Volunteer Name: Virginia Johnson
Background: UMN CIEE Fellow & MPH
Title: GHO Research Supervisor
Sector: Maternal & Child Health
Projects: Sisterhood Study & Admin Strenthening
Achievements: Getting Published
- Why -
Volunteering with WAMM required a higher level of self-motivation, cultural skills, leadership and active engagement with the community, thus making it more challenging and rewarding at the same time. I was comforted by the need for an initial level of “hand-holding” since it was my first time going to Africa - in terms of arranging lodging, meals, and transportation. I was also impressed by the idea of having a one-week orientation – with accelerated training on the history, culture, economy, language, health practices and politics of Sierra Leone.
- How -
During the spring break of my freshmen year as a Nutrition Science undergraduate at the University of Minnesota (U of M), I went on an YMCA Immersion trip to the Dominican Republic. While participating in site visits and conversations with locals in the DR, my eyes where opened to the issues of domestic violence. I left feeling our group was unprepared – to offer any skills, resources or advice in exchange for the knowledge we gained from the experience.
Determined to make a meaningful impact, I returned to the DR my junior year, in the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) Service Learning (SL) program in Santiago through the U of M. My research project measured baseline breastfeeding practices, attitudes and knowledge of the community in which I volunteered. Additionally I created a prenatal education curriculum manual for volunteer health promoters with breastfeeding data collected during my research. This experience led me to pursue a maternal and child health master's in Public Health with a global health emphasis.
I worked with our partner in Kono, Wellbody Alliance, to investigate the districts maternal mortality index in the Sisterhood Study. My responsibilities included co-supervising data collection efforts of ten community health workers; creating a data entry system, entry protocol with an outline of common survey mistakes and proposed solutions. Afterward in the US, I collaborated with the research team to create a data analysis plan to enable an accurate measure for the baseline maternal mortality levels in each of the 26 communities.