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5 Years of 501c3 !

Thank you for being part of the story!

TIFO was founded by Margrit von Braun and Ian von Lindern as the humanitarian nonprofit successor to their Moscow-based engineering firm, TerraGraphics Environmental Engineering. We received tax-exempt status in 2013. Since then, we’ve worked on projects in 4 countries from Africa to central and southeast Asia and collaborated with dozens of other NGOs and experts from around the globe.

Below you can find updates on our ongoing projects around the world, including our featured project in Kyrgyzstan. And you can always find more information on our website and follow us on facebook and instagram.
Featured Project:

Environmental Health in Batken, Kyrgyzstan
Khaidarken town below the Soviet-era mercury mine and smelter.
TIFO is partnering with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) to assess risks associated with Soviet-era mining and smelting operations in Kyrgyzstan. The collaborative effort started in 2016 and is evolving to include the local and national leadership in a community health risk assessment. TIFO is also supporting MSF in managing health and safety protocols for their staff who live and work in the region.
TIFO visited Batken in July - read more about the ongoing work below.
Ongoing Projects
Three TIFO staff at the Abuja, Nigeria Conference
Nigeria Community Engagement May 2018
TOP: Marc Nascarella (Massachusetts Dept Public Health/TIFO), Casey Bartrem (TIFO), Olivia Collet (MSF), Ian von Lindern (TIFO), and Margrit von Braun (TIFO) at the MSF-Geneva office during the April 2018 Environmental Health & Risk Assessment Workshop. BOTTOM LEFT: Margrit von Braun (TIFO), Simba Tirima (TIFO/MSF), and Casey Bartrem (TIFO) at the 2nd International Conference on Lead Poisoning in Abuja, Nigeria. BOTTOM RIGHT: Meeting with community leaders in Dareta Village, Zamfara State, Nigeria to discuss maintenance of local institutional controls programs to prevent lead poisoning.
Becky Witinok-Huber updating the community map on the outskirts of Khaidarken Town, Batken Kyrgyzstan (July 2018).
Summer 2018 Kyrgyzstan
Field Activities
This year, TIFO visited Batken to begin developing base maps for future risk assessment work and support an MSF pilot project  related to seismic risk. Batken is one of the most seismically active regions of the world; in partnership with the International Center of Earth Simulation (ICES) and MSF, TIFO is contributing valuable information on chemical composition of wastes that could potentially be released into communities following an earthquake.

TIFO volunteer Becky Witinok-Huber, a University of Idaho IGERT Fellow, assisted with sample collection and mapping activities.

Becky is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Water Resources at University of Idaho. She specializes in community-based and interdisciplinary approaches that address dynamic, multi-scalar problems. She has worked in central Kenya, rural Liberia, and with Native American tribes in the US. In reflecting on her experience with TIFO, Becky said:

"One of the many reasons I accepted the opportunity to volunteer in Kyrgyzstan was to learn more about strategies that incorporate physical and social research to address problems from the community level up. I was, and am even more-so now, impressed by the community-based approach that TIFO applies.
Highlights of the experience were the use of cutting-edge soil and air testing equipment, learning about the legacy impacts of mining in different geologic settings, and working alongside seismologic, landslide, GIS, and health experts. Additionally, I listened to the stories of our interpreters as we walked in the community, used OpenStreetMap to create community base maps, and experienced impromptu wedding celebrations and tea times with locals – all of which allowed me to see the efforts to incorporate local knowledge into the projects.
It was interesting to see the full breadth of the Kyrgyzstan project process. I realized that it takes time, patience, long-term partnerships, and continuous effort to carry out this work.
My experience and the lessons I learned about environmental health work and cross-cultural, inter-disciplinary projects will help me moving forward with my Ph.D. and career path. I came away with new skills, mentorship, a wonderful cross-cultural experience, and felt that I contributed to a larger mission. I look forward to seeing this project move forward and working with TIFO on future projects."

TIFO will return to Batken for more risk assessment work this fall.

Becky working on community mapping in
Khaidarken, Kyrgyzstan.

"I listened to the stories of our interpreters as we walked in the community, created community base maps for risk assessment, and experienced impromptu wedding celebrations and tea times with locals – all of which allowed me to see the efforts to incorporate local knowledge into the projects."

— Becky Witinok-Huber

Working in the community included an impromptu
invitation to join a wedding celebration in
Khaidarken, Kyrgyzstan.

