Innovation and Impact: Past Projects

Phakumba Social Development Organization

Project Description

The purpose of this trip will be to collect data on the social infrastructure of Phakumba and initiate communication with the villagers. This information, besides from being anthropologically novel, will be used to inform and refine our skeleton social development model with the long-term goal being self-sustainable public infrastructure. More specifically, we will be conducting informal recorded interviews in hopes of A) finding out how decisions are made at the individual, familial and public level B) prioritizing the village’s need for public infrastructure (potable water filtration, medical clinic, school etc.). We are also concerned with and plan to research the environmental ramifications of development with the idea that you cannot truly reach economic sustainability without environmental sustainability.

With funding from Oberlin’s Doris Baron Environmental Fund, we will be collecting soil samples, testing water flow rates, documenting irrigation practices and, in communication with the local agrarian population, brainstorming the most efficient way to increase irrigation thereby increasing percentage crop yield and cutting down on deforestation and subsequent erosion into the Maiwa River. With funds from Oberlin’s Creativity and Leadership Fund, we will be collecting information in order to design and test an economic model for development. The basis of the model is as follows: we hope to give out relative high-interest micro-loans, provide business development services and facilitating the exportation of product; combined, these fall under the Microlending Plus category. The interest, along with funds accrued from exportation, will recycle into public infrastructure; the idea being that the support provided by the much needed public facilities with provide motivation to pay back the loans and increase the viable work force and product yield.

For more information about this initiative, please visit their website.

About David Ohana, Suman Giri, Sage Aronson

David Ohana is an Oberlin College sophomore majoring in Politics with minors in Economics and Environmental Studies. He only recently learned the meaning of the term social entrepreneurship, but after a short period of time realized how passionate he was about fulfilling the demands of being a social entrepreneur. In his high school in San Diego, David served as Vice President to the student body, which, at that point, was alienated from the school administration. Through various reforms and networking, he was able to work with the student body and the administration to strengthen the student’s role in the school’s management process. He was also a founding member of his New York High School’s Theater program, Beacon Drama Art Theater, and served as the program’s treasurer to the International Thespian Society. David also served on the Charity board at La Jolla Country Day, organizing events and volunteering in the greater San Diego community. For his active role in the community, David was awarded the Darla Cox New Student Award in 2007. At Oberlin he co-founded the Applied Social Development Association with his project partners Sage Aronson and Suman Giri and was a founding member of Tanwir, the Middle Eastern Studies Association. He is also a member of the Student Finance Committee and a Residential Assistant. Recently he awarded Shansi’s In-Asia Study Grant to research how religion in Phakumba, Nepal informs the local social and political structures. Alongside Suman and Sage, he looks forward to working extensively with the people of Phakumba in order to provide sustainable social development. 

Suman Giri is a third-year Physics and Math major from Nepal. Here at Oberlin he is the co-founder and treasurer of the Applied Social Development Association (ASDA). As a member of ASDA he is involved in Phakumba Social Development Project through which he is trying to establish basic facilities of education, healthcare and agriculture in a remote district in Nepal. He is also actively involved in the Engineering club (EPOC), and is in the tech team of the Oberlin Finance and Investment Club (OSFIC). This past summer, Suman interned in D&R international, an energy consulting firm in Maryland. He eventually plans to get a degree in Electrical Engineering and use small hydropower plants as a sustainable (and environmental friendly) source of income for people in remote areas of Nepal.

Sage Aronson is a sophomore neuroscience major splitting his time between Guilford, CT and Beals Island, ME. When he was ten, he started a small business (SageWoods) making and selling wooden ornaments at craft fairs in New England. It soon developed into a primarily wholesale operation, targeting niche markets such a pedigree dogs, llamas, and horses as well as the more traditional Christmas ornaments. In its sixth year of operation, Sage launched a venture called SynergyWoods—an organization that allowed people with mental disabilities to earn a competitive wage ($14-30/hour as opposed to the traditional “piece-work” model where $2-4/hour is not uncommon) thereby weaning them off of family and state dependence. At Oberlin, he is co-founder and president of the Applied Social Development Association and runs an after-school math program for 3rd graders. He is a 2009 Shansi In-Asia Grant recipient and spent last winter-term collecting folk-stories in Nepal. He enjoys playing squash, writing, and adventuring.