Sarvodaya USA would love to have you join us and your community to build a mandala!
Don't worry, it's new to many of us as well.
October 29th, from 11am - 3pm
The Farley Center
2299 Spring Rose Rd
Food - Entertainment - Community Building - Nature
Please RSVP here if you can make it to make sure we have enough food and materials for everyone.
More details below.
On January 16, 2016, in Rochester, NY, I hosted a party to raise money for the Sri Tissapura model organic farm and training center. It was a great success, with 80 guests and a grand total of $17,613 raised for the project- well on our way to our goal of $30,000!
The event was held at the Rochester Academy of Medicine, a gem of a venue in the Rochester area. We had fun exploring the place, which even has a secret room with a door disguised as a mirror in a staircase! Amaya Indian Cuisine did an amazing job catering the event with a full vegetarian indian dinner, and Cheesy Eddies provided mini cheesecakes and carrot cakes for dessert. Some great silent auction items were donated The Alan Murphy Trio and Madeline Cain played some great jazz music, keeping our ears happy during dinner and getting some people up to dance after the program was over!
For the program portion of the evening, I shared my story of how I got involved with the kidney disease project
To raise the remaining funds for the project, Elena, our new intern for this semester, and I are applying for grants for small scale sustainable agriculture projects.
Our featured intern of the week is Elena Beckman, a senior at UW-Madison, working towards a Psychology degree with a certificate in Global Health.
I first became interested in Sarvodaya after my global health trip to Nepal was cancelled last May. The organization was helping with relief efforts after the earthquake and I tried to stay updated on what Sarvodaya was doing to help out and any fundraising events they were holding here on campus. One event in particular that I attended was a dinner to raise money for relief efforts. I got the chance to listen to various speakers talking about different projects Sarvodaya was currently involved with. One particular project I had never heard about had to do with the issue of chronic kidney disease of unknown origin in Sri Lanka. It was a health problem I had never learned about and I was instantly interested because of its difference from regular kidney disease for which we already have known causes.
After fall semester, I decided that doing some kind of global health internship would be a different but beneficial way of fulfilling my field course requirement for the global health certificate (what the Nepal trip would have counted for). I got in contact with Sarvodaya and was passed along to Maia Fitzstevens, who is currently coordinating the chronic kidney disease prevention project. After reading up on CKDu (chronic kidney disease of unknown origin) in Sri Lanka and speaking with Maia, I became even more motivated to help with the project. It is a growing issue that seems to have remained hidden from public knowledge. So I decided I really wanted to help and have begun to assist Maia from Madison while she is abroad in Sri Lanka implementing the project. I am helping with CKDu research as well as updates through social media and blogging to keep people up to date on the progress of the project going on in Sri Lanka.
Aside from my new work with Sarvodaya, I am a psychology major and work as a research assistant in a social cognitive development lab here at UW-Madison. We study how infants and children develop social categories and preferences. I love this area of psychology and didn’t really become interested in it until joining the lab but am so glad I did! My hope for the future is that I will at some point go to graduate school for clinical psychology and work as a clinical neuropsychologist in a hospital setting. This would allow me to interact with people on a regular basis while also getting to enjoy the research and science side of psychology as well. In addition to this, I could also see myself obtaining a Master’s in Public Health. Because of getting my global health certificate, I have realized I have a very strong interest in public health and could see myself working for an NGO one day as well. I have so many interests it will be hard to decide so who knows what my future holds!
I am also a part of a club called Psi Chi, an academic psychology club. We do some volunteer work as well as getting the chance to hear from many professors on campus and the research they are currently involved in. My favorite volunteer work that I am a part of is at an assisted living home and health center where I work with residents who have dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. I am a part of the Music and Memory Program where we sit down with a resident and listen to playlists they have previously helped to create. Outside of school, my hobbies/interests include reading, exercising, and traveling.
