Thanks for taking a moment to read about my project! I am a first year medical student in Philadelphia, and am hoping to be able to join a group of 6 or 7 fellow classmates on a six-week trip to Rwanda this coming summer. We will be living and working in two small villages, Akarambi and Ruli, where a similar group of medical students travels each year to continue work on this project. I'm living on loans (med school - ouch!!) so am totally unable to afford this trip on my own.
Women hard at work in Ruli
This program is called JeffHEALTH. It provides community health education and interventions, both small scale and large scale, in several Rwandan villages by working together with an array of medical students (both American and Rwandan), local community health worker committees, local political leaders, village elders, and other small aid organizations. This program first began in the village of Rugerero and has more recently been concentrated in the village of Akarambi. We will be expanding to a new site this coming summer, which will be the primary focus of our energy: the nearby village of Ruli. (For communication with the villagers in Akarambi and Ruli, we will work with our interpreter and guide, Andre Munyantanage, who has teamed up with many JeffHEALTH students in the past.)
A hillside in Ruli
Along with several other students (primarily medical students, but also public health and pharmacy students), we will be using the teach-the-trainer model to empower local community health workers with information about health and hygiene, nutrition, gardening, helminthic prevention, HIV/AIDS education and support groups, family planning, pregnancy and prenatal care, alcohol and drug abuse, oral hygiene, and more. Each of these topics has been chosen and will be specifically formulated based on local needs assessments as well as careful, on-going conversations with our local guide, the community health workers, and the village elders. Once we offer these health education sessions to the community health workers, they take charge of the information and share it with their community as needed. We will monitor the continued success and perpetuation of the community health lessons that have been shared with Akarambi in the past, and survey the ongoing animal husbandry programs in the hopes of beginning to bring them to Ruli as well. Working alongside several other organizations, JeffHEALTH will continue to partner with them and with the community in order to make headway on the larger infrastructural projects of electrification, rebuilding latrines, and improved access to clean, potable water.
A few of the Rwandan med students who work with JeffHEALTH
Why global health?
The global health field is actually one of the primary reasons for my interest in pursuing medicine in the first place, and spending time studying and working abroad is one of the best ways to learn about global health issues. Ever since I was first exposed to the realm of global health, I have felt both appalled and motivated by the unbelievable social and health inequalities in the world, and also inspired by the work that is being done in this field. I believe that healthcare is a human right and it is my duty as a future healthcare professional to strive for improving access to quality healthcare for all. I am passionate about working with underserved populations of all kinds, especially when there is some kind of cultural exchange to take part in.
What's in it for me?
In terms of how I hope to benefit from spending time studying and working abroad, I hope to widen my world view, open myself up to new experiences and cultures, learn about global health and how to implement community health education, and of course offer my time and energy in order to serve and contribute to an exciting program that has enjoyed great successes over the past 10 years in addressing health needs in rural Rwanda. As a medical student and a student of population health, I would like to take this opportunity to improve my understanding of how to study and navigate the complicated interactions between a wide and diverse variety of environmental and societal factors that all play a role in both community and individual health. I also anticipate that my work with the village communities of Akarambi and Ruli will inform and shape my future work as a physician. It is critical to have a heightened awareness of one’s own cultural values, biases, and beliefs, especially going into the medical profession, as I know I will one day have the pleasure of encountering a wide array of people from many different, interesting backgrounds. By spending time working with and learning from these Rwandan communities, I hope to achieve some amount of this heightened self-awareness, cultural competency, and mutual understanding that I will carry with me into my future endeavors.
I have a bit of experience with travel to developing countries, as I spent 10 weeks living and working in Jacmel, Haiti in 2012. During this time, I taught community health education classes, volunteered and shadowed midwives at a maternity clinic, tutored English, and helped care for several at-risk adolescents. This was one of the most meaningful and educational experiences I have ever had. (The photo you see at the top of the page is of me and one of the sweetest babies born in the maternity center!)
Me with several of the midwives and nurses I worked with in Haiti, 2012
Anyway, thank you so much for your interest in helping me out! As I said, I'm living on med school loans so I have a pretty minimal ability to contribute much from my own coffers. My budget looks like this:
$2,100 - flights
$180 - ground transportation (to and from the airport, between cities, and to and from the villages)
$580 - room & board
$30 - Rwanda travel visa
$210 - travel/international health insurance
$500 - estimated costs for prophylactic malaria medications, yellow fever vaccine, & typhoid vaccine
$200 - books & supplies
$800 - spending money (including a bit of travel and sight-seeing on a couple of the weekends)
$500 - emergency fund and misc.
-- $1000 - approximate amount of funding expected from university travel grant (exact amount will be communicated in March)
-- $900 - approximate amount of my own saved money that I will have available for this trip
Total Fundraising Goal: $3,200
It would be an honor to participate in this successful model of an interdisciplinary, team-based, community empowerment-focused, immersive global health effort, and it would also be a fantastic learning experience in the context of equitable relationships, need-identification, and sustainable programming.
Many deep thanks for your support, it means the world to me that I might be able to take the trip of my dreams this summer!
Peace and Love,
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