Candler’s 2011 IRD Interns

written by: CST
posted in: 2011, About - No Comments

For the third consecutive year, Candler School of Theology has received a grant from International Relief and Development, Inc. (IRD) to send student interns to IRD service sites in several international locations this summer. Three Candler students and five students from Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health will be assessing a broad range of issues, including democracy and governance, HIV/AIDS, child poverty and mortality, and community development.

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Colombia
Jonathan Navas, 2nd year MDiv student
Lisandro Torre, Rollins School of Public Health student

Since October 2008, IRD has provided direct humanitarian assistance, including food, safe drinking water, and household and hygiene supplies, to internally displaced persons (IDPs), who are the families of those killed or missing in the civil conflict with the drug regimes in Colombia. Jonathan and Lisandro are supporting the closing baseline survey for the past three years of this IRD humanitarian program.

Laos
Peggy Jean Craig, 3rd year MDiv student
Heather Reese, Rollins School of Public Health student

IRD Laos is currently implementing a Food for Education project and a Vision Screening project for children. Peggy Jean and Heather are developing project proposals in health (water and sanitation, maternal and child health, nutrition) and/or education, which involves basic community assessments, writing concept papers, and contacting potential donors. In addition, they will assist in the development of photo essays or video documentaries featuring project information and impact stories to share with the IRD audience.

Mozambique
Marques Harvey, 2nd year MDiv student
Lindsey Haeger, Rollins School of Public Health student

Marques and Lindsey are contributing to a baseline survey for the upcoming intervention on Malaria, which will be administered under the Global Fund for HIV, TB and Malaria. They also will visit target communities in the Inhambane and Sofala provinces of Mozambique and document stories about the impact Malaria has on these persons, the local economies, and the community.

Zimbabwe
Patrick Gallagher, Rollins School of Public Health student
Chantalle Okondo, Rollins School of Public Health student

In Zimbabwe, IRD implements the USAID-funded Restoring Livelihoods – Strengthening Value Chains (REVALUE) program. The primary focus of the REVALUE program is to increase incomes of 8,550 small holder farmers by developing commercially viable commodity value chains for groundnuts, sesame, sugar beans and paprika. The REVALUE program is currently being transitioned to the Zimbabwe Agricultural Incomes and Employment Development (Zim-AIED) program, under which IRD will continue the support to partnering farmers and will facilitate the access to credit for agri-businesses. Patrick and Chantalleare assessing the impact of income generated through the REVALUE and Zim-AIED programs to Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs).

Last week in Harare

written by: Chantalle Okondo
posted in: 2011, Zimbabwe - No Comments

July 22, 2011

After weeks of weeding through surveys and doing data entry and analysis, I had been looking forward to finally travelling in Zimbabwe. My last weekend here me, Patrick and Danielle (another IRD intern) went to Great Zimbabwe, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s known for being the largest best preserved stone wall city in Southern Africa.

One of IRD’s country staff Mr. Charles Ncube’s family stays in Masvingo City which is near Great Zimbabwe, and he generously offered to drive us down to Masvingo which is south east of Harare and put us up at his home for the weekend as well. After driving for about 4 hours we finally got to Masvingo which is really a quaint little city with one main highway that goes straight through the city. We were warmly welcomed into Charles’s home by his wife and children, who were all impeccably dressed and patiently waiting for Charles to come home so that they could go to church. READ MORE

written by: Jonathan Navas
posted in: 2011, Colombia - No Comments

July 8, 2011

Nutritionist, Luis Mayer, checking-up children at the office

One of my main interests in studying theology is political theology.  Political theology, that is, the practical and the theoretical visions of what theology could be, is an attempt to reconcile theology with other academic disciplines and socio-political infrastructures.  In doing so, one is better apt to understand theology in the context of history, society, politics, economics, health, business, education, etc.  In short, the question of what it means to be a religious human being in the world is addressed more adequately.

The world we inhabit is neither secular nor religious.  Entities such as national governments, international institutions, multi-national corporations as well as the Church (or another religious institution) help form people’s conceptions on the world.  The world is both secular and religious.  It is a difficult concept to grasp as a theology student, though, since it is a dogmatic truth (being a Catholic!) that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.  I believe that anything different from this view is false.  But, as global citizens, Christians must understand that to live in the world, participation in civic events, the local and global economy, national politics, as well as the Eucharist, is not only necessary, but inevitable.  Even non-religious persons must encounter religious language that pervades modern society, albeit many times negatively. READ MORE

