Tag Archives: global health

A Summer in Rwanda with Engineering World Health – Maddy Bishop-Van Horn

My name is Maddy Bishop-Van Horn and I am majoring in Biomedical Engineering (BME) with a minor in Mathematics. I found my internship through a Tulane BME alumni, who came and talked to Tulane’s Biomedical Engineering Society last fall about his experiences working in global healthcare.

Now for the exciting news: This summer, I will be living and working in Rwanda with an organization called Engineering World Health! Engineering World Health (EWH) is a non-profit organization that aims “to inspire, educate, and empower the biomedical engineering community to improve health care delivery in the developing world.” One of the ways EWH is accomplishing this mission is by sending engineering students and young professionals to developing countries to work in hospitals, repairing and installing medical equipment that might otherwise go unused.

On May 30th, I will begin the long, long plane ride to Kigali, Rwanda, where I will be living for the month of June. There, I will be trained in troubleshooting and maintenance of the available medical equipment with the available tools. I will also take language immersion classes in French and Rwanda’s native language, Kinyarwanda.

In July, I will be deployed with one other EWH volunteer to a small village (I don’t know which one yet) to live and work for the remainder of the summer. I will live in a homestay at night and take a public bus to the hospital to work under the supervision of a local biomedical engineering technician. At the hospital, I will have many responsibilities. I will take an inventory of all medical equipment, and then begin working to troubleshoot and repair broken but vital equipment. I will work with the local technician to translate user manuals from English to French and Kinyarwanda. I also hope to talk to doctors and nurses about the kind of equipment they wish they had and what would make their lives easier.

I have a lot of goals for this summer. I hope to make life-long friends. I hope to learn more about global health and where I, as a biomedical engineer, fit. I hope to repair equipment that can save lives, and I hope to challenge my own perspectives.

I am incredibly excited for this summer, and I can’t wait to share my experiences with you. Next post will be from Kigali, Rwanda!

Until then,

Maddy

A Sad Goodbye

 

This shot from our first day was posted all around the office on Thursday. Going to miss my intern class!

This shot from our first day was posted all around the office on Thursday. Going to miss my intern class!

Thursday was the last day of my internship with AmeriCares. As I walked around the office saying my goodbyes, I was surprised at just how sad I was to go. I had truly immersed myself as part of this organization. It is a bittersweet end. I am leaving, but not without a new perspective, new friends, and new work experience.

I had updated more than 50 contacts for their emergency response appeals, I had complied research on six new sources for fundraising in the online gaming sphere, and I had written acknowledgements and analyzed third-party giving sites, it really was a comprehensive product of what development does in a nonprofit organization. I was also able to dip my toes into communications in designing marketing materials for AmeriCares Student Ambassador Program.

The opportunities to address my goals came naturally. The program strongly encouraged networking, and I was able to exchange information with not two employees but more than ten. Networking also pushed me to work on my communication skills and think about where I want to go next after completing this internship. I was really interested in what communications and multi-media were working on so those were two areas where I reached out the most. As I began working on research and updating contacts, developing organization methods and finding the best way of extracting information, was critical to making deadlines and prioritizing my schedule.

Some of my biggest takeaways were communication skills, researching and reporting techniques, and an understanding of how a nonprofit operates. This knowledge will help me in the future as I decide what field of work I want to explore and pursuing and securing a position in that field. If I do decide that nonprofit work is for me, I have a much better grasp of what that entails. Although AmeriCares operates much like any organization, there are certain differences. There is careful mind to budget, and how budgets, reports, and press releases contribute to nonprofit ratings and public appearance. It appeared that the approval process for external communications was much stricter for reasons of public perception as well, in addition to regular company policy, copyrights, and messaging consistency.

I would definitely encourage anyone to pursue work in not only the nonprofit sector, but also global health or emergency response. The work is extremely important and fulfilling, and it also attracts a certain type of person. Everyone at the organization is so caring and dedicated to what they do– they know that working harder means helping more people. For my first internship I could not have worked with a better group, everyone was willing to take time to welcome me and make sure my questions were answered.

Working at AmeriCares has changed how I look at disasters and global health issues. I watch the news and I read the paper, but it’s so different when you talk directly with people who have witnessed disaster first hand, and especially disasters that don’t even make it to the media headlines. Just this week we had a meeting with two directors from partner organizations who work in Sierra Leone and Liberia who came to speak about the Ebola crisis in Africa. These health care workers quite literally put their lives in danger to help people. They are clearly exhausted and weary from the horrors they’ve seen, but they continue to fight and do not let statistics break their spirit. These people inspire me make change and confront global issues, because it is clear from talking to them that one person can make a difference.

Getting the opportunity to talk with people who work on the frontlines is part of what has made my internship experience so meaningful. I had the chance not to read about disasters or programs, but talk with the people who witnessed disasters and initiated programs. Through pictures and reports I got to see the faces of children and families consumed with emotion whether it was joy or devastation. The stories were real and it proved to me that there is a human touch to everything AmeriCares does.

Halfway: Informed and Immersed

My (messy) desk. Also note the awesome decorations– they're all over the office.

My (messy) desk. Also note the awesome decorations– they’re all over the office.

Hi everyone! I’m about half way through my experience with AmeriCares and I am really starting to understand what the organization is all about. A big part of the internship is a crash course in work AmeriCares has done, the work they are doing, and the work they plan to do. People from each department have come in to give the interns an overview of their respective work, which is helpful as there is not always interaction between departments. I mainly deal with Institutional Relations so it is interesting for me to hear about the field programs we do in Medical Outreach or the process for partnering with a pharmaceutical company in Corporate Relations.

It is a typical for a company to give a 101 course to interns, but at AmeriCares all the employees, even ones you would never work with, make an effort to reach out to you. In addition to a mentor program, and professional development advisors, there are people at the organization who will just shoot you an email to talk because they heard you are going abroad to the same place they did.

AmeriCares encourages the interns and students to explore the work that it is doing. This week I wrote a few acknowledgement letters to donors who have contributed to our relief efforts across the globe. I consider myself to be pretty informed and up to date, so I was confused to be researching events that I had never even knew about, like volcanic eruptions in Indonesia in March that displaced tens of thousands or the humanitarian aid currently being sent to Detroit because water has been cut off from half the city.

In my exploration of AmeriCares projects I became particularly interested in maternal and child health after reading the work of a woman who works in AmeriCares Middle East and Africa partnerships, Elikem Archer. A part of the internship is to write a blog post that is shared on AmeriCares Global Health Blog, so I saw this as the perfect opportunity to talk with Elikem personally.

The blog post is about AmeriCares One Child One World program, which is a nutritional education and assistance program in Ghana and the post also delves into maternal and child health issues across Africa. If anyone is interested in reading more, click here! Feel free to like or share it on Facebook and Twitter. They are offering the intern who gets the most shares a prize at the end of the internship.

I am excited to keep finding things to love about AmeriCares and the great people who work there.