PiLA Blog

New PiLA Fellows for 2017–18

July 25, 2017

We proudly announce the 2017–18 cohort of 32 PiLA fellows, who collectively will serve with 20 PiLA partner organizations in 11 countries.

See bios and photos of all 2017–18 PiLA fellows

Name

Surname

College or University

PiLA Partner

Country

Brian

Acosta

Swarthmore College

Worldfund

Mexico

Marimar

Arango Gomez

University of California Berkeley

Endeavor

Chile

Elena

Bell

Tufts University

The Nature Conservancy

Arlington, VA and Mexico

Hilary

Brumberg

Wesleyan University

Osa Conservation

Costa Rica

Ana Teresa

Colón García

Haverford College

The Nature Conservancy

Arlington, VA and Mexico

Camila

de la Vega

Carleton College

Project Alianza

Nicaragua

Ana

Dougherty

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Global Partnerships

Nicaragua

Roberto

Figueroa

Pitzer College

Endeavor

Chile

Sarah

Fisher

Middlebury College

Pueblo a Pueblo

Guatemala

Joscelyn

García

Tufts University

Building Dignity

Peru

Nicole

Hardy

Princeton University

Dream

Dominican Republic

Nora

Harless

New York University

UAC-Carmen Pampa

Bolivia

Jacob

Kim

Princeton University

Global Partnerships

Nicaragua

Sybil

Lewis

University of California Berkeley

Cojolya

Guatemala

Kathy

Lui

George Washington University

Endeavor

Argentina

Susana

Martínez

Ohio State University

Comunidad Connect

Nicaragua

Abby

Melick

Princeton University

Mariposa DR Foundation

Dominican Republic

Danielle

Mirda

Harvard University

Hospitalito Atitlán

Guatemala

Bianca

Molina

University of Pennsylvania

Worldfund

Brazil

Jesse

Moore

Occidental College

ADISA

Guatemala

Joseph

Moreno

University of Washington

The Nature Conservancy

Peru

Luisa

Nilan

Harvard University

Mariposa DR Foundation

Dominican Republic

Yesenia

Ortiz

Harvard University

Worldfund

Mexico

Ethel

Recinos

University of Iowa

Pueblo a Pueblo

Guatemala

Maria

Ruiz

Washington University in St. Louis

Hospitalito Atitlán

Guatemala

Natassja

Ruybal

Pepperdine University

Yspaniola

Dominican Republic

Emilia

Rybak

Duke University

Endeavor

Mexico

Anna

Sebastian

American University

Dream

Dominican Republic

Vanessa

Smith

Princeton University

Mariposa DR Foundation

Dominican Republic

Emma

Soglin

Macalester College

Fundación Arias

Costa Rica

Nathalia

Trujillo

City University of New York-Hunter College

Dream

Dominican Republic

Yihemba

Yikona

Princeton University

Starfish

Guatemala

In addition, five members of the 2016–17 cohort will remain in the field for a second year as PiLA senior fellows:

  • Annie Austin (Endeavor Mexico, Mexico City)

  • Tiffany Brown (Yspaniola, Esperanza, Dominican Republic)

  • Danielle Coony (DREAM, Cabarete, Dominican Republic)

  • Anjelica Neslin (Fundación Abriendo Camino, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)

  • Rachel Ozer-Bearson (Antigua International School, Antigua, Guatemala)

 

Education, Leadership, and Community Development in Lima

Alexis Álvarez (Building Dignity, Peru)
March 24, 2016

Alexis Alvarez

Working alongside a resilient community in the outskirts of Lima continues to transform my outlook on development.Villa El Salvador, where Building Dignity works, has a proud history of fighting for recognition through movements to formalize its settlements. This legacy continues as community members continue to struggle to access basic amenities from the state, quality education and the now-deteriorating opportunities to participate in Peru’s evolving job market. Building Dignity seeks to address these issues alongside the members of Villa El Salvador through initiatives focused on education, leadership, and community development. As a Princeton in Latin America Fellow, I work closely with the community to carry out Building Dignity’s programs as Program Director.

Following Building Dignity’s pillars of leadership and community development, I worked with community leaders to seek out funding and train them on project implementation. This allows leaders in their community to take action when the local government fails to address the community’s infrastructural needs. As a result, community members planned and implemented a neighborhood lighting project and currently seek to implement similar projects throughout other parts of Villa El Salvador. I also lead a youth group that empowers youth to take action against the injustices their community faces through leadership training and community service projects. We hope to build the next generation of leaders that will allow for Building Dignity to achieve a model of self-sustainability.

Alexis ÁlvarezAlexis Alvarez

       








 

 

In addition to assisting with community development initiatives, Building Dignity effectively executes an innovative solution to the problem of low-quality education in Villa El Salvador. Peru suffers from a high level of teacher absenteeism and outdated teaching methods that hinder students’ learning. In order to address this, I am able to work directly with local students through Building Dignity’s tutoring program that implements interactive and dynamic pedagogical strategies to improve a student’s engagement and cognitive development. The program's success is evident: through the course of the program, students have gone from struggling to read simple sentences to comprehending short paragraphs and discussing them with the class!