We are taking on an ambitious new initiative here at Sarvodaya USA: supporting the development of a new organic farm and training center at a 53 acre Sarvodaya site at Sri Tissapura, in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. It's a very exciting new project that we are thrilled to be supporting! This farm is the first in what will be a series of initiatives through the Sarvodaya-MONLAR Joint Action Program for Kidney Disease Prevention, to improve the health of farmers in Sri Lanka. I'm excited to start the process of sharing information here about organic agriculture and farmers issues in Sri Lanka. These are very important issues, and probably something you've never heard about before, since they don't get a lot of media coverage.
Before I write more, let me introduce myself. My name is Maia Fitzstevens and I'm the Program Manager for Kidney Disease Prevention here at Sarvodaya USA. I spent 6 months in Sri Lanka in 2015 to develop and implement public health programs to tackle the major public health threat of chronic kidney disease among rural farming populations in Sri Lanka's Dry Zone. This work arose out of an internship I did with Sarvodaya in 2013, funded by the Madeleine Albright Institute at Wellesley College, where I was tasked with doing research on the epidemic of kidney disease in Sri Lanka, to understand the environmental causes of the disease and what could be done at the community level to prevent future cases and lessen the suffering of current patients and their families. I'll get more into the details of the kidney disease epidemic in another blog post.
Since you are reading this blog, chances are good that you know a bit about what Sarvodaya does in Sri Lanka (if you don't, feel free to check out our "About us" and "Learn" tabs at the top of our webpage), and chances are good that you've not heard of our partner organization, MONLAR, or the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform. MONLAR is a non-governmental organization that works at the community, national and international levels to promote ecological agriculture, land rights, and agrarian reform. MONLAR serves as an umbrella organization for local community based organizations that teach farmers and their families to cultivate crops with organic methods. At the national level, MONLAR promotes and fights for organic farming policies and organizes farmers in important campaigns. Several recent campaigns include advocating for the land rights of people displaced by tourism development in Panama, Sri Lanka, and fighting against the Seed Act in 2014, which would have made it illegal for farmers to save their own seeds. At the international level, MONLAR represents Sri Lanka in La Via Campesina and the Asian Peasant Coalition, both leading networks and organizing bodies for peasants rights and struggles worldwide.
Sarvodaya and MONLAR, as community-based organizations concerned about the well being of Sri Lankans in the face of threats from toxic chemical-intensive agriculture and the kidney disease epidemic, began conversations in May 2015 on how they could act together for change. The conversations resulted in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, which initiated the Sarvodaya-MONLAR Joint Action Program for Kidney Disease Prevention. This is an innovative and unique partnership that brings together the wide bases of these community networks and combines their expertise with top-level national leadership in the field of community development and social change.
This farm project arose in conversations between leadership teams from Sarvodaya and MONLAR over the course of May and June 2015 to answer the question: what can we do, with our current organizational capacities, to address the contamination of our environment and prevent kidney disease, an urgent public health threat? We knew what our highest priorities for kidney disease prevention at the local level were: promoting clean water and organic agriculture, screening communities for early stages of kidney disease, and providing support to current patients and their families.
We knew we had to start small. We had to be realistic about the limitations of our ability to find funding, and thus work as much as possible within our existing organizational strengths and capacities. Getting into water projects, screening people to find new patients and supporting current patients all seemed like too much to start off with, so we brainstormed ways we could work on promoting organic agriculture. Somehow the idea came about that we could develop Sarvodaya's 53 acre land plot in Sri Tissapura near Padaviya, one of the areas of Sri Lanka hardest hit by kidney disease. Sarvodaya agreed to find the labor and provide the land for developing a model organic farm and farmer training center, and MONLAR agreed to provide seeds and develop training programs. Thus, our project was born!
On June 24, 2015, a group of people from Sarvodaya and MONLAR met to discuss the project on-site at Sri Tissapura, an 8-hour car ride from Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka. We started the day with a walk around the farm site, taking a look at the organic banana plantation, the agro-wells, and the land that hadn't been developed yet. The banana plantation, although small, was productive and organic. The 3 agro-wells, or wells designed to provide irrigation water, were in great shape and deemed ready for use. The land was assessed for ideal planting locations. I, knowing nothing about any of these farming details, had a lot of fun walking around the land with my new friends from the nearby Sarvodaya Kebithigollewa district center, young women around my age who help run the center there. Between my broken Sinhalese and their English, we were able to communicate and have a good time together. This was a real treat for me!
