Posted by chads on October 16, 2007
Sylvia Finlayson will being sharing her experiences with leprosy at our global health dinner this Friday. I got to know Sylvia in Mozambique. She holds a M.A. degree from the University of Utah in Political Science with an emphasis in rural development. Most recently she served as Executive Director with Care For Life, a development organization working in Mozambique, Africa. Former advisory board member to C.H.O.I.C.E. Humanitarian, expedition leader for Habitat for Humanity and Reach the Children, Sylvia has been involved in humanitarian work in several countries around the world. She also worked as a world history teacher for many years and as Associate Editor for an international online magazine. Sylvia is a private pilot and holds a ham radio license. She is currently working on her PhD in Educational Leadership.
1. Describe your current role with Rising Star Outreach.
As Director of Program Development I oversee the development of our major program initiatives in India. They are: 1- The K-12 school
2- Micro credit program
3- Mobile medical clinic
I’m currently spending the bulk of my efforts on the school. When I was there this past summer I hired teachers and did teacher training. We are currently looking for a principal. I’m in the process of researching and developing appropriate curriculum. We are working with a local school in Chennai in hopes of partnering to make our efforts more effective. Along with the academic side of things, another major initiative is to create a self-sustainable school through small businesses. We plan to open small businesses this summer on the 13 acres where our school is located. It will not only provide income for the school, but will be an opportunity to provide vocational and entrepreneurial training for our students.
2. I know that you have been involved in a number of organizations
(RSO, Care for Life, CHOICE Humanitarian, Reach the Children) in a
number of countries (India, Mozambique, Uganda). What have you
learned? What have you seen that really works?
In my opinion, the key to success on a long-term basis hinges on several factors, the most important of which are 1- understanding the local culture and environment in which you work and 2- working within that culture and with local leaders and 3- striving for a program that teaches self-reliance rather than provides hand-outs. The concept of self-reliance is spoken of by most development organizations; implementing a program that actually teaches it is something else entirely. There is a fine line between assisting people to become self-reliant and creating dependency. We are continually asking ourselves if what we want to do will help people on a long-term basis.
3. You are currently pursuing a PhD in educational leadership. What
do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
If I don’t expire during the PhD program (which is feeling likely at the moment), I hope to continue doing the same type of work I’ve done for the past several years. I’m constantly looking at what does and does not seem to work in terms of lifting the poor. There is no one way to help, but there are general concepts and principles that can and should be better understood by all organizations who wish to help the poor. It would be nice to get those ideas out there so that they can be replicated and that people, groups and organizations won’t have to reinvent the wheel, thereby wasting precious time and resources.
4. What advice do you have for students who want to make a difference
globally, but don’t know where to start?
Advice for those who want to make a difference? This may be contrary to popular belief, but I suggest follow your head first, heart second. Do lots of reading. Understand the problems. Look at past attempted solutions. Learn some basics of human nature and how people respond to things given without effort on their part. Billions and billions have been spent in wasted effort. Be smart. Start small. One person can make a difference!