To Be A Peace Corps Volunteer Again…
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I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) from 2011-2013 in rural Uganda in a Community Health Volunteer capacity. During this time, I learned the importance of receiving a Master of Public Health degree and the opportunities this leads to in building global health partnerships.
Upon enrolling in the University of Illinois at Chicago in the spring of 2016, I accepted a Research Assistantship with Dr. Karen Peters and Dr. Jon Dykens, working on a project in the Kedougou Region of Senegal called Cervical Cancer Preventative Services Implementation. The skills and knowledge I have gained while working on this project have not only challenged me in new ways but they also allowed me to apply theory to practice.
In the fall of 2016, the project presented me with an exciting opportunity to travel to Senegal and gain hands-on experience with the Senegalese team. Sherri, my fellow traveler and soon-to-be Peace Corps Master International Volunteer, and I landed in Senegal and joined the team in the capitol of Dakar. From there, we traveled 10 hours to meet with fellow PCVs who have been our partners on the ground in surrounding villages.
A key aspect of this project is to gain a greater understanding of health service development at the local levels in low-income and low-resource communities. I was able to observe the relationships volunteers had developed with the community at local health posts on one of our many site visits. Here, cultural simulation and local language fluency allowed me to gain greater insight into the needs and barriers that women face when attempting to gain access to healthcare service.
The quality of partnership with local communities is dependent on close collaboration. At the biannual partnership meeting, the research team and local health post counterparts came together to reflect, assess, and brainstorm for the future. The global health partnership with Peace Corps helped improve the synergy by facilitating a community-centered approach resulting in sustainable impact.
Throughout my two weeks in Senegal, I found myself being a PCV again while gaining a newfound respect for those serving on the project. Witnessing the inequities in access to healthcare in Senegal first hand while traveling allowed me to observe the barriers that local women experience to obtaining cervical cancer screenings – something many women living in the US take for granted.
Being a part of this project, working to advance health care access and global health partnerships have inspired me to continue my studies and pursue a future career which influences healthcare policies in global health settings.
About the image. The photo features Allison Delgado and teammates in Senegal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allison Delgado is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda (2011-2013) and a recent graduate (2016) of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.