Volunteering in the Heart of Peru

I spent two weeks in the heart of the Sacred Valley in I spent two weeks in the heart of the Sacred Valley in Peru. For my first week, I was volunteering in the village of Misminay building a greenhouse for a family. I was one of two teams building greenhouses. The second week I was in Peru, was spend learning about the culture of the country and enjoying the adventurous excursions.

After my trip to Peru, I noticed that I am more aware of those that are less fortunate than me. During my two weeks in Peru, we were submerged in the lower, power class of citizens. We stayed in the poorer hostels, connected with the families in our poor village. It made me very aware of how fortunate I am in my life here in the United States. During my trip I was constantly in a position were I was helping others. By simply purchasing something from the market, I was helping that merchant. By building a green house for the village family, I was able to help them have access to food year round. Here at home, I am no longer in a position where I can easily help others. I find myself seeking out opportunities to help those less fortunate than me. I find that I want to help more than I did before my trip.

I have also renewed my dedication to my studies here at OSU. There are not many students that are so fortunate enough to have their entire schooling paid for. After returning from my trip I have become more humbled and ashamed for how I spent my first two years simply “being here” as a student instead of utilizing the tools I’ve been given here on campus.

During my stay in Misminay, we interacted daily with the families we were helping. They spoke to us often about their struggles with food with shelter with money. It was a very hard situation to be put in as I listened to these people talk, while I took pictures of the scenery with my iPhone. The children and parents would go days wearing the same holed filled, dirty clothes without showering or changing their clothes. They would have dirt caked on their feet and and hands for multiple days. Knowing that they did not have access to abundant amounts of water like we do in the U.S. was a hard realization. The people in the village were the biggest impact on me and my change that I see in myself since coming back. I was able to experience the poor living conditions of people first hand, and not from a picture or a short video, it was for several days of face to face interactions.

The members of my volunteer group also influenced my greatly. We all experience the same thing while working in the village and all had varying degrees of impactfulness. We spent hours reflecting on what we saw and heard and did. After all of these reflection, we, as a group, decided to give larger than normal donations to our village families in order to give them as much as we could since we feel we had more than we needed and they didn’t even have the bare minimum of what was needed.

Our guide, Yieber was also a great influence on me. We spent hours in the ancient city of Machu Picchu. During our time there, Yieber gave us a for informal but informative lecture of the culture of his small village of Maras, (about twenty minutes from Misminay) and of the culture of the people of Peru. He spoke of worship to the mountains and mother nature and the rivers. The people of Peru are constantly giving back to mother nature since it is she that they take their resources from. There are always ceremonies, alters made, prayers said, and symbols worn. Most famously is the chakana, or Incan Cross. This symbolf of Peru culture is the very definition of how the Peruvians try to live their lives and treat those around them. Yieber became so overwhelmed with emotion while talking about this subject that it made the influence that much more meaningful. While the people of Peru do not live in fancy houses or drive cars or have iPhones, they do respect each other as human beings, and they take care of their mother earth. If they can live this way with nothing, why can’t I live this way when I am fortunate to have more than them?

I plan on carrying this thought into my career plans. I plan on continuing on to the financial industry. With my own successes, I plan on helping others to find their own success and to make sure others succeed in living the way they want and have earned, much like the people I met in Misminay and Cuzco.

Peru. For my first week, I was volunteering in the village of Misminay building a greenhouse for a family. I was one of two teams building greenhouses. The second week I was in Peru, was spend learning about the culture of the country and enjoying the adventurous excursions.

After my trip to Peru, I noticed that I am more aware of those that are less fortunate than me. During my two weeks in Peru, we were submerged in the lower, power class of citizens. We stayed in the poorer hostels, connected with the families in our poor village. It made me very aware of how fortunate I am in my life here in the United States. During my trip I was constantly in a position were I was helping others. By simply purchasing something from the market, I was helping that merchant. By building a green house for the village family, I was able to help them have access to food year round. Here at home, I am no longer in a position where I can easily help others. I find myself seeking out opportunities to help those less fortunate than me. I find that I want to help more than I did before my trip.

I have also renewed my dedication to my studies here at OSU. There are not many students that are so fortunate enough to have their entire schooling paid for. After returning from my trip I have become more humbled and ashamed for how I spent my first two years simply “being here” as a student instead of utilizing the tools I’ve been given here on campus.

