Empowering Rural Communities with Blue Missions

rural communitiesScreenshot of Tuesday Time’s Roundtable meeting on Mar.26 | Maria Matos, PantherNOW

Maria Matos | Contributing Writer

FIU’s Tuesday Times Roundtable hosted Leslie Ramos, Chief Experience Officer of Blue Missions and FIU alumni, to discuss empowering rural communities in Latin America through international cooperation and sustainable access to clean water.

The March 26 meeting highlighted Blue Missions’ – an organization whose purpose is to “empower the youth to advocate for a world where there is water for all, forever” – approach of encouraging the public to advocate for water security by facilitating infrastructure projects in partnership with local communities.

Along with Ramos, Shalina Espinal, the director of development at Blue Missions, shared her experience working on successful water and sanitation initiatives in the past in the Dominican Republic. 

One success story, in particular, described the life of a young girl in rural Dominican Republic whose life took a turn for the better when Blue Missions touched down in her community, providing access to clean water and improving her health and educational opportunities. 

The discussion also covered practical steps in aiding these underserved areas, like organizing community assemblies, creating local water committees, securing land donations for storage tanks, and promoting financial co-responsibility through maintenance fees.

Ramos stressed the importance of using the “Community Approach” when aiding these impoverished rural communities, which was described as “a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems” (United Nations, 2014).

Espinal also emphasized the critical need for local involvement and ownership during water development programs to ensure long-term success. She noted that projects which did not actively engage the local communities they aimed to help often failed after the organization implementing the project left, leaving the community to sustain it on their own without proper preparation.  

“Let the community diagnose their own needs and identify the problems to be solved,” Espinal advised.

Lastly, attendees were encouraged to apply for the Millennium Fellowship by the March 31 deadline to get involved with their own social impact project.

More information on Blue Missions’ goals and projects can be found here.

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