STEP Reflection- California

For my STEP project I travelled to Santa Barbara, California where I shadowed the nurses and doctors in the hematology/oncology department of the Grotenhuis Pediatric Outpatient Clinic. I lived in Santa Barbara for six weeks on my own and worked 40 hours a week at the clinic. While working at the clinic I learned so much, and not just about the details of the medicines, treatments, and illnesses.

I went into the project believing that I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist. From my experience at the clinic I have determined that I love working with children therefore pediatrics is definitely what I want to have a career in. I also was able to observe several different departments at the clinic including hematology/oncology, endocrinology, and nephrology, and found hematology/oncology the most interesting and satisfying to work in. However, I worked a lot with both the nurses and the doctors and have come to the conclusion that both are very rewarding in different ways and so I have begun to consider a career in nursing instead of being set on going to medical school after graduation.

The nurses had a lot more patient interaction than the doctor did, and I felt they were able to have a deeper connection with the patients and the families which is very important to me and something I did not expect. Also, part of the nurses’ jobs was to educate the parents and teach them about the illnesses and explain to them how to take care of the child while at home which I thought was a very interesting part of the job to observe and learn from because I never thought about that aspect before my internship. I sat down with one of the nurses and a doctor and they talked me through all the options after graduation which was very helpful and made me much more open minded about different career paths I could possibly go down.

Going into the internship I assumed that I would learn a lot about the different illnesses that pediatric oncologists treat, the treatment plans, and the medicines which I did. I was given lots of resources to educate myself and was allowed to sit in on all conversations that were had so I quickly absorbed lots of technical information. What was not expected was how much I learned about life and people. Working in the pediatric oncology department I interacted with parents going through probably one of the hardest things they will ever go through in life, their child being sick and having an unknown outcome. Everybody handles stress differently and I saw that first hand in an extremely stressful situation. The parents were put under a lot of pressure, they had to learn how and when to give their children different medicines and to make tough decisions throughout the process like whether or not to send their child to school or whether to go the route of a blood marrow transplant. I saw some parents become overly protective and keep their kid in a bubble, I saw some parents shut down emotionally and put up lots of walls, and I saw some parents become disinterested and not pay close attention to their child or their child’s care. Everyone reacts differently, and a person never knows how they will handle a situation until it happens to them.

The nurses and doctors were never afraid to tell me the downsides of the job for which I am so grateful for. They never wanted me to think of it as easy and wanted me to experience hardships as well as success. They never held back when telling me the what was happening or the prognosis of a child. While I was in California, a few kids were lost, none that I knew, but it was still extremely difficult to watch the nurses and doctor find out and the grief that crossed their face. Something that one of the nurses said to me really stuck with me, “The hardest part about this job is knowing you can do everything you can to save their body, but there is nothing you can do to save their soul.” Some kids fall apart when diagnosed with cancer and become very mentally ill which is not something the doctors or nurses can treat. To put in so much effort into saving a child’s life to watch them give up on the rest of their life was not easy to watch or hear about. It made me very grateful for the life that I have and the people who surrounded and the care I received to know that no one, including myself, let the leukemia define me and I was able to move past it. Watching the parents’ eyes light up with hope after they heard that I went through what their child is going through and made it out a better person because of it was the best part of my summer. Throughout it all, I realized that as hard as losing a patient was, probably one of toughest things that has ever happened to me, seeing the kids’ smile when they ring the bell for completing their last chemotherapy treatment and knowing that they can grow to be whatever they want to be made the job absolutely worth it. At the end of the day, you remember the ones that are lost, but you focus on the ones that are given a second chance, and that’s what made me happy to go into work every day and see the kids who are probably the strongest people I have ever met in my lifetime.

Unfortunately all of the pictures I took while working have one of the patients in them and I am prohibited from posting them on the internet because it would be a HIPAA violation.

STEP Signature Project Reflection

For my step signature project, I went to Cartago, Costa Rica and volunteered for a month in daycares providing childhood education.  I went with a group called Cross Cultural Solutions.  The goal of this project was to spread my global citizenship and to be able to help in an impoverished country with people who truly need it.

