Glenn Switkes Intern and Volunteer Program

International Rivers' Intern and Volunteer Program is named in honor of Glenn Switkes, who devoted his 15 years at International Rivers to working with communities in South America to keep their rivers flowing. He passed away suddenly in December 2009 from cancer.

Glenn was a mentor, motivator and brilliant strategist who loved fighting the good fight. He was a passionate defender of the rivers of the Amazon and a dear friend and trusted ally to many in the river-protection movement. Learn more about Glenn and his life's work.

For many years, Glenn was the sole occupant of our office in Brazil – the first International Rivers office established outside of our Berkeley headquarters – and he often expressed appreciation for the camaraderie, enthusiasm and hard work of the volunteers and interns who worked with him.

We are delighted to name this program in honor of someone who was passionately committed to protecting rivers and human rights and we are grateful for the input and blessing of Glenn's family and friends including his wife, Selma, son Gabriel and the Switkes family.

Below are just some of the many volunteers and interns we have had the privilege of working with. See more photos of our interns and volunteers hard at work (and play!) and learn about how you can join in on the action.

Intern Profiles

Margaret Daly (Day of Action for Rivers Coordinator, 2016)

Margaret Daly recently joined the International Rivers team as the Day of Action for Rivers Coordinator. Prior to joining IR, she worked in editorial and communications positions with various organizations in the Bay Area.  She graduated from Wesleyan University in May of 2015, but she completed her freshman year of college at NYU Abu Dhabi in the UAE- an experience which sparked her passion for Arabic. This passion led her to a semester abroad in Amman, Jordan, where she took a  course on water security in the Middle East. Since then she has been interested in the impact of water resources on politics and society.  In her free time, she enjoys singing with the Oakland Symphony Chorus and swimming. 


Gus Greenstein (PIDA Intern, 2015)

Gus joined the Africa team, in Pretoria, as one chapter of his year-long, worldwide exploration of the social impacts of large dams, funded by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation. In the office, he helped lay the groundwork for a comprehensive evaluation of the hydroelectric component of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). Outside, Gus collected data on Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project and Mphanda Nkuwa dam (Mozambique). He owes his passion for free-flowing rivers to a semester in the Brazilian Amazon, where he floated down the Amazon, Tapajos, and Tocantins for 3 weeks, conducted a study in the urban community facing displacement by the Belo Monte dam, and developed a mango addiction.

Gus graduated Magna Cum Laude from Amherst College, where he served as captain of the cross-country team and wrote an honors thesis arguing for a new direction in research-based resettlement activism. Find stories, insights, photos, and video from his adventures in India, Asia, Africa, and South America on his blog, River Solitaire.

Jace White (Policy and Communications Intern, 2014)

Jace is currently pursuing a master's degree in International Studies at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in Nanjing, China. He holds a BA in International Relations from Rollins College and grew up in Orlando, Florida. During his internship, Jace supported our Ethiopia work through original research, assisted with communications for the Amazon Program and the State of the World's Rivers launch, and put his language skills to use in support of the China Program. Prior to his internship at International Rivers, Jace was a volunteer with Ganga Action Parivar, an acclaimed environmental advocacy organization dedicated to the preservation of the Ganga River based in Rishikesh, India. During his time, Jace helped lead the National Ganga Rights Act campaign, contributed research on threats to the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, and assisted in raising public awareness. Read his guest blog on the UN Watercourses Convention. 

Erica Carvell (Policy Intern, 2014)

Erica joined us from Mt. Holyoke College where she is pursuing a BA in International Relations with a focus in economic development and environmental sustainability. She grew up in the suburbs outside of Chicago with a father who had a passion for botany and always stressed the importance of the environment around her. This fostered an early interest in environmental sustainability. In college, she became familiar with the power of grassroots organization through a campus campaign called Think Outside the Bottle, run by the organization Corporate Accountability International. She immediately felt drawn towards the passion and determination each member had for the cause they were fighting for and was thrilled when she was presented with the opportunity to intern with International Rivers. During her time, Erica worked on advocacy and analysis efforts around the Green Climate Fund, and communications efforts around the State of the World's Rivers project. She is currently in China for a study abroad program.

