Farewell Belize (Ella Davis ’21)

After spending a day of lasts on Friday, Abby, Julia and I woke up at 5:15am to watch the sunrise in honor of Julia’s last day travelling internationally with the Global Health Fellows Program. Despite being cloudy, the sky turned a bit orange and served as a breathtaking backdrop to the Belizean mountains. Inside, we packed our bags and soaked in our last moments with Chelsea, our home-stay little sister, Ms. Dorita our home-stay mom, and Sasha (who we like to call our GPSA sister). When the van arrived, our unconventional family parted ways with promises to keep in touch. Looking back on our time spent together over this trip, I now realize how lucky the three of us were to have shared so many laughs and made friendships that will serve as well during the rest of our time in the Global Health Fellows Program.

On our long van ride to the airport, a few of us played a game called “contact” which is basically trying to guess the word a person is thinking of. Ells stumped all of use with the word “angiophobia”. When we arrived at the airport, we were handed our phones and passions and said our final goodbyes to the GPSA staff. Immediately after our reunion with technology, the dynamic of the trip shifted away from what it had been for the past 7 days. We were all getting back into our normal routines. The group cleared security, boarded the plane and watched as the plane flew closer towards the sky and further away from San Antonio. Landing in Charlotte, there was a mad dash towards our next gate, because we had to get through customs, immigration, recheck our bags and get through security in less than an hour with Mr. Hurley leading the way. My group of 4 got to the gate in time for them to hold the doors for the rest of the group. Finally, we were settled in and ready to get home to our families. Bringing back memories that wont easily fade, the Norfolk Academy Global Health Fellows were ready for a great summer and a successful school year after an exciting adventure in San Antonio, Belize. We were greeted by parents and siblings and I know all of use were so happy to see the smiling faces of our loved ones. I went home thinking about everything I have to look forward to with these wonderful people in this program.

Health Fair and Cultural Day (Sahib Chandi ’20)

Today was a day that was jam-packed with festivals. In the morning, we worked at the community health fair where we gave out our routine vitals such as blood pressure, blood glucose, respiration, pulse, BMI and temperature. We provided the vitals in the waiting area of the community center as people waited to vaccinate and take physicals of their babies. Before people left, we invited them to have their vitals taken free of charge. We also handed out our nutritional pamphlets and exercise pamphlets that groups made to encourage healthy living. Many of the attendees were pleased that the pamphlets were written in Spanish. Since many mothers were spending their time waiting, we also took the opportunity to conduct our needs assessment with those who were willing. The new data from San Antonio should compliment our data from the surrounding rural communities. We also brought our health services to a group of people waiting outside the community center.

Overall, I felt like people were very apt to having their vitals taken. A particular man asked me what his blood glucose number meant, as I explained to him that his reading was normal. And, for the kids we had a station with crayons and health related coloring books (i.e. nutrition and dental hygiene) to keep them busy. The next big festival was the cultural day at the United Pentecostal School where students, dressed as different cultures performed. Some were dressed in the white creole clothing, the white and red dresses of the mestizos or the flower patterns of the Mayans. The gathering was a time for us to enjoy the community and play with all the kids that we have taught for the past two weeks. Our goodbyes to the kids were filled with high fives and hugs.

After lunch, we went to the San Antonio Women’s Co-op for an afternoon of reflection of our experiences over the week. Andrea asked us to reflect on our expectations, assumptions, and future plans for our interventions. She also asked us to draw a picture of our most memorable or impact moment from the week.

To close our reflections, we spent a fun filled hour at the school with some water balloon fights. We became so soaked that this was the first time that I felt remotely cold. We finished the day with a final feast at Mrs. Antonia’s house. We spent dinner full of laughs and reflection as our Belizean adventure came to a close.