During my stay in Misminay, we interacted daily with the families we were helping. They spoke to us often about their struggles with food with shelter with money. It was a very hard situation to be put in as I listened to these people talk, while I took pictures of the scenery with my iPhone. The children and parents would go days wearing the same holed filled, dirty clothes without showering or changing their clothes. They would have dirt caked on their feet and and hands for multiple days. Knowing that they did not have access to abundant amounts of water like we do in the U.S. was a hard realization. The people in the village were the biggest impact on me and my change that I see in myself since coming back. I was able to experience the poor living conditions of people first hand, and not from a picture or a short video, it was for several days of face to face interactions.

The members of my volunteer group also influenced my greatly. We all experience the same thing while working in the village and all had varying degrees of impactfulness. We spent hours reflecting on what we saw and heard and did. After all of these reflection, we, as a group, decided to give larger than normal donations to our village families in order to give them as much as we could since we feel we had more than we needed and they didn’t even have the bare minimum of what was needed.

Our guide, Yieber was also a great influence on me. We spent hours in the ancient city of Machu Picchu. During our time there, Yieber gave us a for informal but informative lecture of the culture of his small village of Maras, (about twenty minutes from Misminay) and of the culture of the people of Peru. He spoke of worship to the mountains and mother nature and the rivers. The people of Peru are constantly giving back to mother nature since it is she that they take their resources from. There are always ceremonies, alters made, prayers said, and symbols worn. Most famously is the chakana, or Incan Cross. This symbolf of Peru culture is the very definition of how the Peruvians try to live their lives and treat those around them. Yieber became so overwhelmed with emotion while talking about this subject that it made the influence that much more meaningful. While the people of Peru do not live in fancy houses or drive cars or have iPhones, they do respect each other as human beings, and they take care of their mother earth. If they can live this way with nothing, why can’t I live this way when I am fortunate to have more than them?

I plan on carrying this thought into my career plans. I plan on continuing on to the financial industry. With my own successes, I plan on helping others to find their own success and to make sure others succeed in living the way they want and have earned, much like the people I met in Misminay and Cuzco.

Global Brigades: Nicaragua

STEP Reflection Prompts

 

As you may recall from your STEP signature project proposal, your STEP signature project was designed to foster transformational learning—that is, learning that challenged you personally and helped you gain broader and deeper understandings of yourself, others, and the world around you.  Please address the following prompts to help you reflect on your experiences completing your STEP signature project; please give careful and critical thought to your responses.

 

Name: Anna Podber

 

Type of Project: Service

 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

I went on a trip with Global Brigades to Nicaragua to provide healthcare to underprivileged communities. We sorted medications, shadowed doctors and dentists, as well as teach children basic hygiene.

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Going to Nicaragua has really expanded my view of the world. Before the trip I never went out of the country, and it is interesting to see how different our societies are. We went to a rural area where there was neither plumbing nor electricity and the floors were simply dirt. Seeing all this made me appreciate what I have back at home. Overall this trip has made me humble and appreciative.

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

In El Narajo we interacted with underprivileged communities. In these communities I felt a sense of family and involvement in each other’s lives. All the children play together and all the families look out for each other. This shows me that the community has a great trust in the adults as well as children.  In relation to America, barely anyone speaks to their neighbors or have kids playing outside alone. This makes we wish that neighbor hoods and families would take the time to know surrounding families and create an area of trust.

One project we worked on in the community was giving homes concrete floors and a sewage system. While doing this project I realized how hard it is physically to mix and pour concrete onto the dirt floors. This is a scarce resource to have, and those who are in dire need of concrete floors, the elderly and the children, are physically unable to accomplish the task. In comparison to North America, a truck and a few qualified workers could have done the task that took us three day to do, only an hour. This makes me appreciate the resources I have available in my country as well a new appreciation for flooring.

Another event we did was providing healthcare to the community. This made me see how appreciative the community is. It was surprising to see how little healthcare is obtainable. With the closest hospital is miles away with very little transportation options, health care and medicine is unavailable to most. When we came to help, the community was so grateful and happy to have us help. Seeing the community so appreciative made me realize how available healthcare is to me and how little effort it takes here in America to schedule an appointment or get medication.

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

This change in my perception of the world has made me want to help my community and others more. This experience has strengthened my motivation for becoming a physician. I realized how underprivileged some areas are. In the future I plan to go to these countries as a physician and give back to a community in need.   Teeth cleaning Pharmacy

Service Learning in Guatemala

Name: Maggie Noschang

Type of Project: Service-Learning and Community Service

As a member of The Ohio State University’s Humanitarian Engineering Program, I traveled to the area of Panajachel, Guatemala for a week over the past summer. While in country we interviewed local women and researched water filters in order to assist a local nonprofit, Mayan Families, and prepare a comparative technical report. We researched filters based on type of filter, availability in Guatemala, price, and maintenance, in order to recommend the best water filtration system that we could to be distributed to the families in the area.

