“Even if you’re going to the local school down the street, you have to pay around $200 a year. It’s a lot for these kids and their families.”
Vietnam’s poorer regions remain “left behind” in key developmental indicators, including hygienic sanitation and access to healthy water.
“It’s not my fundraiser. It’s the fundraiser that I started, but it belongs to everybody who donated.”
In Kenya, high school isn’t cheap. Especially for young people growing up in Kibera—a suburb of more than half a million people southwest of Nairobi that is the largest low-income area in Africa.
“Even if you’re going to the local school down the street, you have to pay around $200 a year,” says Swathi Ayyagari, a second-year master’s student. “It’s a lot for these kids and their families.”
Ayyagari recently completed a three-month internship at Reaching Out with Compassion in Kibera, a nongovernmental organization that helps students navigate these challenges. ROCK offers scholarships, mentoring, meals, and a library space to help students reach for academic success.
Ayyagari, who is part of the Energy, Resources and Environment Program and has an interest in both east Africa and international development, says ROCK’s local focus was an excellent fit. “It’s rare to find experiences where you are working directly with the beneficiaries,” she observes, “rather than just sitting in an office.”
SAIS connections pointed Ayyagari to the internship. Ghoncheh Lee, MIPP ’18, is one of ROCK’s executive officers and recruited her classmate. “We needed a fresh set of eyes to help us think outside the box and introduce new methods that helped take our organization to the next level,” says Lee.
Lee adds that Ayyagari “was able to wear several different hats” in her time at ROCK, including work in fundraising and social media training. She also tutored students in academics and gave life skills workshops, collaborated with a community reproductive outreach effort, and even wrote the organization’s annual report.
Ayyagari did it all in a challenging environment “that gave me an understanding of the problems [in Kenya] and also the potential for development,” she says. “It’s been helpful to have that on-the-ground experience and see what’s actually happening with a project.”
— Richard Byrne
Clean drinking water is essential. But at what price? Second-year international development major Ayushi Trivedi was part of a four-member practicum team that traveled to Vietnam last January during winter break to assess the market for water filtration products in lower-income areas.
While Vietnam has seen surging economic growth, there is a downside: less funding from international donors. Trivedi says Vietnam’s poorer regions remain “left behind” in key developmental indicators, including hygienic sanitation and access to healthy water.
Trivedi’s team worked with iDE, an international nongovernmental organization, to gauge interest in low-income households for a ceramic filter made by a Cambodian company named Hydrologic. The team worked mainly in the north Vietnamese province of Tuyen Quang.
“The private sector in Vietnam is thriving,” says Trivedi, “and has great opportunities to enter the development space” to tackle water filtration challenges. Yet her team also found that extensive governmental regulation and intervention, uneven competition, and a proliferation of cheap knockoff products are also shaping the market landscape.
Trivedi says consumers at all income levels were increasingly savvy about issues connected to the necessity and costs of obtaining clean water. “Even the poorest people were aware of the health benefits of filtered water and preferred to save for a higher-priced reverse osmosis filter, rather than invest in a ceramic product for the short term,” she says.
The trip was the capstone of a two-semester practicum course for international development students designed to use classroom skills in research and analysis to work with outside clients. Rachel Rose ’15, a research and evaluation specialist at iDE who sponsored the practicum, was impressed by their work. “Every time I connected with the practicum group,” she says, “they would be prepared, organized, and professional.”
The practicum was a key reason Trivedi chose to attend SAIS. “It allowed us to be professionally engaged with a client for a year, contribute to their organizational goals, and work closely with their teams to inform their decisions through our research,” she says.
— Richard Byrne
Kashayar “Shay” Khatiri ’20, first learned of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, in which a gunman killed 11 people, after his friend woke him up to tell him about the devastating news. Khatiri wanted to do something to benefit the victims and survivors, and aimed for an impact beyond the small amount he himself could donate. Recognizing the generosity of Americans, he quickly launched a GoFundMe campaign to support the synagogue, with a goal of $50,000 in donations.
Within hours, the campaign was on track to far exceed its target—surpassing $500,000 the first day with more than 48,000 contributors—prompting Khatiri to increase the goal to $1 million (which was exceeded by Nov. 9).
The money raised will go directly to the congregation, and he hopes that the funds will be used to help the families and the congregation recover. “It’s not my fundraiser. It’s the fundraiser that I started, but it belongs to everybody who donated,” he told The Times of Israel.
While pursuing his master’s in strategic studies at SAIS, Khatiri has learned a great deal about interstate conflicts through his courses. Examining those conflicts, particularly World War II, has given him greater insight into how distrust in public and civil society institutions and their weakening directly relate to the rise of ideological extremism and global conflicts.
Khatiri says it has been eye-opening to see that extremists often rise when the public loses faith in establishment politics—whether for sound reasons or not. He believes that to minimize the spread of ideological violence and extremism, we need to make civil society institutions stronger and more efficient to restore the public trust in them.
A native of Iran, Khatiri hopes to serve the U.S. after earning his SAIS degree. While he is still exploring careers, he aims to work on defense policy issues in either the government or private sector. He says he has always believed that a strong America—militarily, economically, politically, and institutionally—leads to a freer, more prosperous, and more peaceful world.