Tag Archives: public health

And So They Took My (Demonstrational) Dildos

It’s hard to believe that my time at Masakhane has come to an end. It feels like just yesterday that I showed up in Newark. Never in my life has three months gone by so quickly. I’ve learned an incredible amount about sexuality, facilitation, and the Newark community. The skills I’ve acquired are vast, and not all of them are quantifiable. It’s difficult to explain all of the awareness I’ve gained – from just reading participant emotions to understanding that cultural biases are something easily overridden.

My experiences this summer have been invaluable to me. They’ve helped to shape my professional aspirations in a way that I was not expecting. I always new I wanted to work in a field of public health, preferably related to child and maternal health, but now I am much more sure that I want to be working in the field of sexual health and sexuality. I also never truly considered teaching as a career option, but now it’s on the table. Teaching was an incredibly rewarding experience (though difficult at times). Even if I’m not teaching in the “traditional” sense, I would really like to be involved in some form or other of education. I’d like to continue teaching in a more alternative setting throughout the rest of my time at Tulane (perhaps as a doula – otherwise known as a labor specialist).

For anyone who is interested in sexuality or sexual health education, I would encourage them to read anything and everything they can get their hands on. Read as many differing opinions as you can. Inform yourself on current events related to sexual health, but also dig deeper. Don’t just use Facebook, reading click bait titled “The Truth About Being Transgender,” – look harder. Be critical, but also be sensitive. Recognize your own truths and biases. It’s easy to get angry and worked up when reading intentionally inflammatory arguments on the Internet. Avoid as much Internet fodder as possible, or you will burn out. Sexual and reproductive health in America are such hot button topics, it’s easy to get mired in the thousands of voices shouting at you that what you believe is wrong, your sexuality is wrong, and that your reproductive health is not yours to control. But sexual health education is so important, so valuable, and so misunderstood; giving up isn’t really an option. At the end of the day, when a participant thanks you, and says, “I can’t wait for next week” – it’s all worth it.

And no, I didn’t get to keep any of my demonstrational sex toys

That's me scarfing shake shake while other interns look cute in Madison Sq Park after visiting the Sex Museum together.

That’s me scarfing shake shake while other interns look cute in Madison Sq Park after visiting the Museum of Sex together.


Goodbye to fancy flags and awesome people -Kayla Bruce


My summer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was the most incredible learning experience, and in many ways that I never would have predicted. This summer has deepened my understanding of international humanitarian organizations and the complex setting within which they must function. It has shown me that several of my preexisting criticisms of the U.N. system were superficial, while I developed others as the summer went on. I was truly learning new things every single day in Geneva, and as excited as I am to be headed back to NOLA, I wish I could have stayed a bit longer.

During my last week at UNHCR, I wrote up a list of my internship tasks and accomplishments to review with my supervisor. It was great to have an opportunity to sit down and discuss how my work impacted the office and well as how my time at UNHCR impacted my own learning outcomes. I was proud to see this impact, and there were a few major projects that stuck out in my mind. I think my greatest contribution to the team were the creation of Key Messaging Outlines, something my office has talked about making but never actually had until now (view my last post for a more detailed description of this project). I completed Key Messaging Outlines for Syria, Iraq, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Nigeria, Burundi, Yemen and Ukraine. Now that the foundation is laid, the team simply has to review their countries’ outlines once a week to make sure they are up to date. I produced an outline template that can be filled out if (alright… when) new crises arise. This project will allow anyone on the team to confidently speak at a press briefing on an issue that may be outside of his or her area of expertise.

Watching my desk neighbor do a French News 24 interview down the hall

Watching my desk neighbor do a French News 24 interview down the hall

I also developed a clear media monitoring outline, a project I have been working on since the beginning of the summer. This required a combination of getting the hang of our media tracking software, doing follow up research on different media outlets, understanding which media sources were priorities, and working with the PI team to develop a format that would be concise and useful on a weekly basis. It was satisfying to see that by the end of my internship, people were checking in with me right after a briefing to ask when I would get the data on their note, anxious to analyze its reach (I had to wait at least 24 hours to start evaluating media pick up). I developed a template for future interns to use and have offered to Skype with a future intern to discuss how I went about the media monitoring process. Other project I worked on included writing interviews, expanding publicity for media pieces, creating country blurbs for a website featuring refugee musicians, and writing a comparative media report to try and convince Angelina Jolie to finally speak on BBC instead of CNN. While there were a few major projects I worked on throughout my ten weeks, every week brought new and different tasks and new opportunities to learn.

