My name is Michelle Hak Hepburn and I am an Anthropology student at the University of Ottawa. I hope to promote biocultural diversity though participating in shared learning experiences, and I am interested in exploring human relationships with the earth and with the surrounding environment. Studying these relationships can have important implications for sustainable development policies, which I believe should be based in an understanding of the diverse ways of how people already make use of their surroundings. Solutions to many pressing problems may already exist, and being receptive to alternative methods can inspire and broaden the possibilities for developing future strategies.
In my internship, I will be working with the municipal water service provider in the northern department of San Martin, Peru. I have long been fascinated by Latin America; in my final year of high school, my interest inspired me to participate in a short visit to the Dominican Republic. For a week, I lived with a family and, along with a group of my peers, visited sugar-cane worker communities. This was my first real exposure to another way of life and the experience still shapes my actions today. More recently, I had the opportunity to travel to rural Costa Rica as a Research Assistant for a long-term assessment study of the changing economies of coffee-farming communities. This experience helped broaden my understanding and perceptions of issues such as fair trade coffee and food security. It also highlighted the effects of a changing economy, as farming is no longer the dominant economic practice.
My internship involves assisting with the implementation of an education program, engaging communities and grassroots organisations to ensure the proper use and management of water resources. Although my job entails teaching the community, as I’m preparing for this experience, my thoughts are more focused on what the community will teach me. This internship opportunity is an invaluable shared learning experience, which I will carry with me for the rest of my life regardless of the outcomes. I wait with anticipation for this chance to grow.