Meet Stella Potemkin- Shanta’s Development Intern

Hey everyone! My name is Stella Potemkin, and I just wanted to take a second to introduce myself as the newest member of the Shanta Team. I was born and raised in Durango and then went off to get a double major in Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Science and Social Policy Analysis at Rice University. After graduating college and working a seasonal geology job in Alaska, I found myself questioning exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I’ve always loved traveling and thought now would be the perfect time to take a trip to Southern Africa. While planning this trip, I knew I wanted to do something that had a tangible positive impact on local communities. This desire to do something good led me to join Shanta and the Village Aid Project as they worked with communities on infrastructure projects.

The two weeks I spent helping build bridges and install water infrastructure were far more impactful than I ever imagined they would be. While I enjoyed the physical work of laying pipes and constructing tap stands, the moments that stood out were talking to local villagers. Despite living in extreme poverty, every conversation they had with me was filled with genuine openness, joy, and hope for the future. Everyone I met excitedly shared the multitude of ways their life will improve due to the impacts of clean water and safe bridges.

Wade always says that for Shanta, “the people are the project,” and I don’t think I truly knew what that meant until I saw how much emphasis Shanta put on empowering local community members to take ownership of their projects. While the goal was to end up with functioning bridges and clean water systems, I was amazed by the emphasis put on how you work together with communities to reach that goal. All of this is to say the Shanta model resonated with me and made me realize that this kind of development work is something I want to be a part of.

I’m so excited to join the Shanta team as a Development Intern. In August, I’ll head back to Zambia for three months and work primarily on women’s and girls’ empowerment programs. I can’t wait to update everyone on how things are progressing in the partner villages, so expect more blog posts from me in the future.