School Visits and visiting the Market (Erin Clayton ’21)

Happy Thursday! We are continuing to enjoy our week in Belize. This morning, my home stay with Ms. Nasimiyu, Anaiya, Laura, and Julianne was fed a delicious breakfast by Miss Antonia and her husband. They prepared an egg and vegetable scramble, fried jacks, and watermelon for us. After a short walk to the school, we met the rest of the group and excitedly watched as the kids we were about to teach arrived to school. Connor, Ells, Julianne, Leila, Courtney, and Mr. McMahon headed off to the computer lab to teach the 6th graders basic computer skills. Anaiya, Laura, Julia, and Abby met the 4th and 5th grade girls again to teach day 2 of their Women’s Empowerment Curriculum. Maddie, Ell, Sahib, Avery, Marianna, and I taught our basic health and nutrition class to the youngest (and cutest, I might add!) kids at the school. Our class covered the food groups, hydration, teeth brushing, hand washing, and exercise. The kids all seemed to have a really fun time with their coloring books about brushing your teeth and outside games of freeze dance, duck-duck-goose, Simon Says, and races.

My home stay then headed home for lunch. We were fed tamales, chips and salsa, and oreos as a treat. Everything Miss Antonia and her family has prepared is so delicious; I am really going to miss them. Ms. Nasimiyu, Anaiya, and myself spent the after lunch rest period napping in the hammocks.

We walked to the school again and met our vans for the afternoon excursion to San Ignacio. Here we spent a few hours walking through tbe local market and streets buying souvenirs for family and friends back home and enjoying each others company. The afternoon was completed an an ice cream treat from “The Ice Cream Shoppe” in downtown San Ignacio. The cold dessert and air conditioning was a much welcomed treat. After riding back to San Antonio, the exercise group held a class for the kids in the town. Everyone joined in and it became a massive dance party with all of us and about 30 kids from the town. We capped off the night with project reviews, planning for tomorrow’s health fair, roses and thorns, and physical and emotional check ins. My home stay headed home again to a dinner of fajita chicken, rice, and salad. After a few rounds of the card game “capitalism” we all headed to bed. All in all it was a great day!

Wednesday at the United Pentecostal School (Maddie Brooks ’21)

What a fun day we had today! Marianna, Courtney, Mrs. Hallberg, Carly, Jasmine and I started our day off with a breakfast of watermelon, mango, and mac and cheese from Miss MIriam. We changed into our scrubs and took the long walk to the community center at 8 AM. We met to walk over to the United Pentecostal School where we began our projects with the kids. Ella, Marianna, and I (the exercise group!) teamed up with Sahib, Erin and Avery (the nutrition group)to teach standard 1, 2 and 3 classes (like 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders) about healthy living. Each class was an hour so for the first half, Erin and Sahib taught their nutrition portion with a great poster and coloring books! The students were super interactive which made for great sessions. For the second half, Ella and I led a fun “exercise” class for the kids./ We went outside to play music and play a game called freeze dance which they enjoyed. After, we did some relay races (sometimes boys vs girls) which the kids really got into! For our standard 3 class, it was storming and raining too much to play outside so we did a few exercises like stretching, running in place, and jumping jacks as well as fun games about eating healthy.

Once the rain stopped, we had to say goodbye to the kids for the day and go back to our home stays for lunch. Miss Miriam made some very good spaghetti and when we found out the rain from the storm had soaked our beds, Miss Miriam replaced everything!! She is so kind and I am so grateful to be welcomed into her home.

After a nice 2-hour break, we returned to the community center at 3 PM. We reflected on the morning briefly and go started on changes/improvements to our projects. Ella, Mariana, and I began a new routine for our exercise class at 4 PM. Because kids came the last time on Monday, we made our dance more fun with easier moves but still a good workout. It was a huge success and about 10-12 girls came to the stage right next to the community center where we exercised. We did it a few times and danced to the music and even a few more girls came. Afterward, we handed out the water bottles, pedometers and explained the book to track everything. One little boy, Carlito, filled up his water bottle a few times and tracked it in the book and one of the girls, Alita, did some exercises from the book in her front yard! After some play time, we said goodbye and we headed to the Pentecostal School to play a fun game of soccer against each other. It got a little competitive as Ms. Nasimiyu slide tackled me and some balls hit some faces – but it was very fun!!!

