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UGA students volunteer overseas and return with broad horizons

Katie Griffith (wearing glasses) plays a vocabulary game with teachers and school administrators in the English language-laboratory she created in Nicaragua.

Seven UGA Honors students had the opportunity to experience other cultures with grants they received from the Foundation for Sustainable Development in summer 2005. Their outreach projects were among 43 chosen nationally to receive grants from FSD, a nonprofit organization committed to grassroots development initiatives in Asia, East Africa and Latin America.

FSD places interns with community development organizations in the students’s areas of interest. The students are given tools and resources necessary to customize outreach projects for the local communities they are assigned to serve. A grant competition is held to help secure funds for those projects and to make sure they can be sustained after the interns leave.

Foundation Fellow Mary Alvarez traveled to La Plata, Argentina, and worked with the Asociación Todos Damos Una Mano, which provided free job training for local bakers. Her project included purchasing equipment for the program to double its class size and helping create advertisements.

“Working with FSD really helped me realize how much cultural understanding, innovation and patience is needed to embark on long-term development projects,” says Alvarez, a junior from Dunwoody majoring in international affairs, Spanish and Latin American and Caribbean studies.

While in Nicaragua, Katie Griffith, a junior in Romance languages from Marietta, used her teaching experiences at the Instituto Juan José Rodríguez as the basis for two research projects she conducted as a summer fellow through UGA’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. Her biggest contribution to the school was creating an English language-laboratory where students can improve their fluency and comprehension.

Most of the Honors students heard about FSD from Kate Vyborny, a 2005 graduate who was one of the first UGA students to participate in FSD programs. She is currently a junior fellow in trade, equity and development at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.

“International public service can open our eyes to what life for the majority of the world’s citizens is like-life in the developing world is the ‘real world.’ We return to the U.S. with a new understanding of the world,” she says.