Tell us about your village and the available resources that help your family stay healthy.
I live in a small village of 52 people and the nearest health structure is a cas de santé, or health hut, which is not an officially recognized health structure. Health huts are managed by community health members and give the community access to the very basics for malaria, acute respiratory infections, and diarrhea. I work closely with community health workers who work from home. I really think Senegal is successful and has a lot of potential. They develop at a more rapid pace because the people are so tolerant and open. For example, religion. In terms of religion, Senegal, to me, is the pinnacle of interreligious harmony for Africa.
What message do you have for people in the U.S. to increase awareness of health equities?
I would first clarify that people are not as sick and/or malnourished as people in the U.S. may believe the general population of Senegal to be. However, there is a very large need for the international community to be concerned and to prioritize strengthening health structures within Senegal and other developing countries. While people have good intentions in sending things, such as money or gifts, to help – it doesn’t help much with sustainability. People have the right to good health care. Focus should be on strengthening health systems as opposed to focusing on one place or one problem even. In terms of my role as a Peace Corps Volunteer, my privileges are better used on a higher level to help with activities like training rather than taking the place of a community member for a limited time, when they could easily do the job at the grassroots level.
What do you love about life?
I really like that it’s fragile, and that it almost doesn’t really belong to you. Fragility might make people want to be more careful in the way they live, but for me, because it is breakable it makes me want to test its limits by trying new things. If life doesn’t belong to me, I’m not afraid of death. Death isn’t the worst thing, and I might as well go out with a bang.