The work that goes into planning and implementing health based service projects internationally is not only immense, but crucial to the overall longevity and success of the project itself. While the background work does not directly have anything to do with reducing poor health outcomes, it does directly affect the mindset of the individuals participating in the project, the trust that will be built with the local community, and the successful implementation of the project. First world solutions cannot be implemented to help fix third world problems.
My project was the creation, planning, recruiting, fundraising, preparation, and development of a successful health based service project in Guatemala with Habitat for Humanity. Our team worked on the Small Change, Giant Leap project which provides smokeless stoves to at-risk families to improve health and reduce fuel spending. We also assisted local masons in the building of one home. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that has been helping to provide safe housing solutions all over the world since 1976. Because of their vast years of experience, Habitat excels at implementing successful health projects into communities. That very reason is why I chose to work with their organization. But with all the numerous things that Habitat does, they don’t necessarily have the power to fully prepare their international volunteers to properly enter and exit communities that differ from their own. I decided to take on that challenge by bringing 7 URI students with me to Guatemala. I made sure the trip was both mentally and physically challenging, culturally immersive, a learning experience, and of course inexpensive. We reflected on not only the public health benefits of having a healthy home but the societal impact we were making by volunteering and how to continue to be service leaders for change. My hope for the students is that they would gain real-life experience in the world of global public health and would return home with a greater respect for cultures unlike their own. My goal for myself was to gain a better appreciation for all the background work that goes into the creation and implementation of health based projects which allows them to be successful in decreasing poor health conditions.