Becky and Casey collecting water samples at
a mining site in Khaidarken, Kyrgyzstan.
(Photo: Isakbek Torgoev)
TIFO's 2018 Environmental Health/Risk Assessment course in Yerevan coincided with Armenia’s Velvet Revolution, when the streets were filled with thousands of people protesting a corrupt, authoritarian government (May 2018).
Environmental Health and the
Velvet Revolution
Since 2012, TIFO personnel have taught Environmental Health and Risk Assessment for Master of Public Health students at American University of Armenia’s School of Public Health. The 2018 course was exceptional because it coincided with Armenia’s Velvet Revolution. Almost every day the streets were filled with tens to hundreds of thousands of people. Margrit von Braun, TIFO co-founder and course instructor, stayed a block from Republic Square, ground zero of the revolution. She observed marchers young and old, wrapped in orange/blue/red flags, honking horns, singing, beating on cook pots, blocking streets and full of happiness in support of opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan’s “The Way Out Alliance.

On May 2, the students wrote Margrit: “
We are writing to inform you about our decision not to attend the class today. We understand that you have left other activities and came to teach us, and we are very grateful to you. However, the situation in our country has escalated to the point, that... As active citizens of our country, we think that we should do everything to make the government hear our voice...”  Margrit said she had "never been prouder to cancel class."

The demonstrations were peaceful and no one was injured in the 3 weeks of demonstrations. At night, the Square was quiet while students cleaned litter to avoid overloading the city cleaning crews. Pashinyan was elected Prime Minister on May 8th, Margrit's birthday. 

Photo of 2018 protests:
Ararat Institute for Near Eastern Studies

"I’m sure I learned, re-learned and remembered more about peaceful revolution than the MPH students learned about risk assessment! Here’s wishing Armenia a bright future!"

— Margrit von Braun


Margrit von Braun with MPH Students, faculty, and staff at American University of Armenia
- May, 2018.
Dr. Simba Tirima (TIFO Field Operations and MSF Deputy Head of Mission) explaining lead poisoning in a promotional video at the 2nd International Conference on Lead Poisoning in Abuja, Nigeria (June 2018).

Second International Conference
on Lead Poisoning

“Rethink and refocus [our] commitment and strategy to protect lives of vulnerable children.”              

— Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of Nigeria


You can watch the VP's speech here!
TIFO was honored to participate in the 2nd International Conference on Lead Poisoning in June in Abuja, Nigeria, where delegates presented on past and on-going work in villages impacted by lead poisoning associated with artisanal gold mining. The conference was opened by the Vice President of Nigeria, who stated that “No country should have to pay for its economic prosperity and development with the lives and well-being of its people.”

TIFO has worked in Nigeria since the outbreak was first discovered in May 2010. Margrit von Braun, Ian von Lindern, and Casey Bartrem were invited to give presentations at the event. We are encouraged to see the momentum resulting from the conference. The environmental health response continues to be a truly interdisciplinary project, with monumental efforts by local and international experts in medicine, environment, and safer mining. Read more about ongoing work in Nigeria below.
Sagir Aliyu (Zamfara State Environmental Sanitation Agency) and Aliyu Abudullahi (Bagega District) sample a home to verify self-remediation work in Zamfara, Nigeria (May, 2018).
Nigeria Lead Poisoning Response:
Project Follow-up and Sustainability
In northern Nigeria, international and Nigerian partners have successfully remediated over 900 homes across 10 villages in 2 states. This has allowed MSF to treat more than 5000 children for lead poisoning. But environmental health responses do not end when landfills are closed and medical treatment is complete. TIFO is working with local, state, and federal Nigeria authorities and international partners to assess long term project sustainability challenges in the remediated villages.

Recontamination and elevated blood lead levels have been identified in some of these communities. Identifying and understanding the complex reasons for these issues is only one piece of the long-term support needed; locally developed and implemented Institutional Controls Programs are a vital piece of the response. These programs include local regulation of artisanal mining activities and support from state and federal governments to monitor and fund surveillance and corrective actions as needed.

TIFO continues to support these institutions as they develop and implement Institutional Controls Programs to ensure long-term project sustainability.
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TerraGraphics International Foundation (TIFO)
121 S Jackson Street
Moscow, ID 83843

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TerraGraphics International Foundation (TIFO) · 121 S Jackson Street · Moscow, ID 83843 · USA

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