I was able to learn a lot about myself and about the world while I was in Costa Rica volunteering.  One thing that I learned about myself was my ability to have patience.  My patience was tested in many ways during this experience and I was able to see the situations from different prospectives before deciding how I would act.

I also realized that being in a different country isn’t as different as I thought it would be.  Even though Costa Rica is a third world country, it didn’t feel very different than being in the United States.  The people in Costa Rica are extremely nice and helpful to everyone they meet.

I am not fluent in Spanish, so being able to communicate with the children was difficult at times.  This is where my patience played a role.  There were two kids in particular that I met who were not well behaved.  They would punch, choke and bite other kids.  Not speaking Spanish made it hard to tell them to stop and explain to them why it was bad.  I didn’t understand why the kids acted that way and why the staff didn’t do more to discipline them.  The leader of the daycare ended up pulling me aside to explain how the kids came from a very bad home with 9 other siblings.  This was one of the most emotional conversations I had while completing my project.  I was able to learn about the different systems in Costa Rica including child protectives services.  I also learned that these kids just needed love and I was there to help give that to them.

I happened to be in Costa Rica when the program that I was volunteering for shut down in their current location and moved to a different location.  Cross Cultural Solutions had been providing volunteers to day cares, nursing homes and schools for 16 years in Cartago, Costa Rica.  I was there for the last official week before their move to a different city.  I think that this gave me an unexpected prospective on how much this program provides to the communities that they serve.  I saw the transitioning of leaving places that they have been helping for 16 years.  The people who worked at the day cares were so grateful for everything that we have done and were so sad to see us go.  All of the staff made such an impact on the places that they served.

Everyone in Costa Rica was so nice and friendly.  Before the trip, I had a little bit of Spanish experience, but I wasn’t confident in my abilities at all.  I was very hesitant to speak Spanish when I first arrived and spoke in English to the staff members that knew English.  One day, I was getting driven and my driver asked if I knew Spanish so I told him I knew a little.  For the rest of our hour drive, he made me speak in only Spanish.  From then on I realized that I need to try in order to learn and that I shouldn’t be so hesitant when it comes to learning.  Everyone knew that I was learning and would correct my mistakes.

I think that this transformation is very valuable for my academic and personal life.  I spent an entire month working with kids every day for 4 hours.  In the future, I want to work with kids so I think that this was a great stepping stone in the right direction.  Working with kids for so long tested my patience but it made me realize that this is what I really want to do and that I will be happy as long as my career involves working with kids.  This experience has truly helped me grow as a person as I was able to meet all kinds of people who all left a mark on my life.

Caretta Research Project 2018

I went to Savannah, GA to volunteer with the Caretta Research Project on Wassaw Island for a service learning trip to learn and help protect Loggerhead Sea Turtles. We patrolled the beach at night searching for Loggerheads coming up on the beach to nest, then we would collect data from the female and her nest and provide protection for the nests.

I used this experience to get some research experience in the Ocean Conservation field so that I could narrow down my future career goals. I think my project was a life-changing experience and I loved every minute of my trip, I definitely want to pursue a career in ocean conservation. Even on my worst day, which I woke up with an eye infection, lost my glasses AND my sunglasses in the ocean, broke my Fitbit, lost my iPhone, got eaten by bugs and didn’t see any turtles that night, I still enjoyed my day, and noticed I was happier than I usually am. Although I was only on the island for a week, I was happier than I’ve ever been. I felt like I was home. It was a feeling like I was meant to be there, I was meant to participate in this program, and was meant to help research marine life.

Another transformational experience that occurred during this trip was the way I interacted with nature. This was my first time getting to touch a sea turtle, and my first time living in the South. I was able to touch everything, I saw things that I never saw before and I was fully submerged in a new environment. The island is part of a National Wildlife Refuge, so no one other than the research team and the previous owners of the island are permitted to stay there. It was just me, the 6 other volunteers, the 2 crew leaders, and an amazingly diverse island. I was able to see how the fauna of the ecosystem of the island co-existed, and just how important nature was. I was able to appreciate everything mother nature had to offer, the painted sunrises and sunsets, the tides of the ocean, the stars in the sky, and the plants and animals that inhabit the island. I interacted with nature like I have never done before.

