- GVI is an organization that is based out of South Africa, with bases in over 13 countries aiming to reach site-specific Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, based on the United Nation’s list. An example of an SDG is “Zero hunger.” While in Dawasamu, I partook in many critical activities to work towards meeting our SDGs. The most meaningful experiences to me that I did were related to Good Health & Well Being and Reduced Inequalities.
- Through this experience, I gained an island family, a second home, and important knowledge about myself, about the environment, about different cultures, and about the greater world around me. I was put into an entirely different culture on the opposite side of the world, placing my faith into the strangers that I would come to know as great friends over the four weeks I spent with them. I took a huge leap of faith and amounted to what I believe was a great success. I learned how to adapt, physically and emotionally, to the stressors and lifestyle that Fijian villagers lived. I have a sense of direction that I did not have before this trip, and I believe that is one of the greatest things I get to take away from volunteering abroad.
I was able to compare and contrast the domestic public health concerns in Dawasamu with those of Columbus, noting the large socioeconomic disparity between the two and its implications. On an international level, the public health concerns of Fiji are clear to be that of a developing country, facing large numbers of communicable diseases and malnutrition. Unlike the US, which has major concerns with rising non-communicable diseases and mental health disorders. In relation to these comparisons, I was also able to think about additional factors that relate to global public health issues: political unrest, cultural beliefs, socioeconomic factors, and geographical/environmental factors.
- I took part in many different activities in my experience in Fiji, which culminate to transform me into the person I am today. I helped to build a greenhouse to be used at the primary school as a Kitchen Garden, as well as weeded, overturned, and began the planting process for the Kitchen Garden. The goal of this was to provide lunches for the children in the school, since they often come empty handed. This allowed me to have a sense of cultural understanding and global citizenship as I was able to think about the needs and ways to come up with a solution to something like the lack of food.
Every Wednesday, I attended the Dawasamu Nursing Station and gave presentations and one on one education for a “Mothers and Babies” workshop, educating mothers on childhood nutrition and the importance of breastfeeding. This transformed me into thinking about the diseases that affect people globally, especially in underserved areas. Things like malnutrition that aren’t very common here are prevalent in Fiji. My communication and critical thinking skills improved as I faced a language barrier and had to come up with a way to educate mothers that would be learned and understood. Using the district Nurse’s information, I also created pleasing, readable, and understandable First-Aid slides to be given to Community Health Workers (CHW) in the District (15 total). Again, this is an example of how my critical thinking skills were improved, but I transformed here in the sense of teamwork as me and my peers worked together on this project. I also went to the villages of Silana, Delakado, Deliyadua, and Mantainananu to educate families with each village’s CHW. This was done by house-to-house visits where we discussed in each home how to prevent common communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as good sanitation practices and how to recycle. This was hugely transformative for me in becoming more adaptable: I immersed myself into people’s homes, communicated with them, and had conversations about healthy living. With patience, one house after another, we were able to get to four villages.
One of my favorite activities was when we innovated a new method of reporting data and information that allowed CHW’s to keep track of the necessary patient information, documents, and statistics to give to the Ministry of Health in order to receive payment. This goal was realized after completing a needs assessment with one CHW, which became openly advocated for by majority of the CHW’s. The result became a workbook for each CHW, containing both logs of pages formatted for recording inventory and first aid usage as well as pages on what workshops and house-to-house visits had been done and with whom. Logbooks were created for volunteers to keep track of each village’s CHW progress, needs, accomplishments, and personal development plans. This allowed us to empower the CHW with having the confidence to teach their neighbors about prevention strategies. It is through this activity that I gained real problem solving skills after coming up with a solution to an identified need, while also developing leadership skills. I voiced my opinion and was able to create this project to work on.
Overall, assimilating to the culture of Fijian life and taking an active role in my family that I was assigned to by helping them on their plantation, eating meals with them, etc. made me culturally observant and flexible, immersing myself into the Fijian way of life.
- This change is valuable to my life because it has allowed me to realign my career aspirations in the field of public health. After graduation, I plan to join AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps to gain long-term experience being an “ambassador” in another community and taking on a role that gives me more leadership opportunities. From there, I hope to go back to school to either get my MPH, or attend Medical School. After furthering my education, I would love to eventually end up working for the United Nations or the World Health Organization on improving Global Public Health.
This experience has showed me the importance of SDGs and the positive impact that implementing these goals on a struggling community yields. I now have a sense of direction for the future that I didn’t have before. I am grateful to have been able to have this transformative experience and become a global citizen. The time I spent in Fiji gave me a new perspective of the world we live in, allowing me to narrow my future goals and get one step closer to where I want to be.