You are currently browsing the archives for the “Washington DC” category.


posted in: 2010, Washington DC - No Comments

Imagine having to depend on the American government for all of your basic needs, receiving only $20 a month as a salaried government worker. Yet the money you receive from the government cannot be used to buy many of the goods and services you need. First you must exchange those 20 meager dollars for a different currency, let’s call it the e-dollar, worth 25 times a regular dollar. The money you earn working for the government is not even accepted at the government-run stores that sell packaged food, electronics and other consumer goods. The gross economic injustice that you face is aggravated by your lack of basic civil rights and the constant threat of government surveillance, beatings, imprisonment, and even exile should you even contemplate demanding better conditions for yourself and your community.

This is a daily reality for the millions of Cubans who live under the Communist regime established by Fidel Castro and perpetuated by his brother Raul Castro. Yet Cuba has many brave souls who fight for economic and political justice daily despite the dangers to themselves and their families. Last week, I was fortunate to meet and spend time with two women from FLAMUR (Federación Latinoamericana de Mujeres Rurales), a Cuban organization of about 1,000 women across the island committed to bettering the lives of women by empowering them to become agents of change ( READ MORE

Hope in Unity on the Gulf Coast

posted in: 2010, Gulfport, MS, Washington DC - No Comments

On Wednesday, June 30, I attended the Mississippi Gulf Coast Disaster Recovery Summit at The University of Southern Mississippi-Gulf Coast. It was a gathering of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), religious organizations, businesses, and community leaders to tackle the largest ecological and technological disaster this country has ever seen: the oil spill resulting from an explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.  Representatives from along the coast came to learn, express their concerns, and collaborate on resources. The South Mississippi Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (SMVOAD) organized the event.

I attended the Summit as a kind of “outsider.” I grew up in the Midwest and don’t try to claim that I understand life on the Coast. The fishing, the ecology, and lifestyle are all foreign to me, and it was difficult to fully grasp the implications of this disaster from afar. Thus, for me the Summit was about education. I learned how people’s lives are tied up in the Gulf and how this technological and ecological disaster is also an emotional disaster. It not only affects people’s jobs but their livelihoods.  This came through in people’s questions for panelists and their sometimes emotional responses. People can rebuild after a hurricane, but this disaster is fundamentally changing life along the Coast. READ MORE

Hell on Earth (?)

posted in: 2010, Washington DC - No Comments

Here at the IRD HQ, I am encouraged to stay knowledgeable about global news and foreign policy that may affect IRD’s current work or reveal opportunities for further IRD programs. This means getting daily emails from UN Wire and Middle East Progress, and checking sites like and CNN international regularly.

The other day during a routine perusal, I came across an intriguing photo essay entitled, “Postcards from Hell.” It features images from sixty of what the essay’s author calls “the world’s most failed states.” Topping the list is Somalia, which is still struggling to recover after two decades of civil war. Following Somalia on the list are four other African countries to round out the top five. IRD does work in many of these countries and is supported by regular aid from the US and many other Western nations. Unfortunately, this aid is not enough, and the political and cultural environments in many of these countries prevent sustainability and progress in the areas of basic human rights and economic stability.

The images provoke sadness and have the potential to invoke feelings of hopelessness; the title of the essay itself insinuates inescapable earthly infernos of suffering, violence, and desolate poverty. Billions of people experience these conditions daily and those who work in international development and foreign policy face the seemingly insurmountable task of trying to alleviate the myriad problems that these regions suffer from. READ MORE

Exploring the Unknown in a Familiar Place

posted in: 2010, Washington DC - No Comments

I grew up less than two hours from here; I have family in the area, and even spent four years as a Howard University student living in our nation’s capital. Yet over the past few weeks, I have experienced a different side of Washington, DC as an intern at the IRD headquarters.

For example, I attended a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill for the first time, where I learned about efforts and recommendations to increase the participation of women in developing democracies. I also attended panels and speeches at various Washington think tanks featuring ambassadors, senators, foreign dignitaries, and renowned academics. These events have expanded my grasp of foreign policy and exposed me to how much I still don’t know about the struggle for democracy and civil society in developing countries.

Now I know my new experiences may not be as dramatic as my colleagues who have traveled to Asia and Africa, and my discomfort on the crowded Metro system during rush hour in the heat and humidity of DC is nothing compared to sub-Saharan and rainforest-like conditions. Yet there is something refreshing about exploring the unknown within a familiar place. It sort of reminds me of my experience at seminary. Being a lifelong Christian, studying my faith for the first time in an academic setting has opened my eyes to new worlds of theological discourse. My familiarity with the Bible was just the tip of the iceberg compared to the wealth of knowledge I’ve encountered in my Old Testament courses. READ MORE


posted in: 2010, Gulfport, MS, Washington DC - No Comments

It’s now been about two weeks since I said bon voyage to six fellow Emory interns as they headed off to exotic, remote places where they can’t drink the water, must pour on the DEET, and wonder what mystery meat they’re having for dinner. Almost by necessity, my life must be a bit more boring than theirs. I’m pretty sure that there won’t be any ox carts blocking the road as I walk to my Metro stop and I’m almost positive that my chilly office is the opposite worry of those in the field.

My scope of work has me stationed in Arlington, Virginia, for a month at IRD’s headquarters and then heading to Gulfport, Mississippi, for a month to work in the field. I have the unique opportunity of seeing what it looks like to backstop a project at HQ and work with it in the field. READ MORE

Picture-less, Political, and Priceless

posted in: 2009, Washington DC - No Comments

*Editor’s note: As part of this Candler-IRD partnership, Rollins School of Public Health student Jane Li is interning at IRD headquarters in Washington, D.C.

In many ways, my internship in DC has been like archiving MasterCard commercials. My assignment to create a database on all IRD water, sanitation, and hygiene programs led to a quest of garnering countless reports with amazing outputs at streamlined budgets.

Currently, over 60 separate IRD programs in 23 different countries have:

X dollars spent,
Y quantity of water sources rehabilitated or created,
Z number of people with potable water,
And an end outcome of “priceless.” READ MORE