The only required volunteer work was during the night, so during the day, we were free to explore the island or help the head crew during the day. I created a routine for myself that would start by waking up around 11:30 am, help one of the crew leaders check nests, check to see if we missed any nests, and move nests if the tide was coming too close to it, then, I would stay on the beach and swim in the ocean for about an hour or two, and explore the island’s unique creatures. Then I would go back to the cabin, shower, and help prepare dinner before we went back to out to the patrol the beach all night. During this time, I had two very knowledgeable crew leaders that were educating me along the way not only about sea turtles, but the rest of the life on the island. They pointed out animals, birds, plants, and the history of the island that I had no idea existed. I learned an incredible amount of information from these people. They made me more observant of nature, which in return made me appreciate all living things and how they are interconnected. This led me to think in a new way, to realize all things feed off each other, not only in ecosystems, but in my own life as well. This made me think twice about the energy I was putting out into the world and how I reacted to a situation and what that would lead to.

Another reason my experience was transformational was the relationship I had with the other volunteers and crew leaders on the island. The ages of these volunteers ranged from 16-50 years old, but we were all able to bond and get along through many similarities we shared. The head of the crew was born and raised on Long Island, about 30 minutes from where I live and grew up as well. This connection we had to home was definitely a bonding experience as we talked about how much the island has changed and what has stayed the same. Another person I had a special connection with was the other crew leader who has been working for Caretta Research Project for 28 years but was also a musician in New Orleans when he was off the island. I really looked up to this man as a role model because he was so passionate about his work but also was able to travel the world through music. It has been a goal of mine to travel while doing something I love, and he was able to do it through music. His stories were truly amazing and although I knew he was not wealthy, I knew that his experiences were worth more than any amount of money. This made me appreciate experiences more than money and how important it is to take a day off to explore something new, and that money isn’t everything.

The living conditions were rustic, we lived in a cabin with no AC, no electricity, and had an outdoor shower. The fridge ran on gas and was not the best, so we had to keep most of our food in coolers that are brought over by boat each week when the new volunteer crew comes. There were LOTS of bugs, and we had to stay up from 9pm-6am every night to watch for turtles on the beach. None of these things stopped me from enjoying my trip, in fact, I think they made it a hundred times better, because when something went right it was celebrated like a miracle, and if something went wrong, we worked through it as a team to fix it together without pity or disappointment. This made me appreciate the people around me because they were always there to help me and cheer me on. This made me realize that doing research with marine organisms is really what I want to pursue as a career when I graduate. Not only was I working with one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet, it just felt right, like I was doing the right thing which is an amazing feeling. I also really enjoyed working as a team and saw the importance of each person and the role they played in conducting a proper nest recording. Being a part of a team made me feel productive and important and I loved every minute of it.

These changes have been significant because they altered the way I look at not only nature but at life in general. I am more aware of the way everything is interconnected, in my personal life and all life surrounding me. This trip has also had an influence on my problem-solving skills, but trying to stay calm in stressful situations, and evaluating how our moods and actions can create reactions and consequences. Being a part of a team forces you to communicate with one another, if one person has the wrong attitude, it can create an even bigger problem than the one at hand. It also taught me to make the best of every situation, even though I lost my glasses, had an eye infection, and lost my phone, I was still so happy that I was a part of this project that I didn’t let anything affect my mood. It truly made me feel like I was finally a part of something that was bigger than myself.

Another reason why this project has been significant was it made me more confident in my decision to pursue a career in ocean conservation. Working with one of the most beautiful creatures in the world while helping them survive so an ecosystem can flourish felt so right. I was able to get hands-on research experience and had a blast doing it. Not only did I feel my entire attitude on life change the week that I was on Wassaw, but I felt like this was my true calling, to protect our oceans. I was able to see what working in the field is really like, I was working in a team, in a rustic setting, with unexpected problems that we needed to work through. This made me realize that I do have what it takes to do field research and can be successful in this field.

