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Building Healthy Communities in Latin America and the Caribbean
By: Nicole Burkart
Over the past three years, Faculty Fellow Arelis Moore de Peralta has been working to expose Clemson students to research on public health issues and community development in developing countries. Dr. Moore is a research assistant professor with the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life. She taught at the School of Medicine of the Ibero-American University (UNIBE) and led various disease prevention and control programs at the Ministry of Public Health in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic before coming to Clemson. In March, 2013 and 2014 Moore hosted a study abroad trip to the Dominican Republic where Clemson students volunteered with public health practitioners to assist Dominican families. The students performed extensive research on public health issues prior to traveling abroad, where they worked first-hand with low-resource and low-income families. This combination of traditional in-class instruction paired with the trip’s experiential learning provided an invaluable opportunity for students to understand how cultural traditions, practices and beliefs influence the health and well-being of a community.
“The purpose of this creative inquiry is to expand students’ knowledge on the determinants of communities’ health and well-being by examining the socio-cultural context in human development and family life in Latin-America and the Caribbean (LAC) with the purpose of recommending appropriate courses of action for improvement. This CI project will engage CU students in a reflective critical thinking learning process, which incorporates service learning opportunities, to study the health situation of a selected poor community in Santo Domingo, as well as recommending actions for improvement.” – Profresor Arelis Moore de Peralta
Due to the success of the 2013 and 2014 trip, Dr. Moore is planning a full Creative Inquiry Study Abroad program titled “Building Healthy Communities.” This will begin as a course in fall 2015 and will include a Spring Break trip in 2016. The program will focus on expanding students’ knowledge on human development and family life in Latin America and the Caribbean and will allow students to recommend actions for community health improvement. Clemson students will work alongside UNIBE students on developing various reports, including a community health assessment, an assets map and a community health improvement plan for research. While Dr. Moore has worked mainly with foreign language and international health majors in the past, she hopes that Building Healthy Communities will attract students from a variety of disciplines who are interested in empowering communities through collaborative work. “This Creative Inquiry will tap into all factors at various levels that need different expertise–not just healthcare,” Dr. Moore explained. “This project will incorporate interdisciplinary student teams from all majors and with different sets of knowledge to contribute to a holistic approach. All of this is born from a desire to achieve well-being.
Mahvash Husain, who attended the Dominican Republic trip in 2013, provides her perspective on the service-learning experience.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is going on the trip, what would it be?
When traveling anywhere abroad, I think the most important thing to take with you is an open mind. As exciting and thrilling as it is to immerse oneself in new cultures, doing so also comes with a level of stress, confusion and homesickness as a side-effect of unfamiliar social norms and traditions. However, the experience is breathtaking and life changing.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned on the trip?
The true meaning of service: service is not about bringing things to others, but rather meeting them where they are. In the end, both parties are left with newfound knowledge, new friendships, and a beaming feeling of being part of something whole. I learned this while volunteering at the dining. At the end of the day they left me with so much more than I had expected.
How will this experience benefit you in the future?
I aspire to become a doctor, but not one whose service is limited by geography, and certainly not by a patient’s ability to pay. This trip was the first of many to come in my future with the same goal of service through medicine, and the trip very firmly reassured my goals and dreams.
Top 4 Experiences from the Trip
- Assisting the doctors in the free clinics while practicing my medical Spanish.
- I designed a hand-washing project for the children at the dining and they loved learning about it, and enjoyed the glitter activity that went along with it. It was awesome to have fun while educating them about personal hygiene!
- Facing the struggles of gathering research abroad and witnessing the daily hassles of health care for patients and doctors was eye opening and taught me a lot.
- The concho rides were very memorable. Conchos are taxis with a set route, something I had never experienced before. It is quite the cultural experience because you are crammed into a small sedan with blaring Dominican music, but the whole time we would just laugh and attempt to talk with the drivers. It really showed the loving and welcoming attitudes of the Dominican people.
Professor Prospective: Building Healthy Communities
The success of this past trip has inspired Arelis Moore de Peralta to conduct a Spring Break 2016 trip, and hopes to establish a semester long study abroad program.
What are 3 words that come to mind when thinking about service-learning?
Development (of families and communities)
What accomplishment has your service-learning program achieved in the past?
The Building Healthy Communities is a new CI service-learning program. Therefore I do not yet have accomplishments to share. Thus far, I have been working in promoting the program and students’ recruitment. Several students from various programs at CU, have contacted me to learn about the project. The project will initiative in fall 2015 with a regular course to plan the study abroad experience.
Spring Break 2016
Study Abroad in Las Malvinas II in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic including:
- Data Collection
- In-Depth Interviews
- Volunteer work at Primary Health Care Units (UNAPs) and an orphanage.
- Visits to cultural and historical places
Rest of Spring 2016
(Team sessions with a faculty leader)
- Finalizing the Community Health Assessment (CHA) Plan
- Preparation of the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP)
- Poster Presentation at HEHD Research Forum
- Potential presentations at conferences (TBD)
- Remission of CHA and CHIP to corresponding authorities in the DR (participating nonprofits,
- Provincial Health Directorates, Community-based associations
Written By: Nicole Burkart
Nicole is a senior English Writing and Publications major with a Communications minor from Great Falls, Virginia. She is the Athletics Editor for TAPS Yearbook, a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, and acts as a student ambassador for the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.