In her own words
Liz Pfifer, GSAS ’08, is currently working in Madagascar with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as part of the international humanitarian agency’s agro-economic development and environmental stewardship initiatives, which work to increase the quality and sustainability of local food sources.
A graduate of Fordham’s International Political Economy and Development Program (IPED), Pfifer has been periodically updating fellow alumni and former professors on her experiences in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world. The following is a first-person account of her work there and how Fordham’s IPED program helped prepare her to do the world a world of good.
Service has always been an important part of my life. After volunteering with Jesuit Volunteers International in Tanzania, I wanted to find a graduate program that would prepare me to work with an international nongovernmental organization. Fordham University’s International Political Economy and Development Program (IPED) was the perfect fit. The master’s degree program was incredibly helpful in preparing me for professional opportunities after grad school. Fordham’s Office of Prestigious Fellowships also generously offered financial assistance for language training that has proven to be invaluable in my current development work with CRS in Madagascar.
Earlier this year I interned with Catholic Relief Services’ Food Security Unit. I conducted research on the unit’s positive deviance/Hearth initiative, which works to impart the feeding methods of local mothers with healthy children to mothers with malnourished children. Through my work, I traveled to four different regions of the country and learned a great deal about the harsh realities of malnutrition.
Although I’ve helped alleviate some of these problems by working with local staff, there is still so much more to be done. Today, I am an international development fellow with Catholic Relief Services/Madagascar. I manage a small agriculture program in the southern part of the country. The region’s arid climate is remarkably different than the lush rainforests of the rest of the country. Farmers and pastoralists here rely on sporadic rainfall for crop and livestock production, as well as for regular, everyday use. CRS is currently building wells and providing treadle pumps to make water more readily available to them.
I love the challenges and rewards of helping Madagascar’s most vulnerable, and I know my experiences here will serve me well in the future. Fordham played an integral part in getting me ready for this experience, and will also be the foundation of whatever lies ahead.
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