One thing major thing I have come to terms with is that if I want to continue in this field I will have to get several years of field experience under my belt. This is not only an important next step in getting hired in this field, but important in understanding how administrative work at head quarters translates to services in the field. While this has always been something I have distantly considered, I’m now aware that I will need to make that decision soon. It will mean a minimum of two years abroad, and ideally three to five. It will mean leaving a lot behind and missing major life events; graduations, weddings, births and deaths. It will also mean spending enough time somewhere to gain a more permanent community, and to deeply understand that culture. It will mean working in direct services and connecting distant planning and fundraising to real people. It will allow me to determine whether this is the right path for me, and if it is, it will allow me to continue along that path. Whichever path I chose, the next few years will be a period of major change for me, and I’m excited for all that lies ahead.


High Commission Guterres welcomes the President of Tanzania to UNHCR headquarters (unfortunately, the red carpet was temporary)


Beautiful performance by a Syrian refugee on World Refugee Day

Sad to leave, but glad to have made such great friends

Sad to leave, but glad to have made such great friends

Learning Not To Teach Heteronormativity & Stuff





I can’t believe it’s already July. So many things have happened since I arrived in New Jersey in May. My training with the Masakhane Center is complete, and I’ve started co-facilitating workshops. I’m also working on a few video projects for the Center, one on pregnancy and one on pornography (to be used in training and in our workshops).

My main goal for this internship was to gain some hands-on experience in the realm of public health, and I’ve hit that goal pretty head on. I facilitate one workshop a week (which will soon be three workshops a week) on a whole host of topics: pregnancy, pregnancy options, safer sex, gender identity 101, sexual orientation 101, and healthy & unhealthy relationships – just to name a few. I’m currently working at Newark Renaissance House, which is an addiction treatment center for teens. I work exclusively with young men – and their energy and enthusiasm is infectious. I’ve been having a wonderful time getting to know my kids and their personalities. Lesson planning is much more rewarding when I feel like I’m able to tailor our activities to their specific needs. When I start facilitating workshops with middle school groups, I will have an all boy group and an all girl group. I’m excited to observe the differences in energy, attitude, etc. with either gender (since I’ve only worked with men so far).

I learn everyday working with the Masakhane Center. Not only am I now much more comfortable talking about STIs and the stages of pregnancy, I’m also more confident in my ability to teach. While I was initially nervous to facilitate, my experiences thus far have been so positive I look forward to it each week. My teaching skill set has vastly expanded since coming to the Masakhane Center. Teaching is an invaluable skill that I feel will help me academically and professionally.

Working with the Masakhane Center has challenged many of my preconceived notions about sexuality, gender, and the way we talk about identity politics – which wasn’t something that I expected. It’s been an eye-opening experience, because in a lot of ways I thought I was progressive and understanding already. However, being an ally and teaching in a way that isn’t heteronormative has been difficult but also rewarding. I hope to carry this newfound understanding and open-mindedness throughout the rest of my life.

Masakhane Summer 2015 Interns feeling united!!

Masakhane Summer 2015 Interns feeling united!!

Getting slapped in the face with UNHCR knowledge -Kayla

I’m in the middle of week five at my internship with UNHCR. As I described it to one of my friends, I feel like I’m getting slapped in the face with knowledge every single day that I am here. I have learned so much about the UN system, humanitarian logistics, and international communications in the past five weeks, and I can’t believe I’m already halfway done.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is the importance of confidentiality and carefully monitoring any and all information put out by the UNHCR. At the beginning of the summer, I would have said that everything about UNHCR should be completely open and transparent. However, being here has allowed me to see how confidentiality and self-censorship within the UN can be vital for the safety of refugees and humanitarian workers in the field. It is incredibly complicated to run an organization across so many countries, and it involves dealing with many conflicting governments, individuals, and cultural norms. Unfortunately, I can’t really provide specific examples because of the exact confidentiality I’m trying to defend. However, as I continue to study international humanitarian work at Tulane, I feel I will better understand decision making in terms of information sharing at the international level.

Though I have had an array of projects in my time here, the ones I have enjoyed most were research based. Not only did I learn more about humanitarian management through these projects, but I also got to improve upon my ability to present information in a clear and concise manner. For example, I was recently asked to come up with talking points for a press briefing on cash assistance programs for Syrian refugees in Jordan. It was interesting for me to learn more about this type of assistance, and in which contexts these programs are feasible. It also gave me a chance to improve my writing and communications skills in presenting the most important information in the most concise way possible.

