May 22, 2014

McCourt Students Put Policy Into Practice in Honduras

The McCourt Policy in Practice organization (MPIP) offers students at the McCourt School of Public Policy an opportunity to translate their policy skills into tangible results for the community of Roatán Island, Honduras.

Originally founded under the name Project Honduras in 2007, the group seeks to improve community health, infrastructure, and education through the implementation of development projects.

Community-Based Projects

MPIP primarily serves the impoverished community of migrant workers known as La Colonia Balfate. The community has suffered from environmental and infrastructural challenges due to the rapid expansion of tourism on the West End of the Roatán Island.

Over the past years, Georgetown students have traveled to the island to work with community leaders on projects to improve household water filter distribution and training; the community’s well system; infrastructure; donation of technology to the local school; and the procurement and delivery of medical supplies to the community clinic. MPIP has also helped to create a community map to identify households and increase the efficiency of its initiatives.

The student organization engages in some advocacy work as well, such as talking to the local government and civil society organizations on behalf of the community.

Fundraising

In addition to implementing projects to benefit this Honduran community, McCourt students also raise money to fund their initiatives.

MPIP has raised over $75,000 to date by hosting various fundraising events, including their Annual Service Auction. This event features a live auction in which participants bid on items such as a round of golf with the dean of the McCourt School and a visit to the set of Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room. In 2014, the auction generated over $8,000 to help fund improvements to the water system of La Colonia Balfate.

Future Plans

According to MPIP co-leader Eleni Fischer (MPP’14), the group is working with the engineering firm Environmental Resources Management (ERM) to improve the water infrastructure of Roatán Island. This includes the installation of four tanks and a new pump, with future plans to install an in-line chlorination system.

MPIP also plans to collaborate with the community on improving sanitation through an education campaign that increases awareness of the health hazards posed by improperly disposed garbage and through the installation of new trash receptacles in the community.

In addition, Fischer says MPIP is “exploring the possibility of expanding to a new community on the island and will be conducting a needs assessment there in hope of finding a project where we can implement our policy skills.”

Looking forward, she says, “We hope to expand to other parts of the world and conduct both policy analysis and project implementation.”

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