So many times over the past two years I have thought to myself, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever have another job in my lifetime that I love as much as I love this one.’ For me, what started as a 3-month practicum in 2016 was followed by a two-year commitment volunteering in a very poor area in the Dominican Republic. 

I originally came to the DR through Daemen College’s Master in Public Health Program. As I requested and much to my delight, the MPH staff worked hard to find me a practicum placement in a Spanish-speaking country. My practicum began in the summer of 2016 with an NGO called Community Service Alliance (CSA) which works among several of the DR’s poorest areas. With CSA, I was able to apply what I had previously learned in my MPH curriculum classes including community health education, global health, and research methods to work to improve the health of those living in impoverished areas of the DR. Through my fieldwork with CSA, I met a volunteer working in a Dominican school in a very poor area called Lecheria outside of Santo Domingo. I was instantly captivated by the work she was doing and decided that this was it-- I had finally found what I had been searching for. My lifelong goal had always been to spend two years of my life volunteering.

Within one month I finished my practicum and eagerly went back to the DR ready to begin my first year as a teacher’s assistant. This year (my second year), I had the opportunity to also work as a school counselor and health promoter. My health-related projects include promoting vaccinations among our students, starting a dental initiative, measuring weight and height of the kids to record growth data, participating in new-mother focus groups, and helping them in the well-baby clinic. Fighting through biostatistics is finally paying off! I’m very grateful that I am able to confidently apply everything I learned in the Master of Public Health Program to my work here.

Overall, I could not be more thrilled that I fell into this work/volunteer experience, which I attribute to the practicum that Dr. Wrotniak and Dr. Mendel found for me. If not for the placement, I don’t know if I would have pursued my two life goals: to spend two years giving back to the less fortunate and to learn Spanish. Perhaps I still would have chased my dreams, but I am honestly not too sure that I could have found something better for me than what I am blessed with every day here. The inter-cultural, educational and professional experiences I have gained throughout my time here are incomparable to any I could have received elsewhere. The personal growth, opportunity to live abroad and insight into another culture have humbly transformed my life in ways I never knew existed!