- Course: Water, Sanitation and Health Engineering MSc
- Nationality: Italian
- Company: http://helpforoptimism.org/
Why did you decide to study a masters in Water Sanitation and Health Engineering at the University of Leeds?
I have chosen the MSc Water and Sanitation & Health Engineering programme at Leeds because, after my experience in the field, I felt the necessity to improve my competences and network. Looking at different Masters programmes throughout the world, the one at the University of Leeds seemed to be the best fit for my needs and for my aspirations since the very beginning. In fact, the empirical approach of the course has matched since the beginning my pragmatic mind-set.
What is the best aspect of studying on your course and at the University so far and why?
What I most like of the MSc so far, besides the countless amount of input given during classes and the immense knowledge acquired, is the right perception of the WASH Engineer.
A WASH Engineer is not an output Engineer, instead it is an Outcome Engineer. This means that rather than design infrastructures, the WASH Engineer has the duty of assessing and addressing all the outcomes that WASH interventions involve. The wide in-depth overview given by my MSc programme on all WASH interventions will certainly be a strength in my future career.
Tell us about your organisation Help for Optimism
Help for Optimism was founded on 9 July 2014, right after getting my bachelor degree from the Politecnico of Turin. While studying Business Organization Engineering, I began implementing my dissertation about a Sanitation Program in Nosy Komba, Madagascar, into the NGO it is today. After setting up “Help for Optimism” and a fundraising campaign, I flew to Madagascar to begin making Help for Optimism a reality. Afterwards, and due to the success of the initial project, the NGO took on other roles and projects growing into what it is today.
In fact, we have also started other projects like a healthcare programme on an island without access to healthcare—Nosy Iranja. The project provides essential medicines and structured roles with responsibilities to local employees so that it can function on an island far away from any healthcare service area. We have also developed a lab through a technical partnership with “Aid Progress Pharmacist Agreement” from the University of Turin for the production of toothpaste and disinfectant soap— it is the first toothpaste produced in Madagascar and the first products of any kind to be manufactured on the island of Nosy Komba. This project also involves an economic aspect in which 4 local girls, after receiving training, produce and sell the local goods. Moreover, a hygiene promotion programme is also being implemented within the local schools, which give each pupil his or her own toothpaste and a disinfectant soap per class upon the completion of a day dedicated to proper hygiene practices. Furthermore, the disinfectant soap project began as a free supply for the main District Public Hospital of Nosy Be, where not even the medical staff had hand-washing facilities. These projects are having a huge impact throughout the island and in this first 8 months we have produced more than 2000 tubes of toothpaste and distributed over 160 disinfectant soap.
Another key point worth mentioning is the support of local and national authorities--both Italian (Patronage of City of Turin and Piedmont Region) and Malagasy (collaborations with Village Presidents, Mayor and Ministry of Public Health).
Now, in partnership with the University of Leeds MSc Water Sanitation & Health Engineering, two dissertations have already begun that have both been approved by the local Mayor and the Ministry of Public Health of the District of Nosy Be. The first study will aim to monitor and assess the water, sanitation, and hygiene practices on the Island of Nosy Komba while also implementing hygiene promotion and group discussions for the mothers in each targeted village. The second dissertation will aim to assess the water, sanitation, hygiene, and solid waste management of the District Public Hospital of Nosy Be, mentioned before--which does not consistently have water or the resources to address this issue.
Why did you decide to start the project?
I founded Help for Optimism for two reasons:
First, I have always had a close and personal bond to the island of Nosy Komba—an island very dear to my heart. And, though my relationship with the island and the region began as just a tourist, I’ve always tried to alleviate the problems facing the region because of my strong connections and relationships with people on the island.
Second, during the development of my dissertation, I came to the realization that university students—for the most part--usually are writing and creating their dissertations solely for the purposes of graduation. I realised that dissertations represent one of the few moments in life where we are able to study and focus on any topic that truly interest us--our own project. And so, since the beginning of my dissertation, I approached the topic/project as one that would not just be theoretical but would eventually become a reality.
What ambitions do you have for the future of your organisation?
Help for Optimism has already had a huge impact throughout the islands—specifically Nosy Komba. The work the organization is warmly welcomed while my knowledge of the local language is a huge asset and certainly makes things easier to be implemented and to monitor. It is my wish that Help for Optimism becomes bigger by way of collaborating with reputable local and international partners. In fact, I am using the NGO as a platform for all entities that have the competences and desire to make their projects work in Madagascar.
In summation, the aim of Help for Optimism and its projects is to practice global development. Help for Optimism will not only provide and guarantee basic human rights, but will also give competences and tools to local populations in order to rise above situations that can best be described as chronic on-going emergency levels. Also, in order to minimize the risks, Help for Optimism’s projects are the result of intense studies--both in technical and managerial terms. And so, the future of the organization is to establish technical partnerships of excellence for each of the organization’s projects to guarantee their success.
What would you say to students coming to do the same course?
I would say that you should try to figure out all the circumstances that the course will present, take all the inputs given during the lectures, and choose and develop those that are personally the most interesting to you. Finally I would say to enjoy your time throughout the year, which helps to study and learn better -- even if it always seems short.