Museum of Natural History’s Outbreak Exhibit!

GHFs visit the Museum of Natural History by Madeleine Munn (2019)

GHF 20s at the Outbreak exhibition!

On Saturday we visited the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History before hitting the road toward home. There was a fascinating exhibit called “Outbreak” about infectious disease and the way it is spread. Plus, we visited the rest of the museum- and some of us immersed ourselves in butterflies! What a perfect way to end a fabulous retreat. We had a long, hot bus ride back, just reaching home before it started storming. We are so grateful to all of the organizations we met with in DC this week- they are doing the work we are inspired by. This retreat was a perfect way to keep us moving forward into the school year. Here’s to a new season of life and learning!

 

 

GHFs Visit JHU’s Bloomberg School of Public Health

Friday’s Visit to Baltimore by Erin Clayton (2021)

On our 3rd day in DC, we boarded the bus for Baltimore at the early time of 7:15, already filled up on breakfast from our hotel. Everyone was tired after the long day of Thursday, but our excitement about visiting Johns Hopkins overpowered our lack of sleep. After a short 1 hour bus ride to Baltimore, we arrived to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and were met by Taryn Mallonee and Lauren Black, the director and assistant director of recruitment, communications, and events for the school of Public Health. After they led us to our conference room, Ms. Mallonee and Miss Black asked us about our own interests in Global Health and our favorite experiences in the field. I thought this was unique and something that we had rarely been asked on the trip. We then had the opportunity to learn all about how the Bloomberg School operates and about the student body. One of the aspects of the conversation I found particularly interesting was how of the 10 divisions of the school, one of them was Mental Health. I thought it was interesting how Johns Hopkins is the only school of Public Health that has a specific Mental Health program. The admissions experts also informed us on the great extent of Johns Hopkins research. After our first session, Ms. Mallonee and Ms. Black took us on a tour of the Bloomberg school building and also John’s Hopkins Hospital. We saw everything from labs, classrooms, and lecture halls to the gym, coffee shop, and study rooms. The facilities were beautiful and it was a great opportunity to see the work in action.

After the tour and a quick break, we had a Q&A with faculty member Dr. Donna Strobino, a professor and vice chair of Education in the department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health. Professor Strobino was very knowledgeable about topics especially related to our work on Women’s Empowerment in Belize. She also reassured everyone that is ok to not know what you want do, and even made the fellows all laugh saying she did not know what she wanted to do. After Professor Strobino’s educational discussion, we had a second Q&A with current doctoral student Justin Jacob, who is a part of the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Justin’s presentation described his unusual undergraduate path which involved multiple major changes, work at the Center for Disease Control that was unrelated to his studies, and ultimately ending up back at Johns Hopkins doing what Justin believed he was meant to do. This discussion continued our topic of how you do not really know where you will end up until you get there.

Madeleine Munn (GHF 19) asks Dayna Myers questions about Global Health NOW

After our morning at the University, we had a lunch break in the Hospital cafeteria followed by a break time, where my cohort went to  a coffee shop to discuss the morning’s events! We returned back to the Bloomberg School of Public Health and then had a fascinating meeting with Dayna Kerecman Myers from Global Health Now. Global Health Now is an online publication and subscription service where the most important Global Health related articles of the day are published or republished from other publications. All Global Health fellows subscribe to the website and so it was an amazing experience to hear about the behind the scenes aspect of the website. I was impressed how Ms.Myers wakes up at 5am every morning in order to publish the days newsletter. After meeting with Global Health Now, we loaded onto the bus to drive back into DC and to our surprise visit to the World Bank Group’s Visitor Center. We enjoyed a in depth and detailed tour by a volunteer tour guide, which outlined the World Bank’s efforts since its founding. We finished off our last night with a delicious dinner at Bar Louie and some ice cream from Haagen Daz.

