Name: Ashley Genza
School: UMass Amherst
Major(s): Nutrition, PreMed
Class year: 2016 - graduated
Job: Mount Sinai Beth Israel Dept of Orthopedics, Quality Improvement Project Manager
When and how did you get involved with YSI?
I started working with YSI September 2014 to attend the January 2015 trip. My good friend, Niamh Mulrooney, had attended the first trip YSI made, and she told me I just had to go there. She described the people, the mountains, and the work YSI did. I had never been anywhere like Haiti before, but I decided to jump and try something new.
Which expeditions have you gone on?
For Haiti, I have attended the January 2015, May-June 2015, January 2016, and June 2016 trips. I have been there for a total of twelve weeks over my time with YSI. I have also attended two trips to our site in Jonestown, MS one of which I was the expedition director.
What is your current position? Can you describe your main responsibilities?
Right now I am in-between roles. So for the past year I was a business intern. I recorded donor information and helped to create a donor database for the organization. I also worked on the finances while on expeditions and created weekly financial reports to notify board members of expenses/income and any unusual transactions. On Haiti expeditions, I am an expedition leader-- organizing daily activities, leading groups in the field, and this past trip I was the clinic administrator for three of our clinics seeing over 250 patients in that time frame.
Now I am transferring over into the role of program director for our state side initiative, mainly our spring break trips. I will still be working on Haiti progression and leadership, but mainly focusing on the spring break program.
What is your favorite memory from your trip(s) to Haiti?
That's a hard one, because I've had so many memorable experiences down in Haiti. I think I'd say it was this past trip when I had already been there two weeks, and I walked down the street to Febe’s stand and I think almost ten people waved hello and called me by name. I realized then that I was a part of this community. Usually service trips are about the work, but these trips have been so much more. I realized once I returned to the U.S. I'd be in a huge city where no one knew my name, yet here everyone in Morel knows me, and that was a heartwarming feeling. Morel is a very close-knit community, and I now feel like I have a piece of that.
Why did you choose to become more involved with YSI?
I saw so much potential with the organization when I went on my first trip with them. It was only their second trip down to Haiti so the logistics weren't perfect, but I saw an inspiring vision. I could really resonate with the values and mission, and wanted to change the way aid was given in this country.
What is your biggest take away from the experiences that you have had with YSI?
Growing up, I was raised to participate in community service and development initiatives. I had done it so long, yet even in high school I didn't truly understand why I was doing it. Working with YSI has not only taught me why we do the work we do, but how to do it as a part of the community, not outsiders.
In a place where most go for a quick vacation or service trip, I have another place to call home. The time I've spent in this community has turned the people and the culture into another piece of me, and those relationships will make my work more successful than any skill learned from a textbook. Those relationships and the community that YSI has created is why I do what I do. The people we serve are not just numbers, they're people I know personally and care about their well being deeply. Every single clinic we hold, there are multiple faces that I recognize, and it is so rewarding to know they trust you to help them in their most vulnerable state. It's personal, healthcare is personal. And my work with YSI has helped me to grow as a person and as a hopeful physician in the future.