Hello to everyone! My name is Eileen, and I am so glad to be a part of the CASI family. To have the opportunity to go to India to do what I love and to have people support me in doing it – it means the world to me (no pun intended), and not everyone has that same privilege, so thank you so, so much.
I am originally from Richmond, Virginia, currently a rising junior (!) in the College at Penn. I am majoring in Health and Societies, concentrating in global health. Because I am interested in issues of development, health and social justice, I was attracted to interning with Chirag this summer, which stands for the Central Himalayan Rural Action Group. Indeed, now months later, working with them is about to become reality. For those who do not know, Chirag is a rural development organization that works with the local communities on projects related to health, education, natural resource management, and livelihoods, such as agriculture. It is situated in the Kumaun region of Uttarakhand in India amongst the foothills of the majestic Himalayas.
As a student in an interdisciplinary major, I am very excited to be working with such a holistic organization. Granted, I wish to look at issues within the realm of health, but I also want to see how other aspects of the community – such as education, agriculture and natural resources – fit into their lives and, therefore, their health. I have no clue what I will be doing yet, but I think that the community will speak to me when I arrive, and a project will eventually arise (rather than me just imposing my own project on them). However, I am particularly passionate about maternal and child health, especially because maternal mortality and child mortality are so closely linked to the quality of the infrastructure of the health care system. How society treats mothers and their children tells you a lot about that culture and about the health of that society – so in a way, I see it as a linkage to understanding other parts of the community. I am also interested in child immunization behavior and beliefs, since I am currently doing public health research at Penn on the rising vaccine hesitancy and refusal in the United States. It would be fascinating to compare and contrast how the same practice manifests itself in two different cultures and countries across the globe.
India is so diverse, rich and complex – it is both a developed and a developing country that is seeing dramatic improvements in health, human rights, and economics in some areas but is still struggling in others; how can you say you know “India” when there are so many different areas, languages, cultures within India? I can’t say that I will after this journey, but all I want is to be curious, explore, learn and take away all that I can with me back to my studies at Penn. Not just the lessons in rural health, but also the people I meet, the customs, the food, the rural life so different from my own in the U.S.
It is still not real to me that in only one week, I will be transported from the urban, American environment of Philadelphia and Penn to an entirely different rural, Himalayan environment of Uttarakhand, India. But I embrace that unbelief. Feel free to join me in my journey on this blog and on my personal blog, 200wanderlustdays.wordpress.com.