It's exactly one week from the start of the impact assessment trip. The 4-person team will have a tough job ahead but they are excited and up to the task. As part of the trip, they will be developing detailed groundwork for an ambitious new project that builds off of our past work with the residents of Portobelo.
Waterborne illnesses are a primary source of disease in Portobelo, Panama. Future Scientist has been working with the community, particularly though a collaboration with the high school, to build awareness through hands-on science lessons and provide means of water treatment through chlorination kit distribution and construction of several water purification systems. We have leveraged the student body to conduct outreach sessions at the local clinic and throughout the community. Our aim in this project is to connect this student-focused approach with the clinic in order to have healthcare professional buy-in, increased ability to quantitatively assess impact of the outreach program, and empower high school students by providing them with a scientific and health setting experience. By connecting the school with the clinic and providing consumable materials and training, we are testing a model of community empowerment that lets the members themselves address a critical problem.
Stay tuned for updates...
It's important to step back and take a good look at what you've done so far. This is particularly important for nonprofits like Future Scientist, where the primary goal is to improve the well-being of a community. We have been working with the Portobelo community since late 2011, developing several primarily clean water-based projects and doing widespread assessments of the main issues present in the town and nearby areas. Due to a lower than normal applicant pool for the August trip, we decided to revise our plans. We will be using this two week trip to quantify our impact on the community and lay the groundwork for an exciting project.
We will conduct two rounds of surveys: one for the community as a whole and one for the colegio students. This will help us determine people's views on water quality, what they have picked up from our hands-on science lessons and outreach programs, and identify barriers to copying some of our water purification designs in other parts of Portobelo and beyond.
Julie and Ming, our fearless trip leaders, are developing a very exciting project based on our work to date, which will connect Future Scientist with the colegio curriculum and the local clinic. We are aiming to develop a model for community empowerment that would bring student interns into the clinic to hand our chlorination kits, perform instructional outreach, and collect data on disease rates from the clinic. Additional students will measure coliform levels at many water sources and homes, providing a "contamination map." Future Scientist will process the aggregated information to enable us to not only track our impact but also share this data with clinicians to inform their treatments and provide a degree of anticipatory medicine. The students will be able to use this project to apply to the regional science fair (which they won last year by presenting data from the water purification system we built!).
Finally, we want to take this Independence Day to thank the many kind donors who are making our work possible. Your donations are the main reason we are able to continue teaching science and engineering in Panama. Thank you!