The 5C chapter of Nourish International, a movement of college students who wish to alleviate world poverty, has been making its mark at the 5Cs with a weekly café at Doms Lounge and other fundraising events that promote awareness in the 5C community. Although the Claremont chapter was founded only last year by Manya Janowitz PO ’15 and Jacob Fiksel PO ’15, the organization was able to send four students to Cameroon, where they successfully designed and ran a sex education course and helped expand a clean water project in the area this summer. Nourish Claremont’s Ventures Director, Atika Gupta SC ’16, discussed the project in an e-mail interview with TSL.
TSL: What was the goal of your trip?
Atika Gupta: Our goal was to implement a sustainable project in a developing country and create a relationship with our partner organization. In our decision-making process, we wanted to partner with an NGO [non-governmental organization] in an area where we could be the most useful. When we partnered with BFF (Better Family Foundation), we asked them what kind of projects they needed help with so that we were not simply inserting ourselves into their community. Instead, we built a relationship with an already established organization that knew what their community needed.
TSL: How did Better Family Foundation collaborate with you?
AG: We collaborated with BFF at every step of the process. We first worked with them to see what goals and project ideas they had for their community. We did this [with] many possible partner organizations before eventually deciding that BFF had the best fit for our group. We worked with them to figure what projects were possible, what resources they needed, and then on organizing logistics of the trip. All of this was before our team even left for the project in early June. As soon as we got there, we were living and working with BFF members every day. We went to the office almost every day, ate with them, brainstormed ideas and worked on implementing our projects with them at every point.
TSL: Where did Nourish Claremont receive funding for the trip?
AG: Nourish has several on-campus businesses, events, and other fundraising methods to raise money to pay for the projects with our partner organization. On campus, we run a café, Café Nourish, every Sunday night in Doms Lounge where we sell boba, fresh fruit smoothies, and donated food items from the village (in the past it has included Lily’s Tacos, I Like Pie, and Pita Pit), in addition to food that Claremont students bake. We also hold events, like a thrift sale this October. Also, if anyone is interested in joining our Chapter, come to our meetings on Tuesdays from 8-9 in SCC [Smith Campus Center] 218.
TSL: What did you complete on the trip?
AG: We had two main projects on the trip, but then also several smaller side projects. For the first several weeks, we were helping construct a clean water pipe and spring that brought water to three communities surrounding Fundong, the city where BFF is based out of and where we were working. Working with hundreds of locals, we helped from beginning to end with readying the area for the pipe (digging trenches, cementing the spring), putting in the pipeline, and covering the line with dirt at the end. We worked with local bricklayers and public health administrators to insure that success of the project. Our other main project was designing and facilitating a weeklong sexual reproduction and HIV/AIDS prevention camp for 80 youth in the Fundong area. While there, we also helped renovate the BFF office to make it a more inviting space for the community, we volunteered at a local orphanage, we assisted with a marriage seminar for adults, and helped BFF in any other ways we could throughout our six weeks there.
TSL: How was the experience for you?
AG: This was truly a once in a lifetime experience. It was amazing being able to go to Fundong, Cameroon and work with Better Family Foundation. We could see directly where the money we raised over the school year was going, since 100% of our profits go towards our summer projects. Right before we left Fundong, they had a water ceremony. People from the three villages, Alim, Bougie, and Ameng came, and we saw the cutting of the ribbon in front of one of the standpipes. Community members brought glasses and drinking gourds to taste the clean water. That was one of the most vivid memories for me. But it wasn’t just the projects that we set out to complete that made the experience so great; it was what we didn’t expect to do and could not have expected to do, like painting BFF’s office and reading and playing with children at a local orphanage. It was the close community that we quickly became a part of and the friends that we made, not only from Better Family Foundation, but also Peace Corps members and two volunteers from Egypt and Germany, among others. We, as a team, became closer as well, which made the experience even more memorable.
TSL: How does the trip mesh with the goals of Nourish Claremont?
AG: As you may have noticed, Nourish International’s logo is a bridge. We emphasize the importance of building relationships and creating a community, bridging the gap between us and those abroad, as well as the gap between communities and resources. Our project achieved that goal by developing a close relationship with BFF. We did not just impact their lives; they impacted ours as well.
TSL: Do you hope to make another internship available to more Nourish members next summer as well?
AG: Our organization hopes to continue making partnerships with organizations around the world. This summer, we are even considering having two partnerships, one that will perhaps return to Fundong to work with BFF and then another project that our International Projects committee finds and selects with the approval of the chapter.