One of our very own Global Health students, Melissa Vajanaphanich, recently had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Clinton Global Initiative University.

From this experience, Melissa is able to showcase her goals, ideas and memories from this great opportunity.

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Commitment

My commitment to action “Project P.E.A.C.H” focuses on improving childhood nutrition to combat the development of chronic, non-communicable diseases in the country of Belize. This past Spring Break, I had the privilege of spending a little over a week in Double Head Cabbage Village, Belize on a service learning trip through Alternative Breaks. During my stay, I was struck by the fact that the students rarely consumed fresh produce and that bruised fruits cost almost 2 USD a piece. Returning back home to our abundance of grocery stores and farmers markets, I felt a sense of incompleteness that affected my time. Project P.E.A.C.H, which stands for Promoting Eating Access for Children’s Health, is a multi-level approach that targets educational coursework, food environment, and the local community through a mobile garden driven educational curriculum.

Award

I was awarded the Social Innovation Fund at UC San Diego that provides a myriad of support and resources to further propel my commitment to action. Additionally, I was awarded a scholarship by Eleanor Roosevelt College as well as by the Department of Global Health to assist with my attendance at CGIU. Most notably, these opportunities have helped me to develop myself as a change maker and to connect with like-minded individuals from all over the world in order to foster the ripples of social change.

Plan of Action

I am planning to pilot the project at a local elementary school in San Diego by the start of the new year. By starting off locally, I will have better control and oversight over the project’s development and progress before scaling it to Belize. Ultimately, my vision is to make the healthiest choice, the easiest choice.

Favorite Speaker

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I was particularly moved by Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy’s eloquent remarks from the plenary session on Designing a Healthy and Sustainable Future. As he discussed the opioid epidemic and the controversies surrounding addiction, he reiterated to us that, “The most powerful weapon we have is compassion. All of you have the power to heal because you have the power to love and the power to be compassionate.” Sometimes I forget how much of an impact I am capable of inflecting on the world regardless of my income, my education, or my position in society so I thank Dr. Murthy for reminding me of the influence that I am capable of.

Most Memorable MomentVersion 2

There are so many to choose from but I would have to say – accidentally bumping into former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright as she was waiting for her car!

Biggest Takeaway

I’m so lucky to have been inspired by some of our nation’s most prominent leaders but also by peers my own age. As President Joseph E. Aoun said in his opening remarks, “We live in a global community connected by the free flow of ideas.” If you get the chance to attend CGIU, or even if you don’t, put yourself out there and engage with others as much as you can. There is always something to learn from everyone you will ever meet.