It is hard to believe that the summer is coming to a close. What started out as a summer full of unknowns seems to be leading into a fall full of unknowns. Despite this uncertain time, my practicum experience has been humbling and fulfilling. I have been amazed and inspired in working with my preceptor and the exceptional teams at UNC Project-Malawi and the Tingathe Program over the past three months.

In the face of unprecedented and evolving challenges caused by the pandemic, they continue to do vital work for HIV programming while remaining both flexible and resilient. In working with them, I not only learned more about adaptation at both the interpersonal and organization level, but also gained new skills and experiences along the way – from connections with amazing researchers and staff, to irreplaceable mentorship with quantitative analysis, to a newfound appreciation for the processes behind intervention design and testing.

At the center of this work was the teams’ focus on the community, as well as their trust in and reliance on one another, which created an environment that was collaborative and supportive. This spirit of solidarity is something that I leaned into on days when I felt particularly overwhelmed by the state of the world. Our systems were inadequate and unequal before the pandemic—plagued by asymmetries in power and privilege—and these inequalities are being grossly magnified amid the current crisis. Addressing such stark challenges will require ongoing accountability and open collaboration between individuals, communities, and nations.

One of several heart-shaped ornaments spotted in the trees on a walk through my neighborhood!

One of several heart-shaped ornaments spotted in the trees on a walk through my neighborhood!

What continues to sustain me is knowing that I am not alone in this, and that brilliant people are working towards shared goals of improving health and wellbeing. I leave this summer feeling tired, but more passionate that ever in fighting for a future for global health that refuses to compromise in the face of unprecedented threats, recognizes our shared vulnerability and humanity, remains committed to advancing health justice, and pushes forward for a better, brighter future.

Hanna