Monthly Archives: September 2016

Feyaad Allie ’16, Lombard Fellow in Nairobi, Kenya

Since July 2016, I’ve been working for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) East Africa Regional Leadership Center (RLC) in Nairobi, Kenya. The East Africa RLC is an initiative of President Barack Obama and is one of four centers supporting leaders in sub-Saharan Africa between ages 18-35. The center provides quality leadership training in three tracks: civic leadership, public management, and business and entrepreneurship. Participants come to the East Africa RLC from 14 countries in East and Central Africa. They spend 3 weeks doing residential learning in Nairobi, 8 weeks of virtual learning, in their home country, and a final week back in Nairobi for wrap-up. So far the center has graduated 9 cohorts of over 700 leaders! The RLC is a USAID initiative supported by the MasterCard Foundation, Deloitte, and Kenyatta University among other partners.

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A wall in the YALI East Africa Regional Leadership Center showcases working partners.

The YALI RLC has a number of departments ranging from admissions and curriculum to alumni engagement and monitoring and evaluation. I have had the opportunity to work on a number of projects dealing with different departments. One of the first projects I worked on was looking at the attendance data of participants over the past year to understand if there were any trends in the sessions participants were unable to attend. This was also used to revise graduation requirements for the participants. Additionally, I helped to analyze some of the assessments that participants filled out for each module within their three-week residential training. I put together a series of tables to be used in the quarterly report to USAID showing the levels of satisfaction for the modules.

One very interesting project that I was able to help out with was focus group discussions to understand ways to improve the admissions process for women, rural individuals, and persons with disabilities. I brainstormed questions to ask during the discussion to hear about any difficulties that participants faced in applying and attending the program. This was an informative way to hear about some of the potential obstacles that applicants face. I’ll be working on compiling the information from the focus group discussions to see how the application process can work better for these groups.

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Planting a tree at Kenyatta University, Nairobi for each of the 14 countries represented by the YALI East Africa Regional Leadership Center.

During the admissions process for each cohort there is an interview stage. I was able to spend a week interviewing over 40 applicants to the RLC to hear about their experiences as a leader, the issues they are passionate about, and the work they are doing to improve their communities. It was incredible listening to these African leaders who are dedicated to enhancing different aspects of their home countries and the African continent.

More recently, I’ve been working on compiling a list of various East and Central African organizations that work with women, rural individuals, and persons with disabilities. This will be used to get the word out about the YALI RLC and have more applicants and participants from those groups. I am also beginning to examine the mentorship program that is part of the RLC. I will be looking to understand what aspects of the program are working successfully and what aspects could be improved.

My work at the YALI RLC has been very meaningful and has taught me a great deal about how US development initiatives are implemented abroad and how they impact different countries and communities. Living in Nairobi, Kenya has also been a positive experience for me. Although it was a bit difficult to adjust at first, I have been able to connect with some ex-pats and locals and even a Dartmouth alumni! I had the opportunity to do a safari at the Maasai Mara where I saw the wildebeest migration in addition to doing some of the tourist activities in Nairobi. I am so thankful for the Lombard Fellowship and the Dickey Center for giving me this truly rewarding experience and I look forward to continuing my work in the coming months.

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Taking time out to explore the beauty of rural Kenya.  In the Masai Mara on safari.

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Santiago Guerrero ’14, Lombard Fellow in Patagonia, Chile

For the past six months I have worked as a Lombard Fellow for Endeavor in the Chilean Patagonia. Endeavor is a global nonprofit that transforms emerging countries by selecting, mentoring, and accelerating the most innovative and promising entrepreneurs. The purpose of my fellowship is to help entrepreneurs coming from under-resourced areas grow and scale their businesses, making their enterprises substantially more likely to prosper. We in Endeavor believe that as entrepreneurs develop their businesses, they bring more jobs and services to their communities, further expanding prosperity in their regions.

During my fellowship time, I have worked with 15 entrepreneurs and their companies from the rural south of the country. The companies belong to many different traditionally local industries, such as manufacturing, salmon farming, and forestry, among others. In general, these entrepreneurs do not have anybody to turn to for advice or mentorship and are isolated when they face their decision-making, which increases their chance of making serious mistakes in their internal planning and organization. Thus, Endeavor as an organization is there to bring the mentorship and advise these entrepreneurs need when facing crucial decisions regarding their companies.

