PUBLIC HEALTH INTERNSHIP JULY 2012: A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE
The following blog post was written by Lauren E. Van Winkle, a student from Saint Louis University who recently participated as Public Health Brigades Intern in Honduras.
Last month, college students and recent graduates from all across the United States and Canada traveled to Honduras to learn about the inner workings of the Global Brigades organization. The Public Health interns had the opportunity to get a first-hand look into PHB community preparation, community leader training, and project implementation. Throughout the month we worked alongside the in-country staff, performing preliminary house visits, completing home infrastructure projects, training Basic Sanitation Committees and implementing a reforestation project. In addition to learning about, assessing and evaluating the current Public Health project model, we also worked hand in hand with the Architecture, Dental, Medical, Microfinance and Water programs in order to further develop the sustainability of the holistic model.
Public Health Interns and Program Advisors with Sister Maria Rosa Leggol. Back: Amanda DiMeo, Amy Black, Joy Lee, Madeline White, Lauren Van Winkle, and Lizzie White. Front: Amy Westermann, Sister Maria Rosa Leggol, and Devan Dumas.
We started off the month in Guaricayan, a community that is scheduled to start receiving public health projects during the upcoming brigade season. The team conducted initial home interviews to assess the current state of affairs in the community. We also held an educational session for the Basic Sanitation Committee as well as a General Assembly Meeting for the entire community.
After spending a few days in Guaricayan, our team began home infrastructure projects in El Cantón to get a sense of how a normal weeklong Public Health Brigade operates. After completing the projects, we spent the next couple of weeks in El Cantón educating the adult Basic Sanitation Committee as well as a children’s committee comprised of 4th, 5th and 6th graders. We developed interactive activities and visual aids to help committee members recognize the problems within their community and devise a comprehensive solution. We also worked with the children’s committee on issues such as gender equality and self-esteem. By the end of the education period, both committees had formulated a plan of action to begin improving the health and overall wellness of their community. It was inspirational to witness community members of all ages take the initiative to better their community and ultimately, their lives.
During the last week of our internship, the Public Health interns worked on a special reforestation project. The first step in this process was to create a nursery using natural materials from the community. We worked side by side with community members to clear the land, build the structure, and plant almost 2000 seeds. In addition to the nursery, we also created a compost pit. Our goal was to create a system to provide fertilizer for the nursery that was organic, cost effective, and required minimal maintenance. Materials for the composting system also came from the community.
During our last few days in El Cantón, we planted seedlings throughout the community. In one of the schoolyards, each child personally planted one seedling that they would thereafter care for. It was a wonderful opportunity to complete this project with the community members and we learned a great deal from them. They possessed so much knowledge about the earth and how to growing things, and once the initial materials were obtained the project was completed in no time.
I think I speak for all of the interns when I say that this experience was one of the most, if not the most, eye opening and life altering experience any of us have ever had. We learned so much about the inner working of Global Brigades and the sustainability of the holistic model, we built close friendships with each other as well as members of the communities we worked in, and we generated an incredible number of ideas on how to further improve the current model. It was an absolute honor to work with such a great group of people in such a positive environment, and this experience has undoubtedly changed my life for the better. I have come to see the world from a fresh perspective and I embrace whatever may come my way with open arms, an open mind, and an open heart.