Reflection on the Haiti TPS Course at WashU
There are two main reasons why I wanted to take the HAITI TPS course. First of all, within the two years I have taken only the social work courses, however I think that nowadays in order to address any social issues a social worker needs to be aware and understand public health. The transdisciplinary perspective of this course inspired me to apply TO BECOME a better expert in my area. Also, I wanted to learn about the culture and context of Haiti especially after the bad earthquake in 2010. That was worth for comparison purposes on how interventions may be similar or different depending on the community and country.
In general the trip to Haiti was very productive in terms of professional and personal growth. At the same time, it was challenging. My first impressions were positive as we stayed in a very nice residency named after Lakou Breda. Four students shared one room. It was challenging but such conditions helped me to grow personally and become a more culturally competent person. I shared the room with Chinese, American, and Taiwan students. In fact, I used to because I am Kyrgyz and Kyrgyz people always share a room with relatives, sisters or brothers. We do not have such a firm idea of privacy and private space as in the USA.
During our stay in Haiti, we had four laboratory skill classes on how to measure hemoglobin, weight, height, test water and many others. Every afternoon and evening we had reflection and discussion meetings. We were also privileged as our Dean gave a presentation on Health systems and what should we look at while thinking of any health systems interventions in developing countries. I think all presentations of the guest speakers including from CARIS, SOIL, MFK, IF Foundation, Sonbit Santé were very educational. My team of three students was placed in IF Foundation which is an agricultural organization; its mission is to transform the region through increasing household income by helping local farmers with technical assistance, and capacity building. However, our purpose was to learn from them about their activities and then to write a paper on their program and proposed new interventions from a transdiciplinary approach. On the one hand, our task was to critique and identify strengths of the agency, on another hand we propose our vision with new transdisciplinary strategies. I believe that this course provided me with confidence and knowledge on public health in general because my mind was focused on social work and it was challenging for me to think about epidemiology, cell to society concept and many others.
Besides, skills laboratory classes, lecture, discussions, and presentations, we also had a student forum on public health held in the local university. We visited offices of the local and US organizations, including the MFK factory (Meds Food for Kids factory), which was a great experience. MFK factory produces Mamba, peanut butter, which is a product for infants and school children to fight against malnutrition and hunger. We learned about successes and challenges of each program. We visited community and household bio-latrines constructed in the slums, we were exposed to hygiene and sanitation issues. This trip provided me with networking opportunities as well. During our leisure time, we went to the beach for two times and enjoyed our time by exploring the island, swimming in the ocean, and eating Haitian sea food. Also, we visited Citadelle Laferrière and learned about the history of Haiti. Within two weeks, I was learning the Creole language and helped local students to learn English. In addition, I learned about Haitian food, and I also cooked for more than 30 people our Kyrgyz food using their local ingredients. The landlord of the residency, Dean Lawlor, our professor and students were very thankful and liked Kyrgyz food. One UN representative from Hungary also came up to me to thank for the delicious food I cooked because he said that it was similar to their Hungarian food that he missed a lot.
In short, I am happy that I took this course because there are so many contributing factors need to be taken into account while addressing any issue. In this case, the transdisciplinary approach is very helpful. This course helped me better understand about public health, as well as about the theories and interventions through the public health perspective. That time, I was doing research to examine the relationship of bride kidnapping and anemia in women of child bearing age. It is still in my draft paper. This is my passion: I want to work and help children and women who are the most vulnerable population. Therefore, to have a sustainable healthy society, it is very important to start addressing the respective issues today at all levels through transdisciplinary EBP practices and interventions. Thank you to Open Society Foundation and my academic advisor very much for your support and such a great experience.