What are you working on now?

I am the Programs Associate for Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team – an international NGO that leverages crowd-sourcing and open data to provide maps for development and disaster response. I help manage all of our fieldwork around the world, on projects ranging from drone mapping flood-prone slums in Liberia to running refugee-led mapping of refugee camps in northern Uganda, though my specialty is in malaria elimination. I spend about 6-9 months a year deployed, which explains my disappearances from Impact Hub from time to time.

What led you to the work you’re doing now?

I originally worked in environmental management, focusing on integrating marginalized communities into government land management – such as incorporating ranchers and indigenous groups into national park management which often included participatory mapping as a strategy. While working in southeast Asia, I encountered a fishing community displaced from their home due to poor and prejudiced environmental policy. Witnessing the devastating impact this had on the lives of this community and learning how participatory mapping could have made a difference in preventing their displacement dramatically shifted my passion from focusing on the environmental impact of participatory mapping to the human impact. This, combined with the experience of working as a disaster relief worker following the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, grew into a dedication of using maps for humanitarian relief.

If you could go back and give yourself three pieces of advice when you started your project/organization/business, what would that advice be?

1. Figure out that life-work balance as soon as possible and stop feeling guilty about it. Working 70-90 hour weeks when deployed is expected but it’s not sustainable forever. We all need a guilt-free Netflix binge from time to time.
2. Learn a language fluently – doesn’t matter what language it is. I’ve haggled for groceries in Nepali and conducted household surveys in Setswana, but I’ve never learned a language fluently. Not only is it incredibly useful for international work but it’s such a loss to not have that deeper connection to people and places that comes with language.
3. Take pictures! Even if just for yourself. It’s devastating to realize you’ve spent time in a country and never taken a single photo to remember the experience. But when you do, keep this article in mind.
You can learn more about our work at: www.hotosm.org
We were also recently featured in a National Geographic Magazine article, check it out!