GHFs Visit Chemonics, the State Department, CARE, and Mary’s Center

GHFs Visit Chemonics, the State Department, CARE, and Mary’s Center by Julia Duarte (2020)

On Thursday, I woke up to Madeleine calling my name at 7:00. After a few more minutes of comfortable sleep, I forced myself to get out of bed and I proceeded to get ready.  Thoughts reminiscing about the inspirational speakers of the previous day and preparing myself for the full day ahead ran through my head as I brushed my teeth. Once we were all ready, Madeleine, Anaiya, and I grabbed our bags and went downstairs for breakfast.

After we were all fueled by waffles and coffee, we jogged on to the bus at 8:10, a time which was a little earlier than planned in the event that we met some D.C. traffic. Our cautiousness was awarded by an extra 20 minute break outside in the nice weather. When 8:50 came around, we crossed the street to the large building that houses the private international development company, Chemonics. We made our way up an elevator to a sunlit room where we would be both presenting to a panel of experts (this was the only company to ask us to do this)  and listening to the presentation of the panelists. I grabbed a coffee (yes, for the second time) and sat down with my cohort at a table and directed my attention to the ‘19s, who would be presenting our mission and previous work in the field. Watching the seniors carry themselves with poise and listening to them speak with clarity and a sort of passion made me only hope that someday I could be as confident of a public speaker as they were. I was definitely proud to have them representing this program. Once the presentation concluded, I saw the amazed gazes of the three women sitting in front of us. Ms. Doris Youngs, Ms. Ashley Greve, and Ms. Megan Nelson directed some questions our way, which excited me to see three experts interested in the work of a handful of teenagers.

Panel of experts at Chemonics!

After they talked about their own work within and outside of Chemonics, we began to slowly pour out our thoughts and questions to them. With each question, the three spoke with more and more passion and displayed their knowledge and experience in front of us. I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) by so much information that two hours flew by too quickly. We said hasty goodbyes and headed off to lunch. I ate a filling salad at Panera while getting to know Leila, a newbie to this program.

Ambassador Birx welcomes GHFs to the State Department

At 12:50, we all convened in front of the US Department of State building. Andrew and Kara, the leaders of the day, briefed us on PEPFAR right before two men came outside to escort us through security and to the elevators. At the conference room, we got the chance to meet and speak to Ambassador Birx, Mr. Jason Bowman, Ms. Neeta Bhandari and others. We learned about the United States’ involvement in the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the application of maps and geographic information to outbreaks and disease, public-private partnerships, and more. An hour and a half did not offer sufficient time for us to hear what the experts had to say and to ask questions. At the end, we thanked everyone who spoke to us, were ushered downstairs, and quickly hopped on the bus so that we could be taken to our next stop. At 3:00 we were dropped off at CARE, an international humanitarian organization. We met with Ms. Kristin Wells, who does advocacy work at CARE (fun fact: the first care packages were created here). CARE has certainly evolved from physical care packages to “conceptual care packages”, as Ms. Wells stated. Now, they are offering emergency relief aid, women’s rights advocacy, and long-term development programs around the world.

Next, we arrived at the community health center, Mary’s Center (which was founded in a basement!) and we listened to Ms. Bethlehem Muleta and Ms. Selene Tituana speak about the mission of Mary’s Center and community health education research that has been conducted. After we asked a few questions, we split into two groups and we were taken on a tour around the facility. Seeing many components, such has the medical sector, dental sector, and education facilities, really opened my eyes to all the good that they offer to people of all ages and backgrounds. We left the building (not before taking a few pictures.. Which reminds me, please check out our twitter! @NA_Fellows) and made our regular dash onto the bus. Before we knew it, we were at the hotel and running into the lobby. We were given ample time to change out from our formal outfits and relax before heading downstairs to head to Shake Shack (shoutout to Ells’ persistent pleas for burgers). At Shake Shack, I sat with Courtney, Connor, and Sahib and laughed at nothing and everything. That, combined with a good burger and shake, was a perfect conclusion to a perfect day.

I’m not done yet (so sorry)!! In the evening we all met up in Ms. Nas’ room, listened to each others’ roses and thorns, got a spiel of tomorrow’s schedule from Madeleine, and read Global Health Now! articles to prepare for tomorrow’s visit.  