We then had an AMAZING meal that the staff at Sri Tissapura cooked carefully and lovingly. It was obvious that they had been at work all morning to make this beautiful lunch that featured local vegetables, including wild eggplant curry! The spread is below, and featured in the photo (from left to right) is Thennakoon, the manager of the Sri Tissapura site, and Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, General Secretary of Sarvodaya.
This was my plate at the meal, an amazing array of curries served traditionally on a leaf (this is what people used before plastic came around!). It was one of the best meals I had while I was in Sri Lanka!
Then we moved on to work. We all sat in a circle around a shady area outside the main building of the Sri Tissapura center and discussed our dreams and plans for what the center could be. Present were: Thilak Kariyawasam, consultant from the Lanka Organic Agriculture Movement, Shamila Rathnasooriya, Media and Program Manager for MONLAR, Lakpriya Nanayakkara, social activist with MONLAR, Tharindu Gunathilaka, Program Coordinator for Sarvodaya, Malani and her staff from the Sarvodaya Kebithigollewa District Coordinator, Thennakoon, the manager of the Sri Tissapura Sarvodaya Center, and Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, General Secretary of Sarvodaya. It was a great honor for Thenakoon and the other staff at Sri Tissapura to host this group of top-level national leaders. The conversation proceeded in Sinhala, and everyone spoke about their ideas. It was decided that 10 acres would be cleared for planting, and that indigenous vegetables and pulses would be planted in locations ideal for the given crops and proximity to the agro-wells. Labor would be hired to develop the land, which would become a model farm for farmers enrolled in training programs to see organic farming methods in action. Training programs were explored and plans were made for how to proceed. It was also decided to rehabilitate several buildings on site for use as sleeping quarters, so that farmers from far and wide could come to learn for multi-day trainings.
That's the story! We made the plans, with me being put in charge to raise the money to make this dream into a reality. This is where you all come in: please donate generously for the Fundraiser coming up this weekend in Rochester, NY to make this farm center a reality. Even if you cant come to the fundraiser, your donation of any size to contribute to our $30,000 fundraising goal will be greatly appreciated!
Check back often for updates on the project and more information about the issue of kidney disease and the importance of ecological farming.
By Ellie Krienke
Photos courtesy of Sweta Shrestha
This afternoon my fellow interns and I met outside on a beautiful summer day and had the chance to catch up with our course leader and friend, Sweta. She just returned from her trip to Nepal, where she was born and raised, and did not disappoint us with her nothing-short of incredible stories of what life is really like over there post-earthquake. Sweta’s stories remind us that disasters provide for a complicated situation that is both devastating and beautiful, confusing and yet filled with life-altering world views, and can simultaneously tear apart families while uniting their respectful communities. Telling about a nation in crisis is not an easy thing to do. It involves telling a story, and there are many to choose from. I fully disclose that it is not my story. I must pick and choose many testimonies from another person to try and give others one full, complicated picture that is made of many parts but can also stand on its own. Here in this space, I hope to bring her stories justice.
One thing that we forget all too often is how nothing has the potential to bring people together better than a disaster. This was true in 9/11, in hurricane Katrina, in personal family deaths. But it is true on an unfathomably larger scale in Nepal. Coming together is engrained in the culture, born in the genes of the people. This goes far beyond Asian cultures being generally more collectivistic than Western ones when we consider the fact that Nepal’s government is not trusted by its citizens. After a disheartening civil war, Nepal still has no constitution and the government has little to no credibility. There is not much for central leadership, so when you mix poverty with an earth-shattering disaster, the recipe spells for anarchy, violence, plagues of disease, and chaos. Instead what is witnessed now, at least merely two months later, is peace. Despite a lack of government support, communities have come together to support entire hospitals. The Dhulikhel hospital outside of Kathmandu was the primary hospital after the earthquake. In Nepal, when individuals are admitted to the hospital, it is a family affair. For every victim of the disaster, at least six people accompanied him to the hospital. There are no CNAs, there are only families. Although the concept shows a testament to the power of family, it also caused for over-crowding and a lack of resources. To counter this, the community in Dhulikhel supported every victim and their families with food for an entire month. Out of the thousands that stayed at Dhulikhel, there were only three deaths.
