About Michelle DeFreese

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So far Michelle DeFreese has created 5 blog entries.

UVA World Water Day Expo

This year’s annual UN World Water Day (WWD) will take place on March 22, 2014. The UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the UN University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health (UNU-INWEH) are co-organizing the event. The theme of this year’s WWD is Energy and Water; two key components of Deeper Missions’ work. The objectives of this year’s WWD are the following:

  • Raise awareness of the inter-linkages between water and energy
  • Contribute to a policy dialogue that focuses on the broad range of issues related to the nexus of water and energy
  • Demonstrate, through case studies, to decision makers in the energy sector and the water domain that integrated approaches and solutions to water-energy issues can achieve greater economic and social impacts
  • Identify policy formulation and capacity development issues in which the UN system, in particular UN-Water and UN-Energy, can offer significant contributions
  • Identify key stakeholders in the water-energy nexus and actively engaging them in further developing the water-energy linkages
  • Contribute as relevant to the post-2015 discussions in relation to the water-energy nexus.


In celebration of World Water Day, Deeper Missions will take part in the upcoming World Water Day Expo and Symposium (WWDS) at the University of Virginia’s Charlottesville campus on Friday, March 21, 2014. The symposium will feature presentations, exhibitions, and lectures by organizations and leading figures in the field of WASH and public health. The expo will also include exhibitions by student groups and non-profit organizations in Virginia that focus on sanitation and hygiene, conservation, water accessibility, and public health policy.

The event will also include presentations by John Oldfield, CEO at WASH Advocates as well as keynote speaker, Jamie Pittcock, Senior Lecturer at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at Australian National University (ANU). A schedule of the event is available here.

Be sure to check out our booth at the Expo and learn about how you can volunteer for our upcoming clean water projects in Sierra Leone.

For more information on additional WWD events recognized by UN Water, visit here.


By |March 16th, 2014|

Guest Blog: My Experience as a Non-Profit Management “Extern”

Guest Blog By Dina Syarief

Last month, Deeper Missions had the pleasure of welcoming Rutgers University student Dina Syarief as part of the Associate Alumnae of Douglass (AADC) Externship Program. Dina is completing her final year as a nursing student and is interested in pursuing future work in public health and international development. Her guest blog post describes her experience as a Deeper Missions extern.

This past summer, I spent my time in Malang, Indonesia studying Bahasa Indonesian as a Critical Language Scholar sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. My parents left Indonesia because my father wanted to study engineering in the United States. I was born and raised in the U.S. and wanted to reconnect with my cultural roots. My experience abroad really opened up my eyes to some of the issues that people face in developing countries.  For instance, a running theme that we discussed in my Indonesian classes was the fact that many children still drop out of elementary and middle school because their parents can no longer afford to pay for their school fees.  Some families need their children to work to help support them. When I visited one of my aunts, I asked her about how she put my cousins through school.  She pointed to her hand and said that she had to sell her wedding band. After listening to stories like this that bring to light to some of the realities of accessing education in other countries, I left Indonesia with a resolve to find a career that would allow me to help people in developing countries.

Dina and Michelle

Dina and Michelle attend a conference at the Brookings Institute


As a student in Douglass Residential College, the women’s college at Rutgers University, we are connected to a large network of Douglass alumnae.  Each year, students have the opportunity to complete an “externship” with an alumna for one or two weeks during our winter or spring break.  When I read the description of Deeper Missions, I knew that I wanted to work as an extern with them.  I liked that Deeper Missions worked with communities in Africa to implement sustainable solutions to local problems. I put Deeper Missions as my first choice, and the experience turned out to be rewarding in so many ways.
I was placed with a Deeper Missions Board Member, Michelle DeFreese, who is an alumna of Douglass Residential College.  Michelle had prepared an exciting itinerary for me that incorporated my interest in international development and public health.  Throughout the two weeks, we met with public health professionals who worked for the International Food Policy Research Institute, The United States-Indonesia Society, Management Sciences for Health, and the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.  Michelle and I also attended two panel discussions at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. on Africa and Humanitarian Crises in 2013. After one of the discussions, I was able to speak with the Executive Director of Doctors without Borders, Sophie Delaunay.  I asked her how I can translate my degree in nursing into a career in international development after I graduate.  I also attended the 4th International Conference on Women and HIV and was able to connect with other international public health professionals.

In addition, Michelle also got me actively involved in Deeper Missions by assigning me tasks that required me to do a lot of research and preparation.  One of Deeper Missions’ projects is the installation of Enviro Loos into communities in Sierra Leone to improve sanitation.  Enviro Loos are toilets that utilize a dry composting system.  They require no water source and can be assembled in less than a day. One of my tasks was to research methods to increase the use of Enviro Loos at Deeper Missions sites in Bo, Sierra Leone and to create a proposal to be presented in front of the Board of Directors.  This assignment exposed me to the water, sanitation, and hygiene problems in Sierra Leone and in different parts of the world.  It also opened my eyes to the possible solutions we can utilize to help the situation, such as using alternative technology.  My assignments helped me to see the real, positive impact non-profit organizations can have on communities in developing countries.