I started by organizing a strategic planning workshop followed by one-on-one individual mentorships. It is commonly known that entrepreneurs are too immerse in day-to-day activities to worry about their short and long term planning and goals, their current standing within their industry, and possible challenges and red flags in their companies. We did the workshop and the individual meetings with the help of the Endeavor mentors, who are businessmen and professionals that volunteer to help Endeavor achieve its mission.

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As access to working capital is a major issue in rural entrepreneurs, we have also started a process of legal and financial pre-due diligence, in which the entrepreneurs get their financial numbers and legal status organized so that they are ready to raise capital should an investor be interested in their company. We are also organizing investor networks and road shows to expose the companies to potential investors or partners.

Furthermore, I helped organize and manage workshops and talks about entrepreneurship to high school and college students in under-resourced areas of the south of Chile. So far, we have had four high impact speakers talk to and inspire more than 800 high school students. We believe these talks will foster a climate of entrepreneurship among the youth in the area, and will have the goal of inspiring potential entrepreneurs to try their ideas in an organized manner.

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Overall, I believe this experience has been a great school for a recent graduate like me. Throughout the countless mentoring meetings I had with entrepreneurs and Endeavor mentors I got to understand how a business works from a managerial perspective. Moreover, I got to understand how a business is founded, the various stages of its growth process are seamlessly achieved, and its final consolidation is undertaken. I have also understood the difficulties rural entrepreneurs face when trying to grow their companies and the potential solutions for those very problems. As people in the organization like to say, Endeavor is a real life MBA, as we face a different business case with each company we work with.

As I continue with my fellowship, I am excited to further help local entrepreneurs achieve a better country for themselves and their children through the improvement of their companies. I also hope to enhance my understanding of rural entrepreneurship and the Endeavor model in general. As I look forward to the future, I am convinced that the skills I gained, the people I met and the experiences I had will be of extreme value in my career. I will always be grateful to the Lombard Fellowship and the Dickey Center for the amazing opportunity they gave to me.

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Chelsea Estevez ’14, Lombard Fellow in Cairo, Egypt

Since September 2015, I have been working as a Lombard Public Service Fellow at the Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment (RISE) in Cairo, Egypt. RISE is a non-profit organization located on the campus of the American University in Cairo. We serve the Egyptian population in areas of education, research and sustainable development with the goal of benefiting the people and the earth through integrated resource management.

There is never a dull moment in the RISE office! We are working on so many interesting projects. My first day on the job, someone informed me about a “posters” meeting. I was confused as to what a meeting about “posters” meant. Would we discuss official RISE poster format?  How boring! The meeting ended up lasting for two hours and was quite thrilling. We weren’t discussing how to make a poster; we were designing exhibits for the Water Education Center we are building in the village of El Heiz. I was assigned to translate the text from English to Arabic. The purpose of this education center is to raise awareness about the imminent water depletion problem facing Egypt, practical water conservation techniques, and better irrigation practices, namely drip irrigation. El Heiz is a small village located in the Baharya Oasis in the Egyptian Western Desert. The Western Desert is the easternmost part of the Sahara Desert, the most arid land in the world expanding across North Africa. The only source of fresh water for the people in the Baharya Oasis comes from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer, which is quickly depleting due to overuse and poor management.  A common agricultural practice across Egypt is flood irrigation. Because of the country’s water scarcity and hot, dry weather, many farmers believe that flooding their crops with copious amounts of water each day ensures proper plant health. Unfortunately, this practice exhausts Egypt’s water reserves at a faster rate and destroys the crops. By making this Water Education Center, we hope to educate locals, community members, and tourists about these issues. This new project complements the earlier water-saving project RISE completed in the Oasis, installing water filtration systems made from clay pots. Water seeps through the walls of unglazed pots, ollas, to filter out the high concentration of metals to provide villagers access to clean, safe water.

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To raise awareness during Sustainable Campus Day, I would stand by the sorting stations dressed as the “Trash Monster” to tell people how to sort their trash properly.

