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Global Experiences

DukeEngage in Argentina: Foundation for Sustainable Development

Supervisor: Facundo Miranda

Nonprofit Company: Amigos del Árbol, Bosques, y Parques Nacionales

Dates: June 2016 – August 2016

Hours: 8 hours/day · 5 days/week · 8 weeks  = 320 hours

In Summer 2016 I participated in Duke’s civic engagement program DukeEngage, and travelled to Salta, Argentina as part of the Foundation for Sustainable Development. FSD pairs volunteer interns with local nonprofits, and in my case I was paired with an environmental nonprofit called Amigos del Árbol, Bosques, y Parques Nacionales (National Park, Forest, and Tree Association). Amigos del Árbol was made up of primarily environmental and natural resource engineers who worked on conservation and engineering projects. For example, one project I worked on was building trails at a nature reserve (Reserva Ecológica Polígono A) at a nearby villa called San Lorenzo.

My main project while working for Amigos del Árbol was writing a grant and developing a plan for a solar water heater project they were undertaking. There is a famous train path called Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds) that passes by many local villages. Tourists often simply pass by these locations and buy a few souvenirs, but there is immense cultural, historical, and geological significance in these areas. Therefore, it would be beneficial if they could stay overnight at locals’ houses. However, a legal requirement for housing is that there must be hot water. Many of these houses do not have hot water, instead using cold water from creeks nearby. Therefore, Amigos del Árbol is planning to install several solar water heaters which use solar thermal power and commercially available evacuated tube collectors to heat water and store it in an insulated tank. This was my first exposure to solar thermal energy, and it was exciting to see the potential socioeconomic applications of this technology.

This relates directly to my GCS focus as I was working directly in making solar energy economical and applicable to low-income families. The goal was to improve their quality of life by allowed them to generate additional income. It was amazing to see how solar energy could be applied so broadly, to improve socioeconomic situations.

For more information about my experience in Argentina, read this article I wrote for FSD’s annual Giving Tuesday campaign.