Listening and Development

written by: Jonathan Navas
posted in: 2011, Colombia - No Comments

June 29, 2011

The voice of the displaced persons and communities is crucial for growth to ultimately blossom.  We conduct surveys every distribution day; there’s a survey with every house visit; the displaced population is present at all the events concerning the IDP situation in Florencia.  The attention and initiative is certainly there!  But, sometimes, the interactions seem artificial as one simply jots down or clicks away at the answer to a question.  The surveys must be that way, though, so that there are numbers and figures for IRD to measure the quality of the work being done.Development, in all senses of the word, requires progression.  Progression always entails a beginning and an end, a past and a future, as well as a stimulant that nurtures that growth.  For International Relief & Development in Florencia, development is nurturing.  Nurturing internally displaced persons and communities through health, education, and empowerment allows IRD to support families’ and communities’ progress from a bleak and anxiety-ridden past toward a more stabilized future.  The growth IRD hopes to see in beneficiaries is not one divergent from one’s past—and one’s identity—but one moving beyond one’s former troubles by re-establishing oneself through nutritional, social, and political integration. READ MORE

written by: Lisandro Torre
posted in: 2011, Colombia - No Comments

July 12, 2011

This past week I went to the nutritional recovery center for the last time to check in on a little girl that we referred there a couple of weeks ago.  While the nurse was taking the information we needed, I saw that one of the babies was not in a crib, but in a basin on the floor lined with blankets. Her skin was splotchy and she had an intense look on her face and I went ahead and picked her up.  After holding her for a few moments I noticed that her hands and feet were severely disfigured.  Instead of palms her hands and feet were sort of like a V coming off of her ankles and wrists with two fingers at the ends.  She can sort of stand, but will never walk normally (or possibly at all). I had never seen that and I asked the nurse what it was and whether it was genetic or a disease.  The nurse told me that the disfigurement is caused by the chemicals that the government uses to fumigate to coca crops in the fight against drugs.  The chemical gets into other crops and the water and there are apparently a lot of children with the same condition.  I was thinking more about it and I am curious about what chemicals are used to fumigate the fields, who manufactures them and who pays for it.  Mostly, I wonder if American anti-drug money is being used to buy these chemicals that are having such a negative effect on the population.  When I thought about the situation and the chemicals being used, the image of the “Made in USA” label on the canisters of teargas that were used to quell the Egyptian riots flashed in my mind.  It also highlights (in fact my whole experience in Tumaco highlights) how easily whole populations are affected and discarded byproducts in the war between the armed drug cartels and the military. READ MORE

Nutrition

written by: Lisandro Torre
posted in: 2011, Colombia - No Comments

July 12, 2011

Yesterday the day started with the nutritionist at IRD asking if I wanted to go to the nutrition center. I said yes, thinking it would be great to see how Lady was progressing and see what was going on there. I knew that there was some tension between the center and IRD lately –a case had gone poorly (a baby girl had died) and there is an ongoing investigation and the center was getting a lot of heat and they thought it was because of IRD. I didn’t know we were going to the center to hash it out. We got there and received a frosty reception (though I did get to see Lady and she is back to a healthy weight and eating like a fiend) and were ignored for 20 minutes. Then we went into an office, sat in a mini circle while the doctor and three other employees at the center chewed us out for 20 minutes. I thought it would only be a couple of minutes, but he kept going and going and he told us about how the center’s name was being dragged through the mud and how a mother had heard they had killed a child and wasn’t letting them take her child and how the doctor was being personally investigated. It was awkward and all we could do was sit there. I had some idea of the background, but did not know that it had gotten so bad for them and they had every right to be upset. Then the nutritionist talked and told the IRD side and showed documentation showing that IRD had not done anything improper and how IRD had also documented from the start that the center had not done anything wrong (they never even saw the girl because they couldn’t – she had developmental issues that they are not prepared to handle so we could not even refer the child to them). He also promised to support them in the investigation and made everyone feel like things were going to be okay because IRD and the Center had done nothing wrong – there were just a lot of rumors floating around that needed to be cleared up. It was pretty amazing to see the situation go from toxic to good in the 20 minutes the nutritionist talked. I was impressed. It is also interesting to see how the two organizations worked together to fix the issue. There was a lot of talk about lessons learned from this experience and a discussion about how to improve the relationship to keep something like this from happening again. In the end, the whole situation will make the both organizations a little smarter and ready if something like this happens again. READ MORE

American Good Will

written by: Lisandro Torre
posted in: 2011, Colombia - No Comments

July 12, 2011

I think that when it comes to the relationship between people from other countries and the United States, Americans walk on a very thin line and we have to work hard to impress and not mess up because people are wary and looking to have their suspicions about the US confirmed.