STEP Signature Project Reflection Post

For my STEP Project, I traveled to Phang Nga, Thailand, to teach children English in a school. I was with a group called Global Vision International (GVI). I was trained and then was assigned to a specific class. I would create a lesson plan and then teach the students every day.

While completing this project, I was able to experience Thailand’s authentic culture and community. Instead of simply vacationing there and staying at a nice hotel, I was in a small village, working directly with its people, and learning a lot about the area. This opportunity was incredible as I was able to travel outside my usual bubble and live a simple life for three weeks to gain the full experience. I was able to witness the day-to-day operations of the Thai people and learn a lot about a different area of the world.

Furthermore, since GVI is an international company, I volunteered with people from all over the world. It was truly amazing to hear all of their stories and see what happened in their life to get them to this point. It gave me a sense of freedom and excitement for my future as there is so much in this world I want to see and experience, and I never want to quit exploring. This was truly transformative for me because I sometimes get very wrapped up in my bubble, but there is so much more that is out there I hope to discover.

One activity that was really eye opening was the village tour we did on the first day at base. The base for GVI was right in the heart of a town called Ban Nam Khem. In fact, this village was one of the hardest hit during the Tsunami that raged through many coastal Asian and African countries in 2004. Ban Nam Khem lost about half its population and even 14 years later, the village is still recovering. On our walking tour around the village, we saw areas that were still being built back up along with the new developments put in place after the Tsunami by the government and other relief groups. I also saw the living conditions of the local people – small homes with many people packed in, mattresses on the floor, and unsanitary conditions. It was another reminder of how fortunate I am.

Also, I worked in a local school called the Community Development Center (CDC). This school received no outside funding by the government and was able to run only because of volunteers and donations. This school has very limited resources. Classrooms have old, broken desks for the students, a very small whiteboard for the teacher, and nothing else. No wall posters, no books, no supplies – nothing. However, the students were very hardworking and wanted to learn. In Thailand, teachers have the upmost respect and any disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. At the beginning and end of every class, the students would stand up, bow, and greet/dismiss the teacher. This whole environment is very different than a typical classroom in the United States and even though the supplies are limited, the students all wanted to be there and worked hard because they know this education would give them a better job in the future.

My interactions with fellow volunteers was also very transformative. One woman was 51 years old. She is from Australia, and after working her whole life to start up a day spa in the Blue Mountains, she decided it was not what she wanted in life, sold the building, and took off traveling. For the past year she has been traveling around and recently decided that she wanted to teach English in foreign countries. She has had many hardships in her life and was stressing to us “youngsters” to live our lives to the fullest in every capacity because you never know what time you will have left. Another man was in the Peace Corps in Ghana for many years and now works with GVI. He too had many incredible stories and his passion to serve was contagious. These are just two examples of people whom I had the pleasure of working with. They all had such a positive outlook on life and wanted to live their life to the fullest. I think we are often caught up in tiny, trivial issues in our lives and fail to see the big picture of the world around us. My fellow volunteers were a reminder of this.

All of these experiences were very transformative to me. First, this whole trip was service. My goal is to go to medical school, and they look for selfless, hardworking, well-rounded applicants. I know that I could confidently talk about this trip and how valuable this was for my personal growth. I hope that it will be something that sets me apart.

Furthermore, I love exploring, and I was able to see an area of the world that I have never been to. It was such a beautiful country, and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to travel there. I was even able to experience is at such an authentic level, and it heightened my awareness of the low standards of living around the world. I am very blessed to even have the opportunity to further my education at OSU when many of these kids are hoping they can make it through the first years. We have many resources and opportunities available that I am so grateful to have.

Lastly, I had a lot of time to reflect on this trip about my future. I know I want to attend medical school and sometimes the stress of all the prerequisite classes and extracurriculars needed is overwhelming. However, this trip gave me the opportunity to take a deep breath and know that it will work out. I also hope to take a gap year and possibly do some more traveling. This trip was helpful in achieving my academic goals along with finding peace in my future plans.

STEP Anatomy Class at Camp Catanese

Camp Catanese is a week-long camp that focuses on the development of a positive community for students to have support throughout their educational journey. I will be teaching a class on anatomy using fetal pigs and sheep hearts to create a hands-on learning experience of the organs of the pig and sheep which relate closely to those of a human. Specifically, the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, appendix, heart, lungs, arteries, capillaries, and veins with be dissected and analyzed.

