by Kendra Dickinson
I have been doing so much during the past few weeks that it is difficult to even know where to begin. As the school year comes to a close, I am beginning to wrap up the projects that I have been working on. Most importantly, there is still much left to be done for the Water Quality Survey that I have been working on, so I am trying to get as much accomplished as I can before I graduate. Right now, we still need about 100 more people to fill out the survey, so I have been working hard to make that happen. As I described in my previous post, it was very labor intensive to go out onto the street and talk with each person completing the survey individually. While this method is ideal in the sense that it creates a person-to-person connection and fosters a better understanding between the researchers and the people completing the survey, unfortunately it is not the most efficient way to carry out the Water Quality Survey. Francisco and I talked this over, and did a lot of brainstorming to attempt to come up with the best way to distribute the survey, reaching the most people, as well as a diverse group of people, in the most efficient manner. We ultimately decided that they best way to do this would be to contact organizations in the Midwest that serve Latino and Spanish-speaking communities, and to ask them to hand out the surveys in the communities that they serve.
So, for the past few weeks I have been working diligently in contacting organizations across the Midwest, from Minnesota to Indiana to Michigan, trying to find groups that are willing and able to distribute the survey in their communities. In addition, in order to minimize the amount of work that these organizations have to do, we will provide them with individual envelopes that each contain a copy of the survey, and are complete with stamps and address labels so that all they have to do is distribute those envelopes in the community, and the people filling out the survey simply fill it out, seal the envelope, and drop it in the mail. Out of the over 50 organizations that I contacted, I only received two responses. One group, unfortunately, was not able to help. However, the other response that I got was from a woman that works at multiple organizations that serve Latino and Spanish-speaking communities in Madison, Wisconsin, and she agreed to pass out copies of the survey. I put together a packet with instructions, as well as 30 envelopes with stamps and surveys and sent them off to her last week. Now I just have to wait!
In addition, I also went to Lunch at La Casa last week in order to present the Water Survey to students there, to see if they were able/willing to fill out the survey, or if they were able to bring the survey to their Spanish-speaking family members. This was moderately successful, because not all of the students visiting La Casa are in fact of Latino heritage, and of those that are, not all of them speak Spanish. Still, it was a great experience to get to hear a very interesting talking about perceptions of beauty of Mexican women in post-WWII Chicago, and to interact with the students that were in fact interested in the survey. Also, if any of you readers think that you might know of an organization that serves a Spanish-speaking community that would be interested in getting involved with this project, please let me know by commenting on this post!
Finally, I have just started working on yet another project, which is called Scientific Animations Without Borders. Two of the people that I work with Extension, Julia Bello Bravo and Francisco Seufferheld, are part of this project, which creates 2-minute scientific videos, usually related to agricultural, environmental or community health topics. These videos are produced in many different languages, and can be downloaded through computers or cellphones almost anywhere in the world. Click here to read more about these 2-minute scientific animations.
While the videos are being produced in many languages, there are many videos in Spanish relating to themes such as cholera prevention, how to make natural insecticides, as well as how to store cowpeas. I have been working on this project by helping to create the scripts for upcoming videos, as well as contacting NGOs in order to distribute the videos. If you are interested in seeing one of the videos, you can watch one in Spanish about making a natural insecticide by clicking here.
Overall, the common theme of these projects is the distribution of information to populations that could benefit tremendously from the knowledge and information. While working on these projects I have begun to learn about the many barriers to distributing information in way that is understandable and accessible to the target group. With the Water Quality Survey I have learned the importance of surmounting language barriers. With the Scientific Animations Without Borders Project, I am seeing how literacy can also be a huge limiting factor in the dissemination of information about environmental and community health related issues. Therefore, I am really happy to be able to be a part of these projects, not just because of what I am learning through my work on them, but also because of the potential that they have to help people both in our local communities and all over the world gain increased access to information about the environment that relates to their lives.