I am glad to be working in communications because I believe skills in communications and writing will be applicable to all aspect of my academic and professional life. This ranges from my academic writing, to my position with the Tulane Center for Global Education, and even to job applications. I feel incredibly lucky to be here and I’m excited to see what the rest of the summer holds.


Suited up for my first day of work


Ok fine… I actually work NEXT TO the building with all the flags

the hills are alive

Jura Mountains in France with fellow interns


UNHCR Ready, Geneva Bound. -Kayla Bruce

This summer, I am interning with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland. The UNHCR was established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people (UNHCR). The UNHCR Website provides extensive information on its areas of focus, including emergency response, protection and capacity building. They also put out updates each week on major refugee crises around the world.

As an International Development and Public Health student, I have spent a lot of time learning about the UN system in my coursework and am still in awe that this has materialized. As a freshman, I started talking to a contact in the UNHCR about her job, her perspective on the organization, and any advice she had for pursuing a career in this field. As a sophomore, I started inquiring about potential internship opportunities. Between my relative lack of experience and the fact that I may have started inquiring too late in the year, she told me that there weren’t any open positions that I could fill that summer. I found another great internship opportunity, where I gained valuable experience and expanded both my skill set and my resume. Early this fall, I got in touch with her again. Because I was ahead on credits, I told her that if there was a higher demand for interns in the spring than in the summer, I was available to take the semester off to work with the UNHCR (my alternative to a traditional study abroad). I provided her my updated resume and was able to talk about my interest in a more informed way. After seeing my dedication (or realizing that I wasn’t going to give up and leave her alone) she offered me a position for the summer of 2015.

This is an incredible opportunity for me to learn what it is like to work in a multinational organization. I feel that with three years of undergrad under my belt, I will be able to make a meaningful contribution to this organization. I am excited to get a first hand perspective of how international organizations like the UNHCR actually work. I think this will be a great learning experience for me, particularly in understanding the challenges the UN organizations face from a first hand perspective.

I will primarily work with the Communications and Public Relations department under UNHCR Spokesperson Melissa Fleming, who was recently featured on TED, discussing the Syrian refugee crisis and working towards more transformative refugee interventions. She has done a lot of work in my field of interest, and I am excited to learn more about how she got to where she is today.

I will contribute to daily media monitoring and will be responsible for pulling together a weekly impact report. This report will outline how UNHCR press releases, briefing notes and multimedia were covered in the media and on external platforms. I will also gather input from social media for this analysis. I will do research on current crises that will be used in articles, columns and speeches throughout the summer. The UNHCR is also planning for World Refugee Day on June 20th. Helping to organize this event will be a major part of my role in the beginning of the summer.

Additionally, I hope to shadow in the Public Health department one day a week. While I will not have as active a role as I will in the communications department, I hope to learn more about different roles within public health in the field of disaster response. I have spoken to my supervisor about this and we will have to work out the logistics of this option once I start work in May. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted!

In just three weeks, I’ll be taking off for Geneva. I’m not sure what to expect, but I know this is going to be the learning experience of a lifetime.

How To Use A Condom

My name is Layla Entrikin, and I’m a sophomore studying public health. I recently re-watched the film Mean Girls, and laughed just as hard as I did the first time at Coach Carr telling students “Don’t have sex – you will get pregnant, and you will die.” It’s these kinds of myths and untruths I hope to help dispel this summer as sexuality educator for the Masakhane Center, in Newark, NJ.

The Masakhane Center aims to provide youth with sex-position education (meaning no shaming, hiding, or flat out lying). Everyone has the right to happy, health sex life. The Center provides workshops and trainings on a variety of topics, ranging from first-time sex to pregnancy options (as well as the more traditional STI & STD prevention).

As a sexuality health educator, I’ll be working with other interns to not only run a workshop series, but to also help create some of the curriculum. We all get to work on a project of our choice for the center, to be determined with my supervisor. For the first couple of weeks, though, I’m doing some intense intern training. I’m excited to see what we have in store.

I found my internship through Idealist.org, randomly enough. I sort of excepted to have to do some kind of finagling with personal connections, but I honestly just read the description and sent in my resume. My supervisor contacted my within 48 hours. We did a phone interview, and it was basically a done deal (to be fair, sex-education is right up my ally).

I hope that this summer I can really hone in on my teaching skills. I’m excited to be able to work with kids of varying ages. I think sexual health education provides individuals with some of the most empowering knowledge. In order to walk in the world with confidence, you need to feel comfortable in your own skin and understand your own body. I really hope to make a positive impact on these kids. I want to give them the tools to understand their wants, needs, and desires – and then to use those tools to make healthy choices.