This experience opened my eyes to many things.  I had never been out of the United States before, and this trip challenged and broadened my view of the world by exposing me to levels of poverty that I have only heard about. The living conditions of the Guatemalan people in the villages we visited are very different than what I had ever experienced before and it changed my perspective on poverty and its effects on people.

Clean water that is safe to drink and use immediately is a luxury that I have come accustomed to in the United States, but for many Guatemalans this is not something they have ever had the chance to experience. Many of the women whom we interviewed commented on how the water filter that they had received from the Mayan Families nonprofit was life changing for them. Originally the women had to clean their water by boiling it or not even cleaning it at all before drinking it. Once they had received their water filter, they commented on how their family wasn’t sick as much anymore. It is very unfortunate that we live in a world today that people don’t have access to some of the most basic necessities of life such as clean and safe drinking water.

I knew that the work we were doing with the water filter research was important, but I didn’t realize the magnitude of its importance until after we had begun to interview the women in the Guatemalan villages. They were so thankful for our work and our research that many of the women offered us gifts such as beaded bracelets in order to thank us. Many of the women were giving us bracelets that they could have sold for money in the markets, but instead they were willing to give it to us in order to thank us for just interviewing them. They were so appreciative of the fact that we were trying to help them that they were willing to give up something that they could have to make a living. This is something that really took me by surprise, and I will never forget.  It made me realize how I should take the time in my life to be more thankful for all that I have and that others do for me.

As well as interviewing and conducting research we also assisted other members in our group with their projects such as STEM education lessons in the preschools and installing cook stoves in many homes. One thing that stood out to me was the fact that the indigenous children of Guatemala are already at a disadvantage before they even enter school at the preschool level. Since many of their parents only speak the indigenous Mayan language and not much Spanish, the children only know the same. However, the government run kindergarten classrooms are taught in Spanish. As a result, the indigenous children are more likely to fail their first year in school, and the young girls were even more likely to make it through less schooling than the boys in the long run because they are needed in the home. The education system in Guatemala is very different than the education system in the United States, and it made me appreciate the value of my education because many young women don’t have access to the education that I have been able to receive.

This experience helped me to realize that I as an engineering student with the technical experience and education that I have received through The Ohio State University can apply my knowledge to help improve the lives of others.  I have always been interested in humanitarian engineering, or the division of engineering that addresses and solves problems that improve the lives of people. It is a type of engineering that often serves marginalized people in order to improve their welfare and quality of living. This experience helped me to reaffirm that I want to continue my humanitarian engineering effort as a big part of my future and career.

 

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Service-Learning in Panajachel, Guatemala

Name: Taylor Ware

Type of Project: Service-Learning and Community Service

I participated in a service-learning trip organized through my scholars program, Humanitarian Engineering Scholars to Panajachel, Guatemala for a one-week immersion experience in June. During our time in Panajachel, we worked with a small, nonprofit organization called Mayan Families. We helped Mayan Families with a wide range of projects, such as comparative studies in water filtration, cook stoves, and solar lights, grey water treatment, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. I focused mainly on K-12 STEM education. By bringing STEM education to Guatemala, I hoped to get young children excited about science and math. By exposing them to the field of engineering, I also hoped to inspire some to pursue degrees in the STEM field.

In completion of my STEP Signature Project, I would not say that my view of the world was changed/transformed because I was already aware of these things going on around the world. I will say that my understanding of these things did become deeper and clearer though. My realization of how privileged and fortunate I am grew greater. In addition, this trip reminded me of how many things I take for granted, especially the small things like clean water and a bed to sleep in every night. This trip encouraged me to be thankful for the things I have especially the small things because someone out there doesn’t have them and would be more than happy to have these things.

Being thrown into a new culture with different languages, traditions, ideas, and people was very challenging, but it helped deepen my views on the world, specifically other countries around me. Experiencing a new culture like this forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and exposed me to a different way of life. In addition, considering that Guatemala is a third world country and over half of the country is living in poverty I was able to realize how privileged I am and how many things I take for granted, especially the small things. For example, most families we visited only had one bed. These families were typically made up of the parents, three to four children, and sometimes the grandparents. Most times, these large families would all sleep in one bed or sometimes the children would have to sleep on the floor. This helped me realize how I take such small things for granted like having a bed. This definitely helped change my perspective on life.

