Seithur Sanitation Initiative: Boot Camp Reflection – Barger Leadership Institute Student Voices

Seithur Sanitation Initiative: Boot Camp Reflection

Our project, the Seithur Sanitation Initiative, is part of Project RISHI—a national organization aimed at promoting the sustainable development and growth of rural Indian communities. Through this project, we plan on addressing the issue of open defecation, which is associated with increased risk of stigmatization, harm, and illness, by building toilet facilities for individuals disadvantaged by income and caste. The main focus of our team going into Bootcamp was to gain different perspectives on the data collection phase of our project and to learn better practices for ethically engaging with a community. I am grateful that the BLI Bootcamp not only met our expectations but exceeded them in several aspects.

For the first phase of our project, we were initially planning on conducting surveys in order to learn more about attitudes towards open defecation and toilet use in Seithur as well as to improve our estimate on the number of individuals lacking access to a toilet. We focused our A3 presentation on administering surveys and created specific goals and an implementation plan that would help us successfully execute our plans. However, we received a lot of valuable feedback from experienced panelists that qualitative interviews may be a better first step in order to build a relationship with residents in Seithur and to fine-tune the questions in the surveys.

During the Bootcamp workshops, we also learned how to develop process and outcome questions, along with the importance of ensuring that the questions we pose are unbiased. Using this information and the feedback we received on our presentation, my team reflected on our current plans and decided to conduct interviews first to communicate directly with the villagers, which would be followed by surveys. Additionally, we revised our survey and interview questions to make them more open-ended.

Overall, there were several insightful takeaways not only for the project but also for my team and me. My favorite part of the week was the final presentation day as it was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the ways in which the other teams are addressing issues that they are passionate about and to receive feedback from panelists who have years of experience working on similar projects. Through Bootcamp, I realized that project ideas are not meant to be set in stone; there will be setbacks and constant changes in implementation plans, but one should not be discouraged by them. Looking ahead, I believe I will be able to apply the skills I picked up through the Bootcamp workshops and the advice I received from mentors both to this project and my future endeavors.

Team Members: Kavya Chandra, Nikitha Kamath, Sanjana Kannikeswaran

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