Shannon’s Summer-June Blog

This summer, I am lucky enough to be working in Kenya as a Research and Program Development intern for Aqua Clara International. I’ve been here three weeks so far, working in a tiny village called Rigoma. With Aqua Clara, I’m gaining hands-on experience with clean drinking water projects in developing communities. I’m learning a lot about the successes and challenges of NGO work here, and so far this has been an exciting complement to my MPA/MSES program at SPEA.

My main project this summer is to conduct water quality testing and questionnaires to evaluate how well Aqua Clara’s biosand filters are functioning. Last week, I trained several undergraduates who will help collect water samples and conduct tests in our small lab. (My lab experience in Limnology last year has been extremely helpful!) We’ll test the quality of water sources such as streams and boreholes, as well as the water that goes into and comes out of each filter. This will help us quantify how well we’re meeting international standards for safe drinking water and identify ways to improve our program. This is actually my favorite part of the internship, as I’m personally interested in learning what approaches are most successful for this kind of project.

My other current project was actually inspired by a classmate’s presentation at SPEA this spring. A fellow student gave a presentation about Public Participatory GIS, which promotes community contributions to mapping systems and spatial information. I was fascinated by the topic, and my supervisor at Aqua Clara was very enthusiastic when I mentioned this as a way of mapping local water quality and filter locations using text messages sent by our community partners. It’s exciting to explore how this might benefit Aqua Clara, and I’ve even scheduled a phone call with that SPEA classmate who is enthusiastic about helping me make this work.

I honestly don’t think I could have found a better way to spend my summer. My internship position is almost exactly what I hope to do upon graduating from SPEA, so it’s been a perfect way to gain the professional experience I will apply in the future. I am grateful to the SPEA faculty and staff who helped me find and prepare for this internship. I hope that if you come to SPEA, you’ll have as positive of an internship experience as I am right now!

~Shannon

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