JHU students worked with local community partners to improve the physical and economic health of residents on historic Tasso Island in Sierra Leone, Africa.

BALTIMORE, MD, January 16, 2023 /24-7PressRelease/ — Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health students from the Applied Environmental Health Practice course reached across the Atlantic Ocean to help residents of Tasso Island. According to Dr. Megan Latshaw, “The course pairs graduate students with community partners to provide real-world experience in solving environmental health challenges. This year, one of the projects enabled students to work globally with the community of Tasso Island, one of the first transit depots for enslaved Africans conveyed to the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean.” In fact, plantation owners from South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida paid a premium for enslaved rice farmers from Tasso and Bunce Island to develop their rice farms.

Marva Goldsmith, owner of Consult DSA (CDSA) first visited Tasso Island in February 2020 with Sierra Leone native, Francis Conteh, and former CDSA partner, Moorosi Mokuena. “I grew a connection with Tasso Island’s community of more than 6,000 people because of my South Carolinian roots. What we found there were people living without everyday conveniences, such as clean water, electricity, or toilets.” Goldsmith and Mokuena funded a solar project that brought electricity and light to the island’s medical clinic, schools, churches, and mosques. After COVID, funding through company profits was no longer feasible and the entrepreneur began looking for other avenues to improve the well-being of the Tasso Island residents. On average, working aged people on Tasso Island make less than $500 USD per year.

In 2022, Dr. Charles Johnson-Bey, member of Baltimore Homecoming took interest in the project. Believing that Wi-Fi is a great leveler that can produce a generational change, he invited activist Jonathan Moore to participate. Moore, founder of RowdyOrbit.it, places internet in underserved communities and trains community members to maintain the resource, enabling self-sufficiency, community sovereignty, and reliability of the broadband implementation.

Jonathan Moore, who previously worked with Dr. Latshaw’s course, connected the team with JHU. The course began with a kickoff event in September that included His Excellency Ambassador Sidique Abou-Bakarr Wai (U.S. Sierra Leone Embassy), and virtually, members of the Tasso Island community to enhance the student’s understanding of the environmental and economic conditions on the island. Working with the community partners, the students completed a White Paper on Internet Access as a Social Determinant of Health on Tasso Island, a grant proposal draft to obtain the funding needed to improve the infrastructure and implement internet access on the island, and an environmental empowerment course to provide practical solutions that will immediately improve the health of Tasso Island residents. The course was presented via video on Tasso Island at the annual Island Development Conference (December 20th – 22nd) hosted by IslandAid, a Non-Governmental Organization that focuses on the Islands’ social, economic, ecological, and environmental vulnerabilities.

Clean water and latrines will foster improved health, electricity will expand uses of modern conveniences, and Internet access will connect residents to the rest of the world, engaging users from children to adults in educational and entrepreneurial endeavors. In turn, the living standards of Tasso Island residents will be enhanced for generations to come.

We are seeking funding and/or philanthropic support for the following projects:
1. Drinking Water: Develop retention ponds in each of the five towns on Tasso Island; clean and upgrade existing wells with pumps.
2. Electrification: Provide solar power around the perimeter of the island, on the jetty, near wells, and key streets and pathways throughout the island.
3. Latrines: Develop system for human waste disposal (e.g., biogas or non-sewered sanitation system).
4. Internet Access: Install Internet using CBRS/LTE Technology and train up to 6 residents to become last mile providers that will maintain and grow home connectivity.
5. Economic Development: Engage the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN Africa) to assist, educate and support villages and communities towards self-sufficiency, through social entrepreneurship and development of grassroots projects.

For more information on how to support this initiative, please email Marva Goldsmith at marva@consultdsa.com.

RowdyOrb.it is a Baltimore-based digital startup for-profit company that believes “broadband infrastructure is an inclusive human right” (Sanders & Scanlon, 2021). The company’s goal is to empower communities by providing them with information and technology to span the “digital divide.” It collaborates with government, businesses, non-profits, philanthropies, academia, and other funders to provide affordable connectivity to people living without the internet.

Consult DSA (Delve, Solve, Achieve) is a Florida-based, Women-Owned Small Business that provides management consulting services to private, public, and nonprofit organizations. DSA Development was formed in April of 2020 as a Sierra Leonean Limited Partnership to support infrastructure and economic development on Tasso Island.

Baltimore Homecoming is a gathering of Baltimore’s most accomplished natives and alumni from around the U.S. and the world. The mission of Baltimore Homecoming is to bring Baltimore city’s visionaries, entrepreneurs, activists, artists, doers, and leaders together with notable Baltimore alumni to celebrate the city that made us while manifesting a new vision for the future.

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