In early November, members of the RISE team traveled to Shubra Qabala. Our project in this Nile Delta village involves creating a sustainable trash management system to combat the pollution problem facing Egypt. Within the capital, informal garbage collectors, called Zabaleen, pick up residents’ trash in certain affluent areas for personal income generation. Outside of the city, no collection system exists. In the past ten years, corner shops and supermarkets have popped up in rural villages, paving the way for an array of non-organic packaging materials, such as plastic, cans, and candy wrappers, to be dumped in and around villages. The lack of a standard trash removal system leads many Egyptians to either throw garbage on the streets and in the Nile or to burn it. Both of these trash removal methods are detrimental to the natural environment and the health of the population. Our task therefore involves raising awareness about the disadvantages of littering and burning trash, ensuring trucks collect garbage on a regular schedule, providing trash collection infrastructure, such as small bins on each street corner and a central site where the recyclable materials can be collected and sorted, and cleaning the polluted streets and canal. Because of the project’s success in Shubra Qabala, the neighboring village has requested our help in implementing their own similar trash management system. When we visited in November, we met some of the governing residents to discuss the details of implementation. It was fascinating to see that with some knowledge and awareness, people actually do want to make a difference in the world around them and become more sustainable. The two obstacles are the lack of information and the lack of infrastructure, which we try to provide.

Another project I am actively involved in is the “Green Roof” project. Because Cairo is an overpopulated, urban metropolis, there is very little space for agricultural production within the city limits. As a result, constructing rooftop gardens has become a growing trend. All of the apartments in Cairo have flat roofs, making them the perfect space for adding greenery. The weather is sunny almost every day out of the year, providing the perfect climate for these gardens. Also, in the dreadfully hot summer months, green roofs, through the process of photosynthesis, absorb most of the solar heat, which cools down the apartment and reduces the need for indoor air conditioning, one of the biggest energy drainers in Egypt. Many of the projects we carry out take into account not only environmental sustainability, but also social and economic sustainability. Green roofs provide income generation, as city dwellers can now grow, produce and sell their homegrown products. Plus, these green roofs provide a socially sustainable opportunity for women to generate their own income, learn a new trade, and have a new, open space within the private sphere of their home. In rural societies in Egypt, generally women are forbidden from tending to the fields. Green roofs provide a working opportunity for women. Other benefits of installing green roofs include providing an educational opportunity and creating beautiful green space in a city devoid of open range, green spaces. These last two benefits are especially pertinent for school children. Our main “Green Roof” project right now involves building a rooftop garden on the top of “Mish Medrasa.” Mish Medrasa, which literally translates to “Not School,” is an afterschool program that provides a supplemental education to young children in the informal area of Cairo called Saft el-Laban, not too far from the Great Pyramids at Giza. Public education in Egypt is notoriously abysmal. Since the government does not pay teachers enough, there is a common practice amongst educators of teaching only half of a lesson during the normal school hours, and providing the other half of the lesson in a private tutoring sessions, thus making up for their lack in governmental salary. Of course, many of the families whose children attend these public schools cannot afford private tutoring. This ubiquitous custom renders children uneducated, or half-educated at the hands of the system.  Mish Medrasa’s goal, therefore, is to provide a complete, parallel education to the one in the governmental system, free of charge, so the students in the area can receive a decent education. To strengthen their science curriculum, Mish Medrasa wants to install a green roof to teach students about ecosystems, planting, experiments, the beauty of nature, etc. RISE spearheaded this project, and we have just recently build hydroponic beds, vertical pallets, and rotating compost bins for Mish Medrasa’s roof. Each of these items turned out quite easy to make. After building two rotating compost machines last weekend, I was inspired to make my own personal compost bin for my apartment. I hope my roommates won’t mind the smell!

There are so many other projects that RISE undertakes and I love that every day in the office is different! We organized our First International Conference on Solar Energy and Water Systems early in October and invited speakers from all over the world to talk about their new technology and advances in the field. We are conducting an experiment on our own office’s Green Roof to test which combination of local materials, including wheat straw, crushed brick, and peanut shells, in which ratios proves best to grow lettuce. I led “How to Run a Sustainable Office” training in late September and early December for CEOs and the engineers, building off of my experience from the Office of Sustainability last year at the American University. I helped organize “Sustainable Campus Day” with the Sustainable Campus Committee where we raised awareness about the importance of saving water and held a Farmers Market, promoting local businesses. I received an “Introduction to Permaculture” training and helped build a small permaculture garden on campus, which included building trellises, measuring out swales in the land, digging holes to bury ollas, and eventually planting all local species of trees and herbs. I am currently involved in a project researching “The Sustainable City” in Dubai and seeing if living in a sustainable community can engender a “culture of sustainability”, or if residents need more than just the latest “green” technology to make them behave sustainably. This research will then be compared to sustainable communities in Egypt. Soon, we will restart KEEP, the Kids Environmental Education Program, one of my personal favorites of all the projects RISE undertakes, in which we bring public school children to the University to educate them on environmental issues. My love for this program makes me believe that there is a future for me as an environmental leader and educator. My experience at RISE has been life changing and I am forever grateful and indebted to the John Sloan Dickey Center and Tucker Foundation for providing me with such a phenomenal opportunity. I would also like to give a warm thank you to the Dartmouth Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures Department for ultimately providing me with the language skills to carry out such an amazing job.

