college, and it was the single most important experience in my life. It exposed me not only to unique cultures, languages, and legal systems, but more importantly it afforded me different perspectives on the United States. I often tell the students I work with that I never learned more about the United States than when I was living abroad. I suspect that most students who take advantage of FSD’s amazing programs will probably come home and say the same thing – they learned not only about how others view us, but also about the tremendous goodwill Americans generate around the world despite the many serious problems we face domestically and internationally.

The one program that I can attest to is FSD’s Salta, Argentina program. I’ve been to Salta at least six times over the last 10 years because I have friends there, and I find it to be one the most fascinating parts of Latin America. Unlike Buenos Aires, Salta feels like the arid American Southwest, and incorporates parts of indigenous Bolivia and gaucho Argentina. It’s not a very heavily populated province of Argentina, and it seems a world away from the hustle and bustle and European flavor of the Argentinean capital. But it has perhaps the most genuine, friendly, and kindhearted people I’ve ever met my travels around the world. 

There is poverty in Salta Province but it is not the type of poverty that is grinding – you generally won’t see people begging on the streets, and you won’t see people in tattered clothes. But there is certainly a need for young people to work with the people of Salta to improve not only their infrastructure but also in their knowledge of processes and skills that can help their province modernize and be more equitable.

Salta is becoming more discovered by tourists as the years go by, but if you choose to go to Salta or any of the programs offered by FSD, you will be encountering people that will forever change your life, will challenge your perspectives of the United States, and more importantly will imprint upon you memories that will last long after you board a plane to return to United States. 

I’m living proof of this – my year in Southeast Asia allowed me to visit no less than half a dozen countries and to visit villages that suffer from severe socioeconomic problems. It made me truly feel as though I had a greater perspective on the world and forever changed my attitudes about politics, and society. I would encourage everyone to examine FSD’s programs, just as I am encouraging my clients to do as a private college consultant.

About Jason Lum
A graduate on full scholarship to MIT, Harvard and Berkeley, Jason serves as a private college consultant with clients in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia through his company, ScholarEdge. Jason’s work with high school students and families has been profiled by US News & World Report, USA Today,, and CNBC.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

FSD awards the Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship

The Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) is honored to carry the legacy of Katie Evans through administering the Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship (KEMS). This scholarship enables college students, who otherwise may not be able to afford international field work, the opportunity to apply their skills alongisde our community partners in India, East Africa, and Latin America through our community development internship program. 

It is with great pleasure that we announce the first recipients of FSD's Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship: Anna Thorn and Carey Mittermeier. 
"We are so honored to support the legacy of the Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship," said FSD's Executive Director Mireille Cronin Mather. "We are thrilled to continue her life's work by providing this scholarship and advancing sustainable community health programs. I am excited to hear about the work of Anna Thorn and Carey Mittermeier - they are impressive scholars and our community partners will certainly put their skill sets to good use."
Carey Mittermeier will graduate in December 2013 with a Master’s Degree in Behavioral and Community Health Science from the University of Pittsburgh and will be interning this summer at Vikalp Sansthan in Udaipur, India. Vikalp Sansthan, a long-standing partner of FSD, works to organize and sensitize youth on issues related to  discrimination, gender, and violence against women. She will work with their staff to design a project that utilizes her public health training to further the Vikalp Sansthan mission. Mittermeier is very passionate about community development issues. “At times, the most we can offer to another human being is the gift of our best self: our perseverance, our empathy, and our compassion,” said Mittermeier. “Our reward is in better outcomes, visible improvements, and the humble voice of a mother thankful that her toddler’s death has been prevented.” 
Anna Thorn is graduating this year with a Master’s Degree in Public Health from George Washington University. She will be starting her women’s health focused project with a community health partner organization in Jodhpur, Indiastarting fall 2013. When we spoke with Thorn, her excitement for the internship was palpable. “I am committed to and interested in development and health, and this [FSD] internship will be valuable personally and professionally,” said Thorn. “As well as enthusiasm, I would bring experience, knowledge, and dedication to this internship, and hope that I could be a versatile  intern in many sectors. Thank you very much for this opportunity.”
Katie Evans embodied the spirit of community work and international development. Her family and friends established the Katie Memorial Foundation (KMF) in her honor in 2008. The Foundation supported outstanding work in international public health through scholarships to student leaders who were completing their Masters in Public Health degrees and showed passion for doing meaningful field work. In January 2013, the Foundation for Sustainable Development began awarding this scholarship on behalf of the Katie Memorial Foundation.

