Stacey was first intrigued by CHPT because of our unique model of connecting communities with health professionals. When she applied, she was beginning to become interested in public health and saw CHPT as an opportunity to get her "first taste of real and progressive grass roots health initiatives".
Her most memorable accomplishment as a VISTA was working with Dr. Nzerem. Together they facilitated fun and educational activities for a girls group at Mather Youth Academy, which works with high school students with behavioral issues. Stacey saw a strong relationship develop between Dr. Nzerem and the girls at their monthly meetings, and the group became a safe environment in which the girls could ask any health questions, feel comfortable, and get away from the structured school day while continuing to learn.
Throughout her VISTA experience, Stacey looked up to her two mentors -- Linda Burkholder and Liz Sterba. She learned about being a professional -- communicating effectively and adhering to deadlines and work plans. She was also inspired by the dedication and passion of her mentors to make a difference in their communities. Linda also motivated her to follow through with her dream of joining the Peace Corps. After Stacey heard about Linda's Peace Corps experience in Cameroon, she knew that it was her next step after VISTA.
As a Peace Corps volunteer, Stacey was placed in a village in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. For two years, she was a health extension volunteer. She worked with government officials and community members to support local sustainable projects. One of the biggest projects she worked on was collaborating with the village HIV/AIDS group to teach health seminars every week at a local market. In these health seminars, they touched on topics such as nutrition, dental hygiene, HIV/AIDS, birth control, diabetes, and alcoholism. Stacey saw that "education equals empowerment for these villagers", and people sought out information by asking lots of questions and returning to the seminars every week.
Stacey's favorite project was bringing dental students from the next town to provide dental screenings to 250 students in the local primary school. Afterwards, the students had registered dental screenings, which allowed them to get large discounts on any dental work that they needed. In additional, all of the students learned about dental hygiene and received free toothbrushes. The project was such a big success that the dental students will continue visiting the primary school every year on their own -- it's a great example of a self-sustaining project that has been taken on by the community.
Stacey loved Tanzania so much that she extended her stay for a third year to work with Foxes NGO in an area of Tanzania that has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the country. She primarily worked with the Home Based Care program: training and overseeing volunteers as they go out into the surrounding communities to register and follow-up with people living with HIV/AIDS. These volunteers provide primary care, first aid, and health education, scout out cases of orphans and vulnerable children, and organize and run the local Care and Treatment Clinic where patients come to get their monthly anti-retroviral therapy. The group also sets up clinics in communities when traveling doctors and specialists visit. (Check out Foxes NGO at foxesngo.blogspot.com.)
Since completing her Peace Corps service, Stacey has been living in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, acting as an advocate for health in the community. She hopes to receive a MPH to get more training on global health issues, and she would love to attend the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Thank you to Stacey for sharing her reflections on CHPT and her experience in Tanzania. We look forward to hearing about your future accomplishments in global health!