At night, we were in Connor and Sahib’s room after the meeting and talked about what you expect teenagers to talk about: gossip, school, vines, etc. But looking around at the different but the most familiar faces and knowing that we are all connected by a common interest, that we all experienced the once unimaginable, and that we were in for more adventures, jokes, teasing, learning, thinking, laughs, and growing up with one another, I felt an overwhelming feeling of joy that this experience permanently intertwines us into each others’ lives. I reflected on this in my bedroom and before I knew it, my 6:00 alarm was blaring into my ear signalling the start of a new, exciting day.

GHFs arrive to Washington DC

GHF Retreat Blog Post 8/9/18 by Andrew Thetford (2019)

Our first day of the DC portion of our retreat was an early one.  We met at the Arch at 6:30, bags in hand, and boarded the biggest NA bus to get on the road to our first stop at Cycle Technologies.  We all made sure to be on time, because our driver, Roy, said that 6:45 was the latest time we could depart and still be on time. However, about 20 minutes into our drive, we experienced some technical difficulties with the bus and had to turn around and go back to NA to get on another, much smaller bus. It all worked out in the end, as we made it to Cycle Technologies with a couple minutes to spare due to an unnatural lack of traffic for a weekday morning in the nation’s capital.

Cycle Technologies was a very good start to the trip.  They’re a corporation that designs products ranging from necklaces to apps that help women in both the US and especially countries in levels 1-3 to keep track of their menstrual cycle to avoid unwanted pregnancies as well as to facilitate family planning.  We had a great dialogue with two representatives from Cycle Technologies, and came away very impressed with their innovation and energized for our next stop, Conservation International.

Conservation International is an organization that works with foreign governments, companies, and locals in biodiversity hotspots to conserve our world and essentially our ability to live.  Our meeting with their representative, Ms. Janet Edmond, involved a general presentation about Conservation International’s work and a Q&A session regarding Ms. Edmond’s story and the interests of our group.

Our final meeting of the day was with the Save the Children organization, a group that works around the world to improve the child mortality rate, provide children with education, and help them escape conflict and violence.  This was one of the highlights of the entire trip for some of the GHFs, and we left all of our meetings wishing we had more time.

After a rough drive in DC traffic, we made it to the hotel, unpacked, and headed out for our first dinner of the trip at some nearby restaurants.  We ended the day with a reflection meeting and preparation for the next day of our retreat. Overall, it was an excellent start to our DC/Baltimore trip!

GHFs Back on Campus – Retreat Day 1

Reflections on the First Day by Ray Fitzgerald (2019)

The Global Health Fellows 2018 Summer Retreat began at 9:00 AM on August 7th. The day began with warm greetings around the room, and an icebreaker led by Ingrid. The icebreaker consisted of a homemade volleyball with various questions being passed around the room. It was a great way to get everyone more comfortable talking to each other again after a long summer. Soon after the icebreaker, the 19’s presented the work that was done in Belize this summer to everyone, with an ongoing discussion about how we can improve our ideas and tackle issues we faced while in Belize. Everyone was doing an amazing job of contributing to the conversation on what will be best for the future of our work in Belize.

After a short break, we began a group discussion on the book Factfulness, a book that all the Fellows read this summer that discusses 10 instincts that a majority of people have that distort their view on certain issues that impact people around the globe. Ingrid began the discussion with a few opening questions and discussion points, and then everyone split up into groups of two or three. Each group then travelled from senior to senior to discuss the different chapters. I personally believe that everyone got a lot out of these discussions, and I was very impressed with how intrigued everyone was with this book, and we all hope to keep this discussion going in the future.

The 19’s then led  the group through a practice run of a presentation that they would be giving later in the retreat to Chemonics. This presentation ran through who we are and what we have done in the past as well as our plans for the future. The younger cohorts gave very insightful feedback, with some help from Mrs. Goodson and Mrs. Hall. Soon after the presentation and feedback Andrew did a quick run through of some packing reminders, as well as overview of the week ahead.

