A Review of 2012

The first cohort of Global Health Fellows has had quite a busy and productive first semester of their four-year experience. A few highlights, in chronological order:

September:

Inspired by the widespread water security issue witnessed in Haiti, ninth grade biology teachers Scott Fowler and Elizabeth Glassman challenged all of their students to research, design, and build their own water filters as a collaborative project during the opening month of the academic year.

A week before “Bottle-Palooza” (the unveiling of the creations), Richard Vander Burg, the Vice President of Humanitarian Affairs for Lifesaver, came to campus and offered an engaging, interactive presentation to the entire ninth grade class that served to inspire and charge the students into their final week of the project.

Richard Vander Burg speaking with the Ninth Grade Class

October:

For seven Wednesday afternoons throughout the fall semester, the Global Health Fellows traveled the 10 minutes down the road to Operation Blessing, International’s headquarters in Virginia Beach. Working with Angela Cruciano Dart, the Manager of International Health Programs, and Keffenie Beyl Quezada, the International Manager of Vulnerable Children’s Programs, the Fellows were challenged to develop a sanitation curriculum for OBI to implement at 373 preschools in Peru to help mitigate the prevalence of intestinal parasites.

GHFs at Operation Blessing, International headquarters
                                 GHFs at Operation Blessing, International headquarters

After weeks of researching, writing, Skype-ing with Sandra Arbaiza Canedo, Programs Manager for OBI Peru, and crafting props, the Fellows test-drove their prevention workshop with the first grade classes here at Norfolk Academy. A few tweaks later and the program was piloted by OBI Peru staff in Lima. Along with this educational workshop the Fellows have devised, the campaign will include the distribution of anti-parasite medicine and TOMS shoes to each child and hand washing stations to each school in Iquitos, Peru.

The Fellows were so excited about the project that they ran a holiday fundraiser in the Norfolk Academy Middle School. At a daily morning chapel, they gave a presentation about the history and work of Operation Blessing, International, the prevalence of intestinal parasites in the developing world, specifically in Peru, and offered a way our school community could help. They sold holiday cards, each representing a $15 hand washing station, and in just over one week, they had raised a total of $4032, which will supply about 270 hand washing stations for the project!       

November:

Three times a year, the entire Center for Civic and Global Leadership (Global Health Fellows, Chesapeake Bay Fellows, and International Relations Fellows) comes together for an evening that serves to demonstrate to the Fellows what is meant by “civic leadership.” For our fall evening meeting, Jay Leutze, lawyer, activist, and author of Stand Up That Mountain worked with the 22 current CCGL Fellows. Though his professional work falls in the realm of environmental stewardship and is more directly applicable to the Chesapeake Bay Fellows’ course of study, his story of standing up and fighting against an injustice left everyone present feeling empowered that they themselves can become agents of real change.

December:

On December 5, the Global Health Fellows spent the afternoon at the downtown Norfolk headquarters of Physicians for Peace for a medical mission debrief by Norfolk Academy parents Chris and Diana Behling, Ob Right Program Manager for Sentara Healthcare.

Chris and Diana shared insight into their eleven-day child and maternal health medical mission to Mwandama, Malawi, one of the Millennium Villages of the Earth Institute. The Virginian-Pilot featured an article on the presentation – check it out!

Fellows’ reflections on the presentation:

Brian Peccie, GHF ’16: After Ms. Behling’s presentation, what struck me the most was that Malawi currently has a female president. One of the most important issues with developing healthcare is gender equality and how women are seen in many societies. Many countries and cultures still believe that men are superior over women. Mostly in low-income countries, the women have one main job–to have babies. One of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to obtain gender equality within the upcoming years. Women deserve to be on a much higher level in society than they are in many countries. Hearing that Malawi now has a female president, I began to think about how it affects the world. Hopefully this will spark a change in the way women are viewed in society.

Aneesh Dhawan, GHF ’16: During Ms. Behling’s presentation, she mentioned the average life expectancy of  a  Malawian is 52. Although we were exposed to the miseries of a developing country during our summer trip to Haiti, this statistic caught me off guard.  As Americans, we take nutritious food and excellent healthcare for granted. We can walk into the nearest supermarket and purchase a variety of goods. In Malawi, a country that relies heavily on subsistence farming, the people cannot afford nutritious food like we can. The lack of nutrition has devastating effects on the people of Malawi. The presentation has reiterated that the basic needs we take for granted are luxuries for most of the people around the world.

Bridget Dickinson, GHF ’16: In the presentation, there was an astonishing statistic that 27% of neonatal death is caused by preterm birth. It impacted me because the deaths can be prevented by supplying tools and educating the communities in those countries. In the United States we have access to machines and devices that help babies breathe and if we train health professionals in these countries with interventions such as NeoNatalie we could potentially lower death rate.

Elizabeth Lilly, GHF ’16: I was particularly affected by the fact that 300 of those bricks — which Malawian workers would strenuously labor every day to make — would be worth only one US dollar. Additionally, $20 would pay for a semester’s worth of school. Especially during Christmastime, when there is so much “I want” and so little “I’m thankful for” after Thanksgiving has passed, I am reminded more and more of our own trip to Haiti, and how lucky we are to live in the United States. It’s a somewhat cliched sentiment, but still it rings true.

Stuart Luter, GHF ’16: Before Ms. Behling’s presentation, I did not know much about Malawi. After listening to her presentation, I have a greater understanding about the culture of Malawi and the problems Malawi currently faces. I also learned the main causes of maternal death. Malawi reminds me in many ways of Haiti, where we went last summer. Haiti, similarly to Malawi, has limited access to clean water and basic health care. It was interesting to compare and contrast Haiti and Malawi. Ms. Behling’s presentation did have an impact on me. The fact that people in Malawi live on less than the equivalent of $1 per day was shocking and hard to fathom. I was also shocked to learn that people living in the rural parts of Malawi obtained water from a spring, which did not always provide water during the dry season. I can’t imagine living for months without a reliable source of water.

Wyatt Miller, GHF ’16: I learned from Ms. Behling that the reason it is so hard for organizations to provide clean drinking water for villages in Malawi is because in Malawi the villages are spread out over many miles, so one well can only provide water for a few families. This made me realize that solving a problem like a lack of clean water is not as simple as getting the money to dig a well. To actually provide people spread out over a large area with clean water you must, at least at first, provide them with means to clean their own water such as filtering devices, and then you can move on to the more permanent solution of digging wells. I also learned that the poor in Malawi are virtually stuck in a never ending cycle of poverty that they can’t escape. The people farm for a living but most of the crops they farm they must eat, so they never make much of a profit. This poverty can only be stopped if the people’s basic needs are filled, like having enough food and water, so that they can then focus on getting a job to make money rather than just farming enough so that they can have another meal.

Inside the classroom:

While time is always an issue, the Global Health Fellows try to convene once or twice a week to work together to build their knowledge base. They have been reading Global Health 101 by Richard Skolnick – learning about health determinants, indicators, equity – and will analyze case studies in the spring semester.

Thank you to all who supported us in launching the Global Health Fellows Program in 2012! We look forward to continuing to work together in 2013!

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