The College of Natural Resources hosted guest speaker Amanda Ramcharan in the TNR building on Tuesday night to speak about her work on a sustainability project in Africa.
Ramcharan has been working as a Johnson & Johnson Fellow with the Princeton In Africa Program since last August, providing technical and engineering expertise to water conservation and sustainability projects along with others, such as public health, education and engineering.
Ramcharan, a native of Trinidad, received her undergrad degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University with certificates in sustainable energy, giving her the required knowhow to work with the locals of Nyumbani village and to provide support.
The Princeton in Africa Fellows are volunteers who are sent by the non-profit organization, funded in part by Johnson & Johnson, to various locations around the continent to work on projects for which they are most qualified. The Princeton in Africa organization does not only have one type of project, they have a wide range of different goals that need a diverse team of volunteers with unique skills.
“Princeton in Africa works with these organizations to create very specific positions for Fellows so that they can gain a really unique experience and make a real impact in what they do; it’s such a great program and a first step in the door after graduation,” Ramcharan said.
For Ramcharan, that specifically tailored job was sustainability.
“When I applied for my positions I had no specific interest in Africa–even though Princeton in Africa seeks to develop leaders with African interest, my interest was actually in sustainability, which is funny because having been through this experience I’m very much interested and fascinated with Africa,” Ramcharan said.
When she started, her priorities were with gaining experience in hands-on sustainability energy, so they put her in the Nyumbani village post, which sits in a very dry part of Nairobi. Getting only 16 inches of rainwater during the rain seasons, they were in need of professional water conservation and sustainability support.
“They came up with rainwater harvesting. The village is just so dry and they only have two rain seasons that last two months,” Ramcharan said.
She used the design from her predecessor and continued the building of 118 water tanks for the village residential clusters in the village, providing almost a thousand liters per person of clean, malaria-free drinking and cooking water.
“That’s where Johnson & Johnson comes in. They collaborated with Nyumbani village and Princeton in Africa to fund a Fellow to work in Nyumbani village for one year as well as to fund the sustainability projects,” Ramcharan said.
Recruitment into the organization is quite competitive, though. Princeton in Africa is in its tenth year, having sent over 250 graduates from a whole plethora of U.S. universities to work in 32 countries around Africa. This year alone, 421 applications were sent in from 120 colleges with only 40 to 45 positions available.
“The earlier you contact Princeton in Africa and let them know you’re interested, the better your chances are of getting one of these positions,” Ramcharan said.
Another option available to UW-Stevens Point students is the International Studies program that takes students every summer to the same village Ramcharan has been working in for the past year. Enrollees in the study abroad program work on similar sustainability and community development projects.