I completed my Masters in Water, Sanitation and Health Engineering at the University in 2017. Since graduating I have returned to campus to talk to current engineering students about my mission and the project Im carrying out in Madagascar through the Help for Optimism (H40) charity.
In the last couple of years three Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) engineering students have written dissertations about H4O projects and had a direct positive impact on our work.
I studied my Masters at Leeds to develop my competency as a WASH engineer. I chose Leeds because of the schools reputation and because the programme leader, Professor Barbara Evans, is a world-renowned expert in sanitation, hygiene and water services. The empirical approach of the course also fitted well with my pragmatic mindset.
The scope of H4Os work has grown a lot since we started. From our initial focus on sanitation projects, we developed a hygiene products lab, which produces the first toothpaste made in Madagascar and sold in the local community and a disinfectant soap, supplied to medical staff at a local hospital. Weve also run hygiene workshops in schools and were producing bio chocolate bars from raw cocoa beans. Three pillars underpin all our projects: improving health conditions, expanding local skills and competencies and creating economically sustainable enterprises. We want to take a longer-term, global development approach, which leads to long-term improvements for the community.
During my Masters I received a cash grant from the Universitys Leeds for Life Foundation, and H40 was named its volunteering project of the year for 2016. Both these things helped to build the profile and momentum of the work.
The charity also had international recognition and won the Student Big Ideas Award at the WASH Futures 2018 Conference in Brisbane. My former professors accepted the award on my behalf and I came to Leeds to collect it.
Now I hope to return to the University to study a PhD, which would be based on H4Os work, but would also extend it, so our learning would be helpful for development projects elsewhere.
When I talk to current students, I tell them, if youve an idea and passion, develop this. Gain specialist knowledge and you can turn it into reality!