Shortly after I left Uganda, my friend and fellow student, Sital, and I were casually talking on Facebook and he said, “So this might sound completely crazy but I think we should start up a non profit once you come back.” We spent weeks talking about a name, a focus, and how in the world we could even start such a huge undertaking. After running through a handful of ideas, we came to the conclusion that our best strategy would be to work closely with primary schools in countries where we already have strong ties, Uganda and Nepal. And here’s why:
As researchers, especially in-field researchers, we often encounter disparities in compelling outcomes of research studies and community-level technology implementation due to lack of resources and manpower to effectively disseminate research conclusions to the field. Experiencing these circumstances in multiple areas of the world has prompted us to further investigate how engineers, doctors, social workers, as a team, can fill this knowledge gap and manage water for the greater good of people and the environment.
So to kick off this new venture, Sital and I will submit a Focal Point grant proposal through the Illinois Graduate College to design and organize a seminar series that targets graduate students from all disciplines interested in receiving training in development work. The inspiration for the proposed Focal Point project has blossomed from our mutual goal of establishing the nonprofit organization. The organization, which has been named, (but I’m not at liberty to release it just yet!) will focus on water and sanitation treatment paired with capacity building through education in primary schools of Nepal and Uganda. Working directly with primary schools will create a “learning tree”, where the water and sanitation knowledge begins with young, open, learning children to be passed on to their siblings, friends and eventually, their children. The mission of the organization is to bridge the gap between researchers and implementers, and create a pathway for knowledge to reach the communities on the ground, where its application is invaluable to those in need.