In addition, I realized that the people who have the least are always willing to give the most. It is amazing to say how many people in America have so much, but aren’t even willing to lend a dollar to a friend. In Guatemala, some members of my group interviewed a woman to see how she felt about certain products in her home, such as a water filter, solar light, and her cook stove. At the end of the interview our group offered her some flashlights and small things just to thank her for her time. Later that day, the woman found us and gave our entire group homemade bracelets that she sells in order to make a living for free. She was also willing to sell us additional bracelets at a discounted price. It was very moving to witness this woman’s selflessness and how she was willing to give these bracelets to us for free when it was very possible that she may not even have enough money to pay for her next meal.

Overall, it was very transformational to just witness the living conditions that most Guatemalans lived in. I believe it was even more transformational to see how happy most Guatemalans were. Just walking around in Guatemala, you never failed to see a smiling face and someone waving to you just to say hello. I feel like often times in America, people are not very friendly and are often frowning or rude to people that they do not even know. It’s a shame that having less makes you more grateful for your life and a happier person. This made me realize that materialistic things do not make your life better, but they seem to make you forget how grateful you are.

The service-learning trip to Panajachel, Guatemala has greatly impacted my life. It has helped me find my passion and encouraged me to stay focused in pursuing my passion. This passion is to help people, whether they be in the same country as me or in a third world country far away from me. I want to have an impact on someone and their life directly.

In addition, the trip has definitely had major academic impacts on my life, especially regarding my major. During my time in Guatemala, Mayan Families expressed that they have a great need for nurses and doctors. Majority of the indigenous people in Guatemala are malnourished and also do not have access to proper healthcare. This has inspired me to change my major from Engineering to Biology. There are lots of advancements in engineering and its connection with third world countries. Therefore, I plan to major in Biology where I can learn more about nutrition and the proper nutrients that people need. This could also be a gateway to studying nursing. I hope to finish my education and return to Guatemala in the future and work with Mayan Families once again.

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STEP Community Service Project SU15

Physician’s Free Clinic and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Ashley Gregory 

Volunteering has always been a major part of both my personal and academic lifestyle. This past summer, I decided to continue my volunteer work through multiple medical establishments in Columbus to further immerse myself in the medical world, while helping my community in any way that I could. To do so, I was a volunteer at the Physician’s Free Clinic in Columbus, which is a clinic offered to those without insurance who cannot afford necessary medical care for themselves and their families. At the Physician’s Free Clinic, I helped with various clerical activities and various tasks to provide a smooth and timely flow in the office so patients could be accommodated the best we could offer. I also translated French for those patients who needed help communicating with the health care professionals and staff of PFC. In addition to this clinic, I also volunteered at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in University Health Services and the Sleep Lab at University Hospital East, doing various clerical tasks to help the staff members throughout the summer. Below are some photos of the clerical work and office duties I did during my volunteering.

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Through my STEP experience, I noticed my understanding of myself and my overall perception and view of the world change at different stages in the process. In the beginning, I was nervous because I was placed in situations and environments I had never been in before as a volunteer. Especially at the Physician’s Free Clinic, I was exposed to people and issues that I had never encountered, which ultimately changed how I viewed the world. I became more understanding and empathetic, as I was able to see the reality that many people in the community of Columbus face. Along with this, I was able to gain a better understanding of exactly what I wanted to do with my future career in the medical / dental field, which also provided me with a sense of purpose and motivation to continue to work hard to achieve my goals.

As the summer progressed, I formed relationships with the staff members, my fellow volunteers, and even the patients at each volunteer / clinic location. Below is a picture of a fellow Buckeye undergraduate, Jany, who I met while volunteering at PFC. Jany and I were both considering our futures in the medical field, and it was interesting to bounce ideas of future plans off of each other to broaden our horizons. I was also able to interact with various staff members who had already completed their undergraduate, graduate, or even medical and dental educations, who were all able to give helpful advice on our futures. The other undergraduates that I volunteered with and I are still friends to this day, so it’s safe to say volunteering this summer gave me very valuable friendships I wouldn’t have gained otherwise.

Jany

My interactions with patients were more rewarding than I ever could have imagined, as I was able to learn about their backgrounds and viewpoints over the time I spent with them. People at the Physician’s Free Clinic were from many different parts of the world, including South America, Africa, Russia, Europe, and even Asia. I was able to learn about their native countries, languages, and customs, all while helping them get the health care they needed. Over the course of the entire summer, regular patients and I learned more about each other, which made the entire experience more comfortable for them and thus, more rewarding for me. Seeing my work directly affect and benefit those around me was very satisfying, and made it so easy for me to continue volunteering my time and effort all summer.