Yesterday, the nutritionist and I went to the IRD warehouse to take inventory of all the supplies that were donated from the Comfort.  There were 10 full pallets that we had to sort – 6 from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 2 from Project Cure and 2 others.  We spent all morning and part of the afternoon going through the LDS materials and documenting everything. I was impressed by how much stuff they donate, the quality of the packaging, how well it was labeled and how easy it will be to distribute even though it is a ton of stuff. Then we moved to the Project Cure pallets and it was a lot of different kinds of boxes (a lot of Barnes and Noble boxes) that were poorly marked.  There are probably 80 big boxes we have to sort through (we did 30 yesterday).  We opened the first one of catheters and I noticed that they were all expired.  As we started sorting through the boxes, 80 percent of them had expired equipment (and not expired in 2010 either, expired from 2008, 2009) or things in open packages or used stethoscopes wrapped in gauze.  I was very upset and disappointed and then the nutritionist said, “Americans, they like to pass off their useless things to developing countries because they don’t care.” I know where that sentiment comes from, but it stopped me cold, because it crystallized for me how difficult it is for Americans to improve their image. Here we are in a warehouse full (and I mean stuffed) with free, new, donated American goods representing the goodwill of many organizations in the US and these two pallets (that represent 2% of the goods) from Project Cure wipes all that good away and the image people are left with is of thoughtless Americans giving developing countries their leftovers, their scraps.

On a brighter note: READ MORE

Comfort

written by: Lisandro Torre
posted in: 2011, Colombia - No Comments

July 12, 2011

On the way to the office on our first day in Bogota, the operations manager was telling me how excited she was because the Comfort was coming.  She spoke softly and I didn’t catch it all, but I knew that it was a big deal.  It wasn’t mentioned again so I forgot about it until I got to Tumaco. Here, the office was getting ready for the Comfort and they knew something was going to happen, but they didn’t know how IRD was going to be involved. People thought that we were going to go to the ship, maybe help unload medical supplies (the IRD supplies were actually airlifted by helicopter and delivered by truck to their storage facility).  Then, last week, there were a lot of emails back and forth between a nurse on the Comfort and the office in Bogota, with me being copied because I speak English and would serve as a translator. As I wrote last week, the emails asked us to organize a group of midwives for training. We asked about covering transportation costs for the midwives, but we never heard back.  I got a final email last Friday asking me to forward the list of midwives to another person on the boat, which I did.  Then I waited.  Monday was a holiday, Tuesday we did distributions.  I had heard a rumor that we were going to the boat on Thursday, but Wednesday passed and we heard nothing. READ MORE

Closing humanitarian gaps in Tumaco

written by: Lisandro Torre
posted in: 2011, Colombia - No Comments

July 12, 2011

Last week the nutritionist and I sat down to try to create a short nutrition survey so he can get a better idea of the nutritional situation of the displaced population here in Tumaco and teach to the gaps.  I was doing some background research to see what kind of questions we wanted to ask when I came across a World Food Program report about Colombia.  They had looked at nutrition in several other provinces but not Tumaco and their first question was how long the family had been displaced. They didn’t really go into it a lot in the report, but the question got me thinking.  They divided people who were displaced in displaced 1-3 months, 4-9 months and over 9 months, but then did not explain differences in diet among the groups.  I wondered if after a year the diet of displaced people is generally better or worse.  My gut reaction is that if you were to do a food survey after a year the diet would be better than when they arrived because they have lived in their new community for a year and know the markets and are “settled.” But then I started thinking that, at least in Tumaco, for the first three months, people who are served by IRD get a ton of free food. Then the government provides free food for the next 6 months (which coincidently lines up with the WFP timeline) – how settled are people really? How well do they know the markets? How much did they learn about nutrition in those 9 months both from programs and by seeing what was distributed? Did that change their buying habits? I could imagine a scenario where, after a year, people are actually eating worse than they did during the first nine months. READ MORE

Antimalarial Drug Resistance

written by: Heather Reese
posted in: 2011, Laos - No Comments

July 16, 2011

It’s been three days since I’ve been back to the IRD office in Gnommalath town.  I’m sticky with dried sweat and still a little groggy from waking up at 5am after going to sleep after midnight.  But, we needed to have enough time to leave Talong village in Boulapa District and arrive in Hainoua village, Mahaxay District, before everyone went to the fields for the day. READ MORE

Checking First Aid Kits

written by: Heather Reese
posted in: 2011, Laos - No Comments

July 14, 2011

The chief’s wife in Pah Panang village, Boualapa districtm clears away the dishes from dinner- steamed fish, fish soup, and sticky rice.  Night has fallen while were eating, and community members have quietly slipped in during the meal to join us on the floor.  Soukasien, the IRD Health Officer, and I are here to assess a small first aid program.

A little over a year ago, remote communities with limited access to even their local health clinic were chosen from the 150 communities that IRD currently serves.  A volunteer within each community was identified, provided a large first aid kit, and given a three day training to learn how to diagnose and treat common illnesses and injuries.  While the community volunteer was, of course, free to treat other community members, the priority was providing basic care to children attending school. READ MORE