FIMRC Internships Help Volunteers Discover Their Passion and Path to a Career in Global HealthJul 08, 2020
Grace Sternklar spent eight months as a global health intern at FIMRC Project Bududa, Uganda. Even though we don’t currently have volunteers at our sites because of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical professionals, students, and recent graduates can still make an impact through our Virtual Volunteer Programs. Virtual volunteers will gain an immersive, hands-on global health experience from home, and just like Grace, they will be able to develop projects such as health education programs, community outreach initiatives, and clinical improvements that will have a lasting impact. In addition, our virtual volunteers will learn about unique global health challenges at different FIMRC sites, ranging from issues such as chronic disease management to HIV/AIDS to maternal and child health. Read on to learn about Grace’s experience on-site and sign up for our virtual programs today to get started on making your own impact!
I have often had my degree in Public Health described to me as an “umbrella” for my career. There is so much I can do with this major, there are so many jobs that will be available to me – it all depends on what I want to do. For many college students, figuring out what you “want to do” is the hardest part, and I was no different. Then came my semester abroad. During 16 weeks I traveled to three different countries: Vietnam, South Africa, and Argentina. It was eye-opening, and it made me crave a further understanding of the world and different cultures. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do after graduation, but I knew it involved global health. Then I found FIMRC, and it was my saving “Grace” (if you will).
As soon as I arrived at Project Bududa, Uganda, I knew I was going to receive more love and knowledge during my eight months than I could have ever anticipated. The pride that the Project Bududa staff have for their work and their colleagues is unmatched. FIMRC’s clinic does an amazing job of serving hundreds of people each week that otherwise may not have access to care. Every day there is a new opportunity to immerse yourself in the community through health outreach. I spent most days hiking through the beautiful greenery of the Bududa mountains – with a FIMRC staff member to guide me, of course – to provide health education to community members about sexual health, reproductive health, mental health, sanitation, hygiene, infectious disease prevention, and so much more.
One of the main responsibilities of a FIMRC intern is to create an internship project. This provides a unique opportunity to develop an individualized, sustainable initiative in the community. My internship project focused on FIMRC Project Bududa’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) group. I focused on creating comprehensive health education on water safety topics such as the importance of hydration, water purification, how to recognize symptoms of dehydration, and more. In addition, I helped to create a program that would provide in-home water storage to the 31 members of the OVC Program, as some families in the program live up to two hours walking distance from a water source.
My favorite memories are the more personal moments with friends and community members. Experiencing another culture through service is humbling. It allows for reflection and gratitude for one’s blessings. In every culture I have experienced, no matter how different the day-to-day lifestyle, one truth remains the same: compassion. The amount of compassion within the entire community of Bududa is a breath of fresh air. When someone asks how you are doing, they truly care about the answer. When there is a tragedy in the community, people come together to rebuild in such a devoted way that I have not seen anywhere else in the world. While on outreach one day, I was in the home of a local woman, and her husband entered the house along with a local pastor. After introductions, the pastor immediately began to say a blessing for my visit. This man knew nothing about me, but he knew a similarity between us is that we wanted to find ways to impact the world through compassion and hope. Every day in Bududa people are thankful for life and fiercely love those around them.
It was invigorating to experience a lifestyle that so greatly contrasted with what I had always known, but every experience comes with challenges. Adapting to an environment that is completely different from what you know is difficult. I had moments where I felt frustrated that my work would never be enough to help everyone. It got overwhelming at times, however, I found that the moments testing my strength were the moments I learned the most about myself.
“Why do you want to volunteer abroad?” No two answers will be the same. Interpreting the world through travel and service is an extremely personal experience. There is no right or wrong way to feel. What I can promise is that serving with FIMRC will empower you to reflect, grow, and become the best version of yourself.
I am now beginning my journey of applying to graduate school. Because of my experience at FIMRC Project Bududa, I have narrowed my interests, found my passion, and gained the courage I need to chase a career that advocates for human rights, social justice, and equitable healthcare for all. I left Bududa with a home away from home and memories to last a lifetime. Most of the things I say begin with “In Uganda…” and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon! If you are looking into international service, or you are wanting to gain global health experience, I would encourage everyone to choose FIMRC.
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