One activity that was definitely just as unexpected as it was rewarding was translating French for native French speakers in the clinic. I was able to help these patients communicate, which was comforting to them and helped facilitate the flow of the entire clinic as a whole. I was able to brush up on my French language skills, while also providing a helpful environment to those in need at the time. I was glad I was able to help the patients in a unique way to make them feel more comfortable to communicate.

Lastly, I was able to see the clerical work that goes into hospitals, clinics, and doctor / dentist offices by completing large quantities of paperwork at my Ohio State Wexner Medical Center volunteer locations. I was also able to shadow the staff members to view the public health aspect of the Physician’s Free Clinic. There, I saw just how much effort goes into caring for the patients that the volunteer doctors see. I made phone calls to patients to remind them of their future appointments and to take their medications. The aid that the clinic and that the Wexner Medical Center provide to their patients is so much more than I expected, and it was very eye opening.

Through all of these key factors of my volunteer experience, I was able to gain a better understanding of my community of Columbus and all of the different people who belong to it. My eyes were opened to the struggles people face on a daily basis and how they cope with it in a positive way. I became more empathetic and understanding of their problems and I genuinely wanted to help them as much as I could through my volunteer positions. Being exposed to a medical environment all summer made me realize I definitely do want to pursue a career in the medical field, and more specifically, in a profession in dentistry. I feel as motivated as ever to pursue my passion in my career, while continuing to volunteer throughout my self-establishment. These various volunteer positions also solidified my desire and goal to keep volunteering a part of my life into adulthood and even past when I am settled with my career. Serving the public has been so rewarding for me and I plan to continue to affect my community in a positive way to the best of my ability throughout the rest of my life.

 

Buck-I-Serv Service Project: Antigua, Guatemala

1) Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

My international service project in Guatemala was an opportunity provided by Buck-I-Serv. Through a nonprofit by the name of HANDS, we were connected with an organization that we worked in collaboration with to serve a less fortunate community in Guatemala. This project consisted of building houses with resistive roofs, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms.

 

2) What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

My assumptions and views of the world were drastically transformed by the experiences and people that I encountered. It was such a refreshing feeling to be among a community whose primary concerns had nothing to do with monetary values. Growing up in America, it is so easy to become swept off of your feet in a sense of forgetting what is really important. The American society revolves around and is completely unable to function without the constant flow of currency and it has gotten to the point where spending quality time with your family or sitting together at a table to eat a meal is almost abnormal. This community was definitely a reminder of what I truly value in my life; the things that cannot be replaced or bought.

 

3) What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

The greatest part of this trip for me was the interactions that I had with the family that we were building a home for. Upon entering the country, I was very nervous about the language barrier because Guatemala is a spanish speaking country and I have not learned much Spanish, but this language barrier seemed to make the relationships I gained even more meaningful. I was unaware that the children in this country were being taught English in school and everyday the oldest child of the family would run home to show me what new English words he had learned. This family took so much pride in having Americans there to help them, I could only imagine how the young boy went to school and bragged of the work that we were doing.

In the personal statement of the proposal that I wrote for this trip, I said that “although I would be giving back and helping families in less fortunate situations, they would also be giving back to me” and this idea was definitely proven to be true. The young boy was not the only one who was extremely excited about being able to show off the new language he had learned. The parents’ face would light up as a huge smile spread across it when I or a trip mate attempted to say something to them in their spanish (even if it was brutally butchered) because it didn’t matter that we were saying things completely wrong. What mattered is that we wanted to make an effort to get to know them and to share that moment. These are moments that I will always remember and they are usually the first thing that I bring up when someone asks me what I gained from my trip.

Because Guatemala is a very poverty stricken country, there is, of course, little to no use of technology. The typical American child would have an anxiety attack at the idea of growing up with no television, cell phone, or computer, but I can remember a time before all of these things were prominent and this is what Guatemala reminds me of. The children of the family we built for did not park themselves in front of a screen for hours at a time, they barely even had any toys. For entertainment purposes, they would do things like sit in a circle together while singing or telling stories. There was actual structure to these families that included communication that ran deeper than text messages and social media. Not only did they not having any of the items that are considered to be so precious to the American society, but they were the happiest group of people that I have ever encountered in my entire life. They focused solely on the things that made them happy and it seemed as though they could not have been happier or healthier. This is when I begin to think deeper about the things that were “important” to me. The only things that deserve even half of the energy that I give are the things that cannot be replaced.

