Name: Gia Chirico
School: Villanova University
Major(s): Biochemistry and Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience
Class year: 2017
When and how did you get involved with YSI?
I got involved in YSI my Spring semester of Junior year because I heard about the trip through the pre-PA (physician assistant) club on campus. I applied immediately and went to Point Morel June 5th to June 13th this past summer.
Which expeditions have you gone on?
Summer 2016 June 5th-June 13th expedition
What are your future plans with us?
I am coming back in January! Could not stay away.
What is your favorite memory from your trip(s) to Haiti?
My favorite memory was definitely the clinic day. I got to be a scribe in one of the check-up rooms. Seeing Dr. Tony at work and witnessing the looks of fear or pain of the patients subside with comforting words or with the promise that we could help was an absolutely unreal experience. We were able to see 84 patients, most of which, with lifestyle changes or taking of the medicine we distributed,, had fixable diseases or pains. Another favorite memory was getting to know the people on my trip! It was a time to learn about myself through my interactions with the people on my trip, the translators and the community.
What would you say to somebody who is unsure whether or not YSI is right for them?
YSI does foreign aid like all foreign aid should be done. What I mean by that is it’s a grassroots foundation that does local work through local people. We do not see ourselves as “saviors,” although students are going to help. Since it is coming from their own people it is able to have a bigger effect. We are trusted. With trust, we can help. This is the type of program where your money will not be wasted. If you are considering coming on a trip, then you should know the program is made up of people who genuinely care about your well-being and it attracts other students who are passionate and inspired… the type of people you want to be around.
What is your biggest takeaway from the experiences that you have had with YSI?
I want to be a PA. Being someone who is interested in healthcare, it was crazy to see the critical role that habits and environment have on health and disease. For example, so many Haitians have acid reflux--a result of the maggi that is commonly consumed in the area and UTI’s from unclean water that they often wash with. These can be easily treated if caught before a kidney infection or stomach ulcer develops. YSI is not only able to distribute free medicine to fix these problems but also educate the people about why they have that condition and how to avoid it in the future. I imagine education is what spreads rapid fire throughout the community and is what will ultimately make a long lasting impact in Léogâne.
I learned about a culture unlike my own through observing people’s interactions and asking as many questions as I possibly could to all of the translators. This was eye-opening for me - a person who has never visited a developing nation before.
In summary, my biggest takeaway was that I needed to come back and learn even more.