Dominican Republic Service

Name: Eda Wu

 

Type of Project: Service Learning

 

The STEP Signature Project that was proposed included a service trip that involved travelling to the Dominican Republic to help set up a clinic and assist local dentists to give free dental care to the locals. The service trip also included going to a small village and teaching young elementary school aged children about overall health and dental health. The STEP project completed was from the service learning category of the 6 possible STEP project categories.

 

My view of the world had changed while completing the STEP signature project. I have learned more about other cultures and different ideas. Travelling to another country-especially one that is drastically different in many ways (economically, culturally, and socially)-has allowed me to broaden my perspective of the world. Through immersing myself for two weeks in the Dominican Republic, I was able to interact with the patients, visit the capital, and try the local cuisine. Little things that I took for granted in the United States also became more apparent and helped me better understand and gain a first-hand account on the different situations that other countries are facing.

 

Through interacting with the patients and working at the clinic, I was able to better understand the health and medical situation in the country. Many people in the region where our clinic was set did not have the opportunity to seek dental care until the service trip. I also learned that in many of the medical clinics in the area, gloves were not used when helping patients insert needles. (In our clinic we used gloves, but in the medical clinics, gloves were not used by the nurses.) They gave an insight on the level of medical understanding and health precautions used.

Everyday privileges that I took for granted in the United States such as an advanced septic system became very apparent. The water used for drinking and brushing teeth in the Dominican Republic came from bottles. We were not recommended to use the tap water for drinking or brushing our teeth. I originally thought that the reason behind this recommendation was that maybe foreigners’ immune systems were not used to the material/organisms that may be in the water. I later found out that even the locals were not able to drink the water. Everyone needed to get water from bottles for drinking. The plumbing system was also less advanced than the U.S. Toilet paper was not allowed to be thrown in the toilet or the toilets will clog.

Through touring the country and visiting the capital, Santo Domingo, I was able to learn about the history of the country and some of the origins of the ideas and cultures of the country. We toured many museums and visited many grocery stores. We did not tour many restaurants because of the fear of Typhoid Fever. (Many of the foods that we ate were prepared by the program.) Although many of the foods that we ate were prepared by the program many where based on regular Dominican meals. We were able to try traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Dominicans ate a lot of eggs and sometimes ham and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. Lunch mostly consisted of rice, beans, and chicken. Dinner was mostly rice and beans, pasta, and salad. At the history museum, we learned about the Spanish colonization of the Dominican Republic, the different imports produced by the country, and the medical and cultural history. I also learned that machismo is favored in the country. The men had more power and respect.

Through the STEP project, I was able to explore a different culture and society. I learned about the health status of the country, the level of medical prevention education, the history of the country, the culture of the country, and the social differences compared to the US.

 

The gain of the understanding of different cultures and backgrounds is important to my life because it allows me to realize the world outside of mine. It opens up new perspectives and shows me how I could impact other societies through volunteer. This change is also important in my personal goals because it shows me that I may meet people of different backgrounds in my future as a dentist. It also shows me preventative medicine that I need to make aware of for others. The project also gives me dental experience through my assisting of the dentists. This will be very valuable to me when taking classes in Dental School. Because of this experience, I hope to be able to further help others in different societies. I would like to help under-served populations through medicine.

 

STEP Project: Working in a Ghanaian Orphanage

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

This past May I travelled to Ghana to live and work at the Achiase Children’s Home for 3 weeks. While there the group of volunteers assisted the children in their daily chores, like doing laundry, washing dishes, and helping clean the bedrooms. We also had the opportunity to teach in the school. We either observed or helped to run lessons in math, English, religion, and history. The rest of the time was spent playing and building a connection with the kids. They introduced to many Ghanaian games.

 

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

While in Ghana, I realized how much I want to work in Africa one day. I want to go back and continue working with the people I met. Working abroad has been something I have thought about a couple times before this trip. However, finally finding a place I care about and want to help better, made it easy to realize that working as a nurse over there is something I really want to do.

 

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?

