Volunteer Review: Denise C., Public Health in Belize
My name is Denise and I am currently a Public Health undergraduate student in Umass Amherst. One of my biggest goals before the end of college was to embark on a Public Health trip abroad in a developing country, because I’ve always wanted to make an impact on a global level.
After looking for opportunities online, I came across Projects Abroad and I thought that the work that the organization currently does is something that aligns with my passion and goals. To be able to gain hands-on public health experience through outreach work was something I’ve sought for, and I knew that Projects Abroad would allow me to do so.
Projects Abroad provided Alternative Spring Break placements, which worked with my academic schedule. I chose to come to Belize mainly because it was my first time traveling outside the United States on my own. After doing my research, I learned that one of Belize’s national languages is English and I felt more comfortable with traveling to a country with citizens who I could easily communicate with.
Living with a host family
As soon as I arrived in the town of San Pedro, I was immediately picked up from the local airport by my Volunteer Coordinator, who ensured that I arrived safely. Soon after, I was introduced to other Public Health volunteers, as well as our host family who accommodated us for our stay throughout the entire one-week duration. My host family was extremely welcoming and made me and the rest of my fellow volunteers comfortable. I felt so immersed into the culture as they prepared us local meals, discussed the history of Belize’s diverse population with us, and showed us the typical Belizean lifestyle!
My Induction in San Pedro
My stay in San Pedro was just as exciting and life-changing as the work I did with the people in the town. On my first day, our Public Health Volunteer Coordinator went over the schedule for the week, discussed the details of each project we would participate on, and talked us through the skills that were necessary for us to have to be successful in our assignments.
Our Volunteer Coordinators also gave us a tour of the town, which allowed me to become more familiar with the many restaurants, stores, and countless other attractions which were available in the vibrant beach town of San Pedro.
My Public Health Project
Once we started engaging in outreach work, we hit the ground running and it was certainly better than I expected. One of the first projects that me and my fellow Public health volunteers worked on was a mobile clinic where we measured the blood pressure, blood sugar, and BMI of locals in underserved communities in the town. We also provided them with advice on healthy lifestyles, especially if their vitals were above or below the norm.
One of my favorite assignments was definitely visiting local schools and sharing our knowledge on various issues with the students. We went to a primary school and created an interactive presentation with the goal of combating myths about lice, and then we conducted lice checks on the students. The students were extremely engaged and the most rewarding part was seeing them encourage their peers to participate in the activities we created.
Towards the end of the week, we visited the only high school in the town and gave a presentation about college access and awareness. In preparation for the presentation, me and my fellow volunteers made a poster board which contained details about how to best prepare for college, the benefits of a college education, and how it could positively impact the community. During the beginning of the presentation, only half of the high school students in the room were genuinely interested in pursuing higher education. However, after the presentation, I witnessed the influence that we had on them and I know that more than half of them now want to earn a college degree.
My overall experience
Overall, my experience in Belize was such an eye-opening, life-changing, and influential journey. Every time I talk to someone about my Public Health expedition in Belize, I always encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and embark on a volunteer trip abroad. I am thankful for the hands-on support which the Volunteer Coordinators constantly provided, the life-long friendships I made with my fellow
volunteers, and the cultural immersion of living with my host family. My future plan is to do another volunteer trip through Projects Abroad, either in Asia or South America.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.