The last couple of weeks have kept me plenty busy with my master’s classes now in full swing, and endless adventures and explorations always beckoning me around the city. This week I gave my first presentation at the School of Public Health and it went quite well! We were given topics to work on and present in groups and I volunteered to be one of the presenters for our group, presenting on the North American Sanitation Movement. I saw it as a great opportunity to share some of the historical knowledge and examples I learned in my masters program in Chicago. For any of you interested, here is a youtube link to a portion of my presentation: http://youtu.be/_HS2nu2ygdY
Having now been in classes for a couple weeks I feel better positioned to comment on my perceptions and observations. The program has unquestionably gotten off to a rather disorganized and bumpy start, wherein for example, on multiple evenings of class one of the professors thought we were scheduled for four hours of class rather than two hours, or vice-versa. The quality of the teaching has been great, however, and my introductory Public Health course, which I thought might be a bit repetitive after completing 2 years of public health studies already, has actually proven to be a totally new learning opportunity. We have spent weeks now diving into the history of public health, analyzing theories and practices from the days of Hippocrates, through the centuries, up until modern day. We’ve read and discussed philosophers such as Hobbes, Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, etc. While at first I was struggling to see the value of studying all this philosophy and history in terms of its importance to public health, after a few weeks I can now see how important it is to understand the theories and philosophy behind how public health and public health programs are carried out, often in very different ways, in places throughout the world. Back to observations, where the school has fallen short of my expectations on organization, my fellow students have exceeded my expectations in terms of organization, knowledge, and overall academic rigor. They come to class having so thoroughly studied and reviewed the assigned articles and readings that any of them could stand up and practically teach much of that day’s lesson. They are highly motivated and are almost all professionals of some sort, varying from undergraduate professors to doctors, nurses, veterinarians, administrators, etc. As a plus, they are all also super friendly and have all kind of taken me under their wing. 🙂
This past weekend I finally went and visited a park called Comfama, which is about a 1km steep hike up the road from my home. For a fee of $15,000 pesos ($9) you can enter for the whole day and access their three pools, turkish bath, outdoor gym area, hiking trails, tennis courts, children’s carnival rides and playgrounds, rock climbing wall, and even zip lining! It’s a pretty awesome little hidden gem that I definitely plan to go back to.
I also took the time this past week to snap some pictures around La Estrella, the neighborhood/zone I live in here in Medellin, to give you a glimpse of the area.
Last week I was asked to visit a local foundation here in Medellin called Fundacion Solidaria La Fraternidad. It’s a pretty dynamic and wonderful little organization that is doing a lot of great, hands-on social work here in the city. They offer an incredible array of classes and services in their two humble little buildings residing in a relatively rough area of town. One of their primary programs is providing tutoring and instruction for low-income children either before or after school. Due to population constraints and not having enough space in schools for all the students in the metropolis of Medellin, most elementary and middle schools here divide the day in half and half the students attend classes from very early in the morning until early afternoon, and then the other half attend classes from early afternoon until evening. This results in half of the elementary and middle school aged children having half their entire morning or their entire afternoon and evening free each day. Low-income children whose parents have to work during this time are often left to fend for themselves. This foundation I visited offers programs for these children so that the time they are not in school can be spent learning and furthering their education, instead of on the streets where they can find themselves amidst or participating in violence, drugs, crime, etc. In addition, the foundation provides free space for cooperatives of local small businesses, free business training courses for small business owners, seamstress courses and training for women hoping to find jobs in clothing manufacturing, crocheting and knitting classes, and so much more. I was invited to visit this foundation with the hope that I could potentially help solicit donations from my connections in the U.S., through personal, business, or Rotary connections. I am very impressed with the Foundation and am now in the process of trying to determine ways in which donations I solicit for the Foundation could be used to improve and make the Foundation more sustainable. I hope to be able to report more in the coming weeks! If you have ideas or know of anyone who might be compelled to work with or contribute to a foundation such as this one, please contact me! 🙂
Tonight I am headed off on a bus to Bucaramanga with Leonela and some friends for a 8-9 day vacation over the Semana Santa holiday week next week. Hope you are all well and finally catching a break from the cold winter weather!