I'm a military brat. So I've lived up and down the east coast from Maryland to Florida. And I'm lucky to say that I've only had to change schools 5 times. We also lived in Missouri, but I don't remember that part because I was too young. I do, however, remember cookouts and family gatherings in Kansas and Oklahoma with my grandpa Joe. I hope to visit the West Coast one day since I've never been there.
As an American of Jamaican decent, I have visited Jamaica multiple times. Shameless plug: my family owns a resort there called Pipers Cove if you're looking for a tropical vacation spot. Unfortunately, when I do visit, I don't go to volunteer- I just visit family and relax. I say unfortunately because Jamaica faces serious challenges with improving infant and maternal health, and I have yet to do work in this regard in my family's country. So I plan to do that soon before I graduate.
However, in August and December of 2016, I traveled to the Dominican Republic on a medical brigade with 20 other USF students. I had always dreamed of an experience like this ever since I heard of Doctors Without Borders. But I never thought I'd be able to do it as an incoming freshman. Since a USF senior named Simran had organized it with a doctor he'd worked with, my dream became a reality with a lot less formal paperwork. As sketchy as that may sound, the experience was genuinely one that I'll never forget. We lived with host families in Villa Emmanuel of Puerto Plata. This allowed us to truly feel accepted by the community as everyone who lived there was family- literally. We ate, danced, and talked with them every minute we weren't in the rural communities working. As one of the few decent Spanish speakers on the trip, I quickly learned how to translate for some of the other girls in the house and people in the group when we left the community.
On six of the ten days, all 20, and later 30, of us students would jump in a safari truck and head to some of the most impoverished areas of the country. Some of these communities were bateys- extremely poor abandoned sugar factories and plantation sites with a primarily Haitian population. We quickly saw how poverty and international policies can be detrimental to infant and maternal health, which is an indicator of overall health of a population. I also noticed a startling difference in the wealth and quality of life for people of Haitian descent in DR and Dominican citizens. Even in the slums, the Haitian families, especially the women, are in deeper poverty than their Dominican neighbors in the same slum. Most of the racial and ethnic divide traces back to Spanish colonialism, as well as the exploitation of labor by the Haitian government. So something completely unrelated to public health- trade agreements- has completely damaged infant and maternal health.