Durham to Kisumu!!!

16 05 2010

Hi!! My name is Maddy McEwen, and I am a rising senior studying psychology and global health.  I was born and raised in Durham, NC, and look forward to getting out of the bullcity for the summer!  I plan on applying to medical school in the coming year with the hopes of becoming a OB-GYN or pediatric surgeon (although this changes daily (: ).  Studying global health has been such a good experience for me at Duke.  I am very interested in the connection between gender, poverty, and health.  Specifically, I want to explore HIV/AIDS and its social and behavioral predictors.  I chose to to spend my summer in Kenya because Mama na Dada is an unbelievably cool program, that aims to empower women and children in Kunya village.  The program overcomes social inhibitors to educating women and kids. Further, it incorporates mental health into its treatment and care for HIV positive women and children.  Mental health is often overlooked in developing nations, and yet it is of upmost importance when considering predictors and treatment for HIV infection.  At Mama na Dada, I will be working within the health programs, focusing most of my time working in a support group for HIV carriers within the village.  Within the support group, I look forward to interacting with women and children from such a vastly different culture.  I cannot wait to learn from such insightful women.  I also hope that my presence and willingness to learn in the support program will improve an individual’s outlook on life given their heath status.  Further, HIV is a disease that carriers a large stigma in Kenya, especially for women (despite their subordinate position in society that increases their likelihood of participating in risky sexual behaviors).  I therefore expect to learn about social predictors including social status that make a woman more or less likely to contract HIV.  As an American, I don’t understand gender/social hierarchies to the extent that they exist in Sub-Saharan Africa (despite reading about it often!).  Seeing the factors at play in Kunya village will be a culture shock, but it will make my global health study “come to life!”.

I am most excited about forming relationships with the members of Mama na Dada and with the village people. I spoke via email with a recent college graduate who volunteered with Mama na Dada, and he stressed that Kunya village is very rural and slow-paced.  Initially, he felt that his presence wasn’t “making a difference”.  However, he also said that after a few short weeks he realized that making a change doesn’t have to be over tly apparent.  Simply put, his presence and excitement to form relationships with village members made the largest difference.

I don’t have an “expectation” for this trip.  However, I know that I will come back a completely different and better person.  I hope to understand (really understand) “cultural sensitivity”.  Further, I will be able to see my 2 interests (health and HIV) interconnect at a whole new level.  I want to know about the factors that make women at a high risk for HIV.  I cannot wait!!!!! A trip that has been so far in the distance is now a short day away!!

Talk to you when I’m in Kisumu!- gotta go finish some last minute packing!!!

– Maddy McEwen




One response

29 05 2010

Are u already in kisumu.would like to hear abt ur experience.i live n work here in kisumu

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