John Evans, Executive Director of KMF, says: "I am thrilled that the Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship (KEMS) has found a new home with FSD, and to know that graduate student leaders in public health who embody Katie’s spirit, work, and values continue to be honored in her name. The decision to place KEMS in the able hands of FSD’s experienced leadership is a positive solution that allows the scholarship to grow in directions we could take it on our own. With so many former KMF directors and volunteers involved in KEMS as it continues, we remain connected to this good work." 
Graduate Public Health students who are passionate about community development and global health issues are encouraged to apply for the Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship. Fall scholarship application deadline now extended to July 1, 2013.
To learn moreKEMS webpage
You can also send a check to:
FSD, 1000 Brannan St, Suite 207, San Francisco, CA 94103
(Please indicate the donation is for the KEMS fund)
Anna Welton | International Programs Officer

Monday, May 20, 2013

Top 5 Ways an International Internship Will Jump-Start Your Career

Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) Visit to Uganda.
This year, more than 2 million US graduates will face the highest unemployment rates since WWII. Learn how an FSD internship can help.Generation Opportunity, a national youth advocacy organization, recently reported that the youth unemployment rate is at the highest sustained level since World War II. Many young professionals are realizing that real-world experience gained through an internship can make them much more competitive in this tough job market. FSD’s international internship program provides students with an impressive experiential portfolio and invaluable skill set needed to be a desirable applicant and successful future employee.

Top 5 Benefits of an FSD International Internship:

1)  Real-World Experience
Most employers seek candidates who have valuable experience outside of their university. An international internship with FSD offers students an irreplaceable opportunity to apply the knowledge that excites them in the classroom to a real-world setting. While abroad, interns learn important skills in international development and witness measurable outcomes from their hard work.
2) Team Building & Cooperation
Recruiters are tasked with finding candidates who can effectively and quickly integrate into a team. Recent graduates with cross-cultural internship experience are more prepared for this workplace dynamic and bring valuable team expertise to their new employment.
3) Practical Skills
Managerial and efficiency skills are highly desirable in today’s job market. FSD provides interns with training in these practical skills through designing, managing, and evaluating projects in their host community, leaving them with concrete outcomes to share with their potential employers.
4)  Global Perspective
An FSD internship in a developing country demonstrates a student’s ability to face challenges and commit to solutions. Employers value and recognize FSD interns’ maturity, dedication, and keen interest in creating sustainable solutions to today’s most pressing global issues.
5) Professional Recommendations
FSD is proud to provide all of our successful alumni with strong letters of recommendation and references. FSD is happy to work through LinkedIn or written letters to support the futures of our greatly appreciated interns.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship Winners Announced 

