Interview conducted by Emma Jackson
My name is Celia, I am a second year Global Health major minoring in African Studies. I am an international student originally from Germany although I consider Kenya my home. I have been working in East Africa on various projects mostly in Kenya and Uganda since August 2013. After spending a full year and working with several families in Kenya I decided to start my own organization together with my wonderful local staff. We are a community based organization located in Nakuru in the Great Rift Valley originally founded for a sponsorship program sending our children to school. Since then, we have created new projects especially focusing on community development to empower our community to be independent and self-sufficient. We are currently working on a water project funded through our income generating jewelry project.
Why did you choose to pursue Global Health as a major/minor?
I chose to pursue the Global Health major because it relates a lot to my work in Kenya and what I would like to do in the future. I have learnt from working internationally how important it is to not solely consider biological aspects when looking at health. The situation an individual or a society lives in impacts their health and health behavior. If you want to contribute to improving health in some place, you must look all the circumstances found in that respective place: consider a country’s (or city’s or village’s) political and economic status, beliefs, environment, societal norms, etc. With its diverse requirements, I feel like the Global Health major is very inclusive of the different aspects that affect health. Furthermore, as the field experience requirement basically sums up my passions and work abroad, I felt like the major was a perfect match.
What do you identify as the most pressing issues in global health equality?
I think it is very difficult to pinpoint one specific issue that I would identify as the “most pressing issue in health equality” as it often depends on the region one works in. First of all, one of the most pressing issues in my opinion is the realization that there is a great health inequality. Not only globally, but often within societies. Health in countries that are often viewed as a country with “access to the best medical care” is not necessarily good and equally distributed. Take the U.S., for example. Treatment doesn’t always depend on availability of a certain drug but on the ability of the patient to pay for the drug or treatment.
Having worked in a Kenyan hospital for several months, I would identify one of the most pressing issues there as the lack of infrastructure in certain areas or inability to pay transport to a health facility. Furthermore, health care (at least where I worked) focuses on urgent care, pre-natal care and clinics for HIV or TB because these are absolutely necessary. This, however, means that only few pay attention to preventative care. One only goes to the hospital if one feels severely ill, a phenomenon that is understandable considering there are consultation fees not everyone can afford. I think the lack of preventative health care due to economical reasons is another pressing issue that is not only found in Kenya, but everywhere in the world.
Do you have a favorite professor in the department?
Being a second-year international student still trying to make up for the fact that my country does not offer AP credit, I have only had few Global Health classes so far – all my professors so far have been great, but most of them were not directly from the GH department, so ask me again in a year or so 😉
What are your future plans/goals Academically/Professionally?
As much as I would like to branch out and travel, I know my future is in Kenya. Mainly, because my project and especially my children are there. Also, because it has become my home over the last two years. I hope that one day our project is completely self-sustainable or better, that the project itself becomes unnecessary because the community is entirely independent. I would not mind working for other, bigger NGOs or even organizations like the UN for a while to expand my knowledge but ultimately, I like working on a grassroots level. As long as I find a way to pay off that student debt, I am happy living on a Kenyan wage 🙂
What advice do you have for young Global Health students or students considering Global Health?
My advice for Global Health students or students considering Global Health (do it!): it does not matter where you complete your field experience or what areas you focus on during a class project as long as you do it with all your heart.
Favorite travel experience and why?
It should be difficult to choose a favorite travel experience because I have always been lucky with travel opportunities and therefore travelled a lot. Our trip to meet the Dalai Lama in India with UCSD this summer comes to mind as well as all the times I have travelled by bus from Kenya to see another project in Uganda, but my favorite “travel” experience HAS to be Kenya. At the beginning of September this year, my secretary, our four children and I “travelled” to their boarding school to start the last term. We were crammed in a friend’s car with their numerous school supplies, boxes and mattresses and of course stopped by the police (they love to stop you for “a little something” especially when school fees are due). It took maybe 40 minutes to get there and we spent another 5 hours at the school together. To this point, this is my favorite experience that you might count as traveling as it was abroad and we were traveling out of the town the kids live in. It’s my favorite experience not because it was more exciting than other experiences, but because I felt extremely happy.
Check out Celia’s organization: Siku Njema Kesho