This past summer, Dr. Miguel Perez, professor in the Department of Public Health, took 15 Fresno State students to the Dominican Republic for a service-learning trip, where they had the opportunity volunteer and experience international public health. Of the 15 students, five were Public health graduate students and six had participated in previous service-learning trips to the region.

The three main goals Perez had in mind was to promote healthy lives for all residents, ensure clean water, and strengthen the global partnership for sustainable developments. Specifically, students has the opportunity to do this by providing mosquito nets and insect repellent to fight against mosquito borne diseases. Students also distributed feminine hygiene products and also installed water filters in areas that couldn’t afford clean water.

Perez hoped students had an eye-opening experience.

“Despite adverse circumstances, we are human beings entitled to dignity and good health,” Perez said. “We are blessed in the U.S. and take for granted what many lack around the world – such as clean drinking water.”

Grecia Lopez, who changed her major to Public Health because of this experience,  shared Perez’s sentiments firsthand.

“I personally experienced a lot of emotions going to every batey,” Lopez said. “It was very eye-opening to see the living conditions in which these people live – where parents struggle to feed their children everyday, where they are prone to mosquitos that carry diseases like Malaria and Zika, where access to healthcare can be challenging and where they have no opportunities to create a better future for themselves.

“[But] it was heartwarming to see children’s faces light up with a smile when you hand them a second hand toy or a piece of clothing and to see how grateful these people are for the little things.”

Kinesiology senior , Ari Jacobsen, found the trip not just fulfilling, but essential.

“I plan on becoming a nurse and through this trip, I really wanted to get the experience of how the health systems worked and to see the conditions of the hospitals and homes each family has access to,” Jacobsen said. “Health care around the world is taught differently, if not at all, and everyone deserves and needs to have this knowledge to help not only themselves, but others around them.”

During the trip, Public Health graduate student, Laura Rosales, realized just how significant public health truly is on a global scale. Since Rosales’ major lines up with the goals of the service trip, she see the direct benefit of how her experience in the Dominican Republic will impact her future career working in the health field.

“My heart has always been set on becoming a medical doctor to help underprivileged individuals and these consecutive trips to the Dominican Republic has made a positive impact on me by making me realize that I am indeed making the correct future career choice.

“As public health majors, we are taught about the importance of reducing health care barriers and closing the gaps in-between, so by providing health education and increasing health awareness on a global scale, the closer we are to diminishing the potential disparities among vulnerable populations around the world,” Rosales said.

Perez believes that traveling abroad will teach students the importance of community involvement. With that being said, Perez has a message for prospective students interested in studying abroad: “If you want a vacation this is not the class for you, but if you want to apply what you have learned in the classroom and make a difference in someone’s life we look forward to having you in the group in 2019.”

Funding for all sanitary items and educational tools was made possible through the generous financial support of Fresno State’s Jan and Bud Richter Center’s Friends for Civic Engagement, Fresno Rotary Club and community donors.

See more of the students’ adventures by viewing #FresnoStateTakesOnDR2018 on social media or at the LINK

– Written by CHHS Communication and Multimedia Student Assistant,  Jason Duong.