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SF's Stewards of the Global Village: Foundation for Sustainable Development

Article Photo
by Worldchanging SF local blogger, Holly Pearson:

This is the second in a series of profiles of organizations based in the Bay Area that are contributing to sustainable development initiatives abroad. See the introduction to the series here.

It’s increasingly common these days for folks who are interested in global issues, sustainability, and building a better world to want to spend time volunteering for some good cause in another country. We, the idealistic, the globally concerned –- we love to travel and are curious about other cultures. We find that spending an extended period of time in another country and giving of ourselves to help improve conditions for those who are less fortunate than ourselves teaches us fascinating things and enriches our lives.

The San Francisco based non-profit Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) harnesses the enthusiasm of globally concerned young people in order to fulfill its mission: "to support the efforts of local development organizations working to improve the welfare of the people living in their communities." Since 1995 FSD has partnered with grassroots organizations in the developing world, providing them with human resources, financial resources, and technical assistance.

FSD works with local development organizations in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Uganda, Kenya, and India. The local organizations work in a wide range of areas related to sustainable development: microfinance, environment, health, youth and education, women’s empowerment, community development, and human rights.

The cornerstone of FSD’s work is the Internship Program, through which individuals participate in a volunteer internship with a local development organization for anywhere from eight to 52 weeks. Along with the intern’s time and skills, the local host organizations receive a "mini-grant" of 200 US dollars to support the intern’s work activities. FSD also runs shorter-term programs, including its Enrichment Trips –- Adventure Travel for the Service-minded, Alternative Spring Breaks, Summer Service Trips, and Study Tours.

The volunteer programs are integrated with homestays with local families, designed to provide volunteers with a cultural immersion experience. Historically most of FSD’s volunteers have been college students and graduate students, but as a result of recent outreach efforts, an increasing number of professionals are participating in FSD programs. Although most of FSD’s volunteers are American, citizens of many other countries, such as Canada, the UK, Singapore, Japan, Spain, Switerland, Australia, and India, have participated.

FSD’s work was born out of passionate support for alternative, bottom-up models of sustainable development:

We believe economic development begins with community development and is only sustainable if it comes from and is supported by the members of these communities. Also, through our programs, we aim to raise international awareness of the economic challenges in developing countries and support cross-cultural communities in finding more effective solutions to development issues.

Since the organization’s founding 12 years ago, with one summer internship program in Nicaragua and 1000 dollars in grant money for local Nicaraguan organizations, FSD’s work has grown by leaps and bounds. During the summer of 2007, 140 interns will contribute over 70,000 hours of volunteer development work in Latin America, East Africa, and India.

The words of FSD program participant Shanna Branciforte, who volunteered in Kenya in 2005, illustrate what it’s like to work on the ground with a local development organization:

I worked on several projects at my internship site, The Shikokho Medical Clinic. These projects included an FSD funded initiative to improve hygiene conditions and access to clean water through an extensive project of repairing water tanks, installing new gutters, installing plumbing for an indoor toilet, and building a gravity-powered system for a maternity ward shower. I also taught HIV prevention at the local schools.

I witnessed the effects of the male subjugation of women, particularly sexually and economically, and also the disintegration of the family and wider social structures through the AIDS epidemic. Yet, there were rays of hope shining amongst the struggles: the love of single moms working to support their families, community members sharing what they have, families taking in orphaned children when their parents died of AIDS, and churches, village chiefs, and community members sharing their knowledge about HIV prevention. I witnessed strength, resilience, and generosity of spirit amongst the Kenyan people.

Photo credit: Foundation for Sustainable Development

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Comments

I have been following Google Alerts and would like to congratulate your Organisation for taking this very progressive step forward. Not many understand that it is Inappropriate Human Settlements that our problems of Unsustainable Development begin and spiral onto becoming major problems that then defy solution.
The corrective actions are quite simple really
We at Anangpur Building Centre in India work in this direction and you could get your researchers to look these over at www.anangpur.org
Please revert if these are of interest to you
Prof Anil Laul
India


Posted by: Prof Anil Laul on 22 Apr 07



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