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Today is 2.13.13, which is a special day to me.  It’s Terry Garces Day.  Who or what might that be, you ask?  Well, she is someone very special to me, and it’s her birthday today!

This has been one of the most amazing years of my life, living and working in Malawi towards my desired career path, while meeting incredible people throughout the journey who have truly touched my life.  Though undoubtedly fulfilling, international social justice work faces many of its own unique challenges, from the nature of conducting the work in the field with limited resources, to integrating your life in a new culture and environment, as well as facing the difficulties of being away from those closest to you; but I find that remembering who and what inspires us to do what we love, to follow our passions, and to be who we are helps to bring strength in hardships.

Over 10 years ago, my mom suffered a massive stroke, causing partial paralysis.  I worked to help her redevelop her cognitive and physical abilities.  Shortly after, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and passed away in 2004.  Through her health battles, I did everything possible to keep her spirits high and give her the emotional support and comfort she needed.  She is the strongest person I have ever known, and losing my mom was the biggest obstacle I have faced during my lifetime.

Overcoming this adversity has been possible by choosing to adopt the ideals of remembrance, inspiration, and dedication.  I choose to remember my mom with happiness.  I remember how she raised me to give generously and to respect each human being.  I strive to be an inspiration to others, and gain inspiration from others, the way she was to me.  Dedication to my passion for multiculturalism, health equity, and human rights puts my hardship into perspective.  I may have lost a loved one, but so many others around the world share in health tragedies.  The health of one affects all.  I have realized that my burden can be my strength.  It is a choice to make the best of what life gives you.  I choose to make a difference by helping and being there for others in need in any way, big or small.  Being a part of the Global Health Corps community as a Monitoring & Evaluation Fellow at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation helps enable me to do this.

Happy Terry Garces Day to you all.  :-)   Never forget those who inspire you, who give you the strength to face any adversity, and who guide you to do what you are meant to do in this world.