India- IFPS Technical Assistance Project
IFPS II Technical Assistance Project (ITAP), under funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing technical assistance to the Government of India for implementation of specific public- privatae parnterhsip models and BCC campaigns to bring about change and increase demand for services. Over the years, ITAP project has devleoped a range of campaigns, films, commercials, materials, training manuals etc. There is a published document that captures all the work done under the project. The intern can create a show reel/ flash film by editing all the work together that could have mutliple edits of 10 mins, 5 mins or 3 mins. This AV film will be like a showreel for the project's communication activities.
Awake from jet lag, I grudgingly made way into the kitchen. As if it was completely normal for an unknown, raccoon-eyed, and clearly in bad shape girl to stumble into the kitchen at 6AM, my cook asked me: “Baby, what do you want for breakfast?” Only, not so simply. It was really “Baby, breakfast mein aapke liye kya banadega?”
My well-composed answer: “Hi.”
I am struggling with how to best handle my ability to understand everything said to me in Hindi and my inability to respond. Half of my sentences end with “blerghhh mein gahh please kya…? ....help.” This babble makes for a very confusing and frustrating situation for all involved parties. So, to avoid just that I initiated a moment of unfaltering eye contact with my cook, hoping maybe that she possessed the ability read my mind. You never know, old Indian women have all kinds of Vedic powers.
She continued her “Baby? Beta?” questioning. Luckily, my roommate heard her questions and my confused grunts/hand gestures and offered to play the role of amused translator.
The above expert is from the blog I have kept while living in Delhi. My initial interaction with my cook is just one of my daily encounters with local Delhiites. Each day in Delhi has been an eye-opening, charming, and often amusing experience for me. As I am of Indian origin, it has been an experience of both professional and personal growth. I have come to understand my roots and my parents’ country and I am proud to say that I have spent the past 8 months working to serve it.
While I had my initial struggles with language comprehension, change of customs, and learning a new health system, in the end this internship proved to be extremely valuable. The GHEFP experience provided me my first opportunity to work abroad. This internship with JHUCCP and Futures Group has given me great exposure to the Indian health system and Indian health policy, as well as the rare experience of presenting the results of a large-scale program to stakeholders, potential donor agencies, and government bodies. In fact, after completing my work as a GHEFP intern, I chose to continue on as a consultant for Futures Group in their Delhi office.
Futures Group has been an amazing starting point for my career right after graduate school. I was immediately accepted into a very close knit circle of employees, who were facing the close of their project, and soon, the possibility of being unemployed. Still, with that stress on their shoulders, they invited me to join them in the End of Project process. I was given full privilege in the company to work on assignments that most interested me. Initially, I took on this opportunity to see if I wanted to pursue health communications. As a result, I worked closely with JHUCCP to understand the process of building media for behavior change communication campaigns. After diving into this side of public health, I saw that there were many other opportunities at Futures Group to understand monitoring and evaluation, documentation, data analysis, and program management. My advisors and mentors here in Delhi never hesitated to put me on to new and exciting projects. Overall, I have gained an incredible amount of skills here that will help me pursue my next job.
Living in India on my own certainly had its ups and downs. While I did at times miss some of the comforts of life at home, I have to say that being in such a vibrant and beautiful country rarely made me homesick. Having entered Hopkins with no International experience, this internship provided me with the necessary skills that I need to pursue my career goals. Further, I was placed in an environment that was extremely hands on and one that allowed me work on various projects outside of my assigned one. I was given the opportunity to visit the field sites and I am now coming out of this internship with experiences like writing the guidelines to the states for how Mobile Health Vans should be operated, co-authoring major published documents for USAID, becoming a part of the process of developing mass media materials like TV spots for national health campaigns, and being given the once in the lifetime chance of presenting to high-level government officials that have a significant influence on the Indian health system.
The GHEFP experience solidified my interest to continue taking on positions abroad as the experience of working in country, on the field and directly with beneficiaries of programs is unbeatable. This experience has also initiated my interest in focusing specifically on the South Asian continent for my future professional aspirations. Further, it pushed me to go out of my comfort zone. This was the only way for me to confirm if I can work outside of the US, and in fact, it has shown that not only can I do so, I enjoy it thoroughly. I encourage other students to pursue the GHEFP grant opportunity. I will never forget this opportunity and look forward to where it will lead me in the future.