Everything that happened in Ghana has led me to realize that transformation. More recently I decided I want to go into nursing, and I want to work with children. The volunteers lived inside the orphanage, so the kids were always around. It was so easy to form a tight bond with them. They were always running around wanting to play with you or help you with anything you were doing. The adults also had a profound impact on my experience. They opened their arms and welcomed us into their home as a member of their family. They took such good care of us and always wanted to help us in our activities. Seeing these interactions with the adults and kids was incredible. I spent a good deal of time working in the classrooms and then with the kids at night during the tutoring sessions. I realized how much I enjoyed interacting with them and that I could work with kids in my career if I wanted to.

 

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

This experience had a significant impact on my life because it helped me realize what I want to do for my career. It made me realize I want to dedicate at least part of my time post graduation abroad working with those that are less fortunate. I’ve become even more passionate about my studies since the trip. I want to do as well as possible so that I can make this dream a reality. Seeing how hard the kids work everyday to better themselves was really inspiring as well.

 

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Engineering Service Learning in Ghana

My STEP project was the Ghana Engineering Service Learning Study Abroad trip through the College of Engineering. I took a class at Ohio State during Fall 2015 working on addressing the clean water problem in Africa and then traveled to Akumadan, Ghana for two weeks during winter break to implement the BioSand Filter that my team and I had prototyped in the United States.

I learned so much about both myself and the world in general during my STEP project. Since high school I had always been adamant that I wanted to work in a third world country, specifically somewhere in Africa, bringing clean water to people. However, I had never actually been to a third world country. Upon stepping off the plane in Accra, I was taken back by the poverty and lack of resources and I immediately began to doubt my dreams of one day moving to a country like Ghana. However, throughout the two weeks I learned that I could live without amenities like sparkling clean bathrooms with toilet paper and reliable wifi. Power outages and water shortages became normal instead of debilitating inconveniences. I found that the people and the place I worked with made the loss of first world amenities seem insignificant. The biggest thing I gained from the trip was a sense of purpose in my life and a direction I want to head in after graduation.

I also learned a lot about the world and the cultural differences in Ghana. I enjoyed learning to speak Twi, the native language in Ghana, and trying new foods. I learned what it was like to be a visitor in someone else’s culture, however the Ghanaian people always made me feel welcome. Initially it was difficult for me to let go of American cultural things like always being on time and having my own personal space. Being immersed in someone else’s culture forced me to reevaluate American culture and accept the differences that I encountered. I learned how to communicate better and how to not be an ugly American. Overall, the experience taught me a lot about myself with respect to my future plans as well as my ability to adapt to a new culture.

Many things that occurred throughout my two week trip shaped and confirmed my aspirations to live and work in Africa in the future. I think the biggest thing that shaped my decision was the relationships I built with the people working for the Offinso North District Assembly. From the moment I arrived in Ghana I felt welcomed and appreciated. Strangers on the streets would say hello and ask how I was doing, a stark contrast to the attitudes of Americans who are always on the move and rarely acknowledge strangers. Throughout the two weeks I worked with some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. People who know how to communicate their ideas and innovate when a material is not available. We brought the idea of a BioSand filter to the people of ONDA, but they took on the project as their own. They made design changes with us when something failed and helped us adapt our design to best fit the needs of the people it was meant to serve. Without those amazing and intelligent people, our project may have not worked or even have been constructed in the first place.

Another key aspect of the experience that helped me shape my future plans was getting to visit a village and meet the people that our BioSand filter was going to help. My team and I spent four months researching BioSand filters and prototyping here in the United States, but it always seemed like an abstract idea that one of the filters would actually be installed in a community. However, on the last work day in Ghana we drove for an hour on a dirt road filled with large potholes and eroding on the edges to reach a distant community suffering from typhoid outbreaks and sickness from E. coli. The moment we pulled into the village all of the people were excited to meet us and welcome us. But it was hard to look beyond the bloated stomachs, open sores, and lack of shoes most of the children experienced. It was incredibly sad to take a 10 minute walk straight down the side of mountain to collect water from a small, contaminated stream filled with bugs and emitting a foul stench. It was surreal to watch small children carry 40 liter jerry cans back up the side of the mountain, knowing that they had to endure this every day, multiple times a day, just to get contaminated water that kept them alive, but made them very sick. Nothing can prepare you for an experience like that, but seeing the conditions the villagers lived in strengthened my resolve to dedicate my life to helping people like that. WE installed our BioSand filter in the community and received many thanks from the people living there. It was a semester long project on my part, but will hopefully serve as an answer to lifelong clean water for them.

