This week we caught up with Shanna Crumley, a senior intercultural communication and Spanish major, to talk about her community building work with ADRA Argentina.
What’s your major and year?
This fall, I’ll be a super senior! (That’s code for I-just-love-school-so-much-I-can’t-leave.) I’m studying intercultural communication and Spanish, with an EMT certification on the side. I’ll finish in December 2012.
Tell us about your internship:
I am volunteering with ADRA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, an international organization that supports both disaster relief efforts and community development projects in 120 countries, one of which is Argentina.
I'm spending my summer with a project in rural northwestern Argentina, Salta province, promoting health education, community development, and sustainable living for local indigenous populations.
My official role is documentary photographer and videographer. I’m traveling from site to site to document various aspects of the local projects in this province. The first project is called Vision Wichí, a partnership with an indigenous group called the Wichí. The project includes the development of a community garden, where the community members are learning how to grow, harvest, and cook fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables. Several ADRA volunteers have lived here within the community for over a year, building a relationship with the Wichí and working to establish the garden project.
Vision Wichí also includes a campaign to construct kitchen facilities—brick cooking areas with ovens—in several families’ houses to reduce the use of resources and improve living conditions for the family.
The second major project, Pisadas Saludables (Healthy Steps), is designed to teach school-aged kids in northern Argentina about the importance of hygiene and preventative health. This project partners with TOMS Shoes to provide each child with a new pair of shoes twice a year as well, because many of the children here have to walk barefoot, risking injury and infection. This project reaches approximately 50,000 children.
How did you hear about it?
I’m working with the same project supported by PUC REVO 2011, a project masterminded by PUC alum Zachary Benton. I’ve always wanted to work with ADRA and I first heard about this particular project from REVO, then connected with Zach last spring.
What does an average day at your internship consist of?
There is no “average day” for documentary photography, which is what I like about it! I spent a lot of time shadowing other volunteers at their projects: a community garden, family gardens, building sustainable kitchens and teaching the kids about health. I am also traveling from project to project throughout the region, so I spend a lot of time editing photos and video while traveling.
Between work hours, the volunteers spend a lot of time together, planning projects and sharing the Argentina experience (lots of mate and soccer!). The group here is passionate, smart, and inspiring in its commitment to the project and to the people it serves.
What makes this internship fun or interesting?
It’s fascinating to see the challenges that this population faces, a nomadic-turned-impoverished community, and the process of community development that ADRA implements in response to the demonstrated need. I love the chance to build a relationship with the community members and hear their stories. And, of course, I get to follow the action with my cameras, whether that’s helping a family break ground in their garden or handing out TOMS shoes to a group of barefoot children.
What's the most challenging part of this internship?
As can be expected, the transition from the United States to rural South America is drastic, both in terms of technology and commodity and in culture—especially language. It’s been tricky to do everything in a different language…even though I have a Spanish major, using it on a daily basis in a professional setting is a new level. Thankfully, this culture has hospitality and good humor built in!
But the hardest part is to come here and know that no matter how hard we work or how much we care, the process of change and growth takes years. All that we can do is give our best and pray that our work will make a positive impact.
What knowledge and skills are you learning from the internship?
One of the most important skills to acquire in documentary film and photography is how to work with the moment. So many variables are out of my control—the lighting, the sound environment, the way that people react to the camera, and whether or not the shot I want will come through. I’m learning how to put myself in the right place at the right moment and to trust that the rest will work out. It’s a life lesson, too!
I’m also learning a lot about working within an international agency. Flexibility and quick thinking are necessary traits for a volunteer, and the responsibility that comes with the job—we leave an impression of ADRA everywhere we go.
How does the internship relate to your career goals?
I am pursuing a career in the area of international affairs and development, so any international travel and intercultural exchange helps, especially with a foreign language component. In addition to that, I’m learning how a development agency operates and the inner workings of community development, which both relate to my interests. The experience I’ve gained working with the Wichí population and ADRA will relate to my next internship, as well, in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Populations, Refugees and Migrations. I am thrilled to have these opportunities to learn, experience, and enjoy international work.
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