My experience at Health and Education For All (HAEFA) throughout the summer has been very meaningful to me. I was able to get a lot of experience with various kinds of work. From making social media posts to contributing to a research paper, I was able to learn about the ins and outs of the organization and its work. I learned that HAEFA has many dedicated and hardworking individuals who are out in the field in the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh.
Being able to work with people who are as driven as the HAEFA team members have taught me a few things. Firstly, I learned that I must always be able to adapt to changing circumstances in this line of work. A few weeks ago, a landslide and flooding devastated the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, and our team on the ground had an emergency response. As the media team leader, I had to coordinate with the fundraising team to launch a GoFundMe campaign to collect funds for the emergency response. We spent that whole day creating the campaign and social media posts to raise awareness and funds.
Secondly, I learned that clear communication is the most productive way to complete work. Whenever I needed information for the monthly newsletters that I am responsible for creating or for the research paper that I am working on, I was able to reach multiple people that could help me via WhatsApp. Rather than providing incomplete or inaccurate information, I was able to simply reach out to someone for help, which resulted in me being able to do a better job.
While I was unable to visit the camp site due to the pandemic, my remote work with HAEFA has shown me that I can make a contribution to a global cause from all the way across the world. Social justice work does not always have to be focused on our own communities. While it is important to advocate for our own people, it is important to keep in mind that many of us have the skills, expertise and resources to help those in need in other parts of the world as well. By working at HAEFA remotely, I was able to raise awareness about the struggles of the Rohingya refugees, the prevalence of cervical cancer in Bangladesh, and the dire COVID-19 situation in the country as well. My contributions also aided the fundraising campaigns, which had a direct impact on HAEFA team members on the ground who benefited from new equipment used to help those in need.
Before I started my work at HAEFA, I wish I knew how quickly I would have to learn about the organization. While a lot of information was provided to me during the first days, I had to constantly ask questions about the organization’s activities to better understand certain tasks. This, however, is not a negative thing. I would urge those working in the nonprofit sector to be ready to ask questions and learn about the organization very quickly.
In my time taking classes and being affiliated with groups such as the Right to Immigration Institute and the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative, I have learned the importance of having equitable access to justice. Ever since I started taking classes in the Politics, Legal Studies and African and African-American Studies departments, a common theme that I have noticed is that inequities in resources, services, education, and healthcare, among other things, lead to systemic injustices. One of my main career goals is to combat such injustices and work to dismantle oppressive systems that disproportionately work against marginalized communities that lack the tools and resources to make substantive changes.
As an aspiring law school student, equitable access to justice has always been significant to me. I believe that no one should have to struggle to have their basic needs met. In the United States and across the world, countless people have little to no access to food, shelter, healthcare, education, and many other basic necessities in the ever-changing world that we live in. I believe that Brandeis has given me the tools and resources to be able to pursue a career that combats inequities in access to justice.
While working at Health and Education for All (HAEFA), I am constantly thinking about how I can contribute to the organization’s goal of providing equitable access to justice in the form of healthcare. I talk to people working at all levels of the organization and try to understand the operations in Rohingya refugee camps, as well as other remote areas in Bangladesh where healthcare is scarce.
I am currently working on a research paper alongside other interns and HAEFA team members to tell the story of their successful cervical cancer screening program. I spoke directly with the founder of the organization to brainstorm ways in which we can tell HAEFA’s success story so that other organizations can model our program in remote areas of Africa and Asia where access to healthcare is limited. Together with the research team, we decided to write and publish a short research paper by the end of the summer. The paper would address the issue of cervical cancer screening across the world and discuss how HAEFA was able to use technology in remote areas of Bangladesh to screen patients from vulnerable populations. Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of death among women in many parts of the world. Having access to a successful screening program would save countless lives.
Thinking about this project in terms of access to justice in the form of healthcare has been very effective. In doing so, we are not only trying to show the world how our program is successful, but we are also attempting to demonstrate how it was so successful so that others can follow our formula. Brandeis University’s focus on social justice has allowed me to think critically about how to approach different assignments throughout this internship. I hope that once the research paper is published, it will allow other organizations to mirror all the incredible work HAEFA has done thus far.
Health and Education for All (HAEFA) is a United States-based nonprofit organization that provides on-the-ground healthcare for Rohingya refugees, as well as other disadvantaged populations in Bangladesh. Access to adequate healthcare should be a basic human right. However, it is oftentimes treated as a privilege in many parts of the world. Healthcare is nearly nonexistent in remote areas of Bangladesh. HAEFA’s goal is to address this injustice and establish clinics and mobile health centers in places that lack such services in Bangladesh.
So far, it has successfully treated thousands of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, which is a district in Bangladesh. Additionally, one of the leading causes of death among women in Bangladesh is cervical cancer. Previous government programs to address this issue did not make a large impact. HAEFA developed a screening program that reached people in remote areas by digitizing the process of cervical cancer screening. While the government program was screening 30-40 patients per month, HAEFA’s program was able to screen 100-150 patients per day. Innovative programs such as this are at the forefront of HAEFA’s goals to provide healthcare to disadvantaged populations.
My role at HAEFA this summer is to tell HAEFA’s story and share all the important work they are doing with the world. I am the team lead for the Media Team, which means that I oversee and delegate tasks that have to do with the monthly newsletter, social media posts, and website maintenance. I personally work on the monthly newsletter and am about to begin a complete overhaul of the website alongside other team members. I am also part of the Intern Research Team at HAEFA.
The aforementioned cervical cancer screening program has been uniquely successful, despite initial skepticism from the international medical community. Dr. Abid, the founder of HAEFA, has asked our team to delve into the story behind this program and write an academic research paper about its success story so that others can model similar programs with ours. He hopes to have this paper published sometime this year. By keeping people updated about HAEFA’s work, I hope that my work will allow the organization to continue doing great work via donations and other forms of support. I believe that small steps, such as making social media posts about HAEFA’s activities, can lead to big steps such as the possibility of creating new programs with funding that can be collected as a result of raising awareness about the issues HAEFA is trying to alleviate.
Since its inception in 2013,HAEFA has provided healthcare services to thousands of patients in Bangladesh. Its ability to adapt to different circumstances, such as the Rohingya refugee crisis of 2016, is what makes HAEFA a reputable organization. To me, progress means being able to adapt to new challenges and strategize to solve problems as they arise. HAEFA’s ability to shift its focus to the Rohingya crisis was a huge factor in its success as an organization. While the refugees receive services from HAEFA, it also has continued its work with Bangladeshi garment workers. Additionally, it has created a COVID-19 training program for physicians to be better equipped to handle the challenges of the pandemic.