Lunch consisted of some amazing food, courtesy of the Munn family! While the 20’s and 21’s ate, the 19’s had a working lunch with Mrs. Livingston to discuss and work on their senior Addendums to supplement their college applications. Once lunch was over, everyone packed up and began the trip to Escape Room for a team building activity. During this activity, everyone split up into their cohorts and were ‘locked’ in a room for an hour and given clues and riddles to solve in order to get out. The 19’s were the only ones to get out in time, but the team work shown by all three cohorts was very impressive. Overall, it was an amazing start to a great 2018 Global Health Fellows Retreat!

Travel Home from Belize – Day 8

Written by Madeleine Munn ’19 to recount Saturday, June 16, 2018:

1 hour and 13 minutes. We will touch down in Norfolk then, and there is no world in which I could capture 8 days in 1 hour and 13 minutes. Douglas Adams said that “to give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” You could not have measured the chance to turn on a light in a young girl’s mind which had never even known it was in the dark. You could not have bought the smile on Ray’s face when he finally met and talked to a Mennonite. You could not have measured or bought the kindness and openness of 97 patients. There’s no buying or measuring or summarizing 8 days of intense experience, thoughtful reflection, and sweet, tender moments- 8 days of sincerity and integrity. It was a bittersweet finale for the seniors, a fresh first for the sophomores, and an exciting adventure for all.

We traveled to towns where people had no teason to open their door to teenage gringos who wanted to measure their glucose levels, blood pressure, and vitals, but they did- without hesitation- and we were lucky to talk with them and to begin to ponder how to continue a relationship with their communities. The point is, we (the USA) have a lot to learn from Belize, its residents, its healthcare system (and its food!!). It is many things but ugly is not one of them. Neither is unfriendly. Every single person we met was equally as welcoming and beautiful as the landscape they inhabited. That says a lot about people. In a lot of ways, we become our surroundings; but also, we choose the final product- we choose unearned gratitude, trustworthy affection, boundless grace. We are shaped by them but they don’t determine us, only we do that.

As I look around me at our tired faces, I feel the fullness of the hearts inside. I feel the heat of last night’s bonfire, the final gathering. I hear the laughter of a group that put an insane amount of work into changing the world, and drank sodas together in the downtime. And I know that no matter how delirious some of us may be after a day of traveling and a week of hard work, and no matter how much we are waiting, on the edge of our seats, for the summer ahead, Belize will always be our rose.

Travel to Belize – Day 7

The last full day, Friday, June 15th, is captured by Ella Davis (2021).

The excitement of the week carried us all the way to our last day in Belize and for some their last day of international GHF travel. Today was filled with work, reflection, and bonding mixed with happy memories and an overwhelming feeling of how much we’ll miss this place. The morning began with the health fair, giving us one last opportunity to interact with our community. There were vitals, blood pressure/blood glucose being taken, vaccines being distributed and babies being measured and weighed. I taught nutritional lessons to the women in the waiting area along with the hand-washing curriculum. The moms were very interactive and it was great to see that what we were teaching  would make a difference within their households. While others were hard at work tending to patients, a few of us kept the kids occupied while their mothers waited. We handed out tooth brushing pamphlets for them to color, sat in a small circle and talked about everything from the colors of the Crayons to their school lives. One little five year old boy and I bonded in particular. I taught him how to use hand sanitizer and showed him all of our germs under the glow light. When it was time for everyone to pack up he ran over to me and gave me one of the best hugs of my life and that was when I truly felt that my job was special. After a fun-filled start to the day, our group decided to stop by the Pentecostal schools cultural day before lunch. Walking in, we were greeted by the kids we had taught just days before. But instead of uniforms, they were dressed in traditional Mennonite, Creole, Indian and American outfits and sold food out of each cultures tent. We played, ate and conversed for a while until we reluctantly headed back. Fortunately, our home stay families greeted us with a fantastic last lunch of the trip! After taking a quick but well deserved nap, we headed to the community center and started reflections. I was given the time to think about every awesome event on this trip, and just to think about the impact that we had on so many people’s lives. As we shared our reflections one by one, I couldn’t help but feel sad. I felt sad that we didn’t have more time to give to the people of these communities, and that we didn’t have more time to just be with each other without the temptations of electronics. Nonetheless, our last experience on our 2018 GHF Belize trip consisted of a bonfire, a few chairs and a lot of laughs. We chowed down on the going away cake for Kirsten (who will be missed greatly) sat around the dimly lit fire, just enjoying each other’s company, and playing a few rounds of Mafia. I’m going to bed thinking of the great memories we will all share in many years to come.

