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It all started on a trip to Southeast Asia while doing my undergraduate in Hawaii where I had every intention of being an international human rights lawyer. But, an encounter with a group of UNICEF workers in rural Cambodia became one of the most eye opening experiences. At that time I was in my early 20’s and had never been exposed to that level of poverty and post-war reconstruction. I saw children drinking straight out of the Mekong Delta and learned about the ongoing destruction of landmines. While in that discussion, the main problem in that particular area was access to clean water. From that moment onward, I knew I had to be in the field of international development. It was even more solidified when I was in Thailand six months after the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed HALF A MILLION people. I assisted in a cleanup effort moving refrigerators, stacking wood from homes, and collecting trash, clothing and broken toys off the beach. It was an experience I will never forget.
Once I got back to the U.S. I immediately started graduate school in Urban and Regional Planning where I focused on international development and humanitarian assistance. Not only is the emphasis on community and social well being vital to my worldview, but it also led to more than I could have ever imagined. I would and will contribute my life as an advocate for those whose voice is a whisper, in the hopes that with empowerment comes change. Considering my strong personality, it was a perfect place for me to be involved!
After finishing Urban Planning, I began a second master’s in Civil & Environmental Engineering, focusing on water resources. I know, I know it is a vastly different field, but it is interconnected and the last piece of my puzzle. It is a skill that will have a tangible impact on health, access, sovereignty, and education.
I have always been involved in whatever community I live, either in my hometown in Western North Carolina, London, or Hawaii. I have volunteered as a mediator for a local NGO assisting in civil disputes, in women’s rights as an advocate, local and state politics as an intern, in immigration as a tutor/mentor, and worked for FEMA, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and Pacific Partnership as a disaster management planner or water quality engineer. Sorry to make a long story, long, but that is what I do and why I am involved. School finishes in the next year and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Ancora imparo!!
Me and my dog, Kea, in Hawai‘i
As a child raised in Seattle and Cambridge, England, Ariel grew up with an appreciation for water. That’s because it fell on her from the sky pretty much every single day. One Christmas, Ariel’s science nerd of a father got her a subscription to the New Scientist Magazine. In one of the issues there was a piece on the important and yet mysterious nature of water. Little Ariel read it and completely absorbed it. From then on, water was always in the back of her mind.
So Little (Mermaid) Ariel turned into Big Ariel and went off to college. In her freshman year, she went on a service trip to Belize. While there, she met some amazing civil engineers (her original inspirations: Julie Evans, Cara Magoon and Kate Villars) that were using their engineering knowledge to build water systems for people that had no access to clean water. It was a “click” moment for Ariel. She knew right then and there that she wanted to work on water projects in the developing world. She switched her major to engineering and didn’t look back.
She has now just graduated college. In her time there, she went to Belize four times and also participated in Pacific Partnership, a humanitarian mission based on a Navy hospital ship, the USNS Mercy. She is constantly refining and questioning her goals to work on projects in the developing world. It is certain that there is a dire need with some 780 million people without access to clean water. On the other hand, there are a multitude of water issues right here in the USA (note: watch Gasland).
What will never (ever) change is her passion for protecting water. When people ask her why she says, “everyone will always need water, everyday and forever. Also, water is influenced by pretty much everything we do. It’s completely fascinating because it is everything.” If we don’t safeguard it, we’re screwed.
Me mimicking a statue (one of my favorite things to do in pictures) at a cool temple in Cambodia.