“Water availability and quality is a threat to everyone, everywhere,” Leah Whitmoyer, a 2022 Voyager said. “Agricultural production, public health, and social equality are all impacted by these shortages.”
Leah is a senior at the University of Georgia, studying biological science and Arabic. Upon graduation, she hopes to work in agricultural development and sustainable water management in the Middle East and North Africa.
For her Summer Voyage, she will study food waste and water insecurity through a local and governmental lens. As part of the program, Voyagers receive up to $50,000 in financial aid along with a $10,000 stipend and Airbnb travel credit to pursue a summer work-travel experience between their junior and senior year of college, focused on exposing students to new communities and experience in a chosen field. After graduation, Airbnb will provide the students with a $2,000 travel credit every year for 10 years to allow students to broaden their horizons and pursue careers in public service.
During a gap year after high school, she experienced firsthand the impacts of water insecurity while studying in Rabat, Morocco.
“While I was there, I learned about the intersection of gender, agricultural development, and the environmental and social consequences of industrial farming,” she reflected.
“When COVID-19 lockdown began, I left Morocco and decided to spend the summer working on an organic farm in Wisconsin until I started college. While the environment in Wisconsin was totally different, the farmer I worked for faced many of the exact same issues I learned about in Morocco, including a precarious water table, expanding industrial feedlots, and barriers for women in conservation leadership.”
Whitmoyer says she hopes to tackle these issues head on during her travels this summer.
“I’m excited to develop my skills working in reducing food and water insecurity on a large scale. My voyage will begin in New Mexico where I’ll learn from experts about the impact of the dry Colorado River Basin on sustainable agriculture,” she shared. “I’ll also spend the summer interning with the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs where I will learn about multilateral programs working to address issues that threaten water quality, food security, and community health.”
She says the support she’s received from the Obama-Chesky Voyager Scholarship program has been invaluable.
“I love the support and encouragement that has come with being a part of the Voyager program. There is always someone to bounce ideas off of and I’ve really enjoyed the speaker series where we’ve gotten to learn from some incredible policy makers and activists,” Whitmoyer said.
Leah says her passion for the cause stems from her desire to see positive change.
“We are all consumers, we all share the same planet, and we all need to be part of the solution,” she said.
You can learn more about the Obama-Chesky Voyager Scholarship here.