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The Edge Intern Elisa Sarmiento Works With Project Hearts in the Dominican Republic!

 UAB School of Public Health students collaborate with Dominican Republic nonprofit organization Project Hearts through Global Health Service Learning course

UAB SOPH  mentors and students with Project Hearts community members.Pictured from left to right: Anel Adea (PH engineer), Heather Lee, Dr. Erika Rinker, Leontay Timmons, Megan Evans, Elisa Joy Sarmiento, Claire Finney, Aurelina Gabot (PH nurse), Sean McMahon, Amina Isom, & Jose Luis Hernandez (PH Doctor).      

       BACKGROUND: The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health offers a course titled GHS 320 Global Health Service Learning in which twelve students were given the opportunity to collaborate with Project Hearts in their efforts to address the lack of access to clean water and general knowledge about health water practices in rural Baitoa, Dominican Republic, which has been suffering from a severe drought since March 2014 and poor governmental water management. Professors of the course Ria Hearld, PhD and Amy Balham, MPH of the UAB Sparkman Center for Global Health along with mentors Erika Rinker, PhD, Heather Lee, MPH, and Meghan McClain (Project Hearts US correspondent) guided the students through their endeavors. 

       THE ORGANIZATION: Project Hearts' mission is to develop individual and community awareness and leadership through participatory community projects and activities and to better the quality of life in Baitoa. 

Project Hearts is a Dominican Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) connected with 10 communities of an area called Baitoa. The organization was established in 1995 by Project Hearts President Ruben Ottenwalder. It is an organization working in partnership with impoverished populations to achieve improved health and well-being. Activities conducted by Project Hearts include: leadership development, clean water systems, vented cooking stoves, improved latrines, housing construction, farming, nutrition programs to fight malnutrition, education, school construction, and community centers for education and community building activities. All projects are specifically related to the three pillars upon which the mission is set: Health, Education, and Economic Development. These pillars support the overall goal: to provide sustainable community development specifically improving the health and leadership for the future.



       The twelve students were split into two groups of six: fundraising and research. The fundraising group got the UAB campus and Birmingham, AL community involved and held a number of fundraising nights with local restaurants of which a portion of the profits went to Project Hearts. The students managed to raise enough money to construct two Tinaco water harvesting systems. 

The research group prepared a formal needs assessment of the current harvesting techniques used in the communities along with a literature review of the current water tanks Project Hearts utilizes. Community education modules using appropriate techniques for a low literacy community were created and implemented concerning environmental and health impacts of water to increase understanding, awareness and ultimately the desire to invest in the water harvesting systems, tanks, and water filters. The students conducted a needs assessment/ focus group meeting with the Baitoan Community Health Leaders in which data collection was completed via survey. A water day was also planned in which the students and Project Hearts members travelled to the Castillio community and performed house to house water sanitation education and sold 20  water filter in just one hour.

       Many in the student group acquired field experience in which they were able to utilize the skills they learned while obtaining their undergraduate public health education at UAB. Some future UAB & Project Hearts collaborations to look forward to include: the Global Health Service Learning course to send more students to the Dominican Republic to further the mission of Project Hearts and the potential installment of an on campus Project Hearts student led partnership organization. Overall, the knowledge the group gained in working with this NGO first hand will be used to help further the success of Project Hearts’ future endeavors. 


Publication written by Elisa Joy V. Sarmiento
UAB The Edge of Chaos Intern
UAB Undergraduate
Public Health | Global Health concentration
Pictured: Water filter                            Pictured: Completed Tinaco system
Beyond the Edge
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30 Amazing Things About Birmingham

1. Our Craft Beer is Better Than Yours

Moving to Birmingham

Source: Avondale Brewing Company via Facebook

The craft beer scene in Birmingham is booming thanks to the state’s loosened liquor laws. Good People, Avondale, Cahaba and Trim Tab Brewing Companies are just among a few of the city’s go-to breweries for live tunes, food trucks and a frothy brew, like Avondale’s Miss Fancy’s Triple.

2. No Matter What Time of Year, Conversation Revolves Around “Roll Tide” and “War Eagle”

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Source: Flickr user carolina terp

This football rivalry is no exaggeration—everything from car colors to pet names is ruled by the age-old contention between the Tigers and the Tide. Whether you’re an alumnus or not, it’s best if you pick a team before the Iron Bowl showdown in November.

3. Birmingham Has Perfected The Gourmet Popsicle

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Source: Steel City Pops via Facebook

All hail Steel City Pops, Birmingham’s only all natural and locally harvested popsicle store. With seasonal flavors like strawberry balsamic, blueberry basil, and buttermilk, this local chain is the best place to cool off in the face of sweltering southern heat.

4. Sloss Furnace Might Look Creepy, But It’s A Great Place To Catch a Show

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Source: Flickr user Janet Spinas Dancer (janet_dancer)

The somewhat haunted-looking smoke stacks of Sloss Furnace are hard to miss. While it’s currently the country’s only 20th century blast furnace that’s been turned into a historical site, Sloss remains a prime venue for concerts, festivals and conferences throughout the year.