Katie Evans embodied the spirit of community work and international development. In her memory, her family and friends established the Katie Memorial Foundation (KMF) in 2008. The foundation supported outstanding work in international public health through scholarships to student leaders who were completing their Masters in Public Health degrees and showed passion for doing meaningful field work. These 38 Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship (KEMS) awardees have done remarkable work in the field, ranging from projects to support survivors of gender based violence in Bangladesh to hygiene and health education programs in Mozambique.
The foundation passed on the baton of administering the scholarship to the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) in 2012. FSD is honored and proud to carry the legacy of Katie Evans forward and to enable students, who otherwise may not be able to afford international field work, the opportunity to apply their skills alongside our community partners in India, East Africa and Latin America through our community development internship program. FSD has completed the review of it first round of scholarship applications for 2013 internships. It is with great pleasure that we announce the first recipients of FSD’s Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship: Anna Thorn and Carey Mittermeier.
Anna Thorn will soon graduate with a Master’s in Public Health from George Washington University. She will be starting her project work in Jodhpur, India in fall 2013. Carey Mittermeier is slated to graduate from University of Pittsburg in December 2013 with a Master’s specialization in Behavioral and Community Health Science. She is interning this summer inUdaipur, India. These scholars will support our community partner’s health programs, which include HIV/AIDS awareness, nutritional education, disease prevention, and maternal and neonatal health.
FSD is very excited to launch the first batch of scholarship recipients and wishes them great success in their internships as well as future endeavors.
If you are a Public Health student or know of someone who is passionate about global health issues, please learn more at our KEMS webpage. The next round of the KEMS program is now open for those interested in fall internship opportunities, with a June 1st application deadline.
If you would like to donate to the scholarship fund, please do so via our website here or mail a check to FSD, 1000 Brannan St. Suite 207, San Francisco, CA 94103 indicating the donation is for the KEMS fund. Contact Anna Welton at for more information.
Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to honor Katie Evans and her life's work, and thank you for your continued interest and support!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Travel, Learn, Transform: Summer Internships with FSD

Our Summer Session International Internship programs are a tremendous opportunity to spend your summer break making a lasting difference in a community. FSD interns work in ten global sites with one of our 300 partner organizations in local development issues such as education and youth development, environmental sustainability, appropriate technology, gender equity, health, human rights, and microfinance. In 2011, FSD Intern Catherine McDonald transformed her summer vacation into 10 weeks of community development work that inspired and strengthened her commitment to global health.

Catherine spent her summer internship in La Plata, Argentina, working with FSD community partner Arco Iris, a community center located in a low-income region that provides child-care and services. While working with the organization’s staff to provide art projects and educational activities for the children at Arco Iris, Catherine found that some of the children in the community were negatively impacted by a lack of mental health care and health education; being exposed to these health struggles “first hand”, she says, has inspired her to work towards being a physician who “truly makes a difference”.

Catherine chose FSD because the International Internship Program provides the “perfect balance of independence and education for interns looking to gain global development experience.” She remarks that the favorite part of her internship was building relationships with the partner organization and community members: “The teachers at Arco Iris welcomed me from day one, and incorporated me into their team.” On the last day of her internship, the children and teachers at Arco Iris threw her a farewell party, giving her gifts and performing songs. Says Catherine, “I had never felt so loved and appreciated by so many, and I will never forget that day.” Catherine is now a first year student at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, where she is an MD Candidate working to bring innovative change in health to her community.

This year, FSD opened a new site in Salta, Argentina, and we'd like to invite you to transform the communities in Salta.  Join Catherine and all of FSD’s influential alumni by being the change you wish to see this summer. The April 1 deadline to apply for Summer Session International Internships is quickly approaching. Apply today!