Along with concluding the externship with a clearer understanding of my possible career options and of how non-profit organizations operate, I was touched the most by the kindness, selflessness, and passion of those who work for Deeper Missions. Both Michelle DeFreese and Executive Director, Derek Reinhard, welcomed me to Washington, D.C. and genuinely wanted to get me involved. Thank you to Michelle, Derek, and other volunteers at Deeper Missions who helped to make my experience in Washington, D.C. a wonderful one. Thank you to the Reinhard and Tussing families for allowing me to stay in your beautiful homes during the externship.


Dina Syarief

For more information on internship and volunteer opportunities with Deeper Missions, feel free to contact us at info (at) deepermissions.org. More information on Deeper Missions’ Enviro Loo projects can be found on our previous blog post on Waterless Solar Sanitation “Eloos” at Mercy Hospital.

By |February 2nd, 2014|

Upcoming Event: Panel Discussion on the Power Africa Initiative

PowerAfrica-300x225The Africa-America Institute will host a panel discussion on the Power Africa Initiative on January 30, 2014, at the TKP New York Conference Center. The Power Africa Initiative was launched in June 2013 and aims to increase electricity access in Africa by at least 20 million new households. Through the initiative, $7 billion will be directed towards efforts to reduce energy poverty in six African countries over the next five years. The countries targeted by the initiative include Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania.

Panelists for the event will include Agnes Dasewicz, Director, Private Capital Group for Africa, USAID; Shari Berenbach, President & CEO, The U.S. African Development Foundation; Tony von der Muhll, Global Strategic Relations, Shift Into Green Energy ECUA; Ambassador Tuvako Manongi, Permanent Representative of Tanzania to the United Nations; and George Monyemangene, Consul General of South Africa. The event will be moderated by Kamran Khan, Vice President of the Department of Compact Operations, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Last year, Deeper Missions’ team of volunteers helped install solar equipment and infrastructure to off-grid, rural communities in Bo, Sierra Leone. The surplus of electricity generated by these solar panels is being used for income generation and small businesses including a cell phone charging station. At the Ebert Kakua School for the Deaf, the newly installed solar infrastructure is also doubling as a living laboratory for older students to learn about circuits, electrical engineering, and sustainable business practices. Because of the success of these projects, Deeper Missions has been approached by a number of partner organizations to begin exploring the possibility of supporting solar power projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, and Ghana; four out of the five countries targeted by the Power Africa Initiative.

For more information on the event, visit the Africa-America Institute’s website here. To find out more information on how you can join our 2014 team of volunteers, visit our volunteer section here.


By |January 28th, 2014|Tags: , |

Save the Date

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Woman Collecting Water in Achefar, Ethiopia, (Flickr: waterdotorg)

Save the date for the upcoming event on “Modern Africa – A Symposium on Opportunities for Women in Energy and Water Access” hosted by the Africa Program and Energy & National Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in collaboration with the Brookings Institution, the Center for Sustainable Development in Africa, and the United Nations Foundation.

The event will take place on February 13, 2014 (8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.), and will be held at 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, DC. Visit the Center for Sustainable Development in Africa www.csdafr.org for more information. Registration details for the event will be shared in January 2014. The event will broadcast live on the web for those who cannot attend in person.

The event announcement can be downloaded here: Modern Africa Symposium (PDF).

By |December 29th, 2013|

Renewables Power Up Around the World


On Tuesday, December 5, 2013, the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) hosted an event on the World Energy Outlook 2013. Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency, spoke on developments in renewable energy, trends in the use of fossil fuels, energy consumption patterns, and projections through 2035. Adam Sieminski, Administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration and Guy Caruso, Senior Advisor in the CSIS Energy and National Security Program, also participated in the event.

Mr. Birol began his presentation by commenting on a renewed focus on global energy efficiency. He highlighted the recent IEA Member Countries’ Statement on Climate Change (PDF) initiated by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The Statement recognizes the importance of affordable and low-carbon technologies for sustainable energy and climate change mitigation. The Statement also reaffirms the commitment of energy ministers and the IEA to encourage the adoption of policy measures including “rationalizing and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption while providing targeted support for the poorest.”

Despite a general renewed focus on global energy efficiency, Mr. Birol stressed that more emphasis needs to be made on renewable energy, particularly hydroelectric solar and power. He noted that since last year, CO2 emissions increased by 1.4%. Two-thirds of emissions leading to climate change come from the energy sector. “If you want to change CO2 emissions, the energy sector needs to be at the heart of this change,” stated Birol.

In addition to climate change mitigation, Mr. Birol commented on the lack of accessibility and reliability of electricity in rural communities. “Approximately 1.3 billion people – that’s every fifth person on earth – do not have access to electricity. This is a moral issue and in many cases, it is becoming worse,” stated Birol. He continued by highlighting the increasingly important role that renewable energy sources are playing in “powering up the world”.

Video and audio of the CSIS World Energy Outlook 2013 can be found at:


By |December 29th, 2013|