My participation in a Solomon Islands Community Environmental Health program in 2017 left me with a growing desire to explore the world once more through my education. I felt an urgency and natural obligation to have a similar experience of volunteer work and service in my motherland. I found CFHI's program through their partnership with the University of California. The idea of getting paired with a Oaxacan NGO for a practicum experience was something I naturally yearned for and had seemingly manifested for myself. I needed Oaxaca's people, colors, food, artesanías, landscapes and one of a kind streets full of culture.
Back in April when the program was starting in Mexico City I was put in contact with the Assistant Director of CFHI Latin America to talk about the goals and interests I had in mind for the Community Health Practicum, a month-long project I was to complete in Oaxaca City while completing volunteer work. I was placed to work with El Instituto de la Naturaleza y Sociedad de Oaxaca (INSO) after sharing with her my background in environmental science. I felt an immediate connection to INSO’s work due to their ability of recognizing the importance of a holistic approach to ecology and community health. I also visited Centro de Apoyo para el Niño de la Calle (CANICA) and although it was not an NGO I was originally assigned to, I asked to volunteer there as well. From Tuesday through Thursdays I worked with the incredible educators, staff, and students of CANICA. My role at CANICA was to be a teaching assistant for an educator of a combined class of first through fourth grade students. I helped teach weekly environmental health and earth science topics such as flooding, wildfires, and earthquakes. I learned how to complete lesson plans, how to get comfortable teaching a classroom in my native language, and how to inspire young ones on topics I am passionate about. I appreciated all the different tasks I had at CANICA; even the simple everyday activities of math tutoring and pickup soccer that allowed me bond more with these wonderful kids. The highlight of my volunteer experience was being granted the freedom and responsibility by CFHI to complete a Community Health Practicum project that represented my diverse list of passions. I am grateful that this experience gave me the opportunity to formulate a project under the weekly mentorship and wisdom of highly influential people. I gained valuable insight on how to think critically about development work. Particularly distinguishing gaps to become a useful bridge between an NGO and communities that are typically targeted for health, educational, and other development projects. Completing an internship abroad with CFHI has offered me a portal to connect with people and places from different parts of the world, an opportunity to gain valuable leadership skills and has opened new doors in my mind about my identity.