Guest Blog By Dina Syarief
Last month, Deeper Missions had the pleasure of welcoming Rutgers University student Dina Syarief as part of the Associate Alumnae of Douglass (AADC) Externship Program. Dina is completing her final year as a nursing student and is interested in pursuing future work in public health and international development. Her guest blog post describes her experience as a Deeper Missions extern.
This past summer, I spent my time in Malang, Indonesia studying Bahasa Indonesian as a Critical Language Scholar sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. My parents left Indonesia because my father wanted to study engineering in the United States. I was born and raised in the U.S. and wanted to reconnect with my cultural roots. My experience abroad really opened up my eyes to some of the issues that people face in developing countries. For instance, a running theme that we discussed in my Indonesian classes was the fact that many children still drop out of elementary and middle school because their parents can no longer afford to pay for their school fees. Some families need their children to work to help support them. When I visited one of my aunts, I asked her about how she put my cousins through school. She pointed to her hand and said that she had to sell her wedding band. After listening to stories like this that bring to light to some of the realities of accessing education in other countries, I left Indonesia with a resolve to find a career that would allow me to help people in developing countries.
As a student in Douglass Residential College, the women’s college at Rutgers University, we are connected to a large network of Douglass alumnae. Each year, students have the opportunity to complete an “externship” with an alumna for one or two weeks during our winter or spring break. When I read the description of Deeper Missions, I knew that I wanted to work as an extern with them. I liked that Deeper Missions worked with communities in Africa to implement sustainable solutions to local problems. I put Deeper Missions as my first choice, and the experience turned out to be rewarding in so many ways.
I was placed with a Deeper Missions Board Member, Michelle DeFreese, who is an alumna of Douglass Residential College. Michelle had prepared an exciting itinerary for me that incorporated my interest in international development and public health. Throughout the two weeks, we met with public health professionals who worked for the International Food Policy Research Institute, The United States-Indonesia Society, Management Sciences for Health, and the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Michelle and I also attended two panel discussions at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. on Africa and Humanitarian Crises in 2013. After one of the discussions, I was able to speak with the Executive Director of Doctors without Borders, Sophie Delaunay. I asked her how I can translate my degree in nursing into a career in international development after I graduate. I also attended the 4th International Conference on Women and HIV and was able to connect with other international public health professionals.
In addition, Michelle also got me actively involved in Deeper Missions by assigning me tasks that required me to do a lot of research and preparation. One of Deeper Missions’ projects is the installation of Enviro Loos into communities in Sierra Leone to improve sanitation. Enviro Loos are toilets that utilize a dry composting system. They require no water source and can be assembled in less than a day. One of my tasks was to research methods to increase the use of Enviro Loos at Deeper Missions sites in Bo, Sierra Leone and to create a proposal to be presented in front of the Board of Directors. This assignment exposed me to the water, sanitation, and hygiene problems in Sierra Leone and in different parts of the world. It also opened my eyes to the possible solutions we can utilize to help the situation, such as using alternative technology. My assignments helped me to see the real, positive impact non-profit organizations can have on communities in developing countries.
Along with concluding the externship with a clearer understanding of my possible career options and of how non-profit organizations operate, I was touched the most by the kindness, selflessness, and passion of those who work for Deeper Missions. Both Michelle DeFreese and Executive Director, Derek Reinhard, welcomed me to Washington, D.C. and genuinely wanted to get me involved. Thank you to Michelle, Derek, and other volunteers at Deeper Missions who helped to make my experience in Washington, D.C. a wonderful one. Thank you to the Reinhard and Tussing families for allowing me to stay in your beautiful homes during the externship.
For more information on internship and volunteer opportunities with Deeper Missions, feel free to contact us at info (at) deepermissions.org. More information on Deeper Missions’ Enviro Loo projects can be found on our previous blog post on Waterless Solar Sanitation “Eloos” at Mercy Hospital.