Fionella Simbi (International Day of Action for Rivers Intern, South Africa, 2014)

Fionella Simbi worked as an intern to help organize and coordinate the International Day of Action for Rivers events in South Africa. Fionella is an Organizational Psychology Graduate of Rhodes University, South Africa. She is currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in Organizational Psychology. Read her guest blog to learn more.  

Simone Adler (Policy Program Researcher, 2012)

Simone kayaking with staff on the Russian River, CA
Simone kayaking with staff on the Russian River, CA

Simone joined the International Rivers team as a Policy Program Intern, after graduating from Bennington College in Vermont. While at International Rivers, she provided critical analysis into – and exposure of – the IHA's Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol partners, in particular Sarawak Energy Berhad and Hydro Tasmania in Sarawak, Malaysia. After her internship, she continued to consult with International Rivers on the dams in Sarawak, including investigating China's role in financing these controversial projects. According to Simone, "I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge on the hydropower industry and its greenwashing tactics, but more specifically, I feel that my experience at International Rivers gave me real insight to the play between international standards on human rights and environmental protection and the plight of dam-affected communities. In both my roles researching for the Policy Program and the China Program, I gained a deeper understanding of the corruption that pervades the highest levels of financing for large infrastructure projects."

Lilian Alves (Amazon Program Assistant, 2010)

Lilian came to International Rivers through Mount Holyoke College's Miller Worley Center for the Environment Internship program. Lilian supported the campaign against the construction of the Belo Monte project during the summer of 2010. According to Lilian, "During my 10-week experience, I learned different aspects of campaigning – such as structuring, strategizing and fundraising. Being part of that process made my experience even richer, and the friendliness and support of the International Rivers' staff contributed a lot for me to feel part of the team. My projects focused mostly on general assistance to the campaign against Belo Monte, financial research and a fact sheet about Energy Alternatives in Brazil, in order to provide other options to the construction of hydroelectric dams. I was able to explore subjects that I haven't studied before as well as put in practice some of the skills and knowledge that I have been cultivating at Mt. Holyoke."

Jenny Binstock (Climate Adaptation Researcher and Communications Assistant, 2012)

Jenny brought to International Rivers several years of community organizing and climate policy experience with Greenpeace. Within our climate program, Jenny compiled an internal briefing on the latest concepts, research, and experts in the field of climate adaptation for the water and energy sectors. In addition, she wrote blogs on the dam movement in Indian and a World Rivers Review article examining community solar initiatives in eastern Africa. After her internship, Jenny told us, "I feel like I walked away having gotten the opportunity to really build my knowledge in a concrete way on climate adaptation, rivers, basin management strategies, water and dams, global climate financing, and a lot more."

Jenny is currently in her second year at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs pursuing a master's in public policy. She and her colleagues are currently researching what it means to develop a framework for assessing the climate risks of dam building on local community resilience and dam operation.

Tendai Chitewere, Africa Intern 1997, with Lori Pottinger

Tendai Chitewere (Africa Researcher, 1997)

Tendai was the summer Africa Intern in 1997 and still stays in touch while she teaches across the bay at San Francisco State University. Tendai was a year into her Ph.D. program in anthropology and found International Rivers "a perfect match" for learning how to apply her academic work to solving real problems.

Currently, Tendai defines herself as a political ecologist and is interested in the social and environmental impacts of greening in the United States. As an assistant professor in the Liberal Studies Program at SF State, she says, "I have used Silenced Rivers as a textbook for my students, and the friendships I made while an intern remain rewarding to this day."

Sinan Chu (CDM Researcher, 2013)

Sinan began interning for the Climate team in the summer of 2009, while studying at Syracuse University in New York and D.C. His projects include researching CDM hydropower plants in China and producing a weekly CDM hydro update that activists use worldwide. 

Dan Ruan (China communications assistant, 2012)

Bringing her experience from the Chinese newsroom, where she worked as a reporter and news assistant, Dan supported the China program's social media and communications through the production of material for our Chinese language websiteWeibo, and a series of podcasts and videos. Among these were a translation of a short video on the Kara women of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia, and an interview with the videographer. Says Dan about her experience working in Berkeley: "It was great to observe the strategy planning and the day-to-day work [behind the] campaigns. The professionalism and the passion the staff have also impressed me deeply."

