Laura Ralston | Portfolio Manager, Africa


Laura Ralston

As the International Programs Manager for Haiti, Ralston identifies Haitian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with experience implementing water and sanitation projects and walks them through Water.org’s partner certification process. Once an organization becomes a Water.org partner, she works with their staff to develop and manage projects. She is also helping develop Water.org’s project database.

Ralston holds a Masters degree in Public Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. To put her training to use, she developed and submitted a grant proposal, then implemented the project to assess the water needs in and around Fond des Blancs, Haiti. There she met with local community organizations, women, and other leaders to learn about the history of the water interventions in the area. With local guides, she visited 129 households and surveyed drinking water quality, water related beliefs, and water collection and storage practices. She tested the water quality of the sources people used and mapped the available water sources and households with GIS. The petri dishes used to test the water quality were put on public display and community members were disgusted by the results. Once they saw how their water was contaminated they were motivated to treat their drinking water.

After completing her coursework, Ralston returned to Haiti to work for the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF) as the Monitoring and Evaluation Administrator for their Maternal and Child Survival project. She worked with HHF for two years and lived in downtown Jeremie, Haiti with a Haitian family.

Commitment to Water.org

“'Water is life.' This is a phrase I heard often while working in Haiti. Despite the need and desire for potable water in Haiti, many water projects failed as soon as the water-pumps broke because there was no infrastructure for maintaining them. “They just came here, put this thing in here and left. Now it’s all rusted and broken and we are supposed to fix it,” voiced a community representative about the water system that had been built by an outside organization. Meanwhile, in another community, the water pump was 10 years old and still in service. The difference was that in the latter, the community had requested the water pump, and preparations had been made for repairs before the pump was ever built.

I joined Water.org because I agree with the organization’s focus on funding demand-driven projects and building the capacity of local people so that they can achieve enduring solutions to their water and sanitation problems.”

Education

Masters Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience, University of Delaware

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