Who We Are

We are an interdisciplinary student group that pursues service learning activities. Our organization focuses on identifying and executing sustainable development solutions - locally in Michigan and internationally in Guatemala.

Our Mission

Our mission is to develop community health in a sustainable manner. We seek to build a network of collaborators to ensure the effectiveness of our projects and to promote the community's ownership of development solutions. Through student-driven service, we aim to develop our members' cultural awareness, professional skills, and ethics.

Our Projects


In Ann Arbor, we actively seek out communication and sharing of ideas with like-minded organizations - our goal is to collaborate and learn as much as possible from our peers. As a result of our collaboration mindset, we hold an annual conference titled the SEE (Society, Economy, Environment) Sustainability Conference . This year, it will take place in February 2014, in collaboration with two other student orgs, BLUElab and the Economic and Global Affairs Alliance . During this conference we invite members of UM, student org members, and faculty to think critically about how development work can be integrated as a long lasting, sustainable possibility that will ultimately benefit the communities we work with.

On January 11th 2014, we held our first Engineering and Education Design Review. We invited experts in the fields of primary and secondary education, social work, Spanish language, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. These panelists provided feedback on our Solar Lights design and our Education lesson plans. We will incorporate their input into our March and May 2014 trips to Samox San Lucas.


For 2013-2014, we have two international projects.

The first project is implementing the use of solar technology in Samox San Lucas. Currently, after dusk there is no electricity within the community. We plan to prototype and introduce solar technology in the form of solar lights (lanterns) for individual households to replace candles. In the 2012-2013 year, we found locally sourced materials and conducted surveys and assessments on the economic costs and risks of candles, and replacing those candles with these solar lights.

We will continue with our education project team which consists of two projects. The first is teaching English lessons during school. We plan to use illustrated booklets to assist in translating basic phrases and words from the native Q'eqchi' to Spanish and then to English. Our second project is the after school camp, where Sa Nimá members lead cultural and engineering activities involving problem solving, geography, and foreign cultures as we did during our summer 2013 and summer 2012 trips. We anticipate about 50-60 students participating the after school camp.



May 2013: During the August 2012 trip, community members identified the need for lighting at night. During this trip, we surveyed community members and store owners on candle usage. We also found a local electronics store to source the components of future solar lantern prototypes. Additionally, as seen in this picture, Sa Nimá members introduced students to solar technology and basic circuitry.


March 2013: Sa Nimá trip members engage primary school students in a fun and active English lesson about colors. The group worked with each class daily for twenty minutes. The first portion of each lesson involved repeating new vocabulary followed by an engaging game in the school yard to reinforce the new vocabulary. Here they are demonstrating one of the new vocabulary words: "Red".


August 2012: During the after school camps, Sa Nimá organized fun, educational activities for the children. Sa Nimá members and CasaSito staff taught the students how to make paper airplanes. The students then used their own design strategies to see which plane could fly the farthest. This activity allowed students to use creativity and problem solving skills in a learning environment.


February 2012: Sa Nimá members worked with CasaSito to assist in dinámicos, or icebreakers, in the middle school. The particular activity in this photo encouraged students to go outside of their comfort zone and partner with peers they may not usually speak with. The dinámicos encouraged the students to voice their own opinions during the activities, so they would similarly express their ideas in class.


May 2011: Sa Nimá Collaborative met with established organizations in Guatemala such as the Peace Corps and Hug It Forward. In this photo, a school was being built. The main walls of the building were constructed using plastic bottles filled with wrappers, plastic, and other trash. The bottles were then tied to chicken wire in panels, and once this was done, three layers of cement are applied on top of the bottles. This project taught students the value of local sustainability, while also reducing the cost of building their new school.


May 2010: Sa Nimá members worked with elementary school students to paint a colorful mural on the school building. The mural was a map of Guatemala and included important landmarks along with the community of Samox San Lucas, where the school is located. The mural of Guatemala encouraged the teachers and students to paint more images on the school in late 2011.


May 2009: Sa Nimá Collaborative formed a relationship with CasaSito, a local NGO. CasaSito staff identified community members in Samox San Lucas expressed interest in improving water quality. We adapted the BioSand Water Filter design we previously used in the Dominican Republic. By the end of this trip, two filters for the elementary and middle schools were built. We also held workshops where students and adults conducted water quality tests comparing unfiltered water from the river to filtered water.

Our Team

Tracey Fu
Domestic Director
Class of 2015
B.A. Public Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Emilee Lewis
Internal Director
Class of 2016
B.A. Political Science, College of Literature Science and the Arts

Keya Patel
External Director
Class of 2015
B.S. International Studies, College of Literature Science and the Arts

Raeanna Jacobsen
General Meetings Coordinator
Class of 2015
B.A. Communications, College of Literature Science and the Arts

Rachel Thompson:
Engineering Project Team Leader
Class of 2015
B.S.E. Civil Engineering, College of Engineering

Anirudh (Vinny) Vinnakota
Education Project Team Leader
Class of 2014
B.S.E. Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering

Our History

In 2002, we began as an inter-campus initiative founded by medical students. Our aim was to promote social responsibility in healthcare workers through the exploration of international health issues. Sa Nimá Collaborative was a component of the student alliance GlobalREACH, whose mission was to facilitate health research, education, and collaboration. Until 2008, Sa Nimá Collaborative worked with a small village of 1400 people called Rancho al Medio in the Dominican Republic. The population of Rancho al Medio consists largely of women, children, and the elderly. During our time in Rancho al Medio, we saw the community gain widespread access to electricity, become educated about water-related health issues, develop a neighborhood association, and begin construction of pipelines to bring running water to houses throughout the community.

Since 2009, we have worked in Samox San Lucas, a rural community in Guatemala with a population of approximately 550 people. Our relationship within the community becomes stronger each year as we learn more about their culture. In the past we have done projects involving the construction of a biosand water filter, painting a mural of Guatemala and decorating the school, putting on educational after-school camps, holding health workshops, and having engineering and science based activities for the elementary school students. Sa Nimá Collaborative's in-country partner is CasaSito, an NGO based in Antigua, Guatemala that serves several rural Guatemalan communities through cultural activities and educational opportunities.

In the past years, Sa Nimá Collaborative has been comprised of students from the U-M School of Medicine, School of Public Health, College of Engineering, and the School of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts (LSA). Currently our membership contains students from the School of Social Work, the School of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts (LSA), Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the College of Engineering. Regardless of academic background, our organization challenges students to explore and to create unique solutions to global problems. It provides our members with an opportunity to implement these solutions from start to finish. We look for students from a wide variety of backgrounds to join Sa Nimá Collaborative, because we believe the development service work that our organization takes part in is applicable to all fields.

Our goal is to collaborate with the residents of the communities where we work, in order to improve their living conditions through hard work and innovation. The relationship between the students in our organization and the community is meant to be symbiotic, and the benefits should be shared fifty-fifty. We aim to develop leaders within our own organization as well as in the communities we work with. As Sa Nimá Collaborative expands to include more domestic and international efforts our ultimate goal remains the same: to create sustainable change.

Interested in Joining?

Sa Nimá Collaborative has many leadership roles ranging from international project directors, to finances, tointernational communication. We look for dedicated, passionate, self-motivated individuals to be members and leaders within our organization.

Our meetings take place on Tuesdays from 7:00 - 8:30 PM (1046 DANA), and our Winter mass meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 28th (1046 DANA).

Please contact Keya Patel at sanima-contact@umich.edu with any questions or if you would like more information about Sa Nimá Collaborative. Also, check out our Facebook page and our blog for updates, news, and photos.