Amber James

Pittsburgh Meets Guatemala

image1[1]It’s raining. Then again it rains everyday at this time (6 pm). I’m writing to you from Antigua, Guatemala during the rainy season! I’ve been here about three weeks and I have one more to go. I won the Jennings Brave Companion Fund, which is a scholarship to study abroad during the summer. With this, I choose to volunteer in a free clinic in Antigua, Guatemala for 4 weeks. Antigua Guatemala is such an exciting place to be. The cobble stone streets, the daily views of the active volcanoes, and the merchants selling their goods in the street never get old. I have rode in a chicken bus (a colorful loud bus packed beyond capacity) to work everyday, I hiked an active volcano, and I have had great conversations with people in my clinic.

This scholarship has given me the funds to come to the area I am researching for my honors thesis (Central America). I have learned so much about the culture and how the water system works here in Antigua. It’s been very valuable being here in person and not learning from behind a computer screen. I’ve been to Honduras and Nicaragua over the years for one-week volunteer trips building water systems, but these four weeks has deeply widened my global perspective.image2[1]

For my project I will be looking at how technical communications plays a role in sustainability in public health projects in Central America. I intend to mainly look at water systems when discussing the scope of public health projects (surprise, surprise). I’ve decided to start my journey by reaching out to nonprofits that operate in Central America and see how they work towards making there projects sustainable. It seems that everyone has a system they use that has changed over the years to make these projects last longer. Hopefully I will be able to find image3a trend between the organizations use of technical communications and the degree of sustainability.

I am very excited to be working on a project that lets me take a step beyond the United States. I’ve been interested in the field of sustainability in public health for a while, but I haven’t been able to look into it until now. Combine that with my favorite part of the world, and you have an unforgettable research project.

Learn more about my project at Carnegie Mellon University.

Meet the Fellows


Front row (left to right): Naomi Sternstein, Kayla Lee, Karen Nguyen, You Bin Maeng, Ariel Hoffmaier, Amber James, Lauren Yan; back row (left to right): Mary Catherine (Casey) Devine, Ian Sears, David Beinhart, Yong H. Kim, Isabel Bleimeister

In early May, members of the 2016-17 group of Honors Fellows joined the 2017-18 cohort for lunch, where they discussed their challenges and successes and offered pointers to the new group.

Attendees included David Beinhart, Isabel Bleimeister, Mary Catherine (Casey) Devine, Ariel Hoffmaier, Amber James, Yong H. Kim, Kayla Lee, You Bin Maeng, Karen Nguyen, Ian Sears, Naomi Sternstein and Lauren Yan.

Sustainability and Technical Communications in Global Health Projects

jamesI never thought joining Carnegie Mellon’s Global Water Brigades organization would change my life. When I went to the first meeting, they told us we would be building water systems for people in Central America who didn’t have clean water. When spring break came, we departed Pittsburgh by plane to Honduras.

I didn’t realize that I would see others in living in conditions that I would never have to endure – that little girls there couldn’t go to school because they had to spend hours every day lugging heavy jugs of water to their homes, or that the water they were carrying was infected with parasites and fecal matter. I was sitting on the plane, ear buds in, oblivious to it all. After pick-axing and digging trenches that would eventually fit pipelines for the water system, I developed a deep interest in the field of public health.

I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. I loved medicine growing up – my mom often found me sitting in my room watching open-heart surgeries on TV instead of cartoons! I also had a strong interest in reading and writing. Among my favorite books are “Mountains Beyond Mountains” and “Tuesdays with Morrie” because they highlight the meaning of true compassion. These books made me want to serve others in debilitating medical situations and in underdeveloped countries.

I want to be a doctor and I want to be a writer, so I decided to pursue both by aspiring to be a doctor and writing books pertaining to the field of public health. With this project, I hope to better understand the public health field and how technical communications plays a role in sustainability.

Learn more about my project.