CWEF was blessed to work with Irene Song this past summer. Irene, a senior at Dartmouth College studying medicine and statistics, joined our staff in the Kunming office for a six week internship after hearing about our organization from a fellow student.
Given her background in statistics and medicine, Irene worked to collect, interpret, and analyze the data that comes from the baseline, midterm, and final surveys conducted in communities CWEF serves. Irene also used her skills to improve other parts of CWEF’s health programs by developing and teaching a health training program for student health-advocates.
“I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of tasks where I get to apply what I’ve learned in class to have a positive impact on the world around me,” said Irene. “I really appreciate this opportunity that CWEF has given me.”
Her main focus during her internship was CWEF’s HEAL project in Xishuipo village. This particular health education program works to raise health awareness in underserved rural communities. Through her data analysis and report writing, Irene found that this project made significant progress in the health practices, health knowledge, and personal hygiene habits of the Xishuipo community.
“These changes in attitude and behaviors may seem small at first, but they will eventually translate into better health in the long term,” said Irene. “That’s exactly what community health and preventative medicine is about.”
While Irene identified the major successes of the Xishuipo HEAL project, she also located an area for improvement. While in Xishuipo, she noticed that some community members failed to see the value in the health trainings CWEF provided, so they did not attend. Irene recommended CWEF diversify the format of the trainings to better engage community members who are hesitant to attend trainings.
“We could have games or other interactive activities along with our usual trainings,” said Irene. “I believe more people would be interested if they find it’s fun.”
This was not Irene’s only improvement to our HEAL program, however.
“[CWEF] is constantly trying to improve our work. I could see from the past reports that our projects are not static. They are constantly evolving to suit the needs of our communities.”
During a HEAL program, three types of surveys are conducted: a baseline survey, a midterm evaluation, and a final analysis. This allows us to chart the growth that has occurred during our time serving the community.
When Irene went to XiShuipo to conduct the midterm evaluation, she noticed a flaw in our data collection surveys. Especially when it pertains to personal health questions, some community members hesitated to give us genuine answers to the survey questions. For example, people will not admit that they do not wash their hands after using the bathroom if you ask them this in person. Seeing this flaw in our data collection, Irene devised a new method: a participatory group activity that protects members’ privacy and allows them to give a genuine response.
“It’s a lot like how you vote for president in the United States, so that no one except for yourself knows who you voted for,” said Irene. “Hopefully this method could continue to be used in the future to help us evaluate our programs.”
CWEF appreciates all the great work Irene helped us to accomplish during her internship. We are thankful to have worked with such a talented and passionate individual who uses her skills to bless others!