University of South Carolina

Will Payne

What I Did This Summer: Study ways to help impoverished African families

"What I Did This Summer" follows a number of University of South Carolina students this summer as they work, travel, and explore the world. Many of them are blogging about their adventures. This is the fourth story in the series.

Check out Will Payne's blog at

Will Payne is spending six weeks this summer in Lesotho (lee-soo-too), a landlocked country in southern Africa. He is evaluating the effectiveness of a new UNICEF grant program. 

"My overall goal is to see how a project goes from theory to implementation," said Payne, a political science junior from Cincinnati, Ohio, "and to see if it works the way it is intended to -- if it relieves the symptoms of extreme poverty."

The UNICEF program is a pilot project that gives cash grants to families with kids living in extreme poverty.

Will Payne
Will Payne

"It's a cash disbursal to make sure families in shock-induced or extreme poverty can pay for critical things their kids need, like food or medical care," he said.

"I have done research on other grants, but this program is different: the money is given unconditionally. There are no stipulations attached. It doesn't have to be spent on a community center, or clothes, or dental care, for example. The theory behind it is that these families know what they need more than anyone else does."

Lesotho, explained Payne, is an extremely poor country.

"Almost 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty level, and the next 45 percent is unemployed," said Payne, whose minor is African studies. 

"Life expectancy is only 40 years. The country is very small and completely encircled by South Africa. They have very limited opportunities geographically and economically with what they can do there. Clearly, as far as countries go, Lesotho has some serious issues when it comes to poverty and public health."

Ed Carr
Ed Carr

To fund his trip and his research, Payne applied for and received a competitive grant from the University's Magellan Scholar program, as well as a grant from the the Walker Institute of International and Area Studies in the Department of History.

He was able to examine the UNICEF pilot program thanks to contacts he has within that organization. He also credits Dr. Ed Carr, an associate professor in geography, with being "extremely helpful in getting the trip together."

Payne's research in Lesotho will give him insight into how successful grant programs are created, organized, and run -- invaluable knowledge, considering his career goals.

"I plan to go to graduate school," he said. "I'm interested in public policy programs, and I'd like to work with either government or nonprofit organizations in the areas of urban development or education."

By Web Communications

Posted: 06/15/10 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 12/09/10 @ 3:40 PM | Permalink