2019 Parents Fund Internship Grant Reflections: Robert Hodgson III

Robbie Hodgson
Robert Hodgson III

Internship Location: WASH Institute

Journal Entry #1

Hi! My name is Robbie Hodgson. I am currently a rising-fourth year at the University of Virginia and I will be finishing up my final semester this fall. This summer, I was given the opportunity to work in an internship with an organization called the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Institute (WASHi). WASHi is a non-profit that supports the Indian Ministry for Drinking Water and Sanitation in order to better the population’s access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services (the WASH Sector). This works well with my major at the University, Global Public Health. I’ve been working for WASHi for three days, and I will be heading to a new location this Saturday.

This week I have been doing a lot of reading. There is a lot of information on Fecal Sludge and Septage Management (FSSM) which the layman is practically never introduced to. I’ve learned about septic tanks, effluent, treatment systems, and so much more. In addition to pages and pages of textbooks, I’ve also started to read academic journals on FSSM also. My supervisors have had my start researching mobile septage treatment units (MTUs), because I will be doing more work with them later this summer. The Gov’t of India will potentially be imposing some new regulations on wastewater discharging this year, requiring equipment changes in WASHi’s MTUs.

I’m very much looking forward to moving to my new location, in Dindigul, this Saturday. I think I will be exposed to even more culture and I will have opportunities to see so much more. During this internship, I’d like to increase my knowledge of the language in Southern India (Tamil), I’d like to have some footage of what I’ll be doing in the field, and I’d like to establish some long-lasting international relationships while I’m here. I know its going to be an unforgettable experience! Thanks for reading, see you at the next blog!

Journal Entry #2

I’m just short of the midway point in my internship and I couldn’t be more excited for the next half. This has been an incredible experience and every day I am faced with new challenges and ideas. I’ve been hard at work in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu. I’ve gone into the field and watched our Mobile septage Treatment Units (MTUs) at work, I’ve learned how to test 14 different parameters for water quality analysis, I’ve given a presentation on Public Health differences in the United States and India, and I’ve been exposed to countless awareness, construction, and education projects in the nearby areas. In the next week I’ll be traveling to Thiruppullani, outside of Ramanathapuram, which is 200 Km south of where I have been staying. While I am there, my team will be taking water samples and doing some field testing and then observing some Street Plays that are used for community education on better water, sanitation, and hygiene behaviors.

I always knew that there was extreme poverty in India. As a developing country it is making progress in alleviating that, but it has a long way to go. I think I didn’t expect to be so close to the poverty. The most profound thought which I’ve had is that it is so easy for me to use others as a means to my life, when those that I might employ have no means to their own lives. Whether it is an auto (rickshaw) driver, a maid, a cook, etc., labor is so extremely cheap in this environment and daily those workers are used by the middle class for next to no pay. This has made me really begin to consider working in development and the types of people I could help through community efforts and through policy change. I’ve been heavily researching Master’s Degree programs in Global Human Development, Global Health, Development Practice, and other similar sectors which I’d be entering after my (hopefully) time in the Peace Corps.

For the next half of my internship, I’d like to travel to Kolkata and see the WASH Institute projects there. I think it will be nice to have seen the states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and West Bengal all in the same trip. I plan on spending my last week of my internship back in Delhi, where I’ll be able to have some more familiar faces of other UVA students who are interning there for this summer. My knowledge of fecal sludge and septage management has grown substantially and I am sure that more experiences will prepare me further for working in the WASH Sector in the future. I’ve even learned some Tamil while being here in the South!

Journal Entry #3

I can say firmly that I am a far different person now than I was at the beginning of this internship. I think mostly in a good way. I’ve begun to value my relationships so much more and I’m trying to make amends to some connections I’ve let wither away in the US. I already know how my relationships can help me develop professionally, that’s not my motivation for this. I have started to feel a lot more compassion in my life for human connection and for bringing joy to others. It’s nearly impossible for me to explain where this came from or what deep inside of me fuels it, but I definitely think moving 9 thousand miles away from every person you know and love was at least a factor.

I am very lucky that the WASH Institute has been so supportive throughout my journey here, giving me opportunities to travel around the country, standing up for me when the language barrier slaps me in the face, and listening to my recommendations and requests. I sincerely think that traveling throughout India and also getting out of the American bubble I could have been trapped in, in Dehi, was very necessary to my development. I also am so thankful to everyone and all the organizations, like the Parents Fund, who have been so supportive of me in my effort to get here, in my education, and through mentorship.

I hope that those reading this post make an attempt to become more global citizens. I’ve definitely become one over the last two months and the amount of perspective it has brought to my everyday life is amazing. Make a twitter! Following organizations throughout the United Nations and NGOs around the world has kept me up-to-date and has broadened my outlook tremendously. Also, undergraduate students should apply for a Global Internship! It will impassion them greatly in their journey to become public servants in the future.