Hey everyone! This is Jason, one of our favorite people ever:
He is in Rwanda all summer working on a project through the Lang center, and he’s guest blogging for us today! Jason is a rising junior and is an absolutely incredible all around individual. He is an Econ major with a minor in Poli Sci, DIII track athlete, Lang scholarship winner, Campus Life Representative for StuCo, SAAC member, and he was Sun’s big sib for SAO! Also, he’s dating Estefania’s best friend Kate, but she’ll get mad that we mentioned this so hopefully she’ll never know.
So ladies and gentlemen, we present to you, Jason Heo:
“I’m going to have been here in Ndera, Rwanda, which is just east of the capital city of Kigali, for eight weeks this summer working for a non-profit organization called Gardens for Health International (GHI).* The mission of GHI is to provide lasting agricultural solutions to pressing public health problems, namely malnutrition, in rural Rwanda. In short, the organization partners with health centers to find families with malnourished children and equip those families with the tools and knowledge necessary to setup and maintain a home garden. Additionally, GHI offers health and agricultural training for the remainder of the year to ensure that the families have a stable support system to get off the ground.
My regular schedule entails getting up around 7 to make breakfast (oatmeal and eggs) and catching the truck to the GHI office, just down the road. We hop into the truck bed for the fifteen-minute trip, which would probably take five minutes on paved, cement roads. Upon arriving to the office, one of the interns (we take turns) will water all of our home gardens that we planted on the GHI farm surrounding the office. Afterwards, it’s time to get to work. I’m here this summer to help the monitoring and evaluations (M&E) team here look for solutions to implement a mobile data collection system for its field workers. I spent my first four weeks here learning more about all of the necessary M&E procedures and starting preliminary searches for existing mobile data collection systems. Since its onset, GHI has done all of its data collection by pencil and paper. Because of the number of families GHI services and because it will be expanding next season, it only makes sense to move to a better collection system. Their current model utilizes too much paper and is logistically difficult to manage with field workers bringing their data and observations into the office intermittently. Not to mention, all of the data then has to be manually uploaded to a computer. For the remainder of my time here, I am exploring a program called Open Data Kit, which we think could offer tons of solutions. I am currently building forms online and testing them out on a mobile phone.
We get off work at 5 and take the truck back to the house. Some days I’ll go running and others I’ll go to a gym about ten minutes away. Unfortunately the sun sets around 6 every day. We usually all pitch in to help cook dinner every night – there’s a lot of stir-fry involved. Luckily, there’s a lot to do in the city of Kigali over the weekend. Just this weekend, there was a huge music festival featuring Rwandan and other popular East African artists. Otherwise, it’s also really easy to travel around Rwanda. You can generally take a bus for about five to six hours to get anywhere else in Rwanda. Over Independence Day weekend, a number of us traveled to northeast Rwanda to enjoy the beauty of Lake Kivu.
Fortunately I have some financial support from the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility at Swarthmore for most of my adventuring. In addition to a number of other funding opportunities provided by the Swarthmore Foundation to support student internships in social justice, the Lang Center offers a Lang Opportunity Scholarship for up to six sophomores every year. “As its central feature, the Program offers each Scholar the opportunity and related funding to conceive, design and carry out an Opportunity Project that creates a needed social resource and/or effects a significant social change or improved condition of a community in the United States or abroad.”** So, I’m not only here to help GHI with their mobile data collection, but I am also working with mobile technology for my own learning. My Lang Project deals with creating an efficient food distribution mechanism utilizing technology in order to help communities around Swarthmore.
Clearly I would not have had this outstanding summer opportunity without the support of Swarthmore and the Lang Center. However, there was more to my college decision than the Lang Opportunity Scholarship Program. Not only do I get to participate in DIII athletics, but I can also be a part of several campus groups that either want to have fun outside the classroom, act as a liaison between the students and faculty/administration, or support positive change on and off campus.
I’m most grateful for the relationships I’ve been able to develop and maintain here at Swat. I admire the passionate, motivated, and interesting (dare I say quirky) people that surround me every day on campus. My friends, teammates, classmates, and peers make the Swarthmore experience what it is. These are the people that help me learn just as much outside the classroom as I do in.”
Pretty incredible huh?
(Thanks for sharing with us, Jason!)
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