 

4) Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

This transformation has and always will be important to me because I have developed a completely different outlook on life. I am working to spend less time trying to control things that are not important and that cannot be controlled. Life is entirely too short for me to leave this Earth saying that most of my life has revolved around the wrong things. A person is much more at peace when they only have time and energy to focus on the things that really count in the long run.

 

 

Grace Ferguson STEP Service Experience, Australia

Grace Ferguson

Leadership and Service Learning in Australia

My STEP experience took me to the other side of the world to experience the benefits of service and engaging leadership with peers, while learning about a new culture first hand. For more than three weeks, I was incredibly fortunate to travel to various areas of Australia, including the impoverished and neglected Outback. It was in Alice Springs, the center of the vast and barren continent that our service and engagement with the country started. Our day-to-day interactions with aboriginal tribes, and citizens of the Australian Desert opened my eyes and mind to a world unlike my own, with people so very similar to myself.

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This trip pushed me out of my comfort zone in a number of ways. Throughout the trip we were tasked with leading our group on hikes, through the airport, or just to dinner. But guiding a group of 22 strangers through  strange country is not an easy feat. By taking on this responsibility I pushed myself as a leader in ways I couldn’t have in the United States. I was able to navigate in a strange city, far away from my home by finding my leadership style and adjusting it for the situation and group I was given. I am so very grateful for the opportunity to further develop my leadership qualities. In addition, forcing myself to stay in new areas and fully experience new things and places allowed me to experience a side of life that I so greatly enjoy. It is much easier to stay in my comfort zone, but it is much better (and more fun) to experience life! I now feel more comfortable traveling and seeing the world!

This project was the first time I had seriously interacted with a native tribe of any kind. I was given the opportunity to learn about, interact with, and understand the problems surrounding the Aboriginal People of the Australian Outback and some of the problems they have faced. Primarily, I was given a first hand look at the severe displacement and discrimination these people have faced. Forced from their home after British Colonizers landed in Sydney, the Aboriginal people have been mistreated and neglected since. To this day, the people of Aboriginal descent are still looked down upon by the rest of the Australian Population. I witnessed the severe mistreatment that has led the Aboriginal people to have far worse health outcomes, extremely higher rates of unemployment, and devastating rates of alcoholism. Seeing the effects of racism and systemic mistreatment towards a population has led me to have further faith in my major and my designated career choice. My classes, in the College of Public Health, routinely discuss the impacts that continual racism and systemic discrimination can have on a population, but seeing it in person allowed me to take what I have learned and apply it in a practical sense. By witnessing systemic racism, I am better able to understand the difficulties are society is facing on a global scale, in addition to some of the ways that we can work to fix them.

In addition, I saw the systemic poverty afflicting these areas of Australia and the work that was being done to correct it. Many of the tactics and plans put in place were similar to one I had studied at Ohio State or were learning about in my classes. It was incredibly insightful and interesting to see these dynamic, multi-faceted plans supported by sociological and public health institutions in place. This experience further helped to reinforce my love of public health and preventative programs.

 

However, seeing these people suffering and in pain made me uncomfortable and out of place. At first I was nervous, shaken, and displaced. It took me time to realize that being uncomfortable was the purpose of the trip. By witnessing the inequities in our world and accepting that many people live in poverty and poor situations, I was able to put my self in this position, and grow from it. I am now much more comfortable in difficult situations, and feel more confident in my skills and abilities to work with discriminated populations. This trip helped me find a part of myself that wants to empower unequal populations and help to lift them up. My experiences with the Aboriginal Populations of Australia has helped to transform me into a much more courageous, confident, and outgoing person.

My desired career path, an advocate for Global health and wellness, will find me in a variety of uncomfortable and difficult positions. If I don’t learn how to deal with these and accept them, I will not be successful. This trip helped to prepare me for my future and many of the difficult topics I know I will be faced with in my career.  My making a change to a much more confident person, I feel better prepared to enter my career field and tackle new and more challenging topics than before.

I am so grateful for my experience and the lessons I learned while in Australia. I truly believe that my time in Australia has helped to shape me into a more confident person that is willing, ready, and able to tackle the Global Health and Inequality Issues of the world. Leaving my comfort zone, experiencing uncomfortable situations, and processing those situations, are life lessons I could not have learned anywhere else. The lessons I have learned from the Australian Culture, Aboriginal People are ones that will stay with me forever.

