The title of Paul Farmer’s 2011 commencement OP-ED instantly caught my eye as I am reflecting on my experience in Ghana this summer. Because my time in Ghana (and my passion for learning more about global health) is more than just a vacation/tourist adventure/hobby, but a meaningful experience that will hopefully lead into a career in international development..
I am currently finishing my last Berkeley course that consists of critically reviewing my experience in the Global Poverty and Practice minor, especially after gaining fieldwork experience in Ghana. In this last course I am examining my thoughts and assumptions concerning international development and poverty alleviation, but also, thinking of the future and what my role can be in working to change the disparities between the Global North and the Global South.
Farmer discusses how global health research and programs need to be more than “just a hobby” but a collaborative effort to improve knowledge and health care in the Global South. “More than Just a Hobby”
My site director, Kirsty, in Ghana called me to talk about my upcoming internship. Kirsty is a friendly woman with quite a strong Scottish accent. She warned me to let her know if I didn’t understand what she said, but I was so excited to discuss my project that I listened closely.
In my application and interviews I expressed my interest in working on health-related projects. Kirsty suggested two possible projects for me. The first is a community health outreach project where I would present to women and girls in schools, and the community about basic health information. I would present on sanitation, HIV/AIDS and other preventable diseases. The second project Kirsty presented entails girls’ sexual rights with a focus on sexual health and HIV/AIDS. I would present to women in rural and local schools to de-stigmatize and reeducate women on sexual rights and HIV/AIDS prevention.
I was immediately drawn to the second project because on my background in HIV/AIDS education and interest in global health projects. I also feel that how Kirsty explained the HIV/AIDS prevention project, I will have more responsibilities while in Ghana and will be able to have a dialogue with the women I interact with, opposed to just talking at them. I anticipate being challenged while working on my project, but I can’t wait to see what Ghanaian women have to teach me while I work on my project. The way I see it, yes, I will be educating women on HIV/AIDS prevention methods, but I predict that the women I interact with will teach me in return.
How often do you have small world moments? Well, in preparation for my practice experience I have had a few. When Elanna Mariniello, Program Adviser for ProWorld, interviewed me over the phone from Mexico, she mentioned me she was from Berkeley. We commiserated about Telegraph Avenue and craving an Intermezzo salad.
Adam Saks, Director of Custom Programs, stopping to chat with me at the Non-Profit Career Fair
Another helpful coincidence occurred as I have been working on my website and blog – a director from ProWorld came to the Berkeley campus for the Non-Profit Career Fair the same week when I was intending to interview someone from the organization. Adam Saks, a Director of Custom Programs, is one of two ProWorld associates in the San Francisco office. I learned that all other ProWorld employees are stationed at the worksite in each country where ProWorld operates. Adam had been a ProWorld intern in Peru the summer before his senior year of college. After working as a journalist for a few years post-graduation, he opted for a change and applied to work for ProWorld in Peru. He spent a few years in working in the ProWorld Peru site, the Mexico site and then moved to the San Francisco office. I have noticed the trend, after talking with Elanna and Adam, that ProWorld employees have previously interned with ProWorld at one of their locations. I am interested to see if this is the case with most ProWorld associates.
Adam also told me about the ProWorld staff I will be working with in Ghana and I’m looking forward to meeting them. I will be skyping with the Ghana Country Director, Kirsty, this month!
Then I asked Adam for advice as I prepare for my internship. He told me to have a completely open mind and have no expectations. He admitted that it is easier said than done, but if I am open to any experience that may come my way, I will learn an incredible amount while working in Ghana.