5. Spring And Summer Calendars Revolve Around Games At Regions Field

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Source: Flickr user Robert S. Donovan (booleansplit)

When baseball season rolls around, a Birmingham Barons game is the place to see and be seen in Birmingham. The Barons are the reigning Southern League Champions of AA baseball, and on any given “Thirsty Thursday,” newly opened Regions Field is packed to the brim with fans.

6. Frank Stitt And Chris Hastings Are God-Like Chefs

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Source: Facebook via Hot and Hot Fish Club

The amount of acclaimed restaurants in Birmingham is impressive enough to please any foodie.

Hot and Hot Fish Club, Highlands Bar & Grill and Chez Fon Fon are just a few of the many neighborhood restaurants owned by James Beard award winning chefs Chris Hastings (famous for beating Bobby Flay in Iron Chef America) and Frank Stitt.

Don’t think twice before ordering the burger at Chez Fon Fon--it’s out-of-this-world delicious.

7. Birmingham Is A Mecca For Outdoor Adventure

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Source: Red Mountain Park via Facebook

Between paddle boating at Oak Mountain, zip lining at Red Mountain and tube floating down the Cahaba River, there’s really no excuse to stay inside on a beautiful day. The best part? You don't have to leave the Birmingham city limits to experience the great outdoors.

If you’re looking for something a little less strenuous, people are always at Railroad Park, a 19-acre green space with ponds, a small skate park and a canopied plaza that’s smack dab in the middle of downtown.

8. The Light-Rails Really Are As Spectacular As They Sound

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Source: REV Birmingham via Facebook

Otherwise referred to as the “color tunnels,” these LED modern art installations are some of the only of their kind. Aside from making for an awesome picture opportunity (they’ve gone Tumblr viral), the Light-Rail project has helped encourage safety for pedestrians and bicyclists traveling around the area. Only two have been completed so far, but all four downtown underpasses are scheduled to launch in the near future.

9. Birmingham Mountain Radio Finally Has an FM Channel

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Source: Birmingham Mountain Radio via Facebook

Once an internet-only sensation for indie music enthusiasts, Birmingham Mountain Radio acquired an FM station in July 2013 and never looked back.

Home to Scott Register, the city’s three time winner for “Best Radio Personality,” BMR offers popular shows such as “The Morning Blend,” “Oh Brother Radio” and “Reg’s Coffee House” to make the work commute much more bearable.

10. It’s Home To The Country’s Most Dominant Collegiate Athletic Conference

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Source: Southeastern Conference via Facebook

That’s right—the Southeastern Conference Headquarters are located right in the heart of downtown Birmingham. Even if you’re not a fan of the SEC now, you’ll learn to love it if you live in Birmingham (especially in the face of SEC media days).

11. Your Wallet Will Feel Fatter

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The cost of living in Birmingham is unbelievably low. According to a recent studies by Forbes and Kiplinger, Birmingham ranks as the 12th most affordable metro area and fifth most affordable for renters. Cha-ching.

12. Athletic Or Not, Everyone Joins A GoKickball Team

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Source: Birmingham GoKickball via Facebook

The Birmingham GoKickball league is something every resident must try once. There are non-competitive and competitive leagues, but regardless of which one you choose, kickball is more about the social scene than the game.

Every Thursday evening following the round of games at George Ward Park, kickball players swarm Innisfree, a small Irish pub in the Lakeview area (league participants get in free!).

13. The Vulcan Statue Is More Than Just A Symbol

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Source: Vulcan Park and Museum via Facebook

This massive, cast iron representation of the Roman god of iron is Birmingham’s pride and joy. Vulcan Park and Museum hosts one of the biggest Fourth of July firework shows and claims a breathtaking view of downtown.

Hoping to catch the explosive spectacular without paying the associated fee? Joggers and non-joggers alike can enjoy the surrounding Vulcan Trail.

14. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens Are Free Year-Round

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Source: Birmingham Botanical Gardens via Facebook

Looking for a mini getaway? The Botanical Gardens offer a serene environment filled with dozens of rose beds, luscious foliage, secluded trails and even a fine dining establishment near Mountain Brook Village. It’s free, it’s gorgeous and it’s the perfect place to spend a peaceful afternoon.

15. Planter’s Peanuts Don’t Hold A Candle To The Peanut Depot

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Source: Peanut Depot via Facebook

Nut lovers, rejoice: there’s a reason this southern staple has been around for more than 100 years. Grab yourself a bag of boiled, roasted, salted or Cajun-seasoned peanuts and take a stroll down Morris Avenue’s famous cobblestone street.

16. The City’s Best Cliff View Is Found Atop Ruffner Mountain

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Source: Flickr user kellyv

State-of-the-art Ruffner Mountain Nature Center is one of the largest urban nature reserves in the United States. The hiking trails are dog friendly, so bring your pup and trek up to the top of the mountain for an aerial view of the metro that’s truly unmatched.

17. There Is A Thriving Underground Music Scene

Moving to Birmingham

Source: Iron City bham via Facebook

Workplay, Iron City and Bottletree Café are just a few of the eccentric places you can catch live music from the most recent up-and-coming artists. Over a weekend in August, Birmingham also hosts a music festival called Secret Stages in the Historic Loft District, where attendees can listen to unsigned bands from all over the United States.

