The InterExchange Foundation is thrilled to provide nearly $13,000 in funding for two ambitious young Americans seeking to make strides in global health and sustainable agriculture. Our July 2015 Christianson Grant recipients Kelly Lue and David Robinson will take part in service projects in Peru and Tanzania, respectively.
Nestled between Machu Picchu and Cusco is Peru's mountainous Ollantaytambo District. The majority of its population lives in isolated villages - many without electricity or running water. Here, Kelly Lue will spend six months volunteering with Sacred Valley Health (SVH), a nonprofit promoting health in these underserved rural communities.
"Some have to walk hours to the nearest health center," Lue says of Ollantaytambo's inhabitants.
To address the lack of healthcare access, SVH utilizes community health workers to deliver health education and provide basic home care and referrals to their rural communities.
As a community coordinator, Lue will support these community health workers - known as promotoras - by organizing monthly trainings and assisting with data collection, monitoring and evaluation to ensure program efficacy.
Since promotoras are from the communities they serve and face the same barriers to healthcare, Lue explains, these women have insight that enables them to provide culturally relevant care and education.
Lue recently earned a master's degree in public health from New York University and is excited to work with her Peruvian colleagues to adopt global health best practices in the context of Ollantaytambo.
"Through these close collaborations with community members, I will be able to gain deeper understanding of their culture and customs and use this knowledge to help inform SVH's work," Lue says.
In Tanzania, David Robinson will utilize his Christianson Grant to support his second year of service with 2SeedsNetwork, a nonprofit that partners with independent farmers to develop sustainable approaches to achieve food and income security.
During his time as a sociology and environmental studies student at Haverford College, Robinson co-headed the school's first on-campus farm and greenhouse and was a research fellow at The Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University.
In 2014-2015, Robinson contributed his skills and interest in sustainable agriculture to 2Seeds' Magoma Project, one of the organization's eight village project sites. In Magoma, Robinson and other volunteers worked with community partners to plan and build an agricultural system at a local school. Profits from crops sales supported a meals program for over 700 students.
This year, Robinson will move to Dar es Salaam to work as a project coordinator for 2Seeds' Masoka Project where he will help establish a data-collection system on crops for farmers throughout Tanzania.
"With access to crop prices throughout the year, farmers can make informed decisions about yearly crop choices and planting schedules to increase their production and profitability, and take steps out of poverty," Robinson says.
He and other volunteers will collaborate with the Kariakoo Market (the center of agricultural transactions), the Tanzanian tech start-up Habari Mazao and Vodacom (the largest cellular provider in Tanzania) to bring this crop-data system to fruition. Robinson is excited to be part of a project that partners with locals.
"Knowing the people in the community - their needs, schedules, challenges, idiosyncrasies and cultural patterns - is vital to building a project that is not just another foreign import that fails in practice, but a project that is cross-cultural and brings together the ideas and abilities of both locals and foreigners," he says.
In addition to learning from and helping locals, Robinson hopes that by sharing his experiences with people in the U.S. he can provide an opportunity for them to "break down the stereotypes and biases they may hold about Africa and learn to see Tanzania for the diverse, complex and beautiful place that it truly is."
Congratulations to Kelly and David! We can't wait to hear how you touch the lives of your host communities and the impressions they leave with you.