    At the moment, I am conducting a randomized control trial in order to measure the impact of the education initiative in order to better inform Building Dignity’s staff and donor base about our work. This impact evaluation allows me to apply my skills in economics while simultaneously learning about new education methods that can potentially transform how development organizations work in the field of education. Building Dignity's work both inspires me and continually shapes my understanding of development. I am especially thankful for the opportunity to become part of such an amazing community here in Villa El Salvador. 

Women in the Workforce in Rural Nicaragua

Grace Galloway (Comunidad Connect)
March 16, 2016

Marta Eliza checking in patients at the clinic

While driving home after meeting with community leaders about a new water project, community health worker Marta Eliza, program supervisor Yarisleidy and I discussed the challenges of being a woman in Latin America and a woman in the work force. In this case, each of us is both.

“A veces creo que se equivocaron conmigo.”

“Sometimes I think they got it wrong with me,” explained Marta Eliza, a community health worker from the rural community of Los Robles in Northern Nicaragua. Marta Eliza confessed that sometimes she thinks she was meant to be a man because she enjoys working – both in the physical sense of agricultural labor and in an office environment. She shared with us that she wakes up early, works all day and doesn’t mind; she is always looking for more ways to give back to her community. She is strong, both physically and emotionally. For these reasons, she wonders if she may have been better suited to be a man than a woman.

Yarisleidy and Grace

Despite my strong feminist convictions and educational formation, I didn’t quite know how to respond to Marta Eliza’s comments. I waited to see what Yarisleidy, a young professional Nicaraguan woman, would say.  Her response nearly took the words out of my mouth. Yarisleidy expressed that being strong and driven has nothing to do with gender. She argued that men in the rural communities do work hard in agriculture for a full 8-hour day, but that women spend before, during, and after the workday caring for their house, children and husband. Often they tend their own garden and farm animals as well.

For a woman in the professional world, regardless of geographic location, sexism and discrimination are parts of everyday life. My female coworkers and I must confront machista statements and decisions on a daily basis. These acts of discrimination are not only perpetrated by men, and this phenomenon is certainly not limited to Latin America.

As the conversation with Marta Eliza and Yarisleidy continued, I had the opportunity to share with them how impressed and excited I am by the female leadership in both my organization and the communities in which we work. By the end of the drive, each of us had learned something new about each other and come to understand that despite cultural differences, we all have something in common. We are striving the increase equality among people – regardless of gender, age, life experience or nationality.  

Marta Eliza will most likely never read The Feminine Mystique or attend a gender studies lecture. I will never thoroughly understand what it means to run a household in Los Robles. Through conversations such as these, she and I can connect and collaborate as a team – of strong, independent women – working to empower rural community members and especially young women to demand and show respect for themselves and those around them. 

Innovative Food Assistance in the Andes

Sarah and friends in Quito
Sarah Balistreri
April 1, 2015

When friends and family from the States talk about Ecuador, they often mention the beauty of the Galapagos Islands and the snow-capped volcanoes of the Andes. Very few think of the prolonged armed conflict taking place in Colombia and its impact on Ecuador. Before I began my fellowship at the UN World Food Programme (WFP) last July, I also knew little about the effects of this conflict on Colombia’s smaller southern neighbor. Since 2000, approximately 175,000 people have petitioned for asylum in Ecuador, and the country currently hosts the largest refugee population in the region. WFP has been active in Ecuador since 1964 and provides emergency food aid to the Colombian refugee population and vulnerable Ecuadorian host communities.


While I had a basic understanding of the logistics of providing humanitarian assistance prior to coming to Quito, I am astonished at how much I have learned at WFP. In Ecuador WFP has taken an innovative approach to food assistance and provides beneficiaries with an electronic voucher that functions like a debit card. In order to recharge their voucher, beneficiaries participate in monthly trainings on subjects such as nutrition, safe hygiene, and gender violence prevention.


As a member of the communications team, I translate and revise publications, donor reports, and fundraising documents. I have also had the opportunity to participate in monitoring and evaluation activities, which has been my favorite experience as a PiLA fellow in Quito. To measure the impact of its food assistance, WFP staff regularly conduct surveys with beneficiaries and partner organizations. In the fall, I spent a month interviewing Colombian refugees about their eating habits and their perception of tensions between Colombians and Ecuadorians in Quito. Many would relate how they most like to prepare cassava root, or about the hardships they have encountered both in Colombia and Ecuador. Hearing their stories has been by far the most rewarding and powerful part of my time in Ecuador. This fellowship has been an unparalleled learning experience, and I am very grateful for my time with WFP.

Background: Sarah graduated from Georgetown University (2012) with a bachelor’s in Spanish and Italian.