I must also sadly draw attention to the severance of families that occurred not only immediately by the death of parents and children, but by the aftermath effects. Many animals were killed by the earthquake and left their owners without a sustainable income. Animals that survived were often killed so that families could sustain themselves at least short-term. Only the fortunate few are able to think long-term in Nepal. The majority of income is currently provided by men working in the Middle East, many of them building stadiums for the world cup in Qatar. These jobs are dangerous and involve intense physical labor. Many men have died working on these stadiums. Although I am not a supporter of the world cup or Olympics and the tragedies that host countries and foreign aid workers from third world countries undergo, I cannot stress enough the complexity of these family situations. Often times these people do not know or do not have a better option. The money that they receive is better than what they can do with no animals and no farm back in Nepal. At the same time, the women are left to do not only all of the parenting and housework, but also all of the physical labor. Shisir, the CEO of Teach for Nepal, a distinguished UW alum from the MPA program, and a fellow leader of our program is now facing a new problem: there is often no one left in these villages with the time or strength to re-build schools.
In addition to highlighting what the Nepali people are doing to continue on with their own life while simultaneously alleviating the suffering of those around them, it is imperative to also draw attention and concern to the plethora of foreign aid agencies that have swarmed Nepal in the weeks following the earthquakes. Again, this comes with two-folded consequences: with hordes of new people, the economy undoubtedly has more money flowing through it. More people were buying more things. The prices of hotels in Kathmandu tripled overnight following the earthquake. But there were also too many people being paid over three hundred dollars a day (per person) by their governments, just for food. The government began rejecting several foreign aid agencies, again, with controversy. Unlike with Haiti, Nepal has never been colonized. They are an independent country with prideful people that have never needed to be ‘saved’, and they still don’t need to be. They are self-sustaining and doing amazing work on their own. Still, there is much good that non-profit agencies have done, and I fear that people will forget about Nepal, the way they always do in the months following a disaster. And that is when Nepal will need this aid the most. There is so much follow-up work to be done. Nepal didn’t need boxes of canned food, or rescue missions that cost 50,000 dollars and saved only 10 people, or workers that didn’t know how to properly allocate their skills and resources, while making more money than they gave. But they will more effectively be able to use this foreign aid in the event of disease outbreaks, millions of missed routine visits, and fixing damaged rivers and sewage systems.
The complexity of this story does not end here. One thing Sweta told us that sticks out in my mind is that the people are still living in fear. Many cannot enter their cracked homes or high rises that are deemed unsafe. They are sleeping outside of their homes or in tents, and still feel aftershocks. They await the next earthquake, and do not feel as though their nightmare is over. There are very few alive in Nepal today that can remember an earthquake as devastating as this one, but now the memory is strong, and the conversations with people on the street do not stop at “hello, how are you?”, but always include “how is your family, did your home survive?”. And yet, Nepal never fails to overcome and surprise us- on top of a thin blanket of fear lives ever glowing the light of peace that Nepali people give generously. “They still insist on making you food, they still insist on welcoming you in to their home,” says Sweta. Their worlds have changed, and yet, the most important things have stayed very much the same.
If you want to check out a few of the aid agencies that are doing selfless, sustaining, and culturally sensitive work in Nepal, check out Teach for Nepal, MAITI and UNICEF on Facebook. Hopefully I will be interning with one of these amazing organizations next summer- fingers crossed!
Also stay tuned to Sardovaya’s future events, and contact me or one of the other interns if you would like a ticket! CYC tickets are selling out fast!
CYC fundraiser: Sunday, October 11th at 11:30 AM- 20 dollars
Yoga Event: TBA- suggested 5 dollar donation
Fall Banquet Fundraiser Dinner: Date TBA
Our featured intern this week is Michael Cook, a senior at UW-Madison studying Zoology and Conservation Biology with certificates in Global Health, Environmental Studies, and Leadership:
It seems like only a few days ago that I hit submit on my application to study abroad as a part of my Global Health certificate in Kathmandu. When I found out I was accepted, I was ecstatic. The thought of traveling to the other side of the world and seeing a culture so different from my own in the beautiful Himalayas. . . well, it could not have been better. I began researching Kathmandu and began to imagine myself walking through Durbar Square, Thamel, Swayambhunath. No more than a month later, I found myself staring at these same locations, which had been destroyed, on the news.
