Safia Sayed – 29 hours before takeoff…

The irony of studying human rights from the classroom is learning again and again the importance of local context and input without ever having the chance to make use of that lesson. All of my experiences working with women’s and human rights have operated across distance, whether that be physical, cultural, or both. These experiences have privileged a viewpoint rooted in my own culture and upbringing. I’ve never had the chance to see how human rights worked in any other context, but I saw the opportunity to do so with the Summer in South Asia fellowship. I’m therefore excited to be working with Samadhan, an NGO whose human rights advocacy focuses on women and girls. While I don’t precisely know what my work there will be like, I’m looking forward to both some new perspective and for a more hands-on experience than I’m used to.

Samadhan is located in Dehradun, a northern Indian city at the foothills of the Himalayas. Although I’ve been to India twice before, (when I was 9 and 14) I hadn’t heard of Dehradun until I started investigating potential NGOs I’d like to work with. I was hoping Dehradun might be a bit cooler than the rest of the country and was somewhat consoled by the 77 degree Fahrenheit reading I found yesterday when I Googled the weather in Dehradun—until I realized it was taken at 2 AM. At the same time, Google—and everyone I’ve spoken with about Dehradun—also provided evidence of how beautiful the area is. I’m so excited to explore an entirely new part of India and all the beauty and culture it has to offer. Me and my frizzy hair will just have to deal with the humidity and heat.

Another component of my month-long experience in Dehradun will be a research project. Given that I’ve spent the past semester using data to study empirically the effect of the Mexico City Policy—a US policy that restricts aid in maternal and reproductive health to NGOs abroad that promote or provide abortions—I’m hoping to have conversations with health providers in Dehradun on their impression of the policy. I think it’ll be illuminating to supplement the quantitative work I’ve been doing with some firsthand perspective. My literature review has also revealed a lot of work on contraceptive access in Dehradun and the larger state of Uttarakhand, and I’m eager to continue probing this body of research and adding to it in a meaningful way.

Another thing I should probably mention—I leave tomorrow. I only finished finals the day before yesterday, so I haven’t had much time to process the fact that I’m leaving so soon (or to pack for that matter). This is kind of weird for me. I love to plan things out extensively, and I am not a procrastinator. But while the fundamentals of my trip are good to go, I haven’t thought (or panicked) about this trip and the fact that I’ll be leaving the country for a month as much as I might have otherwise.

I’ve decided to embrace that, and all the uncertainty that the next month holds. For as much as I don’t know about what my time in Dehradun will be like, I do know that it’ll be an adventure, learning-experience, and opportunity for personal growth like I’ve never had before.

Now, where’d I leave that sunscreen…



Anjali Nemorin – The “First” Steps…

Hello web-world! I will be using this platform to document my travels to and throughout India this summer. Through the Summer in South Asia fellowship program at the University of Michigan, I will get the opportunity to travel to Bangalore, India to work with a non-profit organization called Child Rights and You, or CRY for short. This public health NGO is doing amazing work to further child rights all over India by increasing children’s education, rates of vaccination, and overall quality of life by reducing rates of child labor and child marriage as well. CRY does this by employing methods similar to the community-based participatory research model. This means that they go to different areas of India and help communities realize and understand their responsibility to ensure the children of their communities reach their full potential and experience happy, healthy childhoods. They identify their strengths and weaknesses and partner to come up with ways to individually and collectively improve the lives of children.

CRY was one of the first NGOs I found when researching different internships I could do in India back in November.  Like the title of this blog post suggests, this is not one of my first steps of applying for this internship. I did a lot of research and weeded through many organizations before landing on this one. Firstly, I was compelled to engage in this work because of the wide range of issues CRY tries to solve – child education, marriage, labor, etc.  Having a flexible and interesting workload is very important to me (and part of the reason I decided to study Public Health in the first place!), so I am excited to help with any and all projects I am tasked with. I was able to Skype with two of my future supervisors, and hearing the enthusiasm and passion they have for their work just made me even more excited to meet them and help enact important change in India. I was and still am very impressed by their vision and mission, and I can’t wait to work alongside the staff at CRY as well as go into communities and hear individuals’ stories.