Travel to Belize – Day 6

The June 14th post is written by Maddie Brooks, Class of 2021.

Today was incredible day full of learning, fun activities, and final home visits of the trip.  We began our day at 8:30 AM in the Pentecostal School in San Antonio (after a delicious breakfast of French toast from miss Attalia and her husband) to teach our lessons that we have been working on for a while.  Our book, Lola Has Questions, was finally put to use by the group teaching puberty to the 6th-8th grade girls (Madeleine, Kara, Erin, Ingrid, Anaiya, and me).  We had great success with our lessons!

We split the groups into two and had three of the GHFs in each group teaching about the menstrual cycle, periods, female anatomy, and good hygiene.  We also discussed how it is important for girls to help girls and how would should always feel empowered.  Being able to educate these young women especially about their bodies, what as wonderful opportunity to make them feel strong and put them in a safe environment.  We became familiar with one another after sharing a little bit about ourselves, such as what we want to be when we grow up or what we wished we learned in school and even about our family.  After reading the book together, since ever girl received her own copy, we dove into some explanations using posters and labels within the book.

We finished the book and all our discussions we closed with a final activity of reflection.  We broke up into small groups and went outside of the cafeteria and each girls shared what we learned from the lesson using a crumpled piece of paper as a ball to toss.  I was so impressed and surprised at the responses that were given because they were so detailed and thoughtful.  It was amazing how much information the girls retained and I was very excited about this as it was my rose of the day!  We then went back inside so the girls could write anonymous questions for us to answer which was a great opportunity to make things more private.  We hope to use some of these questions in the future for another book!

While some of the girls were teaching the puberty lesson, Ray, Andrew, Ella, and Michela taught several classes on nutrition and exercise.  In the classroom, they showed the 5 main food groups and MY PLATE before going into an engaging activity where students determined which foods were placed into which food groups.  Then, the students were taken outside to the soccer field/recess area to participate in some physical activity which consisted of a fun and competitive relay race with both boys and girls.  It was so much fun to watch the students run and the GHFs interact with them!

At the same time, Leila and James talked with the principal of the Pentecostal School about what the community and school’s needs are and specifically the school’s computers and their lab.  the two installed a new software program onto several of the school’s computers, which could help the school to start teaching a new computer curriculum.  Some students even came in to test the new software and played games on it which make the GHFs very happy to see that it worked!

After a few more nutrition and exercise lessons, we departed from the Pentecostal School to have a long and relaxed lunch.  We reconvened at 2 PM in the community center to begin our final home visits of the trip which were in San Antonio.  Since there was only one community health worker, one group went at a time to different homes to once again measure blood glucose, blood pressure, and vitals such as temperature, pulse, respiration rate, height, weight, and BMI.  As Ray took blood pressure, or Ingrid and James took blood glucose, or I took vitals with Erin and Ella, we would ask our patients a few questions to get to know them and their community better.  We asked them questions about their family and history of lifestyle which gave us more perspective and clarity.  My group of 6 visited about 3 hours in an hour and a half, which totaled about six people.  Differing from some of the other communities we visited, most of the people in San Antonio could communicate  with us in English – although it was very fun to practice our Spanish with them!

