I’m so excited to join the HWI team! It’s been a strange, windy road getting here but the team and my role feel like a perfect fit. Allow me to introduce myself and how I got here:
I have been passionate about international development and poverty alleviation since high school. I went to Georgia Tech and studied International Affairs. Shortly after college I went to Kenya for 1.5 years to work on a two-person sanitation start-up called Sanivation. I knew next to nothing about sanitation when I went but I can now say I am passionate about toilets. (I’m even saved in many people’s phones in Kenya as “Hana Poop”, which I proudly welcome). I’ve heard it said, “If water is life, sanitation is dignity”. While both play a crucial role in sustaining health, sanitation is often overlooked because its effects are less immediately clear. I’ve learned to appreciate not just the crucial health benefits, but the pride and dignity that people feel with improved sanitation. The ripples of WASH extend into every other part of life: your education, finances, relationship with your neighborhood, relationship with your family, personal safety, view of self, view of creation and the list goes on. In Kenya I saw clients take such pride not just in having a toilet but seeing what that meant. Two men were disabled and they felt free to eat and drink freely each night now that they didn’t have to walk down stairs and across uneven terrain with a cane to use a bathroom at night. I heard women talk about daily safety and comfort.
At the core of my work in Kenya was human-centered design or the practice of throwing away presuppositions and allowing the beneficiaries to co-design the product based on their own priorities and experiences. Talking to beneficiaries doesn’t just make them feel good; it can completely transform a project. Living alongside people in the town of Naivasha, we heard again and again the need for cooking fuel and eventually found a way to convert human waste (read poop) into a charcoal-like fuel! We were able to take something beyond useless, actually harmful, and turn it into something valuable that people desperately needed. To me that is the pinnacle of innovation and it was driven by a village mama and a couple of disabled Kenyan men.
Since returning from Kenya, I’ve been involved in various other organizations and ministries with various focuses but I’m thrilled to dive back into the WASH world. This Program Manager role with Healing Waters allows me to be a part of several things I’m particularly excited about. First is considering how Healing Waters can incorporate more about sanitation education and behaviors into our Holistic Transformation Model. I think it’s clear that I love toilets and I think they’re important. Another major part of my role will be monitoring and evaluating projects. Goals and projections from the US can be vastly different from the reality at each site so I’m so excited to work with our field staff to understand what is happening on the ground. I’m so grateful for this opportunity that allows me to incorporate my love of Spanish, toilets, and M&E while working with an organization that truly cares about understanding local needs and transforming lives.