Friday, March 08, 2013

Why Clean Water Is Key to Keeping Girls in School

Starting menstruation is tough enough for most girls, but some teenagers have more than just their changing bodies to cope with. For many girls in Bolivia, the start of menstruation can mean the end of their education too. 
Rebecca Peters, an International Development Economics and Global Poverty student at the University of California, Berkeley, is on a mission to stop this from happening. Last summer, Rebecca spent 10 weeks working in Cochabamba, Bolivia, as a partner with the Foundation for Sustainable Development and Water for People to install water treatment systems in schools. 
"I saw the effects of improved water sources in schools, as well as what happens when there aren't any reliable water sources," she says. "One of the problems was that girls tended to stop attending school - or drop out altogether - because there was no safe running water for them to wash with when they were menstruating.
"There's a lot of stigma and taboo associated with menstruating, not just in Bolivia but all around the world. There are very few initiatives targeted at improving girls' education, health and access to safe water. Many girls drop out of school, particularly in neglected migrant and indigenous communities."
Rebecca's response is the Pachamama Project, which aims to improve health and education for girls by providing equal access to safe water and sanitation in schools. Pachamama will launch in Bolivia and Mexico this March in partnership with the Mexico-based non-profit Fundación Cántaro Azul.
"The basic goal of Pachamama is to engage groups who wouldn't normally be talking about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and to put the issue on the water sanitation and hygiene agenda," says Rebecca, who has worked on various water and energy related collaborations in Guatemala, Denmark, France and Mexico - always with an eye toward improving gender equity in the project's outcomes. 
So far, Pachamama has been funded by a grant from the Center for Race and Gender at Berkeley. The Pachamama Project is also a finalist in the human rights category of the Big Ideas at Berkeley competition, but her long-term goal is for the project to become self-sustaining. "I want it to be owned by the community and be something that people really want to continue once I'm not there anymore," she explains. 
It's not just about fitting clean water systems, though. Rebecca recognises that there are deeper cultural and social barriers to girls' education: "There might be some community push back to it, where people aren't willing to participate. Studies of MHM have shown that girls are really shy to talk about menstruation, so making things fun is really important. We need to create games and make things more interactive so it doesn't seem scary or taboo to talk about. 
"One of the initiatives we'll do is give disposable cameras to girls and boys and ask them to go round and take photos of places they deem scary. Previous projects that have done things like this have found that children often take photos of bathrooms and I think that sends a really strong message to development institutions to say 'OK, this is something that we really need to focus on.'" 
It's a big ambition but Rebecca is confident that it will make a big difference to girls' lives. "The goal is to create the girl effect," she says. "I hope that by putting MHM on the water and sanitation development agenda, and by tapping into the human rights discourse, the project can overcome the taboos associated with menstruation and really highlight that it's much bigger than that. It's about education and social justice as well as health."

See source here

The Pachamama website is currently being built but in the meantime you can find out more here or by following Rebecca Peters on Twitter.   

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

International Life with FSD- Internships Abroad

Young Workers Benefit from International Experience
FSD executive director Mireille Cronin Mather was interviewed by Military Times and talked about how international internships changed communities and the interns. 
For many young people, the economic downturn has been especially difficult because they’re often competing with more seasoned professionals for jobs once reserved for the less experienced.
Adding to the dilemma is that employers also often profess a preference for those who have international experiences. If you’re among those who haven’t had a tour overseas during the past wars, you may want to consider an international internship.
Unlike some internship experiences, where a company will pay the intern for the work, in many cases, such as that of the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD), the interns pay for the experience.
FSD executive director Mireille Cronin Mather says interns pay on average about $4,500 to participate in internships, which can range from weeks to months. There are 228 interns working in six countries, such as Uganda and Argentina. They tackle a variety of community projects, such as microfinancing, she says.
The key to the FSD experience, Mather says, is intensive training and immersion in the local culture to best enable interns to help with critical community projects. FSD has more than 300 community partners and 17 university partners. The program is aimed at students “who want more rigorous training.”
“You’re not going to be teaching English,” she says. “This is hard-core community development.”
Mather says the organization doesn’t just offer internships for young people, but also offers volunteering experiences of shorter times for professionals or groups.
“The professionals who participate find it renews their enthusiasm or just gives them a break from their regular jobs,” Mather says. “They make real personal connections with other people and make a real difference.”
Mather says that while many have criticized the work ethic of young people, she finds Generation Y “is not as jaded” as others and sees “everything with a fresh set of eyes.
“This generation sees the community in different ways. They’ve got a globalized perspective on life. While that perspective available to them has sometimes been negative, we’re very positive and give them that new perspective.”

See the interview here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Prevent Child Labor - Salta Argentina Youth Voice Issues that Matter Most

Of the 1,214,000 people residing in the city of Salta in Northwest Argentina, 17% live in rural conditions that are dependent on agricultural production for survival. Many of these are young people who sacrifice the opportunity to earn an education in order to make a living in the tobacco fields.