We had our reflection with roses and thorns and emotional and physical check-ins then we went back to our home stays for dinner. MIss Miriam made us rice and beans, BBQ chicken, and fried plantains and itw as amazing! We went back to the restaurant at 8:30 PM to play some cards and then returned home later to sleep. Good night from Belize!

Tuesday in Belize (Anaiya Roberts ’21)

Where do I even begin? Today, was filled of laughter, learning, and bonding with one another. The day began with our last day of home visits, where each fellow grew more comfortable than the day before. My group even ended the day with German Menonite ice cream – what a great way to end the day! Next we were treated to a wonderful lunch from Miss Antonia. We also had the pleasure of spending time with some other GHFs. After reviewing our projects, I think came everyone’s favorite part of the day – going to James’ Farm. There we were able to see James’ family farm where we drank fresh coconut water and freshly roasted coffee! We enjoyed the coffee with coconut macaroons – it was like a little coffee shop! I felt like we were bonding and getting to know each other better which was the best feeling.

Finally, we had game night after dinner. The game of the night was MAFIA. In the first round, I was killed. Mr. McMahon was our amazing narrator and created a fun atmosphere. All in all, it was a great day and night!

Sunday Blog – Day 2 (Courtney Kilduff ’20)

The GHFs first full day in Belize proved to be very eventful. Before jumping into our project work with GPSA, we took the day to experience Belizean culture and history. Trip number one of the day was to ancient Mayan ruins – one of the most historically rich parts of all Belize. The GHFs attended a tour to learn about Xunantunich, the Mayan city of ruin which translate to “Maiden of the Rock” and even were fortunate enough to hike up the site’s greatest attraction: the temple of El Castillo. After this, our next stop was a traditional Belizean chocolate making factory to learn the history of chocolate making in Belize, make some of our own, and taste some of the country’s most popular products – like dark chocolate and chocolate wine. To end the day, the GHFs gathered to practice some of the medical skills we will be exercising throughout the week like taking blood pressure, blood glucose, pulse, respiration, and more. We look forward to putting these skills into action this week!

Travel Day to Belize (Erin Clayton ’21)

Today, we began our trip to Belize bright and early at 4:30 AM! After two flights and some airport card games, we arrived in Belize safely with the help of our leaders Connor and Ells. We landed around 1 PM Belizean time and met our coordinators Carly and Peyton from GPSA. We packed up our gear in two vans and headed out.

During the 45 minutes card ride, I got to bond with the ’22s. We all arrived at Cheers for lunch. I personally ordered a quesadilla for lunch and it was delicious. During lunch, I was able to learn more about Carly and Peyton. After lunch, we headed back into the vans for the long ride to San Antonio. Unfortunately, our van broke down on the way, but we were able to reorganize ourselves. We split into two groups, and my group headed to San Antonio in the working van. The, I finally was able to meet Miss Juanita who was generous enough to left me, Avery, and Peyton stay with her. Once everyone settled into their home stays, we gathered at the community center where we reunited with Andrea.

We went over an orientation and were given an overall schedule for the week. Then, we did our roses and thorns of the day and soon returned to our homes for the week. Avery, Peyton, and I enjoyed Miss Juanita’s amazing food for dinner and then we began to prepare for the adventurous week ahead.

The End

Written by Madeleine Munn ’19.