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Presenting at our First Annual Solar Energy Conference

 

 

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Hannah Jung ’15, Lombard Fellow in Geneva, Switzerland

For the past four months, I have served as the Advocacy Fellow at Human Rights Watch in Geneva, Switzerland through Dartmouth’s Lombard Public Service Fellowship. An international, not-for-profit human rights NGO, Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigates abuses, exposes the facts, and pressures stakeholders to respect rights and secure justice. At the core of HRW’s work is its ethical fact-finding, impartial reporting, and focused advocacy, in which I took part with the Advocacy Division at the Geneva office.

My role in the advocacy team largely involved engaging with the UN mechanisms, especially the Human Rights Council, and researching various country-specific and thematic human rights issues. In September when I arrived, my team and I extensively covered the 3-week 30th Session. Through the Fellowship, I had the opportunity to learn how human rights advocacy is done at the multilateral level, the fabric of which inevitably interweaves geopolitical threads. For example, during informal negotiations of draft resolutions at the HRC I observed the nuanced power plays of states and regional groups through language, on language – to decide which terms are included or excised in the document. In contrast, a 2-day meeting of more than forty civil society organizations (CSOs) was convened in October, co-organized by HRW and our peer, CIVICUS. Prompted by the closing civil society space worldwide, this gathering was particularly salient as civil society actors were its sole participants. To be in a neutral space occupied by like-minded CSOs was a refreshing experience to engage and write a report on, as the collective focus was creating and voicing a counter-narrative to the human rights-unfriendly rhetoric some states deploy.

In addition, the Fellowship enabled me in unexpected dimensions to combine the critical with the creative. For example, besides the regular HRC Sessions that take place three times a year, there are treaty body sessions that each monitor the ten international human rights treaties. Unlike the HRC that runs on a fixed timeline, the treaty bodies have their own submission deadlines and session dates. To streamline this irregularity, I had the opportunity to create a master advocacy calendar through design thinking. It was a fun challenge to think through how to organize complex information in a visually simple presentation in Excel. I also appreciated the process of reviewing the year’s HRC data for coding and analysis, and the opportunities to discuss patterns and exceptions at different occasions.

Because the advocacy division is a small, close-knit team, I enjoyed the professional trust, intuitive independence, and teamwork. This dynamic also allowed for the chance to follow topics of my interest, such as the Business and Human Rights Forum and various talks and exhibits during Geneva Peace Week in November. I fully enjoyed learning about intersectional human rights themes, such as the arts and forgiveness, and connecting with fellow advocates working in the human rights context.

This year wrapped up with the Special Session on Burundi, the outcome of which was hopeful with a strong resolution adopted by consensus, which calls for the urgent deployment of an expert mission on the human rights situation on the ground. This decision is significant as the resolution was unanimously adopted by forty-seven members of the HRC, including the P5 states.

In the new year, I look forward to joining onboard the New York headquarters to resume my fellowship with the advocacy team there. I am grateful to receive Dartmouth’s continued support through the Lombard, as I deepen my appreciation for complexity in human rights and international justice, towards my plan to serve as an international human rights lawyer.

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Victoria Trump Redd ’14, Lombard Fellows in Ollantaytambo, Peru

In the end of July, I started my Lombard Fellowship as a Community Coordinator at Sacred Valley Health/Ayni Wasi. We’re located in the small town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of Peru. The massive ruins of the fortress and temple of Ollantaytambo loom over the small town, population approximately 2000. During the Incan resistance against the Spanish conquistadores, Ollantaytambo was the site of an important battle won by Manco Inca against the Spanish forces led by Hernando Pizarro, the half-brother of Francisco Pizarro. Ayni Wasi means “House of Reciprocity” in Quechua, the native language of the Peruvian Andes, which is still spoken by a large percentage of residents of the Sacred Valley.