Often in society, there is a preconceived notion that children growing up in an underprivileged area have less of a work ethic and intellectual capacity. While I did not believe this, I had a subconscious bias that led me to believe that I had to simplify the material and slow down the class. I could not have been more wrong. After the first day, I had to ramp up the content and difficulty of the class as the children exceeded all expectations.

In addition to learning this about the potential of the youth of America, I learned a lot about myself. I have discovered a passion for teaching. The director of the camp served as a teacher for Teach for America for two years and had a discussion with me about the opportunities that this organization has for me. Before completing this STEP project, I never thought I would be serving as a teacher, but now, this is a very real possibility.

The most impactful event actually occurred after I had completed my last class. The schedule for the camp has morning program (the educational classes) from 10am-12pm, followed by lunch. Much to my surprise, as I was cleaning up the classroom for the last time, a crowd full of campers came rushing in. Confused and concerned, I asked one of the counselors why the campers were not headed to lunch. They responded by saying: “Our campers heard about your class and wanted to learn about it so badly that they were willing to miss part of lunch to get a quick lesson from you. If you don’t mind, they would love for you to give them a condensed lesson.”

After calling the director and receiving permission to do so, I stayed for another 40 minutes with over 50 enthusiastic scholars and discussed anatomy and physiology one last time. While this moment emphasized the lesson that I had learned throughout the week that these children have such a passionate ‘ganas’ as they call it, which means drive, it also allowed me to reflect on myself and ask if I would do the same thing.

Every day, I take for granted the multitude of blessings and opportunities that I am granted with. At Ohio State University, there are many times when I choose an early lunch break instead of an extra 40 minutes of studying. I cannot imagine the impact and difference I can make in society if I obtain the same passion, the same ‘ganas’, that these young men and women have. With so many privileges in my life, I often expect that things will be given to me. Nothing these children have is given to them. They earn every bit of it.

I plan to live the rest of life with this in mind. As we say at camp. “Life is not about the obligation, it’s about the opportunity. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up. Find reasons to smile.” I have attached the official camp video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzNcdIfcfpE&t=628s

Buck-I-SERV Ghana

I had the opportunity to travel to Ghana with Buck-I-SERV for two weeks. Throughout those two weeks, I volunteered for the Akumanyi Foundation and had the opportunity to learn about what the foundation has done for various communities in Ghana. I spent the majority of my time volunteering at an orphanage in one of Ghana’s rural communities.

I am pleased to say that this service trip is the most influential experience I have had in college thus far. Traveling to Ghana and being amongst the local citizens gave me an authentic view of their culture and customs. I have gained a new perspective of other communities within the Pan-African diaspora, specifically of those who still reside in the continent. Aside from being transformed culturally, this service trip has also exposed me to situations that I, as a privileged American, would never have spent a lot of time thinking about. After spending two weeks in a country that had limited resources that I was accustomed to having, I became more conscious of how much I regularly took for granted. Additionally, this experience allowed me to think about how much of a blind eye we turn to those in other parts of the world who lack resources that we abuse daily.

Because I spent the majority of my time volunteering at the orphanage, most of the transformative impact came from my interactions with the kids and the teachers who helped run it. This orphanage held approximately 80 children between the ages one and fifteen. There were only four classrooms for all of them and less than ten staff members working in the different departments total. These departments included: teaching and tutoring, cleaning, cooking, and caregiving. One situation that stood out to me was that the orphanage itself lacked many necessary resources to adequately care for 80 children of different ages. For example, there is a large shortage of school supplies and feminine hygiene products that the administrators are unable to acquire since the orphanage lacks the money to do so. As a result of these two issues, as well as many others, the children often face challenges in school because there are not enough supplies to go around and are regularly exposed to health hazards due to the orphanage not having adequate funding. Looking from an American perspective, it can appear that the majority of these issues have easy fixes; but the reality is that school supplies, cleaning supplies, medicine and first aid, and hygiene products are all very expensive for middle-class citizens in Ghana, let alone citizens living in villages. Therefore, the orphanage would need a lot more funding than it already has to provide all of these services.