Jill at UCSF Greenfest 2010

Jill Eisenberg (Communications Intern, 2010)

Jill was the 2010 Communications Intern, working on communications and social media projects. She began her internship in January, after searching for an organization that would allow her to combine the theory and practice of water rights, environmental justice, and resource management. According to Jill, "International Rivers has enabled me both to study the history of the global and community-based environmental justice movements more deeply than in school and to participate in the day-to-day operations of an activist NGO." She looks forward to a career in the non-profit sector, but before then, she will be traveling to Taiwan at the end of 2010 to pursue a Fulbright Scholarship.

Yun Feng (China Communicator, 2008-2009)

Feng Yun began working with the China Global program in early 2008. Feng Yun was indispensible in assisting the China Global team in translating reports, news articles, webpages, and letters to important dam builders and financiers, as well as scouring Chinese websites for information on China's global dam-building industry. She says that what's been most valuable to her is seeing a variety of tools International Rivers uses in its campaigns.

Linda-Estelí Mendéz (GIS Analyst, 2011)

Linda helped us monitor existing and planned dams in Africa. With her GIS skills, she upgraded our map of all known African dams (proposed or under construction) to Google Earth. Before joining International Rivers, she completed an honors research project on land and water reform processes in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Linda has an MS in International Land and Water Management from Wageningen (WUR), The Netherlands, and an MS in Tropical Agricultural Systems from Montpellier SupAgro/Institut des Régions Chaudes (IRC), France. Her work and studies have also taken her to Honduras and Senegal.

Sarah Minick (River Revival Expert, 1999)

Sarah began her relationship with International Rivers as an Intern for the River Revival program in 1999. At the time, Sarah was an undergrad at Stanford University. After she graduated, she went on to UC Berkeley, where she studied Community Planning with Marcia McNally. Ten years after her internship, International Rivers was thrilled when Sarah joined our Board of Directors. In her spare time, Sarah also works as a Stormwater Planner for the city of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Brooke Peterson (Mekong Researcher, 2009)

Brooke Peterson first heard about International Rivers' fight against destructive dams and the impacts of dams on ecosystems in class. She joined as a Mekong Intern in the summer of 2009 and works in Bangkok researching the linkages between Mekong River fish and regional food security. Her research will eventually serve as the background necessary to storyboard, script and shoot a documentary on the Mekong with a number of our Mekong River partners.

Only three weeks into the internship, Brooke says that she has already discovered the satisfaction of working on present-day issues about which she is passionate. "It has been especially valuable for me," she continues, "to learn about the many diverse livelihoods that rivers provide and the many, often overlooked, dependencies of urban populations on rivers."

Martina Plaza (Day of Action for Rivers Coordinator, 2010)

Martina was the 2010 International Day of Action for Rivers intern. She describes one experience she recently had while attending a campaigns meeting: "I was stunned in my first staff meeting where another employee in Africa was able to join us through a video chat. It was then that I realized the kind of work International Rivers does is completely doable, as impossible as it may sound to outsiders. Prior to working here I couldn't imagine how such a local organization could reach all around the world to help people – International Rivers has helped me see that all it takes is the desire to help and willingness to take action for others who might not have the resources [with which] we have been blessed." International Rivers and our partners welcome Martina to the movement!

Kate with Don Poncho, Temaca activist

Kate Ross (Rivers for Life and Day of Action for Rivers Coordinator, 2010-11)

Kate Ross joined the Rivers for Life 3 team in June 2010 and made herself immediately indispensable in organizing the meeting in Mexico. Whether it was assisting international delegates with housing or making last minute travel arrangements, Kate handled it all with a broad smile and complete competence.

In her own words, "The meeting was an inspiring, exhilarating and exhausting experience. It was such an honor to meet face to face everyone I knew so well by name, to be inspired by their stories, their struggles and their expertise, and above all to experience this in a town as beautiful as Temacapulín. Thank you to everyone who made Rivers for Life 3 so special. Ríos para la vida, no para la muerte!

