I am a native of Ann Arbor entering my senior year at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. The beginning of my college career in Chicago at DePaul University sparked my interest in working with groups of people who have various economic, educational or social barriers to overcome. I am currently interning at COPE, an alternative high school that offers individualized attention to students for whom traditional public high schools are not a good fit. This work at COPE has offered me an amazing experience getting to know the students and helping them use art as a positive means of self-expression. It has also solidified my goal to help formulate new opportunities for those who may have difficulty accessing available resources and supports.
In pursuit of a similar objective, I will spend July and August working in Madagascar with Azafady, an NGO based in London, England. Some of the main focuses of the program will be digging wells to bring clean water to people in remote villages, building schools, and helping to renew and revive some of the vegetation that has been torn down through slash-and-burn methods of agriculture. After flying into the capital of Antananarivo, I will spend the first three weeks in Forth Dauphin, an urban area on the southern shore of Madagascar. Here, the other program members and I will be participating in health education programs with local clinics, as well as learning about the Malagasy culture and traditions. After Fort Dauphin, we will spend seven weeks in remote rural communities of the Tolagnaro region constructing and furnishing schools and developing systems for delivering clean drinking water.
The Wallenberg Travel Award has provided me with the ability to participate in Azafady’s program. It will allow me to help out a community in need and provide me with valuable experience and tools to pursue a future related to urban studies and poverty in this country. I have hopes that my experiences with Azafady and the Malagasy people will supply me with the knowledge to work in a similar capacity here in urban areas of the United States, where resources are scarce and the need is great. It will also give me an inside look into how NGOs function, which would be useful in starting a non-profit of my own here in the States. Already, the organization and reach of Azafady is something I admire, and I aspire to duplicate this level of service in my future.