Asociación Conciencia was established to confront the challenges of Salta youth in the labor force. In 2003, Conciencia joined forces with Argentine tobacco companies to establish the Programa Porvenir, which operates educational centers in the rural tobacco zones of Salta and Jujuy. The mission of Programa Porvenir is to prevent child labor and to encourage educational development. Porvenir runs educational programs during the summer months, which provide kids and teenagers a chance to learn vocational skills and understand the importance of education.

This January, a group of UC Berkeley students traveled to Salta on an FSD Global Service Trip in support of the educational programming of Porvenir. The Berkeley students helped Porvenir to lead an audiovisual production workshop for Salta youth, designed to inspire a dialog on youth rights and labor issues. As part of the program, the participants created short films about the issues that mattered most to them. The Salta youth came away with video production skills and a visual expression of their views on human rights, addiction prevention, and gender related violence. Please show your support in watching these short videos, produced by the young people of Salta.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

FSD's Experience Catapulted James' Career in Sustainable Community Development

FSD’s International Internship Programs attract an impressively diverse range of participants from around the globe, but undoubtedly the common thread among our Intern alumni is that once they start on the path to sustainable community development, they never stop. James Sarria is an alumnus of two FSD trips, and an exemplar of how our alumni continue to make a lasting difference in every community they touch.

James first volunteered with FSD in 2007 through UC Berkeley’s DeCal Global Service Trip to Nicaragua. He returned to Argentina as a co-organizer of the trip, facilitating the semester-long DeCal course on sustainable development issues in South America. Today James is the Stanford Site Director of the Summer Math and Science Honors (SMASH) Academy, a 3-year 5-week summer math and science enrichment program that is free of cost for high-achieving, first generation high school students of color. The SMASH Academy provides resources to help level the playing field so these students have the same opportunity to achieve success in higher education as their peers in non-marginalized communities.

Working with over 100 students throughout the SF Bay Area requires James to keep a global perspective in mind, and he credits FSD with helping him foster a cross-cultural understanding as well as a passion for service and volunteerism at a young age: “What FSD creates is an opportunity for passionate, ideal and young scholars to experience what can’t be replicated in a classroom. FSD supported my desire to connect with people that are just like me, but just happen to live in another part of the world.” James fondly remembers his Argentinean host family as his favorite part of his trip, and acknowledges that this “importance of local knowledge of the FSD trip mirrors the importance to have local people managing sustainable development projects."

James continues to travel and engage in the international community, recently returning from a month in Bangladesh where he lived with a local family and worked in Lawachara National Park on service trips including reforestation and eco-tourism. In his professional and personal life, James carries the lessons he learned on his FSD trips with him, remarking: “We are all living on the same planet, using her resources and ultimately decisions I make in the US have significant, direct and immediate impact on the lives of people that we may never meet”. FSD is thrilled that interns such as James continue to be the change they wish to see in the world long after they have returned from their internship abroad.

Friday, February 01, 2013

FSD Support Tola Coop Partners with Awarded Grants

FSD was recently awarded a grant from Caridad Partners, a Bay Area women’s philanthropic giving circle, to support our ongoing community cooperatives initiative in Tola, Nicaragua. The grant funds three community cooperatives:

1) Cooperativo de servicios de consumo Mujeres, esperanza y fe sells sundries, food product staples, and other goods at affordable prices and targeting women consumers—and is starting a revolving loan program;

2) Cooperativo Textil Vestuario de Limon, a textile/sewing cooperative, provides quality, low-cost uniforms for local schoolchildren; and

3) Grupo Genesis, a bakery cooperative, is the first female-led enterprise in the Tola region now providing fresh-baked goods locally.

The cooperative initiative is a key driver to stimulating community leadership—and the local economy—in a greatly underserved region of Latin America’s second poorest country. Catalyzing community development since 1995, FSD is leading this region through a community mobilization, skills and leadership development movement.

