My internship was with the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning in New York. My mentor, Dorian Dale, is the Director of Sustainability and Chief Recovery Officer. Initially, I had an idea of what I would be doing, but I didn’t realize that my internship would potentially catalyze a change in my life, as well as those of many other individuals. The scope of my internship was focused around the County’s ‘Reclaim Our Water’ (ROW) initiative. Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, delegated its mission statement as follows: “We are a county that will no longer allow our water quality crisis to go unaddressed but will come together to Reclaim Our Water.” My initial tasks were to draft logos, generate public service announcements, and even facilitate the allocation of the county’s budget for ROW paraphernalia i.e., bumper stickers, decals, water bottles, pennants, coolers and t-shirts, all emblazoned with the slogan ‘Reclaim Our Water’. Ideally, we were to be out in the field—boots on the ground—spreading awareness, and giving ROW goods to the public at the best places possible: Suffolk County State beaches up and down the coast of Long Island, New York. Unfortunately, internal bureaucratic setbacks hampered the county’s initiative from being placed into progressive action this past summer. Although it thwarted the progression of ROW this summer, it allowed me to develop a project of my own.
With the unforeseen addition of free time and the presence of a positive mentor—Dorian Dale—to augment my mission building process, I took the crux of ROW and placed a personal spin on it. For the past 5 years I have traveled with a medical mission to the Sacred Valley in Urubamba, Peru. It was there that I first witnessed the discrepancies in the quality of life, and more specifically, the decline in water quality. In response to my internship being so focused on water quality, I figured I could start my own mission, Potable Peru. Its mission statement would be “To provide a year’s worth of potable water for at least 600 children living in Urubamba, Peru by raising funds to purchase 20 Lifestraw® water filtration devices”. By realizing what I wanted to do, I drew up a non-profit business plan with my mentor’s help and established a real life business plan.
The internship of 2016 was fulfilling, and I felt accomplished by the time it concluded. My experience at the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning had put me in a suitable place where I was both mentally and physically aware of the state of water quality in my backyard—Long Island. But it also made me aware of the difference I could make in Peru. As of now, I am still in the fundraising process for Potable Peru and I have generated funds equivalent to 9 Lifestraw® devices or nearly 42,000 gallons of purified water.
By Nick Coristidis