As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, I worked with the village water and sanitation committee to improve safe water access and stagnant water issues. In a water-scarce country like Mali, my village was lucky to have access to five hand pumps, all of which were expensive deep boreholes that served water year-round. I coordinated a project to train individuals in hand pump maintenance and repair. Along with the necessary tools provided by the project, those few mechanics were then equipped to offer their services to surrounding communities. This way, the community had the capacity to repair their hand pumps and reduce the risk of people returning to unprotected local water sources and contracting diarrheal diseases.
In Sierra Leone, in a post-emergency environment, development is more complicated. Despite the fact that water was everywhere, the majority of the population do not have durable access to safe water. In 2011, only 39% of the total hand pumps installed in Sierra Leone were currently functioning and able to provide water year-round. The project I completed as a volunteer in Mali was a small-scale version of the project I am now implementing in Sierra Leone. Along with water and sanitation access construction, I supervise the implementation of a district-wide project to set up a network of qualified pump mechanics, supply spare parts, and sensitize communities to manage their water points through water committee organizations funded by regular contributions.
From Cornell to the Peace Corps to my current job, I realize that in every semester, or in every project, I have had to push myself to challenge my mind and physical self to reach the end goal successfully.
My time at Cornell and in the Peace Corps prepared me to work in challenging environments while using practical knowledge to make real world solutions.