The cooperative initiative started with a 40-hour training covering government regulations, accounting basics, coop governance, and group dynamics, and FSD is continuing to support the groups through a three-phase plan. The groups have also taken part in a business plan creation workshop and are now receiving ongoing project support as FSD connects the coops to its existing partners in similar fields. The grants will support continued leadership, business and personal development training, and market analysis and capital expansion plans. Over 400 people are estimated to benefit directly from the grant due to the increased income generated by the coops.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

FSD and Partner Building a Home for HIV+ Orphans in Jodhpur

According to the United Nations Population Fund, close to 2.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in India. Unfortunately, the social stigma of being HIV positive is so great that people living with the disease suffer both economically and socially. In Jodhpur, one of FSD’s community partners is addressing HIV in the community. Jodhpur Network of People Living with HIV Sansthan, or JNP+, seeks to address denial, stigma, and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS through advocacy. In 2010, FSD Intern Sophia Davis partnered with JNP+ to start the BAL BASERA Holistic Child Care Home in Jodhpur.

With additional funding from an FSD Traveling Giving Circle, the home had its official inauguration in August of 2010. This November, Sophia revisited JNP+ and BAL BASERA and was excited to see how much the home has expanded since 2010. The home serves 23 children who are living with HIV, providing them with daily medicine, food and schooling—and even providing the opportunity to attend cultural activities.

Of her experience, Sophia writes: “It was remarkable and humbling to see how much growth has taken place since 2010 and the true love and dedication the JNP+ staff has for the children…The location they are currently situated in is a spacious facility and the children are receiving the resources they need to have a sustained livelihood for a prosperous future, even when affected with HIV.”

We are proud of the fine advocacy work of partner JNP+ and look forward to seeing continued growth of the facility in the coming years.

Friday, January 25, 2013

FSD's Partner Exerting Influence on Key Issues in Nicaragua

With the support of FSD Intern Diana McKeage, microfinance partner, Association for Equitable Economic Development (Alternativa) is using collaboration and communication to bolster development efforts among organizations in Masaya, Nicaragua. Alternativa won an FSD grant for $739 to facilitate three collaborative forums on community development issues in the area. Alternativa will bring together 10 local development organizations for three forums to discuss the following themes, respectfully: 1) export consortia and associative work, 2) influence of public policy, and 3) child labor.
Local development organizations came together for a similar conference “Problems and Perspectives of Local Development” in Masaya in January 2011, and progress made will be reviewed in the upcoming forums. While the conference of 2011 worked with $5,000 in donated seed money, a goal of these new forums is to develop projects and initiatives requiring no foreign funding, such as educational programs or proposals to the municipal government. This reflects an alignment and shared vision of Alternativa and FSD to promote locally sustained programs.
Alternativa is a well-known development organization in the Masaya community that offers micro-credit programs and capacity-building workshops. They firmly believe that multilateral communication between organizations dedicated to community development is essential to their progress. In a country like Nicaragua, where 46.2% of the population lives at or below the poverty line, this type of coordination can make a huge impact on the methods and outcomes of development projects. Alternativa is a longstanding FSD partner and has received numerous grants for their outstanding work, including a grant from a $72,000 microfinance program funded by The Rotary Fund and administrated by FSD that is starting up sustainable community banks to provide low-income communities access to critical capital for income generation and poverty alleviation.

Monday, January 21, 2013

FSD Award-winning Grass-root Partners in India- JBF & Rupayan Sansthan

On December 5th, two of FSD’s community partners in India were presented with state-level Dalmia Awards, which honor work in water conservation and the environment. Rajasthani Governor Margaret Alva presented the awards to Kanupriya Harish of Jal Bhagirathi Foundation (JBF) and Kuldeep Kothari of the “Arna-Jharna” museum, operated by Rupayan Sansthan. Ms. Alva commended their use of community initiatives in the conservation of water and the environment, emphasizing the importance of community-based action as a supplement to government assistance. This prestigious honor awards a first prize of Rs. 1,00,000 in cash and eight consolation prizes of Rs. 11,000.

