Day: May 27, 2015
I did not expect that my fellowship would end so soon! It’s just very fast. I still have fresh memories of flying from Kigali International airport to JFK and a warm drive to Yale University for Global Health Corps’ training institute like it was yesterday. Retreats for quarter one and two were normal and I thought I still had plenty of time. The midyear retreat was among the best, travelling to Uganda’s King Fisher Hotel was fun. Learning to swim for the first time and swimming on my own without any help was super exciting! During all the retreats I did enjoy the studies, but mostly the recreation part was more fun.
Quarter three’s retreat revealed more of hidden factor: the fellowship is ending. I felt this was more like family gathering and I did not want to separate from the other fellows. The thought, “Once a fellow always a fellow” kept resonating in my mind and kept my hopes high about keeping in touch with all the lovely fellows. I liked the discussions in general for Q3 but the “Minding your Gap” and personal narrative session by GHC staff member Jess was remarkable. From discussions about Minding the Gap I realized the need to grow in global health and serve the most in need with many more skills than what I have today. Since my childhood, my desire to support those in need has kept growing; the fellowship has been a vehicle towards my dreams. Jess’s discussion about minding and managing the gap, left me well equipped knowing where I am and where I want to go in the coming years. Jess, Eugene and I broke into a small group (Jess, myself, and Eugene) and discussed the personal narrative end of year presentation; it was great to hear their ideas and comments. I am confident that my end year personal narrative will be a killer presentation. Wait for it!!
For a long time, my heart has had the desire to work with vulnerable groups of people, specifically the refugee population. My past positions opened doors for me in not-for profit work but limited my experience to working with children and youth, which did not give me the full satisfaction of working alongside vulnerable people to lift them out of the poverty cycle.
I took leave from my graduate studies and honestly did not have a clear cut plan of where I was going to work. I applied to join the Global Health Corps fellowship and this too was not definite looking at how competitive it is to join the fellowship. Working with women in the community has sharpened my community interactions, sense of humor and patience, as well as given me the chance to build a larger framework to use story telling for change, probing skills as small strengths I have and could work on making stronger. My skills have all developed more in this year in my placement.
Right on from the training institute to working alongside my co-fellow in the community setting daily has been a five edged sword that has enabled me to learn so much in the span of a year. It has better prepared me for graduate school than I was earlier. As a student of international development working within the community has given me better lens to designing bottom up of programs in design and implementation for community health. The GHC experience has prepared me for the strategic year we are moving into with the Sustainable Development Goals; I am now able to make better contributions toward this discussion.
Policy activism is now gradually appearing in the public health lexicon. Though still embryonic in professional practice, there appears to be a modest conceptual foundation that supports many of today’s public health policies and programs designed for expansive community engagement. Like many newly minted Masters in Public Health (MPH), I was also lost when I first heard the concept and only through unlearning and re-learning did I get a hold of it as I walked through the exciting field of community health. I have a feeling too that global health work may be fertile ground for health policy activism in the near future.
Boston is known for its progressive policies and the level of activism in the community may have something to do with it. In this beautiful port city, policy activism goes beyond the deafening noise of angry protesters but instead is a distillery of ideas that shapes voices into doable policies. At the heart of it are the enduring public health professionals who are collaboratively working with neighborhoods and political leaders. But what really constitutes health policy activism? Is it just about people, voices, action, violence, anger or consensus?
Sometimes but not always I like to think like a nerd and so maybe digressing a little to give way for a bit of gedankenexperiment (thought experiment) will be helpful in examining health policy activism in its granular form. As I previously learnt and lived, activism had fascinated me as a student who was schooled in a progressive left-leaning liberal environment. But we change our views and we should not be afraid of challenging our limitations while we experience discovery learning and professional growth. As I am maturing with wisdom, I take activism as a by-product of increased understanding that our passive emotions (or passions) may become active. For sure this adds to the confusion! To carry this line of argument one step further, passions exist when we are in disagreement primarily due to different interpretations of reality. Consider working in a policy world, like a fractural field, where dynamic interactions of people’s interests tend to have disagreements and through open dialogue we arrive to a consensus. In Boston, town hall meetings are essential in enabling passageways for our passions to transform into knowledge-based policy activism. On most occasions, discussions are evidence based that yield strong consensus for everyone. Along this process, collective understanding translates into activism that we are deriving power to advance public health. Through the intricacies of the activism process, we attain wider ownership with greater accountability of health policies and programs, hence more sustainable results and of higher impact.
I passed by the red-painted Boston Tea Party Museum situated at the banks of Fort Point Channel one late summer afternoon. This iconic landmark constantly reminds me of how disparaging policies can ignite chaos, in fact a revolution. As Fellows, we are bound to change policies so they may respond to the evolving realities of time; however we have to fill ourselves first with knowledge so that we become more robust to stand passionate criticisms and achieve those winnable battles through dialogue and sustained collective action.