The Akumanyi Foundation does a lot of work with the orphanage, but they still have other projects that they work on throughout the country. My group had the opportunity to learn about the foundation’s other projects and visit their sites. One of the projects that we got to learn about is a “Toilet Project”. The Toilet Project takes place in a community of 200 citizens in rural Ghana where there were no toilets at all in the community. Once again, as an American citizen, having access to a personal toilet seemed to be a basic necessity and I could not fathom living in a community that had none. So far, the foundation has built eight toilets in the community and plan to continue expanding into more toilets. This experience along with working at the orphanage contributed to changing how I viewed the resources that I have in my daily life.

Interacting with other students on this trip was also transformative to the way that I saw myself, my peers, and my future. Many of us were going through life transitions that brought uncertainty to how we wanted to spend our lives after graduation and allowed all of us to consider situations that we wanted to change in our present lives. There was no internet service in Ghana, so very few students had access to their cell phones; this resulted in the group sparking meaningful conversations regularly and allowed students to hear each other’s perspectives on any life situation that one wanted to bring up. Something that I found surprising was that many of the students, myself included, were either going through very similar things or have previously gone through it. The conversations that resulted from these interactions were very intellectually stimulating and helped everyone become more comfortable with each other. These conversations have encouraged me to explore possibilities that I have not thought very much about previously.

These transformations are valuable for my life because it reminds me to always look at life’s situations and the world’s injustices with an open mind and a different perspective. It is very easy to become caught up in your own head and do what you think is right. Although thinking through problems by yourself is not a bad thing, it does not allow you to fully assess all of your possibilities. Nor does it allow you to practice being open minded or gain other perspectives. This trip has made me want to look into other career choices that allow me to continue to spread positivity and aid into other communities that may need it, as well as travel the world.

STEP Reflection, STNA Certification

STEP Project Reflection

 

For my STEP Project, I embarked on a Stated Tested Nursing Assistant (STNA) certification program to gain relevant experience geared toward my long-term career goal. The program is 75-hour curriculum which comprises of 59 hours of class room-based learning and 16 hours of practical work where students are equipped with clinical skills. After successful completion of the program, students must take and pass a state organized exam to be certified by the state to work in healthcare facilities including nursing homes, hospitals.

My main motive for participating in this program was to acquire profound experience relevant to long term career. Before this project I had an understanding what my career goal, but I lacked skills needed to be successful and effectively perform well. This project has impacted me greatly and provided me some of these skills and, it’s been an eye opener for me of the different array of careers I can pursue in chosen field of study.

The classroom activities and the practical aspects of the program proved pivotal in helping me better understand and value my career choice. Also, I had the chance to be surrounded with other students who shared similar career interests as mine. Therefore, it was a great opportunity for me through daily interactions with these individuals to bounce off ideas from one another. This made the learning process very convenient.

I currently hold a position as a nursing assistant at Hillandale Nursing Home where I work alongside nurses, doctors and other healthcare officials to provide quality and efficient healthcare for our residents. This position has positively affected in that I am able to exhibit my strong passion of serving and providing the best care to individuals in need while putting into practice the skills and knowledge I acquired from the project.

As stated earlier, the main motivating factor behind my project choice was geared towards gaining a transformational experience pertinent to my future career goal. I have a strong desire in helping other people in need and for my ultimate career is becoming a physician to channel this desire into making sure that individuals under my care receives quality healthcare. I understand I have long road ahead of me into finally achieving this goal, but this project has immensely affected me and helped provided me with a deeper understanding of what entails in the delivery of healthcare services.

STEP Quepos, Costa Rica

STEP Reflection

 

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

 

My STEP Signature project was a service learning trip to Quepos, Costa Rica. The main purpose of this service learning was we helped with childcare and teaching English to the people that lived there. While I was there, I primarily taught English to young adults and I also helped with childcare when I had free time.

