By Samantha Heley
I read the book Half the Sky [by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn] and then we happened to learn about Edna’s hospital in a Women’s Studies course at my university. We were learning about different waves of feminism and the discussion turned to feminism in developing countries. That’s when our professor started to talk about Edna and her battle against female genital mutilation (FGM) and oppression of women.
At the time I was a mentor for a group of junior high school girls in a pilot program and the whole point of it was to encourage and empower them to reach their intended goals. And that’s when we happened to be learning about Edna and it propelled me into action – I was mentoring these girls, and I wanted to transfer that to a community setting outside the US. And that’s one of the things I got to do by working with local staff of a small non-governmental organization (NGO) with a focus on women’s health that Edna’s hospital works with.
After I leave here I will be studying international law and human rights. Coming here has shaped my view of what I will be studying. In other words, it shaped HOW I want to address the issue of human rights: I like the idea of working with local governments, as opposed to NGOs because I feel like my experience here showed me that development is really dependent on how well a government operates. One of the issues I think about a lot are human rights — how you give people dignity and allow them to prosper and so much of that is reliant on government. As a lawyer I would like to work with governments in developing countries and consult them on these issues.
One thing I learned that I didn’t grasp before I came to volunteer for Edna is the impact of culture on daily life. In the work that I hope to do, I will have to be very sensitive to the culture I’ll be working in. Understanding and being sensitive to the culture of any given country is paramount before you can affect change or help improve the lives of its people. Before coming here I did not quite grasp how important it is to get involved with a local community and how, in order to do that, you must be responsive the country’s culture.
One piece of practical advice: I wish I had brought more comfy clothes, sweatpants, sandals and casual wear in general.
Samantha Ashley Heley
Student, Bachelor of Sociology from BYU
January 2017- March 2017
Non-medical volunteer. Helped to fine tune administrative record keeping; created HR filing system for employees; did community outreach and trained local staff to ensure outreach becomes self-sustaining.
Samantha Heley at a Hargeisa orphanage. EAUH has recently established a relationship with the orphanage where university students will do community service for extra credit, accompanied by Edna’s volunteers like Samantha.