Saturday, May 26, 2012

Alumni Profile: Sarah Williams, UVP Fundraising Chair

Sarah Williams is a Research Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. She interned with UVP as a Healthy Villages Team Leader in 2009. She has a Masters in Global Policy Studies from UT Austin. She now serves on UVP's executive board as the Fundraising Chair. 

Uganda Village Project (UVP): Tell us a little about yourself -- what are you working on these days?

Sarah Williams (SW): I have a masters degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin, Texas. I now work at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in DC, a think tank that focuses on strategic security issues. I'm working primarily on nuclear energy and energy security issues. While I've certainly transitioned away from international development in many ways, I consider my experience with UVP to have been helpful in informing the way I think about national and strategic security issues. The issues we will face in the 21st century in my field are changing, and will increasingly be connected to concerns like human security, infrastructure, and health.

UVP: What was your experience with Uganda Village Project like?

SW: I was a team leader in Walukuba in the summer of 2009. We were beginning the Healthy Villages Program, and I led a team of four volunteers in an effort to build a well, install basic health infrastructure and provide basic health literacy in one of the district's poorest villages.

UVP: What was your biggest challenge working in Iganga? How did you deal with it?

SW: Our challenge was community engagement--from the beginning to the end, we had difficulty gaining the support of the local leaders. Engaging local leaders on a trial and error basis was the best we could do--and listening intently to what they were and were not telling us. Listening more than we spoke helped us better understand the situation in the community, identify who could help us complete tasks, and brought us a great deal of respect.

UVP: What is your favorite memory about your time in Uganda?’

SW: On our very last night in the village, all of the children in the community came to our house and we sang and danced around our large fire pit with the kids singing and drumming. Slowly, the women and men--their parents and grandparents--joined us and it became a raucous send-off that went well into the night. It's a memory I'll have forever.

UVP: What advice do you have for future interns/volunteers?

SW: Have fun, work hard, and manage your expectations. You are not going to change the world in one summer, but you can learn a lot and contribute to important work.

UVP: How has UVP shaped your career today and what you aspire to do in the future?

SW: In an abstract way, my experience with UVP has helped me manage expectations in my current career. Being able to take a step back, breathe, and recognize that all the issues you are trying to deal with and "fix" can't be straightened out at once goes miles to making a career, or a day-to-day task more manageable and enjoyable. Working hard while understanding that all of the work in the world can't necessarily solve a given problem is hugely important, in my opinion.

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