Whether it’s an earthquake in Chengdu, China, or a hurricane in New Orleans, natural disasters show no discrimination as to where they strike. But how humans react to them is often another story. As a recipient of an Honors Summer Research Grant, senior political science major Gena Gammie will investigate how governments and international aid organizations respond after natural disasters.
For eight weeks this summer – from June 12 to August 5 – Gammie will research the redevelopment and reconstruction efforts undertaken in the cities of Ica and Pisco, Peru, after a massive earthquake occurred on Aug, 15, 2007. Registering 7.9 on the Richter scale, the earthquake caused more than 500 deaths, injured more than 1,300 people and destroyed approximately 58,581 homes.
“Natural disasters are reaching such proportions that they demand outreach of the international community,” Gammie said. “My project will provide the means by which the theoretical and legal frameworks will be tested for efficiency and effectiveness in providing aid for those who need it most.”
While in Peru, Gammie will research the efforts of the grassroots and local organizations that pick up the efforts once the larger international aid agencies such as International Red Cross, Oxfam America, Caritas-Peru and Lutheran World Relief no longer concentrate on the area. Also, she plans to interview community leaders, political officials and members of the local communities to gain different perspectives on the successes and failures of reconstruction efforts.
“This is a great project that will allow me to get a hands-on look at development, and get my feet wet in the arena of how nonprofits operate from the ground up,” Gammie said. “I expect the experience itself to transform me into a different person.”
Each year, the LMU Honors Program offers several fellowships for summer projects that take place around the world. Fellows are awarded $5,000 to support research, travel, internships, writing or tuition.
“I feel so lucky to have received the grant, because I wouldn’t have been able to do the research any other way,” Gammie said. “I am more passionate and more dedicated to making change happen and helping plan for a future that is better than today.”