Since Rivers for Life 3, Kate has also gone on to organize the 2011 International Day of Action for Rivers, which drew a record number of inspiring and creative actions. She is currently on staff as a Mekong Program Associate. Read her blogs here

Alexandra Teixeira (Amazon Researcher, 2009-2010)

Alexandra (or Alex) came to us after hearing Aviva Imhof speak to her UC Berkeley class on the Mekong dams. She worked with Aviva on the Belo Monte campaign in Brazil, collecting information about the costs of the project, mapping dams planned for the Amazon, researching the greenhouse gas emissions of Belo Monte, and supporting our Brazilian partners.

When asked what drew her to the Amazon work, she says, "I found the Amazon campaign particularly moving not only because I am Brazilian, but because I witnessed a series of 'development' projects pushed forward by [the] Brazilian government, which caused irreparable destruction, thousands of displacements, and left a long history of neglect." She hopes to continue working to defend te environment and indigenous communities' rights.

Shradha Upadhayay (South Asia Intern, 2008-2010)

Shradha interned in the South Asia program in 2008 and 2010, working with our South Asia campaigner and partners, as well as with Shripad Dharmadhikary, one of South Asia’s foremost water and energy experts to produce the Himalaya dams report, Mountains of Concrete.

Volunteer Profiles

Jocelyn Bartlett (Ambassador, 2009-10)

Jocie, our International Rivers Ambassador, began volunteering in 2009 and has been helping to make our events amazing ever since. Her enthusiasm and commitment also made her an invaluable member of the International Rivers team when she worked on the Home Depot campaign and the Africa program.

Jocie was originally drawn to International Rivers' work, which she describes as building networks within Africa, China, Latin America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia "to strengthen civil societies and faciliate the cultivation of agency within disempowered communities." She is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Joshua Cohen (Guatemala Partner, 2012)

Josh supported the Mesoamerica program's work on reparations for the dam-affected people of Guatemala. Josh learned about International Rivers while working as an international accompanier in northern Guatemala with the organization NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala). "We were accompanying communities resisting the construction of the Xalalá Dam, including one where International Rivers helped facilitate a workshop in 2009," he says. "Now that I am back in the US, I hope to stay involved in issues around land, water and indigenous rights, corporate accountability and the right for communities to define development for themselves in Central America."

Josh graduated from Goucher College with a degree in Peace Studies and History in 2007. He works at the Chez Panisse Foundation just up the street from us, and continues to volunteer with NISGUA as well.

Betsy Davis

Betsy Davis (Success Stories Synthesizer, 2009-2010)

Betsy volunteered from August 2009 to May 2010 on our Success timeline project, which was a bit hit ahead of our 25th anniversary party. Working on this project, says Betsy, allowed her "to look into the history of one branch of the environmental movement and how much power people can have when we speak up and put words into action."

Betsy came to us from a small, rural town in North Dakota, where she discovered that her local community and its farmers was being negatively affected byt he Garrison Diversion project. She notes, "After reading part of Patrick's book, I finally understood the Garrison Diversion project...When I went home this summer, I checked out some of the canals. It's still unfinished and the canals go unused. Farmers have to go miles around the canals at times to get to some of their farmland that has been chopped through by the project. It's seen as a huge waste and it's still funded with people to maintain the canal system. It's closer to home than I ever thought it was."

Wil Dvorak

William Dvorak (River Revival Editor, 2003-2009)

Wil Dvorak has volunteered with International Rivers since 2003, putting together the River Revival Bulletin. Wil became interested in conservation and water issues early after witnessing the pollution of the river in his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Dvorak says his work on the River Revival Bulletin gives him hope for the future. "I'm the good-news guy most of the time!" he says with a grin. "Its focus on the positive restoration of water systems around the world is very uplifting and hopeful in a world full of negative environmental news." Wil is a veteran volunteer and has been an indispensable part of International Rivers' work to keep rivers heathy. 

Volunteer Translators

Our volunteer translators hail from all over the world. We would not be able to do what we do without their invaluable support and expertise.

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