We received many wonderful nominations and the selection committee has chosen five finalists, listed here in alphabetical order. Throughout the month of May 2013, GoAbroad will highlight the finalists in each of the GoAbroad Innovation Award categories! Winners for each category will be announced during the GoAbroad Reception during the Annual NAFSA Conference & Expo.
Congratulations to the 2013 Innovation in Sustainability Finalists!
Child Family Health International
Child Family Health International (CFHI) currently hosts 20+ Global Health Education Programs in six countries, a leader in the global health arena and a firm advocate for local communities. Their unique approach towards global health partnerships reflects true sustainability in many ways. One is CFHI puts their money where its mouth is. Their tuition-based funding model ensures that 50% or more of student program fees are reinvested responsibly within the communities that the student will be visiting, most notably contributing towards community health projects and professional development for local partners. This bilateral approach was recognized by the United Nations and CFHI serves in Special Consultative Status with the UN. Another testament to sustainability is CFHI’s long-standing relationships in six countries, partnerships spanning 15-20 years with over 7,000 participants having taken part in these global health experiences over the years.
CFHI promotes an asset-based community development approach, which highlights and builds upon strengths rather than weaknesses. Having health students from various countries travel to learn from health experts in low-resource settings challenges traditional thinking of developed nations ‘teaching’ poorer countries. The unique CFHI experience engenders respect and appreciation from patients and professionals alike for the knowledge and resources of their own local health workers who are educating those from outside. The CFHI approach avoids a sense of neediness or dependency on outside help, and serves as a valuable resource for students from higher-resource countries to comprehend the healthcare realities burdening underserved communities—true sustainable international education for our worlds future healthcare workforce.
For the second-straight summer, the American Youth Leadership Program with Japan, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Cultural Vistas, sent U.S. high school students and educators abroad to gain a firsthand experience of Japanese culture and learn about the nation\’s innovative approaches to environmental conservation.
Over the course of their trip, the 2012 participants, consisting of 29 students (ages 15-17) and three high school teachers representing 13 states across the U.S., took part in numerous language learning and cultural workshops and activities, attended university lectures, and even got to experience daily life with a Japanese host family.
This multi-faceted program combined virtual and in-person exchange components, and tasked all participants with putting together post-program service projects that share their learning in their schools and communities.
Examples of this include:
- Design and implementation of Japan area studies lesson plans and activities for K-12 classrooms in 10 states
- Organization and implementation of Bunkasai Festivals by students in Oregon and Pennsylvania
- A high school participant designing after-school environmental activities for an urban middle school in Harlem
- Introduction of a school recycling program
- Construction of a school garden
- Design and building a water garden for a high school based on Japanese garden principles
- Planning and participation in watershed clean-up and Earth Day activities
Foundation for Sustainable Development
The Foundation for Sustainable Development provides grants, training and human resource support to 300 community organizations and over 240 projects annually. FSD also provides internships / global engagement programs for 250 trained volunteers who collaboratively advance these projects. Over half of the projects include environmental conservation and education programs benefiting tens of thousands globally and demonstrating FSD’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
Recent examples include:
- Constructing PICA-hydration systems for solar and rain-powered energy with Kakamega Environmental Educational Program (Kakamega, Kenya). Funded by its microenterprise ecotourism initiative, KEEP educates community youth on rainforest conservation.
- Tackling deforestation through alternative income programs with Municipality of San Lorenzo (Salta, Argentina) aimed at indigenous populations of environmentally vulnerable areas.
- Collecting rainwater and growing ethno-medicinal plants with Rupayan Sansthan (Jodphur, India) to address critical issues of access to water and health care in rural desert villages.
- All projects are community devised and driven, with a 80% sustainability rate. FSD’s non-profit partners remain environmentally vigilant with local resources, using an asset-based approach to program design.
- To gain environmental expertise and build capacity,, FSD collaborates with many university programs, like Northwestern’s University’s Global Health and Environmental Engineering program.
Led by FSD’s partner organizations’ vision, students and volunteers gain resonant experiences and profound understanding of the issues as they collaboratively address them. Paul Cook, intern with Asociacion para Desarollo de Chaguitillo in northern Nicaragua on a stream restoration project said: “Working with people from the area I learned the significance of growing seasons, the grave dependence on water, and the dire consequences of underemployment.”
“For us strategically FSD is an institutional resource that really helps us generate greater impact for our collective action,” Gabriela Masmut, President of Fundacion Amanecer which supports sustainable development throughout the at-risk Altos and Calchaqui valley regions of Argentina.
St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Going Green in the Gambia
Studying abroad, although rewarding, comes with its challenges. Adapting to a new time zone, language and culture are common obstacles, but for St. Mary’s College of Maryland students who have studied in The Gambia, dealing with unpredictable power outages—lasting six to 12 hours a day—was not on their list of expectations.
Students decided to take action to solve the power outage dilemma and the solution will benefit others studying abroad in the West African country for years to come. Our students were adamant that it would be a green solution or they would live with the power outages. Most of the students said they did not want to get a generator and instead wanted the college to look into greener options. If greener options couldn’t be found they said they would live with the power outages.
At “Happy Camp,” the Gambian housing compound that serves as home to St. Mary’s students studying in The Gambia, students tapped into the country’s year-round sunshine by harnessing solar energy to power essential appliances.
We took their suggestions to heart and sent our sustainability fellow to the Gambia to research options. He was able to have installed a solar panel system that the compound taps into during the power outages to power the fans, one of the refrigerators, the internet, and several outlets. He was even able to do this under budget by negotiating with local business owners.
Now the Gambia program can tap into the readily accessible sun and reduce the program’s reliance on the sporadic electricity as well as create a continuous project that future students can learn from. The students really appreciate having the power back on but are even more appreciative and proud of the fact that we were able to do this in such a great manner.
University of Georgia Costa Rica
Studying, understanding, and embodying the interconnectedness of human society within the natural environment is core to the mission of UGA Costa Rica (UGACR). The 155-acre Monteverde-based campus is independently certified as a sustainable operation, achieving a score of 85% or higher in all four areas evaluated, including 100% in the assessment of employee relations and community engagement. Examples of UGACR’s innovative sustainability practices include:
- Model anaerobic digestion wastewater treatment systems for human and animal waste generate biogas used for cooking meals in the campus dining hall, literally turning waste into food.
- An integrated sustainable farm serves as a living classroom, producing 15% of food served on campus. Additionally, all food products come from within 200 miles of campus, with 25-30% coming directly from small farmers in our immediate community.
- Local farmers offer sustainable agriculture tours and share traditional knowledge with students. UGACR landscape architecture students in service-learning courses provide trail designs, maps, logos, and websites to enhance the quality of tours—a symbiotic relationship. These tours annually inject $15,000 into the local economy.
- Homestays, dancing, and cooking lessons further support the local economy and stimulate cross-cultural understanding.
- UGACR operates a unique carbon offset program whereby native trees, planted and monitored by students, capture carbon while simultaneously restoring habitat for migratory birds and stabilizing soils on degraded hillsides. Over 28,000 trees have been planted as of December 2012, with 10,000/year planned for 2013-2015.
- Programmatically speaking, Sustainability in Action, a semester education abroad program, offers an interdisciplinary field experiences and is closely aligned with the UGA Office of Sustainability’s forthcoming Sustainability Certificate program. Courses include sociology, ethics, conservation ecology, organic agriculture, and climate change.
- UGACR has formally endorsed the Earth Charter and offers an annual course producing published reports on the Earth Charter in Action in Athens.
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