McCourt Students Put Policy Into Practice in Central America
The McCourt Policy in Practice organization (MPiP) offers students at the McCourt School of Public Policy an opportunity to partner with nonprofit organizations and engage in hands-on policymaking and evaluation in Central America.
Originally founded under the name Project Honduras in 2007, the student group is now working in Honduras and the Dominican Republic to advance sustainable, evidence-based development projects that address specific health, education, and infrastructure needs of local communities.
“Our members gain practical experience in the field, applying the policy and evaluation tools developed while at the McCourt school,” explained MPiP leader Jaime Oliva.
Community-Based Projects in Honduras
In Honduras, MPiP primarily serves the impoverished community of migrant workers known as La Colonia Balfate. This community has suffered from environmental and infrastructural challenges due to the rapid expansion of tourism on the West End of Roatán Island.
During its most recent trip to Honduras, MPiP met with the community leader who manages water distribution on the island to discuss water chlorination monitoring efforts. MPiP also began a partnership with the engineering firm Environmental Resources Management (ERM) to install and monitor a water distribution and chlorination system for Roatán Island.
In addition, the student group designed and conducted a two-day financial literacy workshop in Spanish and English for the migrant worker community.
New Partnerships in the Dominican Republic
MPiP has operated four trips to the Dominican Republic since the fall of 2014.
The student group works with community leaders in the Dominican Republic on educational initiatives, including a Montessori early childhood education program targeted to low-income students. In collaboration with the DREAM project, MPiP helps to conduct focus groups with parents, pilot survey instruments, and meet with school administrators to discuss the school evaluations.
The students also addresses environmental damage from untreated sewage discharge in Puerto Plata in collaboration with the ERM foundation, the Vermont Caribbean Institute, and the Fisherman’s Cooperative of Puerto Plata. Their environmental work includes a series of on-site water testing, meetings with fisherman, and pilot surveys of fisherman to better understand their industry.
“The research projects that we conduct influence the livelihoods of fisherman and the availability of quality early childhood education to various socioeconomic families,” said MPiP leader Jasmine Jones. “The hope is that our research and recommendations help improve the well-being of those impacted by our analysis.”
In addition to implementing projects to benefit Honduran and Dominican communities, McCourt students also raise money to fund their initiatives.
MPiP has raised over $75,000 to date by hosting various fundraising events, including their Annual Service Auction. This event features a live auction in which participants bid on items such as a round of golf with the dean of the McCourt School and a visit to the set of Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room.