Volunteer Spotlight: Allison Ritchie
From the doors of EQWIP HUBs in Mwanza, you can see a large steel bin with the words “chupa tu” – which means plastic bottles in Swahili – written on a white sign. Inside the hub, there are three disposal bins: one for plastic, one for organic waste, and one for garbage. Walk across campus towards Lake Victoria and you’ll see a concrete waste disposal site. The recycling program is part of a campus-wide waste management system, the brainchild of Environmental
Sustainability Officer Allison Ritchie.
“These are seeds that we are planting for a long term waste management system mindset change,” says Ritchie. “A lot of environmental knowledge in Tanzania is theoretical so being able to put that into practice is something that they (IRDP) have said is really important to them.”
Ritchie began her placement in July 2018 with a year contract. When she started, she tried to keep an open mind and not have too many expectations. Despite this, there was one thing that she was hoping would come out of this experience: she was hoping to gain a better understanding of international development, the efforts being made by the Canadian government and Canadian NGO’s, and what that looks like in practice rather than just in theory. Ritchie says she chose her position with the expectation that an environmental role will allow her to see the links and gaps between the environment and other areas of development, which she believes is crucial to developmental efforts. “One of the problems with sustainable development today is that environmentalists are seen as separate, but the environment isn’t separate from anything that we do,” she says. “It has to be a foundation of thought, not just an area of study,” she adds.
At the Mwanza hub, participants are always looking forward to Fridays – partly because it’s the beginning of the weekend, but also because Fridays are club days. There’s gender club, English club, computer club, and environmental club. The environmental club has participated in some of the most interactive activities on IRDP campus. Through this club, Ritchie has been able to educate participants, and she has seen the fruits of her labour. Two recipients from the last YIF round used recycled materials to produce marketable products.
Ritchie has worked closely with partner IRDP to implement a multitude of sustainable initiatives like the separation of waste. “Since I’ve been here, their ownership (of IRDP) has increased and the role they’re taking on has been stronger,” she claims. Besides this, she has also worked hard to strengthen the network of outside organizations that could partner with IRDP in future endeavours.
“Building relationships is important because though we come from very different places and very different perspectives, we ultimately have a common goal.”
As she reflects on her time with EQWIP HUBs, Ritchie uses one word to describe her experience with the program: rewarding. One particular situation comes to mind: a graduate of the program returned to the hub with a cake to say thank you to the team. She mentioned that EQWIP HUBs provided her with a new direction for her life. She also brought her mother who said the EQWIP HUBs training not only affected her daughter’s life but also their entire communities. “It’s really just nice to see that what we’re doing is having a strong effect on the participants but is also rippling out into the communities,” says Ritchie.
“I think that EQWIP HUBs is built on a really great model of capacity development and seeing the ways that the partner has adapted, in terms of environment, gender, the way that they teach their classes … I can see the sustainability.”
Ritchie’s her impact can be seen throughout campus and her determ-ination to improve the prioritization of environmental initiatives will be greatly missed. Her mandate has come to end and though she is sad to leave, she's thankful for all the people she has met.
“I’ve built personal relationships with people, partner staff and students who I will keep in touch with past the EQWIP HUBs project and I’m grateful for that.”