Janine Selendy is what one might call an “accidental altruist.” Early in her teen years, she came face-to-face with the astonishingly poor living conditions faced by people living in Iran. This pivotal experience led Selendy away from her intended career in diplomacy and into a very busy life aimed at changing people’s lives at the level of their basic needs.
Selendy initially set out to become a doctor, and she soon began to participate in environmental health work such as the cleanup of PCBs in the Hudson river. However, the more she interacted with scientific literature, the more frustrated she became that the literature seemed filled only with negatives and problems, yet rarely addressed solutions or emphasized what was already being done about these problems.
To fill this gap, Selendy founded Horizon International, a non-profit organization based at Yale University which addresses health, environmental and poverty issues. In an era before the internet, Selendy also capitalized on the power of television to enlighten and inform a wider audience on these important issues, and to date she and her team have produced over twenty documentaries.
Next, Selendy and the leaders of Horizon International also sought and received funding from the National Science Foundation to create a program that would provide educational games and multimedia for young people. They named this website “Magic Porthole” because, “if you come in here, you don’t know what you’re going to find next!”
Amidst all of this activity, Selendy has also managed to find the time to edit a book, Water and Sanitation Related Diseases and the Environment: Challenges, Interventions and Preventive Measures, which will be published by Wiley next month (July 2011). The book chapters are authored by an array of high-profile scientists and public health leaders and cover topics that range from “water and war” to “diarrhea and nutrition.”
Selendy discusses her history, work, and aspirations in live interview hosted on the website VoiceAmerica.com. Listen and download the MP3 here.
Read a more detailed biography of Selendy here.
Find out more about Selendy’s book here.