My Summer Fellowship by Sneha Saroja Ayyagari

Since 2010, Green Empowerment has been partnering with Stanford University to provide sustainable energy students with the opportunity to live abroad and work with one of our international partners through the Schneider Sustainable Energy Fellows. These short terms fellows support our projects by sharing their experience and knowledge with our partners and the communities where they work. We have placed fellows in Thailand, Burma, Borneo Malaysia, and Nicaragua. This summer Sneha lived in El Bálsamo, Nicaragua and worked with our partner Asofenix. We asked her to share a little bit about her experience.

Working Alongside Community members in El Bálsamo

Sneha-3I just returned from spending the summer working alongside community members in El Bálsamo, Nicaragua on a variety of projects including improved cook-stoves, reforestation, environmental education, renewable energy, and sustainable agriculture. I created a registry of women who owned improved cook-stoves to support future monitoring and evaluation. I also developed an environmental education curriculum for elementary school children that I conceived, planned, and taught in the schools. This Spanish language manual is a resource that employees of the organization and future volunteers will use to scale the curriculum in other schools. Finally, I developed three sustainable agriculture and agroecology workshops for adults. I am proud of what I accomplished to support Green Empowerment, Asofenix, and the community of El Balsamo but for me the most important part of the summer was what I learned about myself.

Ultimately, this fellowship affected me deeply on a personal level

It pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I learned more about my own values, goals, and talents. I embraced the opportunity to work more independently, to communicate in a different language and culture, and to present in front of a variety of audiences and age groups. Having the opportunity to teach reinforced my passion for education and my resolve to continue to take every opportunity to learn and share my experiences and skills. I also gained insight into the many dimensions of sustainable energy projects. Working on both the educational and technical aspects allowed me to see how all of the elements of the projects fit together into an integrated and transformational program. This fellowship reinforced my desire to couple my technical skills and interest in science with my passion for teaching and community building to create a more just and sustainable world.My experience also provided me with the opportunity to develop deeply meaningful friendships with the families in El Bálsamo, and I feel that I have another family in Nicaragua. I was moved by the opportunity to learn from and share the stories of the resilient and loving people I worked with and have enjoyed learning the nuances of Nicaraguan language and culture. I have become so immersed that I have even started dreaming in Spanish!Sneha-2I am so grateful to Stanford, Schneider Sustainable Energy Fellows, Green Empowerment, and Asofenix for making this experience possible. I am thankful for my friends and family who encouraged me to take this opportunity and have supported me throughout the experience. While I have to say “nos vemos” to Nicaragua as I start my new school year, I take comfort in the dual meaning of the phrase. While it means goodbye, it also means we’ll see you again.-Sneha

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