Friday, July 25, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT: Getting Involved

Now that we've learned something about the developing world and how microfinance projects are attempting to make a sustainable difference in the economic well-being of people in some of these countries, you might wonder what you can do with your newfound knowledge. That's what my final summer project post will attempt to answer.

The daughter of a friend of mine from college is currently serving as an intern in Argentina for the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD). Her name is Christine Solitario, and she just finished her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A few weeks ago, via Facebook, she sent me the following overview of what she's doing there:

"Right now I am in Villa Elisa, a neighborhood of La Plata in the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. I'm interning through Foundation for Sustainable Development, an international NGO that coordinates short and long term volunteering in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Their Argentina program is based in La Plata. My internship is with a self-sustaining microfinanced sewing cooperative called Mi Perrito Cooperative. They started at the end of 2006 and began focusing on the production of dog clothing. Currently, they're trying to expand and have a contract to make babies' clothing through an organization called Otro Mercado that supports sustainable cooperative. Their workshop is based in a "comedor" called Arco Iris, a community center that provides nutritional meals and educational and social development activities to over 70 children in the area, including the children of the women that work in the cooperative. I'm involved in lots of different things with the group, it changes everyday. The "microfinance" aspect of the cooperative is that they have received micro-loans from a lender here in Argentina called La Base that focuses its efforts on cooperatives. They have also received several grants written by previous FSD interns (I'm currently writing one too). Like I said, it's not like the "traditional microfinance" of SE Asia or Grameen Bank where individual women receive loans and then organize in groups to ensure timely payment, provide support to other group members, etc. Still, the cooperative does work with small loans and grants."

It struck me when I read her words that she's not that much older than any of you! And what an adventure she's having! What an incredible learning experience. (Not to mention, what a great way to differentiate your college application from the thousands that admissions offices receive every year.)

Did I get your attention yet? Since this class is all about student-driven, hands-on learning, encouraging you all to consider an internship or short-term volunteer trip with a group like FSD seemed like the PERFECT last project in my summer series. It could even develop into your project for this class for this year. So here's what you need to do if you choose this project for the blog this summer:

1) Read the above note that Christine sent to me. (By the way, I'll bet Christine would answer your friend request on Facebook if you wanted to speak with her directly about her trip.)

2) Go to the website for the Foundation for Sustainable Development:

Read through the home page, the Why FSD - 10 Reasons page, the Internship page, Short-Term Volunteering page, and one of the blog posts from people who are already serving in various developing nations. Then answer the following questions:

If you became an intern or volunteer, where would you like to go? Why?

What would you do to prepare for your trip? What might you need to learn?

Why might you or someone else choose to become part of a program like this?

Once your internship or volunteer trip was over, what would you like to have accomplished a) for the people in the community you served and b) for yourself?

I would LOVE to see one or more of you actually become part of a program like this that would take you to a developing nation. If you did, it would be a life-changing experience.


Mariah Ryan said...

If I decided to intern, I would definitely choose Nicaragua. They have come past a war, gained poverty, and cannot farm due to landmines from the war. The child labor that they have there would also play a part in my decision. To prepare myself, I would learn better spanish and research in what all they needed done. I think this program is a great way to build character and can really put some things into aspect for you. Just reading the article made me grateful for all the things I have. The internship would, by far, give me a sense of achievement. Knowing that I helped and made some sort of difference is an overwhelming feeling. I would hope to the people that I did help would have a better outlook on life, more hope, and for them to be able to start their lives in a different way.

Mary said...

If I were to volunteer or intern with the FSD program, I would choose to go to Uganda. One million people in Uganda have HIV/AIDS, and 3 million children are orphans. Also, 50% of the population lives in poverty. I would definitely love to go and work with and teach kids there, maybe in an orphanage.
To prepare for my trip, I would need to learn more about Uganda and its culture, and learn some of the languages spoken there. I looked it up and two of the common languages are Luganda and Swahili.
On the blog on the website, I read this story about a girl who went to Uganda to help a group of women start a tailoring business. That story was really cool because for once in their lives, these women weren't entirely helpless. They could do something very well, and start to make a living out of it. And someone didn't just come right in and do it for them. They could achieve it for themselves, but with a little bit of help. That is a great reason for me or anyone else to go to Uganda: to help people make better lives for themselves. Plus, it would be a such a life changing experience and it would make anyone realize how much they really have in life and what power they have to change things for the better.

Ms. Stotler said...

Wouldn't it be cool if both you ladies DID become interns with FSD in Nicaragua and Uganda???!!! You could use it as the basis of your project in this class. If you're seriously interested, you should become friends with Christine Solitario, the young lady I know who went to Argentina as an intern this summer. She could give you ideas about what to do to get started, some of the challenges, etc.

BTW, impressive extra research on your country of choice, Mary. I can also tell by your post that you thoroughly read the World Factbook info on Uganda. :-)

Anonymous said...

If I became an intern, I would go to Bolivia. Today I met a woman who said her husband went to Bolivia to help with the water crisis. After reading the page on Bolivia, I realized how bad the situation is with the water problems. Water is essential to life and if that is their biggest problem then it needs to be fixed! And if that is their biggest problem, compared to the US, they have a good country.
In order to prepare for a trip like this, I would have to definitley read up on what the culture is like, religions, beliefs, what food they eat, etc. I would have to develop skills in order to change the way I live today to how they live. An important thing I would have to learn is the language.
I know people would want to be apart of a program like this after they realize what they take for granted when they see a child who never had anything, not even a toy to play with. After just reading about the problems they have and thinking to myself of all the things that I wish I had when I have everything that I need right here in my home.
After my internship, I would have liked to accomplish touching someone's life in a loving way. Also change someone's life by giving them something that will change their lives. After I have given, I will have the greatest reward of walking away with the most memorable memories of my life knowing that I have touched a life of a person who needs a good life.

Chy Fox said...

I looove volunteering. I just feel really good when I do it. I currently volunteer at the library on Tuesdays and I really want to intern at the Oasis Center when I am a senior. That would be incredible. I like to do creative things. I love learning new things without being forced to learn them, and thats what volunteering does for me. it gives me outside information on subjects I'm interested in. For instance, the librarian I am working with taught me how to catalog books and shelve them correctly. I love being around books and reading, so it was easy for me to get the hang of it quickly.