By Editorial Board
One of the most important things to Duffy during her time in Siem Reap was the trust the young girls she worked with had in her. When asked about this, she recalled two specific instances of the girls’ trust.
The first was the nickname she was given by her soccer team, “Mama Monster.” As Duffy shared, the girls all teased in a very loving way and began calling her a monster. Duffy responded by calling them her “little monsters,” at which point she became “Mama Monster.” To this day, she is addressed as Mama Monster in e-mails from her soccer team, and she feels that the bond she formed with her team is one of the greatest marks she left in Siem Reap.
The other instance of trust came in her time teaching for The Global Child. In the health class she designed, Duffy incorporated a safe sex lecture. She was concerned about teaching this given the incredibly conservative nature of Siem Reap.
However, the reaction from the students was eye-opening. In the last weeks of her fellowship, the girls she was teaching were completely involved in the topic, asking endless questions that allowed Duffy to clarify things they had been taught incorrectly before. She looks back on this fondly, as she not only accomplished her goal of teaching safe sex, but she also felt the trust form that bridged the gap between herself and her students.
Rogan Quinn ’13 spent the first half of his fellowship in Kono, Sierra Leone, alongside recent Princeton graduate Shirley Gao, who is still in Kono. The two worked at the Wellbody Alliance. Quinn spent his first month “going to individual homes of the HIV patients we were dealing with.”
He “made home visits, talked with the patients and learned about their shortcomings and how well they were taking their medications.”
Gao managed the Alliance’s finances and their relations with the U.S. office of the Wellbody Alliance.
The biggest problem that the Wellbody Alliance faced was the malnutrition in Kono. It was a cycle of not having enough food to take HIV medicine, and then subsequently dying from not taking the medicine.
This is an incredibly difficult challenge to overcome because of the enormous scale of the problem.
Quinn also did a lot of work with the World Health Organization, testing residents of the area for tuberculosis, before traveling to Uganda to continue his fellowship alongside Ben Weiner.
This was clearly a major event for both Quinn and Weiner, who could not contain their smiles when recollecting Quinn’s arrival in Uganda.
When asked if it amazing to be there with each other Weiner simply responded, “Are you kidding?” while Quinn added that “life for me changed for the better.”
Given that the two were best friends before leaving for their fellowships, the ability to share the experience was something more special than either could put into words.
Living and working in Uganda for the next five months, Quinn recognized the same problems in Ddegeya Village as he had encountered in Kono: extreme poverty, water scarcity and negative Western influence on such large scales that it was a constant hunt for a solution.
Another issue in Uganda was that a power line existed, but no one in the village had the funds to use the electricity it supplied.
Despite these problems, Quinn remains optimistic about Uganda’s ability to grow and change for the better, although it seems inevitable that things will get worse before they get better.
Quinn and Weiner clearly faced some true hardships in Uganda.
However, as one can tell just by watching them share stories, they also found themselves in some amazing adventures that they will never forget.
Ariel Blum ’13 spent the past nine months in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where she worked for the Global Child Organization. The Global Child is an NGO that provides former street working children with the opportunity to be educated while earning $1 per day. There, Blum worked as an English teacher, dance instructor and mental health educator.
“It was truly amazing to learn about all of the factors that are involved in a school and education aside from just the teachers and students,” she stated. “Without support from the students’ families, motivation from the students and a safe learning environment, education would be very difficult to achieve.”
An avid dancer, Blum remarked that she truly enjoyed incorporating her passion during her fellowship. “The students enjoyed learning about dance from different from cultures and even held their own Dance-a-Thon performance to raise money for their school!”
Blum also worked at the Joe to Go Restaurant, the proceeds of which directly funded the Global Child’s educational programs.
At the restaurant, Blum learned about marketing and publicizing for special events and menu specials.
After witnessing the many hardships her students faced at home, from family dynamics to economic challenges, Blum partnered up with the Counseling Center at Union to create a mental health curriculum for the students at the Global Child.
The program implemented various methods for children to cope with stress, time management and bullying.
These factors, as well as what Blum learned about education, have fostered her interest in pursuing school psychology.
Coming back, Blum remarked that her experiences living in Siem Reap were truly “life changing moments.”
“Living in Siem Reap and working at the Global Child really opened my eyes and taught me a new perspective and way of thinking,” she recalled. “Seeing where my students live and learning about their backgrounds taught me so much about the daily hardships that people face in Cambodia.”
For Blum, it was also incredible for her to witness the growth and development of the children she taught.
“It was extremely rewarding to see how my students have grown throughout the year, from being so shy in class to the point where I needed to create a box where they could ask their questions in private, to having them dance and perform in front of an audience.”
Now back in the U.S., Blum states that even though she is experiencing what she calls “reverse culture shock,” she is thankful to be united with the other Minerva Fellows and share her experiences with others. She said, “The Fellow Retreat in Lake George was a great way for all of the Minerva Fellows to bond and discuss our experiences with each other before sharing our experiences with the Union campus community.”