Clubfoot to Climate Change
These Christianson Fellows Are Making an Impact
In Kenya, the stigma associated with clubfoot often leads to inadequate care. How can this significant hurdle be overcome to effect lasting clubfoot treatment?
This is the question Luke R., a recent engineering graduate from Messiah College, is working to answer.
With the help of an InterExchange Christianson Fellowship, Luke is heading to Kijabe, Kenya for six months to work with the CURE International Clubfoot Program. He’ll assist in distributing new clubfoot treatment technology, training local staff, and following up with patients.
The opportunity to work on clubfoot treatment alongside skilled Kenyan clinicians is very exciting to me!" Luke told us. "The CURE hospital staff members have transformed so many lives, and I'm excited to see how the clinical study of a new bracing option helps improve their quality of care."
Luke joins three other amazing Christianson Fellows who are volunteering around the world to make a difference. The InterExchange Foundation awarded over $20,000 to this first cohort of 2018 grantees! Read on to learn more about these ambitious young Americans.
Improving clubfoot treatment and fighting stigmas
How can we overcome one of the largest hurdles to clubfoot treatment in Kenya—patient compliance?
This is the question Luke R., an engineering graduate from Messiah College, and CURE International, the organization he is volunteering with, are trying to answer.
Clubfoot is a fairly common birth defect in which the tissues connecting muscles to bone are shorter than usual, resulting in a downward and inward twisting foot. In some cases, the foot is twisted so severely that it looks as if it’s upside down. If left untreated, clubfoot impairs mobility.
In some communities in Kenya, babies with clubfoot are neglected because of the shame associated with deformity.
Many who do receive care struggle to comply with treatment length. Sometimes the foot appears corrected before the prescribed time, so patients remove the brace designed to correct the abnormality. The clubfoot then returns.
Alarmed by the shame associated with clubfoot and seeking to help improve treatment compliance, Luke invested the majority of his undergraduate career to studying new clubfoot brace technology that might increase correct usage and thus lead to better results.
In 2017, Luke spent three weeks in Kenya observing CURE International’s introduction of the new technology he’d been studying.
Now, he’s returning for six months to help CURE’s Clubfoot Program distribute this technology, train local staff, and follow-up with patients.
"The opportunity to work on clubfoot treatment alongside skilled Kenyan clinicians is very exciting to me!" Luke told us. "The CURE hospital staff members have transformed so many lives, and I'm excited to see how the clinical study of a new bracing option helps improve their quality of care."
Improving health services for marginalized communities
Cabarete, Dominican Republic
San Antionio, Texas
Growing up in Mexico, Beatriz witnessed corruption and inhuman conditions in small-town public hospitals. When she immigrated to the U.S. with her family at age 12, she saw first-hand the struggles low-income migrants sometimes face when seeking health care. Both experiences shaped Beatriz’s desire to improve health services for marginalized communities.
This passion led her to volunteer as a medical interpreter for New York City immigrants, intern with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and research sexual and reproductive needs of young men in the Dominican Republic.
Beatriz is returning to the Dominican Republic to volunteer with the Mariposa DR Foundation, which serves adolescent females in the marginalized community of Batey Libertad. She’ll spend 10 months teaching sexual, reproductive, and mental health.
"I’m super excited about this project with the Mariposa DR Foundation!" Beatriz said. "It’s something I’ve been wanting to do since I left the Dominican Republic last summer."
Fighting inequity by improving access to quality surgical care
University of Virginia
William traces the moment he knew addressing global health inequities was a true calling to his senior year in high school. He had the opportunity to interview Dr. Joia Mukherjee, the Chief Medical Officer of Partners in Health (PIH).
"Partners in Health has always inspired me and a lot of my motivation to study health came from books written by the organization’s founders," William said. "I like that they are in partnership with communities, as I think that’s the best way to help others."
Instead of starting medical school right after undergrad, William is volunteering with PIH, working to integrate a surgical and anesthesia program in the Chiapas region of Sierra Madre de Chiapas, where quality, affordable surgical care is out of reach for much of the community.
He’ll begin his dual program in medicine and global public health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in 2019.
Fostering cross-cultural connections to address climate change
Ann Arbor, Michigan
University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Why and how are some communities disproportionately burdened with environmental degradation?
This is the question Helen G. grappled with as a grad student at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability.
After finishing her master’s degree, Helen wanted a real-world application of what she learned in the classroom.
She’ll spend six months interning with the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research Directorate (IAI) in Uruguay, assisting with capacity and partnership-building for this intergovernmental organization.
"I’m so excited to be working with the InterAmerican Institute for Global Change this year," Helen told us. "They do amazing work facilitating research and bringing people from all over Latin America on issues related to environmental change."
The Christianson Fellowship is awarded to U.S. citizens between 18 and 28 who have independently arranged a service project abroad for at least six months. Selected grantees receive up to $10,000 in funding. There are three grant cycles per year: March, July, and October.
After earning a M.A. in Diplomacy & International Relations and teaching English in South Korea, Ashley joined InterExchange to promote cross-cultural understanding and help others have amazing experiences abroad.
Learn about life abroad
Read about the adventures others have had and get excited for yours.