Sneha Ayyagari, '17, MS '19
Caring for what we have
"Development is when people grow their conscience."
That is how a war veteran, skilled farmer, and environmental educator described to me what it means to create sustainable development. He explained that it doesn't matter how much people do or don't have; what matters is that they care for and care about what they have.
As a Schneider Sustainable Energy fellow in 2015, I worked with Asofenix, a grassroots organization that works to develop and improve the lives of rural Nicaraguans in the villages in the hilly state of Boaco.
Throughout my fellowship, I supported projects that improved quality of life such as installing renewable energy, potable water infrastructure, irrigation systems, and clean cookstoves; creating an environmental education program; and supporting sustainable agriculture in the community where I worked and lived. I saw how the technical and educational parts of energy projects fit together into an integrated and transformational program.
I was deeply moved by the opportunity to learn the stories of the resilient and loving people I worked with. I also enjoyed learning the nuances of Nicaraguan culture, and the people I worked with became part of my family. I continue to call them every week.
This fellowship reinforced my desire to couple my technical skills and interest in environmental engineering with my passion for teaching to create a more just and sustainable world.