Summer Field Research in Mexico and Nicaragua
Julieta Perales '18
The Global Social Benefit Fellowship first appealed to me because of its focus on action research. This meant getting out into the field, in real-life situations and conducting research that would help my host social enterprise achieve their mission of creating value from waste. This summer I spent seven weeks in Mexico and Nicaragua studying the data collection and impact monitoring procedures of Sistema Biobolsa. Sistema Biobolsa manufactures biodigesters that allow small and medium scale farmers to convert animal waste into biogas and an organic fertilizer. I had an amazing time in the Mexico City office familiarizing myself with the enterprise’s operations, interviewing customers in the field in Mexico and Nicaragua, meeting new people, and immersing myself in the Spanish language. From this experience, I have learned that awareness of cultural context is essential for creating scalable and meaningful impact. For this reason, I encourage all students who have the opportunity to get out into the world and learn about a different culture. Experiences like this are extremely helpful in shaping your perspectives and priorities as you move on in life and decide what it is you want to do.
Photo above: Julieta is interviewing a customer on his farm in Tlaxcala. You can see the gas line from his biodigester on the left and a corner of the biodigester on the right. Photo credit: Santa Clara University
Julieta was mentored by Ariel Schindewolf. Here's a note from Ariel:
It has been a pleasure to mentor Julieta and her partner Katie Diggs through the GSBF program. They worked diligently to develop a detailed research plan before carrying out their field work this summer. They then adapted to not only cultural differences but also linguistic challenges with Katie just learning Spanish, and to changes to their research plan while traveling to work sites in both Mexico and Nicaragua. They honed their research questions and accomplished an enormous amount in a short time. I'll continue mentoring them as they work on some high-impact deliverables this fall for which Julieta's translation skills, in part learned in my course in the spring, will be extremely valuable. Julieta has been an outstanding student and a pleasure to work with outside of class as well.