Four years ago, when I worked on-site at WISER in Muhuru Bay for three months the summer before my sophomore year of college, I did so for two reasons: one; to help in any way I could, and two; to have an adventure. Four years later, I am excited to report that my adventure continues. WISER was my first experience with engaging in international work surrounding issues of education, gender, and health equity.
My professional life has always been and will always be a large component of my identity. It is my aim to not just ‘go to work,’ but to become my work – to become thoroughly integrated into the work that I do. The work that I began at WISER – teaching eighth grade in a primary school and surveying girls to understand how access to sanitary pads impacts longer-term education and health outcomes – continues to be part of my work today, albeit in other avenues.
WISER laid the groundwork for my professional story. After graduation, I began working with Blue Engine, an education equity non-profit that aims to use data-driven methods to better prepare students for post-secondary success by partnering with underserved high schools. In this way, Blue Engine aims to lower student-teacher ratios and specialize education for students. I currently live in New York, working in the South Bronx. My experience in Kenya, coupled with the women’s studies and health policy issues I studied in college prepared me to think critically about how I wanted to position myself to play a role in working towards the intersectionality of education, health, and gender equity. My current job at Blue Engine as an educator has shown me that many of the lessons in community and sustainable empowerment that I learned while working at WISER hold true. The joy that I once received from working with a WISER girl, listening to and understanding her story while being some part of the group that empowers her to accomplish her dreams is not unlike the joy I feel when I teach a student, indirectly developing confidence and determination in that student.
In many ways, I have realized that life, to me, is about pivoting. It is about deciding to work towards a particular goal, giving 100% of yourself in that process, and then changing – trying something foreign and intimidating while managing the ever-present fear of failure. It is my belief that this is how I want my life will to be lived-in a manner that is both enriching and sustainable. As I reflect on my own growth as a student and as an individual, it is incredible to me to realize that WISER not only brought me to my path, but also showed me how to walk it. It is my eventual goal to study how health and illness are shaped, experienced, and understood by way of global, political and historical forces. But perhaps the larger eventual goal for me is to live a life dedicated to understanding people at both the micro and the macro level: to walk in their shoes and by their side, to work with them within the context of their communities, to empower and uplift not just carry, to make connections and synthesize stories.
And it all started with ‘live, learn, be.’ I am incredibly grateful to be a small part of the ever-growing WISER family.