As WellShare International approaches the 40-year mark of work with communities globally to promote health and well-being, we look back on the many individuals who have helped carry out our vision throughout the years. We are grateful for the many staff, volunteers, interns, funders, and supporters that have contributed to WellShare’s achievements.
Recently WellShare caught up with Sarah Sevcik, a public health instructor at the University of Minnesota, to reflect on her contributions as a health graduate intern in Tanzania 11 years ago. Sarah’s service helped expand the program to what it is today.
Sarah fondly recalls working in Tanzania with WellShare International (then known as Minnesota International Health Volunteers, or MIHV) the summer of 2008, where she and a friend tackled 3 community health projects. In the first, she collaborated with WellShare CHWs to implement a pregnancy monitoring tool across a group of villages. Sarah and the CHWs trained the communities’ traditional birth attendants to use the monitoring tool, and collected data on the effectiveness of the device. Today, WellShare continues to work with traditional birth attendants in Tanzania through The Survive and Thrive Project. In the second project, Sarah engaged the local drama troupe in creating and recording an educational mini-film on diarrheal disease. Sarah and the team helped get it broadcasted it on public buses. Finally, Sarah taught WellShare staff how to use Excel for data visualization and analysis.
Throughout Sarah’s three months with WellShare in Tanzania, she built skills that she continues to use as a public health professional. One of the most useful skills she developed was working with a diverse team, and re-imagining what it means to be a leader. Sarah recalls, “My role was really helping support people who were the actual decision-makers and influencers. It was really affirming this idea that it’s helpful to just take a step back and go in the direction that is best for the team. I’ve used that a lot since then; when I’m on teams and when I form my own teams I’ve really taken a new perspective of whose voice is at the table and who is making the decisions.” Additionally, Sarah says her knowledge of communication styles and preferences evolved significantly as a result of her time working side-by-side the WellShare CHWs, where she developed a deep appreciation of the art of cross-cultural communication.
Sarah now works as an undergrad instructor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She teaches courses on personal and community health, as well as fundamentals of drug and alcohol abuse. Despite the 11 years that have passed since Sarah interned in Tanzania with WellShare, she clearly remembers the impactful experiences she had while working with our organization.Today, she still connects with WellShare inviting our CHWs as guest speakers in her classes. “My students really love hearing real life examples of what public health really looks like in action, and they and I would really like to see a diversity of perspectives and experiences/ different communities,” Sarah says. With hundreds of fascinating experiences and stories, WellShare’s CHWs have offered inspiration to many individuals interested in public health for years, and we look to continue doing so in the future.
Thank you Sarah for your past contributions to the WellShare mission and to our ongoing collaboration!