18. You’ll Be Drooling Over Half-Moon Cookies

Moving to Birmingham

Source: Full Moon BBQ via Facebook

New York can have their black and white cookies, because Full Moon BBQ’s Half Moon cookies are second to none. These made-from-scratch chocolate chip and pecan delicacies are so good they are shipped around the country.

Not to mention, they’ve been named as one of the Alabama Tourism Departments “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.”

19. Tornado Season Is Nothing To Joke About

Moving to Birmingham

Source: Flickr user Lamar (bamaboy1941)

Birmingham sits right in the heart of a tornado-prone zone known as Dixie Alley, so from March to May, take tornado watches and warnings seriously. In fact, the Weather Channel ranked Birmingham as the third “Top Tornado City” in the country for 2013.

Be sure you keep up with local meteorologist, James Spann, during these months. He’s practically a legend for his 2011 tornado predictions and a walking encyclopedia of Alabama geography.

20. What’s On Second is an Actual Treasure Trove

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Source: Flickr user Andre Natta (acnatta)

Adapted from the famous Abbott and Costello routine, Who’s on First, What’s on Second is a three-story antique and memorabilia store located on 2nd Avenue North. With everything from wartime postcards to first-edition video games, the possibilities for what knickknacks you might find here are virtually limitless.

21. Saw’s Soul Kitchen Has The Most Mouth-Watering Pork ‘n’ Greens Ever

Almost everyone will agree that Saw’s Soul Kitchen, located in the revitalized Avondale area of town, cooks up some of the city’s best, down home southern cuisine. This mouthwatering combination of made-to-order cheese grits, smoked pork, juicy collards and onion rings is guaranteed to please your taste buds.

22. Everyone Works For A Bank Or A Magazine Or UAB

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Source: Southern Living via Facebook

Have you ever read an issue of Southern Living, Cooking Light, Country Living, Coastal Living or Cooking with Paula Deen? Yeah, they’re all published here.

Aside from being a major magazine hub, Birmingham also headquarters prominent national banks, like Regions and BBVA Compass.

And last, but certainly not least, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center is Alabama's largest employer and one of the premier international medical centers.

23. Folks Of All Kinds Flock To Urban Standard

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Source: Urban Standard via Facebook

Framed vintage magazine covers and eclectic artwork adorn the brick walls of this Brooklyn-meets-Birmingham coffee shop. Creative folks, students and businessmen and women alike will congregate at this loft district joint to savor one of the best cups of coffee (and atmospheres) in town.

24. Pepper Place Farmer’s Market is the Place to Be on A Saturday Morning

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Source: Pepper Place Market via Facebook

From mid-April to mid-December, the indoor-outdoor area surrounding Birmingham’s old Dr. Pepper plant comes alive to showcase Alabama’s thriving agricultural scene. Handmade jewelry, live music, fresh produce and cooking demonstrations are just a few of the offerings you can enjoy on any given Saturday morning.

25. Allergy Season Can Get Kind Of (Ok, Really) Bad

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Source: Flickr user Ivy Dawned (ivydawned)

Early March to mid May tends to be a rough time for those with bothersome allergies. You can pretty much forget keeping your car clean during these months--it will stay yellow until the pollen wave passes.

26. Art On The Rocks Is One Of The City’s Most-Anticipated Annual Events

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Source: Art on the Rocks via Facebook

For those of legal age, this summertime social event at the Birmingham Museum of Art is a must-attend. An evening full of gallery walks, gourmet appetizers, cocktails and performances from regional musicians like St. Paul and the Broken Bones—what’s not to love?

27. The Downtown Bar Scene Just Keeps Growing

Cocktail lounges and artisan bars have put Birmingham mixologists on the map.

At one of the city’s newest and coziest establishments, The Collins Bar, you’ll find plenty of funky paper airplanes and retro typewriters but not a single drink menu. Just tell your server your flavor preference for the night, and the bartender will whip you up an original concoction.

28. It’s Not the Holidays Without the Alabama Theatre Christmas Series

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Source: Flickr user M Floyd (61073993@N04)

The Alabama Theatre, built in 1927, is the best place to catch the Alabama Symphony, classic movies and killer concerts. Every winter, they show a special Christmas movie series, complete with pre-movie sing-alongs on the theatre’s original Wurlitzer theater organ (nicknamed Big Bertha).

29. You’ll Want to Bring Your Golf Clubs

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Source: Flickr user Akula’s

Tee off at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the largest golf course construction project ever attempted. Just ten miles from downtown Birmingham, this course consists of 468 holes of championship golf on 11 different sites running from north to south Alabama.

30. Locals Use “Over The Mountain” As A Point Of Reference

Moving to Birmingham

Source: City of Vestavia Hills Government via Facebook

You’ll hear this term a lot around town. Essentially, it’s a fancy way of referencing the city’s more affluent areas of Homewood, Hoover, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills, which lie just south of Red Mountain.

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Beyond the Edge