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MEDLIFE – Lima, Peru

For my project, I volunteered in mobile health clinics in Lima, Peru through MEDLIFE. MEDLIFE is a nonprofit organization that strives to provide access to healthcare to low-income families. My project took place from May 30, 2015 to June 7, 2015. During the trip the volunteer group was split into smaller groups. Each group would spend one day working on the developmental project and three days volunteering in pop-up health clinics in different villages shadowing local doctors, pharmacists, and dentists. In the mobile clinics I was able to help the pharmacist fill prescriptions and organize the medication and assisted the dentist in filling cavities. In Lima, the main developmental project is staircase building. Staircases are needed in regions with steep terrains, and construction of improved staircases greatly reduces the number of health problems related to stair related accidents. In addition to the mobile clinics and developmental projects, the MEDLIFE group leaders gave us a “Reality Tour” to show the harsh living conditions the low-income families face. These families not only have limited access to not only proper healthcare, but also to basics needs such as steady electricity and clean drinking water. In addition to volunteering, we were able to experience the culture of Lima as we explored the city in the afternoons after working in the mobile clinics. On the weekend, the group took a tour to Paracas where we took a boat ride around Ballestas Islands to see sea lions and marine birds and rode dune buggies through the sand dunes in Huacachina.

Working on a staircase project

Working on a staircase project

Mobile clinic- Pharmacy Table

Mobile clinic- Pharmacy Table

Through this trip and MEDLIFE, I learned that to make a lasting impact on a community, the people of the community have to be wiling to put in effort to improve their quality of life as well. For example, MEDLIFE workers speak with the community members to plan and organize a staircase project in the community, and the community members and the MEDLIFE volunteers work together to build the staircase. Interacting with the patients and community members while working in the mobile clinic I learned that they were really grateful that we were able to come and offer medical services.

This experience gave me the opportunity to work directly with people in need of medical care and gave me a first hand experience of working closely together with doctors, pharmacists, and dentists. Through this trip I was able to improve my interpersonal communication skills by communicating with other volunteers, MEDLIFE staff and the people of Lima. In addition, this trip showed gave me a first hand look at global healthcare. It showed me how much inequality there is in health care policy and has encouraged me to not only pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy degree but also a Masters of Health Administration to improve my understanding of the different disparities and solutions in health care. Participating in this MEDLIFE trip made me realize how much I enjoy volunteering and reinforced my desire to help others as much as I can.

 

Volunteering and Shadowing Physical Therapy at Jefferson Regional Medical Center

Khevna Mody

Service-Learning & Community Service

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. 

Starting in May until late August, I volunteered and shadowed physical therapists at two locations through Jefferson Regional Medical Center. One or two days a week, I would volunteer at an outpatient physical therapy location in Bethel Township, Pittsburgh, PA in a building called Wellness and Health Pavilion. Then, every Thursday, I would volunteer at the main Jefferson Hospital at the inpatient department.

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Personally, this experience impacted me about how important maintaining your physical health is. I realized how important exercising and stretching can be. Even if I walked a couple miles everyday or exercised for a little, I would be able to prevent some of the problems that could occur just from being lazy. A lot of the knee or back problems I observed were a lot of times due to weight and unhealthy exercise habits. By having a routine for exercise, these problems can, for the most part, be avoided. Overall, this experience showed me that with a little dedication, motivation, and a positive attitude, anyone can recover from a surgery well and can fix the problems he or she is having.

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

One of the most important things I learned this summer was how physical therapy applied in so many different ways. Not only is physical therapy for people who have just had surgeries for their knees, shoulders, hips, back, etc., but it also has many other uses. I learned that physical therapy is used for concussions. Exercises involving balance, eye exercises using finger movement, and even computer memory games are all a part of physical therapy. Furthermore, I learned that women’s health is a part of physical therapy. For example, after pregnancy women sometimes urinate a little when they sneeze, stand up, or cough. In order to stop this, physical therapy is done to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. During my time at the physical therapy departments, I was able to witness all of these different types of therapy put to use. Overall, I learned that physical therapy is something that helps in all sorts of situations and being strict with exercises can lead to improvement. These experiences and interactions showed me how physical therapy has a solution for many types of situations and knowing that a person has a solution to their problem can give people the motivation and dedication to recover.

