International Travel Community Service Fellowship Program 2012

This past summer, the International Travel Community Service Fellowship Program provided funding to GSD students for travel overseas to perform community service.
Master in urban planning students used their fellowships to travel and work in Southeast Asia. Tianyi Yang (MUP ’13) travelled to Bangkok, Thailand, to work with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. She conducted research on urban disaster management of cities in the region, surveying current conditions and problems with regard to urban planning and governance. Based on the research, she prepared a background paper for a newly-initiated project, Urban Flood Risk Management and Preparedness for Secondary and Medium-sized Asian Cities, and contributed to the Urban section of the biennial Asia Pacific Disaster Report 2012.
Building resilient cities has been widely encouraged in the Asia Pacific region recently. Yang says, “Urban planning, an indispensable component to achieve this goal but currently not fully appreciated or adopted in developing countries, should be promoted to play a more important role.”
Alykhan Mohamed (MUP ’13) went to Indonesia for an internship with Solo Kota Kita, a non-profit collective of designers, planners and activists. The organization was founded in part by two alumni of the GSD’s Urban Planning program and focuses on using design to help Indonesians better understand how they participate in the development of their cities, and on increasing transparency and communication in urban governance.
During his time in Indonesia, Mohamed participated in the community engagement phase of Firm Foundation, Solo Kota Kita’s winning entry for AECOM’s Urban SOS competition by helping to organize a series of community design workshops in the city of Banjarmasin. He was also instrumental in piloting and evaluating SKKSMS, a tool that will enable Solo Kota Kita and its partners to create customized surveys and provide information to neighborhood stakeholders and citywide planning initiatives.
Mohamed says, “This experience provided a valuable behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to get a small non-profit up and running, and how urban planners and designers can play an innovative role in the development of Asian cities.”
Adriana Chavez, (March II ’13/ MDesS ’14), Oscar Malaspina (MAUD ’13) and Einat Rosenkrantz Amon (MAUD ’13) traveled to Bangkok to work with Design for Disasters, which was founded by Vipavee Kunavichayanont (MArch I ’08) to promote disaster risk management through design, research, knowledge exchange and multidisciplinary collaborations. Chavez, Amon and Malaspina collaborated with students from Thammasat University to analyze urban and territorial conditions related to the flood phenomenon in Bangkok’s northern region and study strategies used in other urban areas that have been transformed by natural disasters.
“The experience provided a broad vision of the complex territory – including social and political issues – in which the flood phenomenon is occurring.  There is a strong relationship between water and urban areas in Thailand and much to learn from Bangkok, a city that was created on water. Understanding  the transformations over time of hydrological systems in the city helped us better grasp its current situation,” said Chavez.
Sophia Lalani (MDesS ’13) spent her summer in Nairobi with the United States Agency for International Development Transition Initiatives for Stabilization. The program supports community-driven infrastructure projects in war-torn Somalia to increase economic opportunities and build confidence in the peace process. As a GIS consultant, Lalani mapped contested and newly liberated areas of Somalia and USAID grant sites to inform Congress and USAID. She conducted GIS training for field workers and program officers and wrote an operations manual for use by TIS and distribution to other aid agencies from the U.K., the U.N. and Denmark.
“I couldn’t have even dreamed up a better summer experience. I was able to work on an ongoing conflict and respond to real-time, on the ground conditions that were constantly evolving. It was an amazing confluence of planning, policy, and data visualization,” says Lalani.
Sumona Chakravarty (MDesS ’13) worked with the art collective Torolab on development of an urban farm to support Camino Verde, one of the most vulnerable communities in Tijuana, Mexico. The Transborder Farm Lab will function as academy, resource center, public space, market, and even waste management facility for 8400 families.
Chakravarty joined other students volunteers in a wide range of activities, including product and market development, participation in the Metropolitan Strategic Plan, research on the role of civil society and brainstorming community education elements. The internship provided a tremendous opportunity to experience the critical role of artists in facilitating trans-disciplinary interventions in the public domain. It also opened the door for further collaborations with Toralab and continuing engagement with the Transborder Farm Lab as it is implemented.
Charlotte Lipschitz (MArch I ’15) travelled to Zambia to work with Scale Africa, a nonprofit created by NY-based Scale Studio. Scale Africa is engaged in projects across Sub-Saharan Africa, but is particularly active in Mfuwe, Zambia, a small village bordering a large national park and a significant portion of Zambia’s safari industry. There Scale Africa focusses on access to education as a human rights issue, particularly for girls.
As an on-site design fellow, Lipschitz was involved in various stages of design and construction for two schools. She spearheaded a small test project for a new type of construction using recycled wine bottles from the nearby tourism sites, finalized designs for teachers’ accommodation and a classroom block and helped manage the local construction team at both sites. She also surveyed new sites at other local villages and talked to government representatives, chiefs and school administrators about future projects.