 

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

 

From this trip, I learned a lot about the culture of Costa Rica and the work that it takes to do service work. I learned that service work is an easy task, and it takes a lot of time and effort. Before I went, I thought that the task of teaching English would be easy because I have learned and spoken English my whole life, and I just had to tell them the things that I learned. I came into the trip thinking that it would be simple, and I had a lot of confidence in my ability to teach others, but I quickly learned that teaching others is a tough skill. I learned that English is a very difficult language to speak, and there is of planning that goes along with it so that you can accurately teach the information. I assumed that it would be easy to communicate with the people there, even though I only spoke a few words in Spanish before I arrived. However, I learned that it is very difficult to try to teach someone else English if you are barely able to speak their own language. My view of the world changed drastically since arriving in Costa Rica and interacting with the people and learning about their culture. When I arrived, the program had already been going on for a few years, so they had already made some progression and built a good relationship with the people that live there. However, I believe that I helped contribute to the good relationship that they have built with us, and I hope that my time there made a difference in a positive way.

 

 

  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?

 

Before attending the trip, I thought that teaching English would be easy because I have learned it and spoke it all of my life, but I learned that this was not the case. I learned that teaching any subject requires a lot of hard work behind the “teaching scene” and you must always come prepared for your lesson. Each day, we would wake up and meet up with the other teachers and talk about the goals for today’s lesson, and the plan for the lesson. You also must be very patient with the people you are working with, because it may take some people longer to learn or they might be stuck on a concept that some may find easier than others. It was also very difficult to communicate with the people when we do not speak the same language. I also learned that it is much easier for someone to learn a new language when they are younger because they can understand that the language that they speak is different from others around the world.

 

Another activity that led to my transformation was when I was working with the young children in childcare. I learned that it is much different to teach young kids than it is adults, and you must use different ways of learning that are more engaging for them. For example, one activity that we started every morning was would we sing a song with them singing the days of the week in English. The kids had already memorized all of the words, and they were happily singing alone. Also, we would give stars on the board next to each kid’s name whenever they did something positive, or if they were behaving correctly. At the end of each class, the kid with the most stars would win a snack prize. Even though this prize was usually only a piece of fruit, it gave motivation to the kids to behave better each class and to eat healthy. All of these activities and countless more affected me greatly by putting a smile on my face and giving me hope for these kids to do great things in the future.

 

One big thing that I learned on my trip was the impact that you can have on someone else in such a short time. For example, I was assigned to teach English to an older woman named Christalina, and our relationship grew tremendously from the first lesson to the last lesson. In the beginning, she was very shy and did not seem to want to learn, but by the end of my time she was dancing and begging to learn more. I did not expect to build relationships with the people that I worked with, but I find myself missing this trip and wanting to meet up again with Christalina and others that I met. I was only there for two weeks but the relationships that were built with the people in my program and also the people that I worked with are something that I will always remember.

 

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

 

I have traveled to multiple other countries as a tourist, but this was my first time interacting with people and building relationships with them. I learned that they are very similar to us, but much different at the same time. Building relationships with them and teaching them about my culture gives me hope that eventually we will find world peace. I learned that we should never judge other people or treat others differently because of where they live or their background until we live in their shoes. I learned how to communicate with people who may think differently than myself, and how to work as a group. I learned to be patient and understanding of others even if we do not speak the same language or comprehend the same things. I learned how good it feels to give to others who are less fortunate and the impact that I can have on their lives. I learned that service work is something that I really enjoy doing, and I would love to go back or to another place for a longer period of time. I learned how blessed I am to live the way that I do, and I should take these opportunities to learn more to improve the world.

STEP Ghana Child Health Internship

Jessica Pirrello

Service – Learning & Community Service

 

I traveled to the Volta Region of Ghana to work as a Child Health Intern at the Agbesia CHPS (Community – Based Health Planning Services) Center and the Kpetoe district Health Clinic for four weeks. I worked alongside community nurses and our focus was to provide healthcare and medical advice to the members of the rural farming villages in our district. This healthcare and medical advice was focused around family planning, child health promotion, and disease prevention.