It was only a little less than a 100 days ago that the 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal killing 9,000 people and injuring more than 23,000. This tragedy was covered intensively by the media and updates were continuously given. However, after about two weeks, the story faded into the background covered by more recent news. It faded similarly in the minds of many friends of mine as any tragedy does. Yet, Nepal remained in the front of my thoughts, along with many of my classmates. Selfish at first, I was devastated I would no longer be traveling to Nepal, but I soon realized that my presence would not help matters in Nepal. So I decided to help from home in Madison, Wisconsin by applying for an internship with Sarvodaya USA.
Continuing to work towards raising funds for Nepal, the earthquake has remained prevalent in my mind. Yet, I began to think about the numerous tragedies that have occurred over the recent past that I have brushed aside: The Earthquake in Haiti, The Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, The Cyclone in Vanuatu, among many others. Along with the Nepali Earthquake, all of these tragedies received initial aid that quickly faded over a few weeks leaving many residents helpless. I had never given the topic much thought, but I began to realize what a great problem it is.
One of the most important lessons I have learned through my Global Health courses here at UW Madison is that education is often the key and in the case of Nepal, we must all help educate our communities that Nepal is still very much in need of aid. In a previous Meet the Interns post, my fellow intern Maddie shared her experience at a candlelight vigil in Madison soon after the quake. It showed the presence and the strength of the Nepali community right in Madison. My personal goal this summer is to help keep this flame lit by working with Sarvodaya and reminding the student body of UW Madison of Nepal. I challenge you to remind yourself of a disaster that changed the lives of many, remind others of their continued need, and help rekindle their flame.
Our featured intern this week is Monica Gressett a Senior at UW studying Biology and pursuing a certificate in Global Health.
Hi everyone! I’m excited to be working as an intern with Sarvodaya USA this summer, and thought I’d take this time to share a little bit of my story.
I first found out about the earthquake from my lab mentor, Zach, who texted me while I was at the farmers market early on a Saturday morning. It said “glad you’re not in Nepal right now!” Initially confused, I checked the internet homepage, and sure enough, I learned of the massive earthquake that devastated Nepal. I was heartbroken for the people, the infrastructure, and selfishly, for what was going to become of our trip.
To be honest, Nepal wasn’t always on my top list of places to visit or serve. I speak Mandarin Chinese, so I always envisioned myself attending a field experience in China. Something about Nepal struck me, though, when I talked with the Global Health certificate staff, and especially when I heard students from last year speaking about their passion and excitement for their trip and the experiences they’d had in Nepal.
Once I made the plunge and signed up, I was thrilled. I researched Nepali culture, learned several words and phrases, and made packing lists, ensuring I would be 100% ready when the plane left the runway. I constantly wanted to learn more about the country, the culture, and the people. I even wrote a research paper on maternal mortality in Nepal for my public health class. I learned about the current initiatives in place to alleviate high maternal mortality rates, and hoped that I could learn more about these plans when I visited in May.
When I learned the trip was cancelled, I understood. Of course I was disappointed, but realized it was the best decision at the time, albeit a difficult one. The certificate leaders presented us with several different options to fulfill our field experience credit. However I truly felt connected to Nepal, and didn’t want it to end just like that. When the opportunity arose for me to intern with Sarvodaya, I jumped at the chance. I knew I could make a difference from the United States this summer, and that someday I can make it to Nepal to see everything I learned about firsthand.
The only issue with my new plan was my summer job: I do malignant melanoma research at the Mayo Clinic, and I had already committed to my third summer as a researcher. We worked it out, and decided I could use the fact that I would be in Minnesota as an asset. I could spread the word about Sarvodaya to Minnesota and beyond, breaking it out of Madison and providing unique connections and perspectives. So far, it has been working very well! There are over 250 summer interns at Mayo Clinic in various programs, and I have set up a fun Yoga/Zumba fundraiser event targeted to them, my church, and other nonprofit organizations in Rochester who are willing to spread the word. I hope these events will raise money, awareness, and insight to how students like me and the other interns can make a difference from afar.