After we finished our home visits, we worked on some of the lesson plans for the clinic on Friday, which consist of stations for vitals, blood glucose, blood pressure, infant measurements, educating young mothers, and activities with some of the kids!  We closed with our daily reflection of roses and thorns, and deltas and positives.  My rose for the day was hearing all of the amazing things that the young girls at the Pentecostal School learned from the puberty lesson and the details of those as well as the anonymous question, which shows how attentive they really were.  It was a very exciting day, although my thorn from the day was seeing some people on the home visit who really needed to see a doctor but were unaware and did not feel the urgency, which was really upsetting.  We want for them to get the proper care they need and deserve, which is a very hard thing to do, but is also the reason that we are here.  Hopefully, we will come back with even more knowledge of how we can help.  Overall, everyone had a fantastic day and we are very sad to see the week is almost gone!  Thank you for reading!

Travel to Belize – Day 5

Ingrid Benovitz (2019) reflects on the GHFs final day of home visits in Belize.

This morning, I woke up to the familiar smell of fried bread and the familiar sounds of the roosters.  After a delicious breakfast, I walked to the community center with Kirsten and Anaiya to meet the rest of the group and head out for another set of home visits.  We finally arrive to Santa Familia and I gave a quick motivational speech to hype everyone up for our final morning of home visits.  As Mr. Wetmore reminded us, starting the week strong was the easy part.  The hard part is keeping up the energy and getting better each day, rather than being complacent.  I think it is safe to say that we settled for nothing less than our absolute best!

My group went to three houses and were able to have many meaningful conversations and moments with the members of the community.  I really pushed myself to speak in Spanish and even Ray, the German speaker, tested out a few new phrases!  i’m just hoping he’ll be able to talk to a German Mennonite by the end of the week!  Anyway, this morning of home visits truly was exceptional – with James and Ella at the helm of the needs assessment.  I got to practice taking blood glucose levels all by myself, which was scary at first, but ended up being the most fulfilling experience.  At the last home, we were all welcomed graciously into the house, where the entire family was interested and engaged in our work.  I felt such gratitude for this family and really hope the best for them.

After a lunch break, we all met back at the community center for the afternoon.  Gabby gave us an informative sessions about mosquito-borne illnesses, which prompted Kara and me to quickly sneak outside to apply more bug spray.  Kirsten then gave a session on sex-ed.  Her statistics were very helpful in putting things in perspective and about consent and healthy relationships.  We then had some time to run through the school lessons we will be teaching tomorrow.  This week has been amazing and I go to bed each night wholly excited for what the next day will bring.  Hasta la vista!

Travel to Belize – Day 4

Tuesday’s update is brought to you one of our new Global Health Fellows – Erin Clayton (2021).

This morning at my home stay with Michela, Kara and Gabby (a GPSA fellow), Miss Dorita made us Johnny cakes.  A Johnny cake is a sweet, dense biscuit that is eaten with jam and jellies or even peanut butter.  After this delicious breakfast, we set out for the community center where our transportation picked us up to take us to Los Tambos.

Los Tambos is located about an hour away from San Antonio, where we are staying.  I saw it as a much more rural community with a prevalent farming lifestyle.  All morning we visited homes to take temperature, pulse, respiration rate, height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, and blood glucose.  Although my group (we split into two teams for this activity) only visited three houses, we were able to connect with the patients we visited

with.  At the last house we visited, the Spanish-speaking members of our group had a long conversation about the struggles Los Tambos experiences.  These were mainly related to money, poor education, and lack of access to medicine.  A lot of my group and myself ended up feeling a bit helpless with the problems the community experiences.  By the end of our morning in Los Tambos, we gained a contact with an influential figure there, Kendrick Hernandez.  We plan on contacting him in the future to see how we can help.

 

 

After a lunch break, we returned to the community center and spent the afternoon there with different lessons.  First, Kirsten taught us about nutrition, malnutrition, and obesity.  Then, Luis taught us some Spanish phrases that will be useful for our home stay visits.  Lastly, Gabby taught us about oral health and even how to make our own toothpaste!  We spent the last hour before dinner working on our projects for our visit to the school Thursday.  I am part of the Women’s Empowerment group and am very excited to teach the girls.

After dinner at our home stay, the whole group met at the Women’s Co-Op for a fun game of trivia.  The topics ranged from infectious diseases to pop culture and my team (unBelizeable) came out as winners!