Through FSD I was able to experience the technological challenges that villagers in Uganda face. FSD did 2 things very well. Firstly, they assigned me to a community that was excited about technology and found me a wonderful host family. Living among the community and working with them to provide useful sustainable businesses could not have happened with my organization alone. Secondly they advised me on how to best approach sustainable development. The keys rules are to ensure that any initiative you and the community spend time building, is one where all the correct incentives line up such that the initiative continues well past your time. This was important advice to ensuring that your time is not wasted on projects that fail. Instead, most FSD projects lead to some tangible benefit for the community because the community is the main driver. The interns learn a great deal and help where they can by offering their knowledge and experience in a very different part of the world. This is a passive but highly effective method of development.
FSD supports the implementation of criticial environmental initiatives around the world. The organization takes a holistic approach to the most pressing human development and environmental issues. By supporting grassroots projects related to health, education, appropriate technology, human rights, women’s empowerment, and micro-finance, FSD makes it possible for communities to improve their environments. Lastly FSD moblilizes and trains interns who return home and infuse the knowledge they gained overseas into their daily lives.
FSD sends interns abroad to work in developing communities. Each volunteer is connected with a local, community-based organization and works with that organization to provide sustainable economic, environmental, education, human rights and health solutions to that community. FSD is truly commited to the importance of "ground-up" development and provides volunteers with an experience where they are immersed in the local culture.
FSD has a bottom-up model of placing volunteers at community organizations in developing countries. Volunteers live with home stay families, bring small grants to the organizations, and compete for larger funding for proposed projects. FSD succeeds in connecting both human capital and other resources into development projects designed by local partner community organizations. Their projects aim to be sustainable through weaving in community participation and income-generation. I found FSD to be an excellent organization through the year and a half I spent working with them in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador and recommend them highly to others looking to get involved.
I think FSD is an amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to learn what community development really means in action. It gave me the experience of working with the Environmental Department of the Mayor's Office in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua. There my supervisor and I created a grey water absorption project for families in the community of Oro Verde. Prior to our project the grey water was running onto the streets creating cracks in the dirt roads. Not only are these cracks ugly, but they are also unsafe. The cracks collect water and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as dengue and malaria. To solve this complex issue we educated families on how to construct their own absorption tank that would filter this water and allow it to re-enter the ground water in a healthy fashion. The results were significant as over fifty families constructed their tanks. Our project, like many other projects through FSD, had the foundation of finding a problem and working with the community to solve it in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.
FSD does exactly what it's name implies. I was incredibly impressed with the organization's deep and genuine commitment to sustainability. They provided a great amount of support to ensure that each intern was able to take initiative to start their own project that was truly making a positive impact on the community, while also providing a rare and important learning experience. They made sure that all projects, even if not directly related to the environment (though most are) are able to sustain itself after the intern leaves, which improves the environmental and social conditions of the community well into the future. This experience changed my life. By applying for and receiving a grant from FSD for my project, I was better prepared to enter the non-profit career field. I also plan to receive a degree in International Policy, specifically in Africa, due inlarge part to my internship. Most importantly, I was immersed in a culture, where environmental problems flourished, but the people were the strongest I have ever met. This opened my eyes to see how there is hope for everyone all over the world, no matter how dire their situation, because you can never underestimate the strength of the people themselves.
I have been a volunteer program coordinator on FSD's site team in Jinja, Uganda since January, 2009. During this time, I have had the opportunity to support volunteer efforts with several local community-based organizations that have elected to partner with FSD. From what I have seen thus far, the volunteers' projects have been truly inspired, and are developed in close communication with target communities, local supervisors, and FSD staff. We are currently working with a volunteer who has developed a tree nursery with members of a rural food security group, all of whom are clients of The AIDS Support Organization (TASO). In completing her needs assessment, she effectively utilized TASO's resources and worked closely with the community to purchase seedlings, organize tree-farming training sessions, and develop a business plan to sustain the nursery subsequent to her departure. During this time, FSD played the role of mentor, providing valuable feedback, new approaches, and grant-writing techniques. FSD has also provided communication support between the volunteer, TASO, and the community. I look forward to continue working with FSD to support community-driven development in the future.
FSD was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I worked as an intern at Softpower Education researching sustainable agriculture in Jinja, Uganda for nine weeks during the summer of 2007. I researched farming practices and challenges in eight surrounding villages with the help of a translator, compiling the information into a database to be placed in to a larger grant proposal. This was to raise money to put community gardens into local schools to teach students and adults alike valuable sustainable agriculture techniques. I learned more than I thought possible on the job and living with my host family and had the opportunity to meet incredible people. Being able to run my own project, creating a budget, hiring staff, and producing an end result was a unique experience. FSD made sure during the orientation week to equip all of us interns with valuable knowledge such as language instruction and cultural orientation, allowing us to jump right into joining the community. I had the opportunity to go to church with my host mother, have fascinating discussions on cultural difference with my host cousins, enjoy local delicacies and so much more. Upon returning to the US I have worked information booths at local job and internship fairs at my university as well as becoming a reference for future participants because of how much I believe in FSD and value my experience with the program.
FSD is a NGO that is truely concerned with sustainably developing the future of developing nations. Thanks to FSD I have been given the opportunity to work on various projects that include the construction of a communal clothes washing area and bathrooms that donÂ´t pollute the important river (where the old method of washing clothes left a white soapy trail of detergent in the river and caused health problems for the people who bathe in the river), reforestation, working on an organic farm, teaching english, working in the pre-colombian museum to protect the cultural resources of the area, helping the teachers in the local preschool, and developing promotional material for the host organization. However, for me, more important than the professional skills I have developed are the personal relationships I have formed. I am truely a member of the small community in which I live and have formed bonds, aquired experiences, and lived situations which have taught me more than I could imagine and which I will never forget.
I was a Program Coordinator for FSD for one year and worked directly with their partner organizations (NGOs) on the ground in India. The environmental partners FSD selected to work and fund through their mini-grant are excellent excellent organizations. These were effective, efficient programs that thoughtfully and creatively used a small amount of funding to generate significant environmental protection. For example, with under $500 dollars one volunteer, with the partner organization Foundation for Ecological Security, was able to create composting and bio-gas pits that minimized wood consumption, created high quality manure for crop production, while also providing at least ten families with methane gas for daily use.
While working alongside the amazing individuals running this organization, I heard stories of and helped support work being done in many developing countries supporting grassroots organizations that work in fields such as sustainable/organic agriculture, water management, renewable energy, reforestation and biodiversity, and education and advocacy. I published stories such as this one written by interns who were aiding community-based organizations with human rights and women's empowerment, public health, and microfinance, all of which empowered communities to be able to make educated decisions that would promote affordable sustainability in their lives, often through the use of microfinance loans. These same interns that helped community-based organizations in developing countries later returned to their own countries and spread the word about their experiences, often going on to graduate programs in sustainable develpment or to become community advocates among their neighbors and friends. Overall, I was amazed by the impact I saw being made by the efforts of the Foundation for Sustainable Development.