Overall, the Engineering Service Learning trip to Ghana was one of the most rewarding and transformative experiences I have had in my short life. I was able to make lasting relationships with engineers across the globe and make an impact on a community struggling to find clean drinking water. Most importantly, the trip taught me as much about myself as it did about working as an engineer in a global setting. I learned how much comfort I could give up and I learned how to be flexible and adapt when things do not always go as planned. The trip was an invaluable experience for me as a future practicing engineer.

The most important transformation that occurred for me was the idea that I finally knew for certain what I want to do for the rest of my life. I finally had the opportunity to actually work in Africa on the clean water crisis and I loved every minute of it. I learned that I was ok with giving up first world amenities in order to make a difference. I also found that even after traveling halfway across the world, a new country could feel like home. I have a renewed purpose in finishing my degree and an even stronger desire to seek out opportunities to work abroad in third world countries. I love Ghana so much that I am considering moving there after graduation to continue working with the people of the Offinso North District Assembly. I could not have asked for a better experience to help me shape my future plans and decide how I would use my degree.

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STEP Signature Project

Name: Sydney Baldwin
Type of Project: Service Learning and Community Service

In January 2016, I went on a Buck-I-Serv trip to Biloxi, Mississippi. While there, we worked with an organization called Community Collaborations, which serves the surrounding areas with multiple different types of projects. Our trip involved volunteering at the Moore Community House, Sue’s Home, the Boys and Girls Club, Land Trust, and the Audubon Center.

The majority of the service we completed on my Buck-I-Serv trip was indirect service. Anytime I have volunteered in the past, which included volunteering at a nursing home, with the American Red Cross, and a few clubs within The Ohio State University, the service was direct, meaning that I could see the impact I was having on people’s lives. At times it was challenging to want to volunteer because I felt that I wasn’t helping anyone. However, during our reflection times, I realized that any type of service, whether direct or indirect, is equally important. You may not witness it, but your work truly is benefitting someone, somewhere. I would say that my view of what volunteering and service is has changed since returning from my Buck-I-Serv trip and completing my STEP Signature Project.

While we were in Biloxi we volunteered at multiple sites. My first day was spent at the Moore Community House, which is an early Headstart Program, and the Boys and Girls Club. I was able to help take care of one year olds and at the Boys and Girls Club, I helped watch children that ranged from kindergarteners to third graders. While this was more of a direct service project, I didn’t feel that I was very much help. That was the first time I thought I was not truly helping anyone. However, the teachers there greatly appreciated the help.

The next couple days, I worked at the Land Trust and the Audubon Center. While at the Land Trust, we helped make a trail for families to enjoy, and at the Audubon Center, we planted live oak trees to provide shade for their parking lot. Once again, I didn’t feel that I was directly benefitting anyone. On the bright side, it was interesting to learn how to properly plant an oak tree and everything that goes into creating a trail. I enjoyed being able to see our progress throughout the week and see the finished project once Thursday came.

My last day was spent at Sue’s Home, which is for women in transition from prison. This was honestly the least enjoyable site throughout the entire week. All of the work we did simply seemed like household chores that the women living there should have been doing and the woman in charge of us did not seem to be that appreciative of the work we were doing for her. Fortunately though, every day that a group was there, the women living there thanked us multiple times for volunteering at their home. Towards the end of the week, after discussing what we all learned on the trip and talking to the director of Community Collaborations, I realized that all of the work we completed was greatly valued by the people we worked with and that even though we can’t directly see our impact, we are benefitting people. It took talking about our experiences from each day to realize that indirect service is as important as direct service and that thinking about our work made me realize the impact I was having on people. At Sue’s, we were improving the home those women were living in. At Land Trust, we were creating a trail that families could enjoy for years to come. At the Audubon Center, we were planting live oak trees that would be enjoyed for hundreds of years. Finally, at the Moore Community House, we were helping the teachers teach these children the basic knowledge that they need to know, how to listen to people, and be responsible. This trip was very worthwhile once I finally realized it.

This change in realizing that indirect service is important too is significant for my life because I will be more willing to volunteer for projects that are not directly impacting people’s lives. It will open the door to many more volunteer opportunities. I now feel that I impacted people’s lives while performing indirect service, even though throughout the majority of the week I felt that I was not. I hope to encourage people to perform this type of service and help them learn the value of it.