If you’re interested in hearing about the work I’m doing in Rochester, MN, or how all of the interns are helping in Madison, please stay tuned to this blog or join the email list. Each of the interns are working on unique and exciting projects, and I hope we are fulfilling our goal of raising money for earthquake relief, and spreading the word about the wonderful organization, Sarvodaya USA!
Our featured intern this week is Michelle Darian, a junior at UW-Madison, working towards her Dietetics degree with a certificate in Global Health.
My intrigue with Nepal began in Summer 2014 when a few of my friends returned from the UW-Madison Nepal Field course and posted pictures of the most beautiful landscape and honest people to social media. Then and there I knew that I wanted to join the Nepal Field course of Summer 2015 so that I could experience this amazing country for myself. For months leading up to the trip, I read many books with a Nepal backdrop, I contacted every person I knew who has visited Nepal, and I told anyone who would listen about this amazing cultural adventure that I would soon embark on.
The morning of April 25th is one that changed the lives of so many people around the world. I woke up that morning to countless messages from concerned family and friends about the state that Nepal was in after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. In those first few moments it was hard to understand just how serious the situation was. I was in complete denial. The denial did not last long because it was impossible to escape this devastation with every news channel and radio station broadcasting the quickly increasing death toll. After much deliberation between my program leaders and the University, it was decided that the field course would be unsafe for us to attend. I was completely devastated. Selfishly, for how excited I had been about this plan for my summer, and much, much more importantly, for the families in Nepal who lost so much.
My love and passion for culture was the reason I fell in love with Nepal in the first place. With absolutely no other plan for my summer, I decided to book flights to countries with very distinct cultures because I wanted to be inspired by what I loved about Nepal. While travelling through Chefchaouen, Morocco, I was invited into a weaver’s shop called “La Maison des Nomades” for a glass of mint tea, which is a sign of hospitality in the Moroccan culture. The storeowner showed me the carpets that had been woven by the women of his village. He bought the carpets from these women in order to give them economic independence, and to contribute to their community. This experience reminded me a lot of the nonprofit organization that partnered with the Nepal Field course, Sarvodaya USA. In the meetings leading up to the Field course, my trip leader told the group about this organization that values self-reliance within communities and works to give the people of Nepal and Sri Lanka the means to use their personal strengths to better themselves and their communities. This connection to Nepal that I found on my last minute trip through Morocco inspired me to apply to be an intern for Sarvodaya USA.
After my seven weeks of cultural experiences, I returned to Madison to intern for Sarvodaya USA. This summer, I will be planning and putting on events to raise money for earthquake relief in Nepal. Additionally I will be writing blog posts to educate the public on various cultural practices in Nepal and Sri Lanka. I am also seeking out organizations that will partner with Sarvodaya USA to spread its message. In our global health classes here at UW-Madison, we have learned that it takes people acting locally, to accomplish our goals globally. Even though I could not be apart of a global mission this summer, I am determined to do all I can locally to help the people who will be able to use these resources globally. When the day comes that I can get to Nepal, I will have the capacity to appreciate it in ways that I couldn’t have otherwise.
Stay tuned to Sarvodaya’s Facebook page to learn more about what we are up to this summer. You can also subscribe to our email list here: http://www.sarvodayausa.org/connect.html to receive occasional emails that describe what we have been up to!
Compiled by Michelle Darian
For cultural Wednesday, the interns of Sarvodaya USA have read and compiled thoughts on one of Sarvodaya’s recommended readings, Buddhist Economics by A.T. Ariyaratne.
The book Buddhist Economics challenges its readers to take a step back and truly understand what drives their decision-making. A.T. Ariyaratne defines the modern economy as one that is focused on consumption and greed. The term “Buddhist economics” represents a lifestyle of working to maximize satisfaction by using “vigorous effort and great enthusiasm” through “lawful and just means.” A.T. Ariyaratne believes that if people can truly enjoy their jobs they can embrace the “bliss of leisure.”
