Freshman Spotlight: From Michigan to Asia
Public Health/ Pre-med
Interviewed by Benin Lee
So tell me a little about yourself, where are you from? Where is your family from?
I was born and raised in Hartford, Michigan which is about thirty minutes from Berrien Springs. My mother is Indian and my father is half Sri Lankan and half German.
What made you decide to take a gap year? Was it spontaneous or had you been planning this for a while?
I wouldn’t say it was completely spontaneous. I had been doing other humanitarian style work before: medical clinics, mentorship programs and when I was living out west I did a lot of homeless ministry. So I definitely knew I wanted to help people. Another thing that helped me make this decision was that I finished high school pretty early, and I did not really see the need to rush into college but I had a huge chunk of time.
I heard you were also doing some humanitarian work this past year?
Yeah, last year after I came back from Belize I went straight to Southeast Asia. I was based in Myanmar (aka Burma), but the organization I was with had me doing things in some of the other neighboring countries, so I got to travel a lot.
What were you doing there?
I was working there with healthcare developments, emergency medical services and their healthcare administration.
What was your average day like?
I worked in an ambulance and with several different rescue teams, like high mountain rescue, water rescue, stuff like that. I would be on call for 48 hours; during those hours I would be either out on a rescue or at the office doing administrative work. After those 48 hours I was given a 10 hour break.
What kind of resources did you have in Myanmar?
I made a weekly commute to Thailand, which is about 18 hours by bus. I would have to go there to order supplies for the hospital, because a lot of the things we needed were not able to come directly into Myanmar. Sometimes it would be really hard to find the things we needed like sedatives for surgeries, or even little things like EpiPens could be a struggle. So we definitely had to work to get what we needed.
Were there any serious projects that you helped with while you were there?
One serious project we did was set up an ambulance in the northern region near the Himalayas. It was even more difficult to find supplies there, so we often had to take supplies from where we were based in Yangon to help the project in the mountains.
Do you think through your humanitarian work you had an impact on the people?
Absolutely. The people we trained to work on the rescue teams over there were actually Bible students first. They wanted to do something to help their community, something physical, something tangible. While I was there we did tons of Bible studies and even worked to get books like Ellen White’s The Spirit of Prophecy translated so the people could read it. So yeah, I definitely think it’s an avenue to get into the hearts of people.
In what ways do you think studying public health can help you continue your humanitarian work?
Public health is basically how to measure and define the health of a population. I really like the background that public health gives because it teaches me to think outside the hospital.