While interning, I will also be conducting a research project. My research question (so far) is: How are the community health needs/priorities incorporated into all stages of CRY’s partnership with these communities? I am interested in this research question because recent literature (and what I’ve learned in my School of Public Health courses) has explained that giving communities the space to have a voice throughout the development and implementation of programs that are being done in their communities is imperative to the success and sustainability of these initiatives. It creates a sense of trust and partnership rather than an NGO “saving” a “helpless community.” All individuals and communities have strengths and are able to help themselves to some extent, so it is important to acknowledge and utilize these traits, not only to solve the problem of interest, but also to build efficacy and empowerment among the people in the community.

So, I will be off to Bangalore in mid-June to delve into my internship and research. I plan to stay in a hostel-style place right by the NGO, and I can’t wait to explore the “international” city of Bangalore. The last time I traveled to India was with my family about 7 years ago, and I’ve never been to Bangalore before so I’m so excited to explore one of my home countries as a young adult on my own. As I keep looking into flights and accomodations, I feel myself getting more nervous – How will I know how to get around? What if I get lost? What will it be like to not be able to eat a salad for 6 weeks? But overall, I feel grateful, excited and so fortunate to have this opportunity to learn more about myself, enrich my passion for public health work, and help others in a meaningful, lasting way.

Maddie Walsh – Delta or JetBlue??

My visa finally came in the mail last week, which means it’s time to buy my flights to Hyderabad. I’ve been looking at different dates and companies, trying to find the best deal and perfect dates to travel. I have so many mixed emotions about this trip– mostly excitement, with a fair amount of nerves mixed in there as well.

I have always wanted to go to India. My aunt, who is pretty much my hero, lived in India for a year for a fellowship while receiving her Masters in Public Health. She had so many incredible stories about her time there, I knew I had to go. Then, my best friend in high school moved to Chennai our senior year of high school for his dad’s job. Since then, we’ve promised each other we would both go someday (I’m still trying to get him to come visit me this summer– we’ll see if it happens!).

When I found out that I got the fellowship, I was sitting in my honors nursing seminar. I started tearing up because I was so excited. I had been Skype-ing with the birthing center and was in awe of the incredible midwife who runs it. I desperately wanted her to be my mentor and to get to work alongside her, and now I will finally get to meet her!

In Hyderabad, I will be working at the Sanctum Birthing Center, one of the few midwife-led birthing centers in India (or anywhere, really). They use the midwife model of care, and then have OB/GYNs as backup if a woman needs medical care or surgery. I am so excited to work here. I am really passionate about maternal and child health and desperately want to work in labor and delivery someday. I want to work in low resource settings and believe that, with a new pregnancy, there is the chance to break cycles of poverty and poor health.

Additionally, I am trying to decide if I want to continue my education in nursing following graduation, or to pursue a medical degree. I am hoping that exposure to both specialties will help me to decide what I want to do. To help with this, I will be doing research to study the differences in communication techniques of midwives and OB/GYNs.

In Hyderabad, I will be staying in an apartment building that is walking distance from the birthing center. I am really nervous to be living alone because I have never lived alone before. That said, I am excited to have an apartment and be able to meet people also living and working in the city.

I am already signing up for an international breastfeeding conference in Chennai (where my friend lived!) that my mentor will be speaking at, alongside numerous other leaders in the field. In addition, the birthing center is running a four-day infant massage training while I am there. The certification is international, so I will be able to use it as a doula here in the U.S. I cannot believe how many learning opportunities have already been presented, and cannot wait to see what else is in store.

As I prepare to leave in late July, I am increasingly excited and nervous. Looking at flights definitely made the experience more real. I think it will be tough to leave my family for so long, as I will be in Ohio for an internship for the first half of the summer as well. That said, I know that I will learn and grow so much and could not be more excited for this fellowship.