Joleen Chen, a fourth year undergraduate Global Health major, recently spent time in Thailand working with the Burmese migrant community as part of her Field Experience under the organization, Help without Frontiers.

Help without Frontiers provides support across national frontiers to all people who find themselves in an emergency situation, one in which they are unable to escape without assistance. They support several migrant learning centers throughout Thailand by providing migrant children with access to healthcare and education (including a healthy school lunch). They also help to fund several income-generating projects.

Joleen’s passion for Global Health stems from her deep interest in providing much needed service to others via teaching, community empowerment and healthcare. As an aspiring dentist, Joleen sought out opportunities specific to broadening her perspective on dentistry and its role in global oral health. Currently, Joleen is active in the UCSD Student Run Free Dental Clinic where she is able to assist and provide healthcare for the under-served and further pursue her passion for education.

Field Experience

Joleen’s Field Experience was comprised of attending Thammasat University during the week and then traveling throughout Thailand on the weekends. Evenings were spent brainstorming and debriefing from the day’s events.  Joleen spent a significant portion of her time using these observations to work  on fieldwork research with her classmates.

After conducting various site visits to local migrant learning centers, Joleen and her classmates identified the need to create a visual brochure that the population could comprehend in an effort to better inform and educate the communities.  In the Mae Sot district in western Thailand, students and teachers expressed their concerns about the “barriers to access” in migrant learning centers, feeling that parents needed specific program information and available resources presented to them in charts and images because of the fact that many of them were illiterate.   After assessing the needs of the Mae Sot community, a prototype was designed. Next, Project Access, an organization that works on improving access to education systems, proposed using Joleen and her team’s pamphlet to distribute during their outreach events.

Video: Access to Education for Burmese Migrant Children: For a Better Future

Joleen describes her field experience in further detail  in this video submitted to the 2017 CUGH Global Health Video Competition in Partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

“The fieldwork experience was an incredibly invaluable learning opportunity and the peak of my undergraduate career in global health. Not only did I have the privilege of using my knowledge and applying it beyond the classroom and pursuing my passions in helping the under-served, I also formed lifelong friendships and worked under extremely knowledgeable and passionate faculty and classmates, all in an effort to gain a more global perspective on education and the lives of migrant populations.”