and we’re off!

The months since being accepted as a Clinton Fellow seemed to drag on forever, yet I feel like these last two weeks got sucked up in a high-power super vacuum.  I haven’t actually taken the time till recently to fully acknowledge what these 10 months will mean to me.  Now on the penultimate evening before takeoff, I’m going to wallow in it.  I’m going to bask in the excitement and fear.  I’m going to enjoy it.

India is a mass of contradiction and hyperbole.  It’s overwhelming and enormous.  I can’t remember a time there when I didn’t feel totally awed and confused.  I think one real benefit to being an Indian from the US is that I can see both extremes of life, wealth and health in India as they are without judgment and with affection.  I think in this country we are lucky enough to have smaller gaps in opportunities between classes.  In many ways we feel more secure, like the safety nets are much more likely to catch us than to not.  That security and relative trust don’t exist as strongly in the developing world.  But what is the best way to address them?  Whose responsibility is it?  Should governments be doing more, should international aid be more accessible, or are increasing the safety and decreasing the inequality inherent in Indian society the responsibilities of the people who live there?   Obviously there are no easy answers, but I feel heartened by the efforts of groups like these Fellows who are dedicated to trying to learn.

I see that same dedication, drive and hope at SEARCH and the other NGOs with which we will be working.  The incredibly high quality of work that they have achieved in the field of maternal and child health is staggering and inspiring.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with these people and learn from them.  I relish the chance to form real relationships and friendships with people who have lived lives so different from mine, yet share the same passion for eliminating educational and cultural barriers to bringing children into this world safely and securely.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to do this Fellowship.  This is a chance to connect with my roots in a way that I haven’t been able to before.  It will be the first time in all of my time spent in India, that I’m not being watched over and protected every hour of the day.  It will be the first time that I will be so far from all of the comforts and conveniences that I am used to, with no real option but to adjust and adapt and learn and appreciate.  Although India has left a strong imprint on me with every visit, this will be the first time that I will be able to contribute something lasting and meaningful.  (Although, let’s be real, I’ll be anxious about that last one coming true until I actually make it happen).

Having acknowledged all the amazing things that will happen this year, it’s time to address all of the things that I will miss beyond belief:  my family, my beautiful and funny nieces, my friends, my sweet kitten, greek salads, fall leaves, tempurpedic mattresses, and ooh the tragedy, the Baltimore Ravens.  To all of you, I’ll miss you, we’ll skype, and keep reading!

 

 

While completing her Master' s degree in Public Health at Tufts University School of Medicine, Shilpa honed her interest in Nutrition and Health Promotion. She worked with the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts Bay, providing healthful food and counseling people living with AIDS/HIV about how to achieve optimal nutrition while living with their disease. Shilpa conducted a study examining barriers to achieving that goal within the population served. Her commitment to Public Health work and a new focus on these same issues in the maternal and child population was cemented during subsequent projects, where she visited elementary schools in Chennai, India with a pediatrician to learn about the status of rural child healthcare. There she completed an informal study examining the nutrition status and school performance of girl versus the boy children in rural Chennai. She later returned to India, where she continued to focus on child health and nutrition by teaching English to preschool children as well as running health education sessions with local women in Dharamsala.

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