 

Furthermore, getting to know the physical therapists and staff members and getting to interact with patients taught me a lot as well. As I shadowed each physical therapist, I was able to ask questions about each patient’s condition and observe the methods physical therapists used to help patients. Sometimes, with patient permission, I was able to feel certain muscles, measure flexibility of muscles, and aid in the patient’s exercises. I really appreciated and enjoyed how much the physical therapists were willing to let me participate and be hands on with shadowing. It really helped me feel like I was able to contribute to a patient’s recovery and helped me discover the importance of certain exercises and habits people should have or maintain.

Additionally, getting to know each physical therapist I interacted with was a fun experience. Learning why each person became a physical therapist, conversing about weekend plans, family, music, and experiences in life made my experience unforgettable. Thus, building relationships with the physical therapists and being able to interact with patients helped me gain a new perspective on physical therapy and really increase my appreciation for this field. The positive attitude each therapist had and motivation the physical therapists gave their patients showed me that I can be that motivated, persevering, and dedicated person too.

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?  

Volunteering and shadowing physical therapy this summer really helped me realize why I wanted to do physical therapy. My academic goal is to go to physical therapy school to get my doctorate. By volunteering for four months, I was able to get the hours I needed to apply for physical therapy school. Furthermore, personally, I strive to be a person that is accepting of all people and personable towards everyone. This summer I met all sorts of people, each with their own stories, background, etc. Seeing how easily the physical therapists were able to interact with the patients, keep their calm in all situations, and be as positive as possible, even when patients were not in the best moods, inspired to make that goal something that I constantly achieve and better myself at. Additionally, this experience has impacted my life goal of doing a job or working in a field where I can help others and interact with people. I got to witness the effect physical therapy had on patients that came back week after week, improving with every visit. This showed me that with dedication, hard work, and a little inspiration you can reach your goals. The physical therapists I worked with were truly helping their patients and I saw how much these patients appreciated what their therapists did for them. All in all, this summer’s experience have strengthened, built, and given my goals a new perspective.

Volunteering in San José

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. 

This summer I had the opportunity of spending 3 weeks in San José, Costa Rica volunteering in a daycare. Throughout the program I stayed in a homestay with other volunteers and a very friendly, welcoming Costa Rican family just outside of San José. The daycare I worked at is located in a small, poor town called Carpio. It is a 45 minute bus ride from where I was living and the volunteer coordinators warned me and my other volunteer partner about how cautious we needed to be traveling there. The town has one paved road and most of the houses are small with dirt floors and no glass windows, just bars. The daycare itself is located in a small room normally used as a church, because it is on of the only places in the town with tile floors that could be easily cleaned. The daycare is very laid back, ran by 4 women who teach basic English to the kids, facilitate play-time, and conduct a short religion class everyday for only $2 a month per child. Many of the children were malnourished, as the snacks they brought were a small bag of potato chips or a pack of cookies. It was also clear that some children came from unsafe homes, yet these children are the happiest, friendliest, most loving kids I’ve met. My job there was to help with their English and give them the love and attention that they may not have necessarily gotten at home.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Through this experience, I was able to expand my horizons in a way that only traveling and volunteering can do. First of all, by traveling and being completely immersed in another culture through the homestay, I was able to experience a way of living that was previously completely foreign to me. I think that opened my eyes and made me realize that although people may look and sound different, in the end we’re all human and as cliché as it sounds, a smile is universal. By volunteering, I gained a sense of satisfaction in knowing that I was making a difference. Even though it was just a small difference in the lives of the children for a few weeks, it still counts and it still means something. It has made me realize how great I feel when giving back and how I need to spend more time giving back to the community here at home.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

Seeing the children everyday and how excited they eventually became to see me made up my day. Before this trip, I never really fully understood how people who have almost nothing could be so warm and loving, especially considering that these are just children. Even the adults working at the daycare were eager to share anything they had with me, whether it was a cup of soda or a meal they happened to be cooking. Although I always showed up with my own snack and drink (hoping they would see that, and feel no need to share), they always insisted on sharing whatever they had with me. I would have imagined they would have kept what little they had for themselves, knowing that I was perfectly well-off, but they were so incredibly giving. That was definitely something that will stick with me for the rest of my life as I recall this experience.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

Being immersed in another culture is an invaluable experience that can have positive affects in all aspects of my life. I think it makes me more accepting of others and more understanding of others’ differences, which is something that is applicable in my everyday life. I’ve known for a while now that I want to work with children once I graduate, and this just fully confirmed that thought. Now I’m looking to get involved with volunteering within Columbus next semester through the Boys & Girls Club, or perhaps seeking out a job at a daycare here.

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