On the eve of the trip to Belize tomorrow, I have a few words. This year was the first and only of my blog manager responsibilities, and I have been honored to share updates on the program. In the final weeks of May myself and my five fellow seniors graduated from the fine institution that is Norfolk Academy and thereby completed the fellows program. It never really ends, though, because the things we have learned, the people we have come to know and love, and the experiences we have shared will last forever. It is incredible. At our final fellows dinner for all of the programs’ students and the parents of the seniors, one senior from each program in the BLP gave a speech. This was mine:

The Global Health Fellows have been quite busy this year –  three years ago, our program shifted fieldwork locations from Haiti to Belize. We are now going into our third year of work in rural San Antonio, Belize, partnering with GPSA, or Global Public Service Academy, a hands-on, academic, service-learning program in collaboration with Duke University and Johns Hopkins University. During our time on the ground in San Antonio, we either go door-to-door conducting home visits with community health workers, measuring people’s vital signs, including blood pressure and blood glucose levels, or teach lessons on hygiene, nutrition, and reproductive health at the local elementary school. During our home visits, we also conduct a needs assessment that we craft in advance.

Over the course of this year, the Global Health Fellows have split up into five different groups to concentrate on different areas that we believe we can make a positive impact on. These groups have been researching and working on different projects throughout the year and will be working with the community this summer to implement them in some cases or continue to monitor and evaluate existing projects in other cases. We have a health and nutrition group that is working toward increasing awareness on local and larger health issues through different curricula, a group working to help community health workers effectively organize data, a group starting a family exercise class in the community, a technology group that is implementing a computer literacy program at the United Pentecostal School, and a women’s’ empowerment group that has written two books about puberty and created a curriculum for young girls at the school on various topics. Project work is a huge part of our program, and we are constantly evaluating and offering constructive criticism toward our own projects and others, as well as monitoring and evaluating any projects we implement.

This program has taught us so much about leading ourselves and leading others.  We have been thrust into uncomfortable, even intimidating, situations, relying on only ourselves to solve problems.  It is routine for a Global Health Fellow to hold a lengthy discussion with an expert in the field, play with kids without being able to fluently speak their language, and lead the entire program in a group presentation.  All of these responsibilities create leadership skills and shape us into competent, confident leaders now and in the future.

Even in all of our hard work, we have stood on the shoulders of giants. Our incredible experiences have shaped our work in countless ways and we will be forever grateful to the people who gave us those experiences. Our directors, first and foremost, have been invaluable resources in and out of the world of public health. The people we’ve met along the way, the panels we’ve heard, the kids we’ve played-with in Haiti and Belize- they all breathed life into the knowledge and gave us confidence and wisdom that made our projects, and ourselves, what and who we are today.

The six of us were not close before Global Health, but since then we have grown alongside each other and been brought together by our shared experiences. We have performed skits, given presentations, posed for numerous cohort photos, stayed up all night in Haiti, eaten Panda Express in airports. We have picked each other up and made each other better. We have shared in victories and consoled in hard situations; we have adventured together; we have worked hard together, and in the process, we have formed some of the most special bonds.

Bill Gates said that “If you give people tools, and they use their natural abilities and their curiosity, they will develop things in ways that will surprise you very much beyond what you might have expected.” That is what this program has done for us: it has given tools to students with natural abilities and curiosity, and we have developed things in ways even we have not expected. So, we are grateful to the Fellows Program. We are so, so, grateful, because it has given us tools, and experiences but even more than that, it has given us each other and a new lens through which to see ourselves. And that is a gift.

I read that from my heart, and I still mean it from my very core. Thank you forever to this program for all it has done for us. My last blog post renders me sad but also so truly excited for a new chapter in my life and in the life of the program. I have the highest hopes and the best wishes for it and each of the brilliant minds it holds and will hold! Now, I am officially signing off of the Global Health Fellows Blog.

The Spring!

We have been working heads-down, diligently this spring. Every group is on time and on track, finalizing curricula, books, or health projects for our trip to Belize in June. This spring has brought so many new things. First and foremost, our lovely director Mrs. Hall welcomed a new baby boy into this world! Within the program, we have been challenging ourselves to question the sustainability, monitoring and evaluation, and organization of our projects.

A visitor, Tara Eskander (NA ’03), came to speak with us about Logic Models! She led us in a serious intensive that helped us take a step back from our projects and see them from the outside. We left the lesson with valuable, constructive, comments and questions to address about our projects.

