Street portrait: Andi, the public health advocate
There are two ways that I select potential participants in my project. Sometimes, I'll just be out wandering around with my camera, and either I'll see someone who looks interesting or get involved in a conversation with someone who shares something interesting about themselves, and I'll ask to photograph them. Recently, I've also started to contact people out of the blue because I've read an article about them or because of their involvement with an organization or business I like.
Last week, I saw a piece about St. Baldrick's Day, an annual charity event that raises money for children's cancer treatment and research. I went to the webpage, found information about a couple of participants, and emailed them. Andi was one of the people I contacted, and when she wrote back, she told me that she was one of the organizers of the event but wouldn't be getting shaved this year. In the resulting email exchange, she told me that she has another cause, though, and the more she told me about it, the more it became apparent that it was a story that I wanted to share here.
Andi is a graduate student in the Master's in Public Health program at the University of Virginia, and when she was an undergrad Anthropology major, she and another student started a health education and water filtration project in Guatemala. It all began three years ago, when Andi participated in a brief study abroad research project and realized the impact that water pollution had on the small rural communities she visited. She managed to win a Davis Prize for Peace, which provided her with $10,000 to initiate the project, and she partnered with local organizations in Guatemala to get it up and running. You can learn more about the project by checking out an article published in UVa Today, but the gist of it is that Andi and her partners provide education on sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, and the use of water filters; once people finish the educational program, they are given water filters to use to purify their water.
Andi will finish her studies in May, and when I asked her what she plans on doing next, she told me that she's not entirely sure. She's going to travel for a while -- she has a one-way airplane ticket to Europe, she said -- but it will certainly focus on NGO work on public health issues.
This photo will also be posted on my Cville People Project Tumblr blog.