Through the Honors and Scholar enrichment grant I was able to spend 2 weeks along with four other students of Global Health Initiative in the small village of Piyali, India. I created and presented interactive lectures on women’s reproductive health to the girls and village women of the Piyali Learning Center, a nonprofit school which, through education, focuses on preventing its girls from becoming victims to the vortex of human trafficking that plagues the village. While I was not presenting lectures, I was helping the older girls of the school assemble first aid kits for the classrooms and then teaching basic first aid to grades k-12 at the school. Alongside my peers and a translator, I conducted water surveys in the Piyali village which shined light upon an intense degree of poverty. The people of the village are living in small huts which are just squares of cement with roofs to protect them from the monsoons. I was welcomed inside over 30 of their places of living and not one of them had a mattress- they all slept on pieces of wood covered by a cloth. I collected information on the villagers’ use of pond vs well water: they used pond water (the same pond water which they also defecate, urinate, and bathe in) to wash their dishes, hands, and well water storage containers with. In combination with a lack of education, the distance to the wells poses the largest impediment to using clean water. For most families at least one family member gets sick weekly, most likely on account of water contamination, something I unfortunately experienced the repercussions of while living in Beirut, Lebanon for the first half of my summer and therefore understood the seriousness of.
Not including prep time, I spent over 60 hours volunteering with the girls and villagers of Piyali, however each day during my free time I got very close with the students and teachers of the Piyali Learning Center. I probably received over 200 of the sweetest notes from the girls while I was there, to which I tried to write back as often as I could and included drawings which they loved. I connected with many of them as they talked to me about their lives. The empathy they displayed at such young ages in response to hearing the pain I experienced from my medical struggles was so special. I sang and played ukulele for the girls of the Piyali Learning Center and in order to share a little bit of America, and more specifically Columbus, culture I actually taught them the Twenty One Pilots version of the song Can’t Help Falling in Love which is now on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pGjysvmgVY