Sunday, May 22, 2011

summers abroad: Zambia and Costa Rica

Petra and I are going abroad this summer for internships. We've worked for months to arrange these opportunities, but they've only become solidified very recently. I'm leaving on Wednesday, and Petra's leaving in a week. Many of you are asking: Where the heck are you going, and what they heck is it you'll be doing? Good questions!

Where Erika is going: Costa Rica. More specifically, the very rural ranch lodge at the Caletas-Ario Nature Reserve near Playa Ario on the Nicoya Peninsula on the western coast of the Central American peninsula. The property ranges from the dry plains to jungley forests to mangrove swamps to the beach, has myriad wildlife like monkeys and parrots and sloths and bats, and has very limited electricity and other modern amenities. Photo of the property above.

With whom: CIRENAS, Centro de Investigacion de Recursos Naturales y Sociales. The organization is a few years old, and is focused on making the best use of the plot of land which they donated to begin the large wildlife refuge. They have hosted a number of groups of academic researchers as well as American high school students who want to learn more about Costa Rica. CIRENAS is dedicated to protecting the land and using it as an environmental teaching tool. The Grew family, the driving force behind the preserve, seem utterly delightful and deeply in love with the land, and I truly look forward to working with them.

What Erika will be doing: Environmental Education NGO management consulting. More specifically, helping organize and make more efficient the administrative and managerial functions of a thriving new NGO, hoping to achieve things like an organizational chart, codified job descriptions, improved organizational communications logistics and website, a fundraising plan, etc.

Where Petra is going: Zambia, in the center of Africa. More specifically, she will be based in the modern fairly-developed capital city Lusaka (depicted above), and will travel to other districts where her host organization is currently running programs. She’ll be surrounded by quintessentially-African contemporary urban and traditional rural scenery, gorgeous fabrics, safari-worthy wildlife and the incomparable Victoria Falls.

With whom: FINCA. Founded in 1984, FINCA International is a recognized leader in microfinance and the pioneer of the village banking methodology. Microfinance is a sector within international development that provides financial services to disempowered people, usually women, who don’t have access to traditional financial tools and institutions. FINCA currently operates a network of 20 country programs in Latin America, Eurasia, the Greater Middle East and Africa, serving hundreds of thousands of clients.

What Petra will be doing: Microfinance program monitoring and evaluation. Prior to her work in the field, Petra will attend one week of training in Washington, D.C. Together with two local staff, she will spend 10 weeks conducting research and client interviews in Zambia. She will analyze the response data to determine poverty levels, program impact, and why clients join, remain with or exit the program. She will then present her findings to local management and produce a written report.


Yes, we're going to different places, and yes we'll miss each other terribly and will eagerly count down the minutes til we can be together again, but we wanted to be able to do what was best for each of us professionally, and it's only two months, so we can deal.

We'll do our best to post stories and pictures here, but no promises on frequency, since we'll both be somewhat disconnected from communications infrastructure. So don't worry if you don't hear from us. We promise full updates upon our return. Hope you all enjoy your summers!

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