As part of a new series of blog posts, we are highlighting the work of Edge of Seven’s tireless, brilliant, and passionate volunteers, advisors, and board members. The work that we do empowering girls and building infrastructure abroad would not be possible without the network of support we have here domestically. Thank you Kassia for all that you’ve done for Edge of Seven this spring! Read Kassia’s inspiring story below on nonprofit collaboration, international travel, healthy babies, and good communication …
Name: Kassia Binkowski
Hometown: Originally from Madison WI. Spent time in Africa, Latin America, the East Coast, and the Pacific Northwest, before “settling” back in Boulder. Next stop on my list: Cape Town, South Africa or Granada, Spain (it’s a toss up!).
Education: Master of Public Health from University of Washington, BA in International Development & Health from CU Boulder
MY STORY IN A NUT SHELL: Motivated by the time I spent living and working at children’s homes in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, I am committed to keeping mothers alive to care for their families. Plain and simple: with mom’s around fewer babies will die. That’s what I want.
While pursuing my MPH, however, I realized that determinants of health far exceed access to medicines and vaccines. More powerful than any prescription are the social determinants over which we have very little control: education, socioeconomic status, environment, etc. As it so happens, education and sanitation are more powerful predictors of nutrition than food distribution. For me, this realization was a game changer. Suddenly the success of my career could be measured not only by the clinics built or babies vaccinated, but also by scholarships distributed and hands washed, if you will. They playing field had been blown wide open!
So upon finishing my degree and moving back to Boulder I began pursuing a career to influence the social determinants of health in our world’s most marginalized communities. Some days that means I organize benefits for midwifery training programs, other days I design marketing materials for socially responsible tourism, and still other days are spent building constituencies for conservation projects. In the past five years I have contributed to programming, communications, and fundraising efforts of international development programs around the world; I have designed projects in Malawi, lived with orphans in Tanzania, studied with traditional healers in Ecuador, led fundraising efforts for Ugandan health workers, coordinated urban clinics in the United States, and researched maternal behavior in Guatemala. Each of these experiences has only enriched my understanding of the complex choices facing mothers in resource constrained settings, and led me to work more creatively towards promoting health in these communities.
WHAT DREW ME TO EDGE OF SEVEN: I am an international health professional, with a huge itch to travel and a need for constant adventure. With experience across Latin America and Africa, it should come as no surprise that I was drawn to Edge of Seven’s work in Asia combining experiential education, developing world adventure, and community development. Contributing to Edge of Seven presented the perfect opportunity to build out my existing skill sets in community development and creative communications in a brand new environment, Asia. What isn’t to love? Besides, I believe the organization is on the cusp of a very exciting growth spurt, and I’m excited to contribute to the identity development and constituency building that are requisite for success.
HOW DO I PLAN TO MAKE AN IMPACT: More than anything else I’ve seen, I’ve been infuriated and motivated by the isolation of individual organizations in the international development industry. Day in and day out we compete for grants only to accomplish the same goal: end poverty. If we all want the same thing, I believe there has to be a more efficient way to operate collectively, mobilizing individual strengths and leveraging our great networks to create more monumental and sustainable change in marginalized communities. I don’t know what the answer is, yet, but I think it’s 40% innovation, 40% collaboration, and 20% rigor. We need to think creatively but act effectively, and we can only do that if we put our minds – and moneys – together. Recently, I took a tiny step in that direction. I founded The Righters (www.the-righters.com) as an online forum for the voices of workers at the front lines of social movements. At just the beginning of a very big thing, right now The Righters is a place to swap stories and inspiration, and hopefully soon it will be a place to connect and learn as well. That’s what I hope to be remembered by – as a catalyst for collaboration in this industry so that we can finally keep all the mothers alive to care for all the babies!