This book addresses that this mindset is not always easy to live solely by because of the many pressures that exist in the modern world. We do not need to choose between the two extremes of being a modern economist or a Buddhist economist. Instead, A.T. Ariyaratne suggests that we all find the ”Middle Way.” This “Middle Way” will be the use of wealth as a form of liberation, without allowing attachment to wealth and materialistic items define one’s liberation.
Sarvodaya believes that every person, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, and religion can help to strengthen their community, and will in turn make the world a better place. This belief is integrated well into the book Buddhist Economics because with this traditional mindset, an individual will be empowered through their honest work to improve not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone around them.
For access to this book, follow the link below:
Our featured intern this week is Ellie Krienke, a senior at UW-Madison studying Neurobiology with a certificate in Global Health:
I began my journey to Nepal seven months ago in December, when I applied for the Community Health and Disparity Outreach program. After talking to a few of the other students, it’s safe to say that our reason for choosing this program had less to do with the actual program itself and more to do with Nepal. “Why Nepal?” My non-global health friends would ask me. And honestly, I wasn’t really sure. There is just something about the culture there that intrigues me more than almost any other place. The landscape isn’t too shabby either, and when you top that off with “the friendliest people on the planet” (according to my previous Nepal traveling friends), I fell in love with a place that I had never been. It is modest yet majestic, bustling with people yet seemingly untouched, ancient yet up and coming. Soon after I received my acceptance letter, the months of preparations began: 4 to 5 orientations, a geo-journal, shopping for supplies, rounds of vaccines, and meeting with my fellow students led us all to be more and more excited each day. Through a very difficult spring semester, both academically and personally, at times I told myself “105 days, 100 days, 40 days, that’s it, and then you’ll be in Nepal.”
So, as you can imagine, we were pretty shocked when we heard news about the earthquake that devastated much of Nepal and left people that we would potentially know and love wounded or dead. Selfishly, all of us wondered what it would mean for our trip. Initially I was in complete denial that our trip would be canceled, but the more I learned and saw and read, the more I began letting go of that dream. After accepting that our trip was lost, I began feeling more empathetic and sympathetic towards a national disaster than I ever have before.
People would ask us “why don’t you still go, and help? Maybe your trip would be different, but it will still be valuable”. And most of the time, I was one of those people, because I so desperately still wanted to go. But thanks to our wonderful public health education in Madison, we knew that we would quite honestly be more of a nuisance than aid, as we are all unskilled volunteers in a country that doesn’t need more confusion or people to direct. I am confident in the work that Shashir, our course leader, is doing over there, and unfortunately understand that we would not, at least at this time, be of much use to him. In addition, our trip to Nepal was never a mission trip. It was a learning trip. There is a fine line between doing truly good and sustainable work for others and doing well-intentioned work for yourself. The department of Global Health at UW Madison tries very hard not to cross that line, and I think they do a very good job of it. And since it was a learning trip, our journey did not end on April 25th, when the devastating earthquake shocked the world, or on May 22nd, when our flight left without us. Although I would do anything to reverse the effects of that earthquake, it did bring us to Sardovaya, which we would have possibly never been involved with otherwise. And so here we are, interning for Sardovaya and learning as much as we can about Nepal, Sri Lanka, the earthquake, CKD (chronic kidney disease), grassroots work, Shramadana, and many other assets that influence this part of the world. Our goal is to learn, educate, and raise money for the people over there that really know how to use it and maximize its’ effects. I am thankful to Sweta, Ken, Shashir, Lori, Robin, Joe, and everyone else in the global health department that has made it a priority for us to continue learning, serving, and loving that part of the world and our commitment to global health. I know without a doubt that not only will I get there one day, but my visit will be much more fruitful than it ever could have been otherwise.
Please stay tuned to our Facebook page and Instagram to learn more about Sardovaya and what we are up to this summer!
Project updates blog
Check back often to see updates on our current kidney disease prevention project in Sri Lanka or learn more about our past initiatives!