Other than that, everyone has been working extremely hard on their Belize projects. Everything that needs to be ordered has been ordered, curricula have been critiqued to take their final form, and the future travelers are getting closer to their trip. It’s all exciting! The seniors are sad to be missing the trip this summer, but we are working on a scrapbook to be passed down to future generations of Global Health Fellows. The end of the year is approaching us quickly; here’s to a spring of hard work!

Duke FIP Conference

Written by Madeleine Munn ’19.

Nine of our lovely GHFs attended the Duke Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics for their 2019 FIP Symposium of Science and Photonics Technology. The symposium is two days of speakers, photo sessions, and panels. The GHF group left NA at 6:00 Tuesday morning (fueled by donuts from Mrs. Goodson), and left after lunch and shopping at the Duke student store. It was a wonderful day of early morning driving, interesting new knowledge from the world of public health and engineering, presentations about our projects, and fun road trip riddles on the way home. Here are some more details from a few of our students today…

Part One: Panel

Written by Erin Clayton ’21.

We were greeted by the staff and faculty hosting the conference and reconnected with Dr. Robert Malkin. Dr. Malkin is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Global Health at Duke and is also the Director of the Global Public Service Academies, or GPSA, who the fellows travel with to Belize over the summer.

GHFs gather before the panel at the FIP Conference

We were soon shuttled into a panel discussion, focused on Global Health STEM Outreach and using students in public service settings. The panel was moderated by Brittany Ploss, the project manager at the Duke Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine and the Assistant Director at GPSA. Panel members included the aforementioned Robert Malkin, Leslie J. Calman, and Tamara Fitzgerald. Leslie J. Calman is the CEO of Engineering World Health, a nonprofit focused on using undergraduate and graduate students to fix equipment in developing settings. Tamara Fitzgerald is the Assistant Professor of Surgery and Assistant Research Professor of Global Health at the Duke School of Medicine.

Panelists discussing students working in global health

The hour-long panel began with a question on the impact on communities with global health work as well as the impact on students. When regarding impact on the community, all three panelists agreed that impact is greater when it is a local community led campaign instead of outside forces. The conversation then transferred into capacity building, discussing the difficulty of finding jobs and salaries for people once they are trained. Next up was the question of the biggest issues the panelists were presented with. They discussed finding information from reliable and trustworthy sources. Next, Dr. Malkin touched on culture shock for students and the importance of patient interaction and support. The discussion came to a close with a question by Sahib Chandi (GHF ‘20) on the “brain drain” and how to prevent trained doctors from leaving. Brain Drain is a term coined by global health experts to describe when affluent, educated people leave a developing country and move to a country with access to better resources and higher salaries. While the panelists admitted they had no solution to doctors moving to developed countries, they agreed that investment from governments and private organizations is the best way to provide enough incentive for educated people to remain in countries lacking certain benefits. The panel provided an excellent opportunity for the fellows to continue to expand their knowledge of global health and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference!

Part Two: Poster Presentation

Written by Sahib Chandi ‘20.

After we attended the panel discussion with Dr. Calman, Dr. Fitzgerald, and Dr. Malkin, we presented posters of our project work in Belize to those attending the Global Health section of the FIP conference. Our project presentations included our Health and Nutrition curriculum, Women’s Empowerment Curriculum, Technological Literacy, Community Exercise Initiatives, and advocacy and support of Community Health Workers. As graduate students and professionals in the field came to our posters, we had some very interesting discussions that we did not expect to have. Particularly, as my group presented our work with Nutrition Education, new conversations ranged from food deserts, approaches to sustainability, and the language barrier of working on the field.

Andrew fielding questions on community health workers

James and Ella discussing their work with increasing activity level in adults

Madeleine and Anaiya discussing their curriculum

Connor and Leila fielding questions about their tech curriculum

Back to Madeleine… As you all can see, the conference was a fantastic opportunity not only for learning, witnessing, and supporting, but also for sharing our work with people who could offer valuable feedback. Now, back to work with eyes toward Belize 2019!