52 days have come and gone. I have interned with three of the five Unite For Sight partner clinics (North Western, Save the Nation, Crystal) in four regions of Ghana (Greater Accra, Central, Volta, Western). My experiences in the field have only been trumped by the relationships and networks I have developed with my fellow citizens. As a refresher, my overarching learning goal for this summer was to engage my HSSP background and coursework through hands-on experiences in the field of public health. And I accomplished this feat as a member of each clinic’s outreach team. I was able to engage my academic training in the life and social sciences experientially, by curiously conducting visual acuity screenings, inquisitively observing the eye examinations of the physicians and nurses, and happily distributing eyeglasses alongside the dispensing optician. I asked hundreds of questions with the intent to better understand the role of public health in the local health infrastructure.
I will build off this experience much like I build off every experience, with honest reflection and deep admiration. I am fortunate to have completed an experience like this prior to graduation because I now have the opportunity to further ground my experiential learning inside the classroom. I can take my global health experience and continue to cultivate it, both in theory and in practice. After Brandeis, I will have the foundation needed to transform this experience from a summer internship into an expensive hobby or, better yet, a career.
I realize that learning is a lifelong pursuit. For the time being, I want to continue to further my own understanding of public health and social justice. These two buzzwords are often spoken but rarely defined, so it’s important that I continue to hone in on what each means to me. I’ve also developed a slight interest in philanthropy and fundraising. I just began to get my feet wet while fundraising for the surgeries I would observe abroad, so it would be great to learn more about fundraising and effective ways of doing it. I’ll take on as much as my full plate of classes and extracurricular activities allows me to. However, what will always remain a staple of my life will be my service to others.
The advice I would give to a student interested in either an internship at UFS or an internship in the field of public/global health are one in the same. I can’t state enough how important it is to be flexible, especially when working with members of a different culture. In my internship, and presumably with all other internships, I did not always do what I was most excited to do. However, I was flexible with the clinics and displayed an attitude reminiscent of that of a true team player. Eventually, an opportunity presented itself in which I was able to mix it up and try something new, which will reap huge dividends going forward. Also, be honest with yourself, be open-minded, be bold, and be optimistic. A winning attitude indicates success before any “competition” has even begun.
My ideals of social justice have been thoroughly reinforced. About a week-and-a-half in, I had one day where I was a little grumpy as I boarded the STNSC van for outreach. I kept thinking about how tired I was, how hungry I was, how dirty I was…and then I froze. I stopped thinking about all of my problems and started thinking about why I was in Ghana in the first place. I thought long and hard. And then I realized that I wasn’t in Ghana for me. Granted, I always wanted to put my best self forward, but I realized that I was in Ghana to help distribute quality eye care to the local populations. And when I wrapped my brain around this thought, I felt something change. The sun opened up. The greens grew a couple shades brighter. The potholes in the road ceased to throw me here and there. All the “pain” I was dealing with disappeared. Instantaneously, another day on the job became an epiphany of purpose. For that moment, everything in the world was right.
I say this, not to be dramatic, but to express what I’ve learned. It was a wonderful responsibility and an extraordinary privilege to serve as a change agent on behalf of Brandeis University, and I am forever indebted for this experience.
Thank you so much for the opportunity!
Also, please keep in mind that the fight is not over! Preventable blindness continues to plague the eyes of millions in our world. I am gladly continuing to fundraise with the hope of creating more success stories like the dozens I saw earlier this summer. 100% of my fundraising efforts will provide surgeries for patients living in extreme poverty, and your help would be greatly appreciated by myself, Unite For Sight, and all of the patients who would receive eye care due to your efforts. Please take a look at my fundraising page for more information and, if you can, give what you can: