Rachel Vinciguerra (MID/MSW '19)
Rachel Vinciguerra traveled to Les Cayes, Haiti during summer 2017 to complete an internship at God’s Vision for Haiti (GVFH), a NGO seeking to establish families and communities to support orphaned and vulnerable children through foster care. GVFH has four branches to their approach to child protection including: education for children, skills-training for adults in the community, spiritual resources, and the foster care program itself.
Rachel with GVFH staff and friends
This summer, Rachel worked with the foster care branch of the program. Foster care is still a fairly new concept in Haiti. While it is culturally common for vulnerable children to be cared for by extended families and also, unfortunately, common for vulnerable children to enter the restavek system of child slavery, the concept of foster care is not well-known.
Rachel served as the Program Monitoring and Evaluation Intern for the foster care branch of the program as they began to establish their organization in Les Cayes. During the internship, Rachel and the staff completed a training with an established foster care agency in Port-au-Prince and met with the local government social services agency to gain foundational knowledge for the program. Over the course of six weeks, Rachel listened to input from members of the team to create a Program Theory of Change, Logical Framework, Monitoring and Evaluation Guide, and evaluation instruments (including surveys, focus group scripts, interview guides, and translated well-being questionnaires) for the program.
As a joint-degree student through the School of Social Work, Rachel was also able to offer her support in the design and creation of foster parent trainings. Rachel researched, designed, and created four presentations for potential foster parents in English and Haitian Creole covering topics including: child development, trauma-informed care, and preparations for family-based care.
Rachel was able to apply many skills she learned from her first year courses at GSPIA to this internship: especially Program Evaluation, Development Policy and Administration, Focus Groups, and Logical Frameworks. She was fortunate to receive funding for her internship through the Helen Pool Rush Nationality Room Scholarship and to have the support of her professors at GSPIA throughout the process.
Rachel and staff presenting the foster care program to interested parents
“This internship definitely shaped the way I understand program evaluation and how important it is to consider early on in an organization. It made me realize that many NGOs do not have the capacity or resources to measure their programs comprehensively and that can often be a detriment to the children they are serving. Lacking evaluation capacity can be a barrier to receiving funding for an organization and it can also prevent staff from critically assessing what’s working well and what should be changed from the perspective of beneficiaries. I feel very lucky that I was supported by GSPIA and the University of Pittsburgh to provide this service to GVFH and to grow both personally and professionally as a member of their team.”
Rachel was familiar with the Les Cayes area of Haiti through previous volunteer work with a nearby organization, Pwoje Espwa orphanage, over the previous four years. Rachel Vinciguerra will graduate in April 2019 with a Master of International Development (majoring in NGOs and Civil Society) and a Master of Social Work (with a focus in community organization and social administration).