Letter Home from Washington, DC

A Letter Home from the students on the IHP Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care Track 2 Spring program:

Hello from Washington DC! Our first week at IHP was a flurry of community building, site visits, guest speakers, and class meetings! During our first week, we were fortunate enough to get to bond as a group through community building sessions as well as country team dinners — in teams of 6-8 people, we were responsible for planning and cooking a meal for the whole group. We also got to know each other better by spending time out of class at museums and monuments. Most notably, we had time to visit the Air and Space Museum, the Natural History museum, the Holocaust museum and the White House.

In our first week of class, we became more familiar with SIT’s policies and experiential education model. We learned about the Affordable Care Act through a lecture by Sarahbeth Zemel of the National Academy for State Health Policy. We also heard from Donna Barry of the Center from American Progress; she spoke to us about issues of abortion accessibility in the U.S. and maternal mortality in Haiti (Ms. Barry was previously with Partners in Health). We also went out on our first site visits. In small groups, we visited Martha’s Table, La Clinica del Pueblo, Impact Silver Spring, Bread for the City, or Share Our Strength. All of the NGOs operate within the DC area and deal with health care accessibility and determinants of health: proper nutrition, child care, and community organization and empowerment. Martha’s Table, for example, provides daycare and after school programs for low-income children. They also provide healthy meals to the children in the program and free dinners to the needy via McKenna’s Wagon, their mobile soup kitchen.

The second week of our time in DC started with a free day on Sunday. We were lucky enough to have fantastic weather for our weekend off. The 50 degree weather allowed for some students to walk around Georgetown, while others went to the Holocaust museum. A few other students took the day to relax and practice self-care by attending a yoga class.

The second week in DC was as busy as the previous week. On Monday, we split into groups to do Neighborhood Day, an activity that will occur in every city we visit. It provided us the chance to explore the neighborhood and learn more about the place we are living in. Groups went out to Anacostia, U Street, and Georgetown. Along with making general observations about the physical characteristics of the neighborhood, we also interviewed people living, working, or visiting these communities. Monday evening we hosted dinner for several IHP alumni who shared their experience and gave us helpful hints about the journey we are about to embark on.

Another highlight of the program was guest speaker Yanique Redwood, Director of Consumer Health Alliance. She spoke to us about the social determinants of health, in particular, racism, and how it creates health disparities.  It was incredibly powerful to hear about Ms. Redwood’s personal experiences and how her current work reflects her desire to ameliorate health inequity. Later than day we headed to Capitol Hill in small groups. Some people met with their congressman, while others toured the Capitol and Library of Congress.

Wednesday afternoon we had site visit to Metro Teen Aids, a non-profit that promotes HIV/AIDS awareness as well as sexual health education. We spent some of our time volunteering and creating condom packets to give out on the street as part of their outreach. Thursday we started off with a community building session in which we discussed how we can foster a supportive and striking community among ourselves. In the afternoon we had a glimpse of what our time in Vietnam would be like, learning about the foods we may eat, in addition to the activities we might do. Our last day in Washington DC was busy with last minute packing and shopping before we set off that evening to travel half way around the world to Hanoi, Vietnam!

– IHP Health and Community Spring Track 2


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