It’s been a whirlwind of a summer so far! About a week after my last exam, I flew to Thailand and then spent two weeks exploring in Thailand and southern India. I ate so much delicious food, met a ton of people from all over the world, and got to explore beautiful temples and palaces! I may have gotten the worst sunburn of my life but I think it was worth it to be surrounded by this much natural beauty.

The beach at Phi Phi Don.

After the two weeks were up, I went to Kalpetta in India to start my first practicum, which was with SEEDS, an organization working in disaster relief and recovery. I supported their Community Health Empowerment program, which serves tribal youth in the Wayanad district through community improvement programs. While I was there, I had a chance to visit several of the tribal communities and assist with documentation of their project activities. However, I spent the majority of my time researching Kudumbashree, as SEEDS was hoping to get more of the tribal communities involved in this program.  Kudumbashree is a program that serves low-income women in Kerala (the Indian state which Wayanad sits in) through financial opportunity—job training, business creation, and microloans—as well as health, environment, and community programming. It was really interesting to have a chance to both read about it and to interview local government officials within the Kudumbashree offices about their work.

A pre-school in one of the tribal communities which the adolescents of the community rebuilt.

I was lucky enough to be working with a UNC alum, and it was great to have a piece of home when I was so far away. I was also very lucky to be surrounded by kind co-workers who set up fun things for us to do, taught me more about their culture, and welcomed me to India. In my first week there, my co-workers band had a concert on the hotel rooftop, and afterwards they all sang traditional songs together. We were also invited to the home of another co-worker, Harris, for Eid, to break the fast after Ramadan. His mom cooked us a ton of delicious chicken biryani and spicy lamb and would not take no for an answer when she offered seconds. On my last day in Kalpetta, I almost missed my bus to start my trip home, and wouldn’t have made it if one of my co-workers, Abu, hadn’t chased down the bus on his scooter and made it wait for me, while another, Tonia, grabbed us an auto to speed over to the bus. Getting to know them was absolutely one of the best parts of my practicum, and I am so grateful for everything they did for me.

My coworkers breaking fast after Ramadan.

Now, I’m back at home in the Washington, D.C. area, working as the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) Intern for Save the Children US. My primary job is supporting the Interagency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises (IAWG) on a revamp of the ASRH Toolkit for Humanitarian Settings. I’m also helping to update some resources, and I’ll be supporting a team in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh as they lead their first Training of Trainers around ASRH in Emergencies. As someone who is interested in working on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in humanitarian crises, Save the Children is a really great place to be. I have access to information and updates on crises happening around the world and can follow the humanitarian response as it develops. I’ve also had a chance to complete a lot of e-learning courses focused around SRH in crises from various perspectives, which have helped me to get a better understanding of what this work looks like on the ground. It’s also been wonderful to meet people from all over the world who are doing the work I want to do, and to learn about their work. I’m excited to continue to learn and to be able to play even a small role in this very important sector of Public Health!

– Erin