Field Work

13 March 2014


Lauren Linde ’14 (Atlanta) and Amelia Piazza ’14 (Arlington, Mass.) learned firsthand that much can be lost in translation. The pair surveyed the Hamar tribe in southwest Ethiopia last summer as part of a six-week internship with Global Team for Local Initiatives (GTLI), a small nongovernmental organization.

During their stay, Linde and Piazza worked with a translator to collect socioeconomic and demographic data about area villages and individual households. They had prepared survey questions in advance, but hit some snags when first conducting their interviews.  

“The Hamar economy is livestock-based, so we asked how many cows or goats they have,” says Linde. “When we learned the Hamar believe counting animals curses them, we began asking instead, ‘Do you have enough cows or goats?’ ”

“That got tricky, too,” says Piazza, “because some people would say no, and then our translator would say, ‘Oh, I know this woman. She has enough cows!’ ” Through trial and error, they honed their survey.

Since the 1970s, the tribal community has struggled with the effects of political instability, frequent drought, disease, and malnutrition. However, due in large part to the efforts of Lori Pappas, a retired software entrepreneur who founded GTLI in 2007, the Hamar are achieving a better life through education, health, and sustainable development—a model focused on behavior change rather than simply delivering goods and services.

Pappas, who resides in Northfield when she isn’t in Ethiopia, began partnering with Carleton in 2012 to document GTLI’s current operations and the impact it has had on the Hamar. As part of a program funded by the college’s Initiative for Service Internships in International Development, two Carleton students will travel to Ethiopia for a total of three summers.

Linde, a mathematics major, and Piazza, a sociology and anthropology major, were the first students to make the trip. During winter term, they worked with Carleton economics professor Faress Bhuiyan to analyze the data they collected. They also will help prepare the two students who will serve as GTLI interns this summer.  

GTLI will use the students’ findings to develop future projects and make funding proposals.

Linde (left) and Piazza (right) are pictured above with Yehuala, a Hamar translator, at a celebration for Linde’s 21st birthday.

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