Sharmen Hettipola (pictured) was a communications intern at EESI during the summer of 2015. She is now heading a project to sustainably retrofit a school in Sri Lanka, which won a $10,000 grant from Projects for Peace. We asked her for an update. This is the third installment of Where Are They Now, a series of articles dedicated to the success and achievements of former EESI interns. As an organization dedicated to furthering win-win sustainable solutions, EESI recognizes that educating and preparing today’s future environmental leaders is essential to protecting our Earth.

Education is a crucial component in transcending poverty. Environmentally sustainable living is another. Through funding from a grant program known as Projects for Peace, I hope to combine these two essential elements to ensure a better future for the roughly 600 students attending an underprivileged school in Sri Lanka.

Village school in need of repairsProjects for Peace is a program that encourages undergraduates attending U.S. colleges that are part of the Davis United World College Scholars Program to design projects that promote peace anywhere around the world; grant-winning undergraduates are then awarded $10,000 to implement these projects. As an undergraduate at Bucknell University, I proposed a project to sustainably rebuild three classrooms and multiple bathrooms at a school in a small village in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Repairing this building and creating more space will prevent the loss of one-on-one attention from teachers, motivating students to continue with their studies. As for the renovations' environmental aspects, not only are many of the sustainable methods used linked with increased student productivity, but creating an environmentally sustainable building will diminish future deterioration, leaving more monetary resources available to spend on the students’ learning. Increasing the education level these students achieve is generally understood to lead to greater independence and economic success later in life, subsequently freeing students and families from generations of poverty. While the repairs materialize, I plan to work with students, their families, and neighboring villagers to increase environmental projects and general environmental awareness in the area.

My time as an intern at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute heavily influenced the content of my winning project proposal. As the communications intern at EESI, I was given the opportunity to read some of the biggest environmental news stories of the day and many of them focused on the need for international environmental action. At this point in summer 2015, I had already drafted a preliminary proposal for the grant after speaking with faculty members at my university. However, reading these news stories at EESI helped me truly realize the connection between poverty and environmentalism, encouraging me to advance my proposal by dedicating time to the facilitation of environmental projects within the village. During my internship, I also met Ellen Vaughan, one of the staff members at EESI. Her specialization in high performance green buildings led to some great advice and invaluable resources pertaining to high performance school buildings. Her information allowed me to revise my first proposal to include feasible and inexpensive sustainable solutions to address some of the problems with the building. Features EESI helped me formulate, such as the maximization of natural light, the use of local materials and recycled content, the installation of a natural ventilation system that takes advantage of prevailing breezes, the inclusion of a rainwater harvest system, and the incorporation of feasible sources of renewable energy, are now part of my design proposal.

I thank EESI for their resources and their continued work in inspiring citizens to take action in creating a more sustainable world. My 2016 summer looks very different thanks to the guidance and inspiration I received!


Author: Sharmen Hettipola