FSD partner Jal Bhagirathi Foundation was honored with the top prize in recognition of its scientific methods for water supply and its campaign highlighting the local issue of pasture land, check-dams and boundaries of agricultural fields. Since 2002, JBF has worked to implement community-based approaches to water management that improve the access of local communities while increasing participation and representation of women and disadvantaged groups. Ms. Alva echoed these goals at the awards ceremony, calling for an end to the traditional practice of women traveling long distances to retrieve water and advocating the supply of water through taps in each house.
We are equally proud to announce that Rupayan Sansthan was awarded a consolation prize for their work on the conservation and discovery of the oral history of Rajasthan through the ‘Arna-Jharna’ museum. Since their establishment in 1960, Rupayan Sansthan has researched and archived folk tales and folk songs to promote the richness of the Rajasthani language and indigenous knowledge. The museum not only showcases their collection but, in the words of Kuldeep Kothari, “celebrates the traditional knowledge systems of the desert linking everyday cultural practices to larger ecological concerns which reflect through its unique design and architecture done by local people.” The facility itself collects rainwater in a stone quarry-turned-reservoir, supporting ethno-medicinal plants and staple crops that now cover the surrounding mountains. The museum space has been covered with greenery and is a habitat for birds and animals in a celebration of desert life.
The extraordinary efforts of these two partner organizations truly embody Governor Alva’s message at the awards ceremony. She emphasized the need for a collective effort by government agencies, civil society and voluntary groups to ensure availability of drinking water for the next generation. While she urged government employees to take interest in public welfare, tree plantation, the construction of toilets and agricultural techniques, she called upon the villagers to not depend solely on the government for water supply and take up community-based solutions to these problems.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fundación Pro Hábitat and FSD Brought a Reliable Source of Water to Cochabamba Bolivia

Water scarcity remains a deeply rooted and unresolved issue in Cochabamba, Bolivia and families—many with female heads of households—struggle with a limited ability to access and store clean water. In the rural community María Auxiliadora, outside of Cochabamba, water delivery to this dry region is both vital and unreliable. Families depend on a delivery truck to pump water into small storage containers that are easily contaminated. Luckily, a pilot program started by the community organization Fundación Pro Hábitat, and supported by FSD Intern Manuela Vasconcelos, is changing the tide.
Fundación Pro Hábitat is committed to improving living conditions of low-income families in rural areas of Cochabamba. An FSD partner for over ten years, Pro Hábitat builds the capacity of socially and economically marginalized families through workshops on environmentally friendly resource management, including water conservation and construction of sanitation systems. In partnership with Pro Hábitat  FSD Intern Manuela implemented a project to target water management in María Auxiliadora. A Brazilian-American student in her senior year at the University of San Francisco, Manuela participated in a ten-week internship with FSD in Cochabamba through USF’s Sarlo Scholars program. The Sarlo Scholars program afforded Manuela the opportunity to receive extensive community development training with FSD prior to her departure, during her orientation, and throughout the internship.
Manuela built relationships with local leaders and eventually received an FSD intern grant, in addition to her seed grant, to develop plans to build a low-cost water tank system. The Pileta Pública project was conceptualized through a community-based approach with the objective of improving access to clean water in the community. The low-cost water tank holds 5,000 liters and incorporates appropriate technologies for the zone. As a pilot-program project, the tank was constructed with materials Manuela purchased under the supervision of Pro Hábitat and the enthusiastic Enrique Canaza, a water technician and community member.
Mauricio Ramirez, FSD’s Program Director in Cochabamba, recently visited María Auxiliadora and photographed the progress of the water tank project. The tank currently provides 18 families (approximately 70-90 people) with water for cooking and other household uses. During her stay, Manuela organized several workshops on the proper use of water and its impact on health and personal hygiene. She also organized a fundraising campaign to provide children in the community with reusable water bottles as an incentive to drink water as a daily habit. This important project is a great example of a low-cost, high-impact initiative utilizing local materials and labor.
Upon her return, Manuela continued her involvement with FSD by interning at the San Francisco office. She is passionate about development work and hopes to continue her involvement with FSD. In her own words: “I believe that connecting people around the world with the same vision and passion can promote innovative opportunities for sustainable development.” FSD is proud to continue our support for Fundación Pro Hábitat in their efforts to improve health and sanitation in rural Bolivia.