My understanding on myself, my assumptions, and my view of the world all changed after traveling to Ho, Ghana. I am going into the medical field so I was always interested in learning about healthcare and different public health issues. After traveling to Ghana, I could see, first hand, just how different America’s healthcare system is from theirs. I had previously thought that affordable healthcare was the biggest issue in public global health because healthcare is expensive and not everyone is able to afford it. However, I quickly began to learn that, in most parts of Ghana, affordability wasn’t even the biggest issue that people faced. Instead, it was accessibility to healthcare. The transportation from the villages to a healthcare facility was the most difficult part of the entire process. There were not many means of affordable public transportation and rarely did anyone own a car. Between the challenges of getting to a health clinic and paying for medical treatment, a majority of the population is not able to seek medical attention for diseases or injuries. These are some of the struggles that people in Ghana, and other underdeveloped countries, are facing and I did not even realize how widespread and real this problem is. America is very advanced, technologically and medically, and that can be easily taken for granted or forgotten. It was transforming for me to see that problems that Americans had centuries ago are problems that others around the world are still facing in developing countries.

However, my view on global health issues was also altered when I had the opportunity to meet the medical professionals that I was working with. All of them were so inspiring and dedicated to the greater good of their country. The work they did was difficult, discouraging, and they were not compensated nearly enough. Their selflessness and compassion overrode these though, and this was evident through their actions. It was extremely refreshing to see that advancements were in place and so many people are being treated by these doctors, nurses, and physician assistants.

An event that particularly stuck out to me that contributed to a change in understanding of the world around me was during a home visit in a rural, farming community. We began the home visit by taking the weights of the children of the community and making sure they were keeping up with their vaccinations. We then went around to the other members of the community to talk to them about malaria and Ebola prevention and the importance of keeping your children healthy and strong. We then proceeded to asking them if they were experiencing any pain or symptoms of sickness and we would give them our best medical advice. The last man we saw on this particular day was a man who was walking on his arms and hands because his legs were abnormal. His shins were so thin it looked like he only had bone underneath the skin. He very clearly had a disability or disease in his legs, but only complained about having wrist pain. This was a pivotal moment for me because I realized that it would be impossible to save everyone. His legs already had minimal function and there was no magical cure that we could give him to fix what had been done to them. However, what could be done was providing this man with a wheelchair. This would dramatically improve his quality of life and his ability to do the things he wants/needs to do. Using arms as legs is not a sustainable way to live or be able to contribute as a member of his family and his community. This event had a very large impact on me and the way I view accessibility and affordability of healthcare. He could not get to a health clinic due to his disability and he also could not afford the wheelchair even if he made it to the clinic. This fueled me to want to do more for this man and people who may be in similar situations to him.

In addition to this experience, my interactions and relationships formed while working in the Agbesia CHPS Center and the Kpetoe Health Clinic helped lead to a change in understanding of myself and a change in my understanding of the world around me. During my workdays, when we were not conducting home visits or seeing patients, I was able to develop a sincere friendship with some of my colleagues. This was eye-opening because we talked about everything – from politics, to religion, to our families and personal lives. Through this insightful conversation, a common theme that kept coming up was the idea that we are all so different – we have different backgrounds, different education, different opinions – yet, we are the same; we are all just people, trying to better ourselves and better the communities around us. I really value all the conversations and friendships that I formed while working here, and they played a large role in shaping my transformation.

This transformation is valuable for my life because it helped to shape me as a person and helped me to realize what I want for my future. All my experiences in Ghana have reassured me as to why I chose to go into the medical field in the first place. I am now planning on picking up a minor in public global health (or something along those lines) so I could learn more about this topic and continue the global effort of helping and educating others around the world. I want to use my education and opportunity to help those who do not have the same opportunities that I do. In America, we take so much for granted – whether it’s access to primary healthcare, access to education, and many other luxuries that others around the world don’t have. It was a very humbling experience to be able to live amongst a culture that may have had little, but their spirits were so big. I truly admired their outlook on life and the ways that they chose to live their lives. Experiencing such a beautiful culture also makes me want to continue to travel abroad and domestically to volunteer in health clinics and schools. Personally, this trip to Ghana has changed my outlook on many different aspects of my life and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to travel, explore, meet new people, and learn about a different culture.