This summer, a record six COPH students left for training to serve abroad as Peace Corps volunteers. They are completing their service while finalizing their graduate studies and recently participated in their swearing-in ceremonies. In September, COPH received news from two students, Ant Nhy Nguyen and Sierra Petrosky, and both said they are excited and ready to begin their experiences.
Since leaving, they have been receiving their training, which is made up of three sections: cross-cultural, language and technical. The training prepares them for the positions they will take as Peace Corps volunteers. Their adventure is truly beginning, and 24 months from now, they will return home and bring their knowledge and experiences back to the United States.
Petrosky is assigned to Benin, West Africa, where she will work in maternal and infant health, specifically focusing on nutrition.
Nguyen (who goes by “Anthony”) will work with malaria prevention and community health in the African nation of Togo.
Below are the e-mail reports Nguyen and Petrosky sent home.
Ant Nhy Nguyen – MSPH candidate in epidemiology
“There were three phases to my pre-service training. The first phase was 4 weeks long, during which time I learned about culture and language informally through my stay with a host family. The formal trainings were dedicated to health, safety and security, and French language education. The technical training session during this period focused on teaching us methods to assess community needs.
The second phase consisted of a two-week stay at my assigned post. During this time I got familiarized with my living conditions, introduced myself to my neighbors, shadowed a current volunteer, and got acquainted with my co-workers. I met with the heads of different departments at Programme National de lutte Contre le SIDA, the organization I’m assigned with, to better understand the organization and my future work. I also toured a teaching hospital that is in collaboration with PNLS.
The last phase was three weeks long, and the sessions were devoted to technical training, with some local language training, as well. The technical sessions introduced us to methods and activities that we can use to effectively educate about HIV/AIDS and to promote family planning. We also practiced home visits to assess the community’s knowledge of malaria and bednet usage. Additionally, we learned how to monitor and evaluate the programs we plan to implement.”
Sierra Petrosky – MPH candidate in maternal and child health
“Stage was intense but interesting. We started with language immersion and cultural training, and then moved on to technical training. We learned about Benin-specific health issues and techniques for combating them in resource-scarce areas. A large focus was placed on improving nutrition, as well as hygiene and sanitation.
“We did a lot of community practices at my training site, such as holding a baby weighing-growth monitoring day, having one-on-one consultations with women about exclusive and complimentary breast-feeding practices, training young people on contraception methods, and teaching families how to grow and prepare moringa.
“I am now moving up north to Peonga, a little village in the Borgou. I had the chance to visit for two weeks during training, and I absolutely loved it. The people were so warm, welcoming, and excited to have a health volunteer. I can’t wait to get settled in and get to work!
Submitted by Sylvia Alvarez, MPH candidate, College of Public Health