Our mission is to promote health in rural, high-Andean communities with limited access to healthcare. To this end, we have trained a network of 19 promotoras (community health workers) in 13 rural communities in the mountains above Ollantaytambo. These communities range in altitude from 10,000 to 14,000 feet above sea level; many are inaccessible by car or can only be reached by public buses or market trucks on certain days of the week. As a Community Coordinator, I train our promotoras about health topics that are important in their communities, including pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, anemia, wound care, and nutrition. We provide transportation so the promotoras can come down to our Ollantaytambo office for training days, where we teach them the importance of these health topics, run through disease scenarios, and practice using the protocols that enable them to decide if a patient can be treated at home or needs to be accompanied to the nearest posta (government health post). The promotoras use this information to give educational talks during community meetings, do educational house visits to community members, and provide first aid in their communities. As these rural communities are often a several hours’ walk away from the postas, having trained community members accessible to their neighbors greatly improves health outcomes in these communities.

Another central part of my Community Coordinator position is to be directly responsible for the promotoras in several of our rural communities. This entails visiting the communities several times a month to help reinforce the promotoras’ knowledge of health topics they feel weak in, accompanying them on house visits, and helping them prepare for community health education talks. The two communities I work in directly are called Huilloc and Yanamayo. I get to Huilloc by riding a public combi, a minivan retrofitted with seats for around 20 passengers, for 45 minutes up the mountain. There are two promotoras in Huilloc, Santusa and Teresa, both of whom have worked with Ayni Wasi since the organization’s inception. Santusa has repeatedly asked me and the other two Community Coordinators for Huilloc to visit her and help her increase her health knowledge and understanding. Yanamayo is located much further up the same mountain range, a two-hour ride by market truck or public bus along the winding, bumpy, one-lane dirt road. Matilde, the promotora for Yanamayo, has also worked with Ayni Wasi for three years. She only speaks Quechua and can neither read nor write, which means we have to adapt how we teach her our health topics. With Matilde, we use visual materials to help her learn and feel comfortable with the information. When I visit Yanamayo, I go with Escolástica, one of our Peruvian staff members who speaks Quechua, to spend the night in Matilde’s small cement house. We bring her food—generally fresh vegetables, cheese, and rice—to make soup to supplement the potatoes from her fields for our evening meal. As her hands busily knit, we talk with her about health topics that she finds difficult and help her feel more confident with the material so she can present it to her neighbors and other community members.

Currently, I am working on a qualitative research project with several other Ayni Wasi staff to gain a better understanding of the promotoras’ perspectives, experiences, and suggestions. The goal is to use this information to continue to improve the sustainability of our program and our ability to improve health outcomes in the communities we serve. This is especially important as we are in the process of hiring more than 40 new promotoras in our communities. They will enable us to reach more community members, as many of our communities are very spread out and it can be hard for the promotoras to reach all of the homes. I recently led two focus groups with twelve of our promotoras from both sides of the Sacred Valley, where we spoke about the factors that motivated them to be promotoras, their experiences within their communities, and how they feel the work has changed them and their families. The promotoras were excited about the chance to share more about their perspectives and what they have seen in their work with their fellow promotoras and with us. I hope to be able to do some follow-up with these promotoras and the new ones after the New Year.

One challenging aspect of my Lombard Fellowship as a Community Coordinator is the language barrier. While I am bilingual in Spanish, I had never previously learned Quechua, the language spoken by most inhabitants of this region. Many of our promotoras speak both Quechua and Spanish, but some, including Matilde, only speak Quechua. In addition, most of their interactions with community members are in Quechua as well. I am working on learning Quechua so I can better communicate with the promotoras, but it is a very difficult language to learn, as you can change the meaning or intent of words by adding prefixes and suffixes. Hopefully I’ll be able to carry out some conversations by the time I leave in June!

My Lombard Fellowship with Sacred Valley Health/Ayni Wasi has been a fantastic learning experience so far. Every day, I see how upstream factors like access to healthcare, language, living conditions, and economic factors influence people’s health decisions and well-being. I am very thankful for the opportunity to learn from these promotoras and to gain a deeper appreciation of Peruvian culture and how lived experiences impact health outcomes. I look forward to learning more in the next five months!

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