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Monday, January 19, 2015

What to do during Harvard's Winter Break: The Wintership

As I've mentioned before, Harvard's infamous for giving its students a much-needed month (and some change) long winter break. This goes for the undergraduates as well as the graduate students (cue the cheers!), and speaking from experience, its hard to avoid the antsy gotta-get-some-work-done inclinations that start creeping up on us after about 2 weeks lounging at home. Travis, my friend and fellow sophomore at Harvard, is sharing a few thoughts from how he spent his winter break. 

Reflecting on PIH Engage
Guest post by Travis Yeh
Harvard College, '17

This winter, I was an intern with the Engage team of Partners in Health, a Boston-based non-profit healthcare organization. The Engage team, a lively group of five full-time employees that coordinates the grassroots community organizing arm of PIH, welcomed four of us interns for the winter.

Winternships are a great way to explore different career paths and activities outside of your usual scope. For me, working at PIH was a step into thinking about global health, a field that has recently caught my interest after we had a module on it in SW47: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems in Contemporary South Asia. A mouthful of a course name, for sure, but the course and its guest lecturers from various Harvard schools gave me a window into a lot of the problems that we face around the world today. It’s sad to realize that we have a lot of the medicine and advancements needed to address many of these issues, but there are so many barriers to distributing this care to those who need it most that they end up never receiving it.

The Engage team of Partners in Health advocates for changes in policy to solve these problems, fundraises to support the efforts, and holds events to educate others about topics in global health, such as the recent Ebola outbreak, and make tackling these challenges an approachable task. My project this winter has been to help the Engage team figure out how to measure the “strength” of each chapter and write a midyear report examining how they performed this past semester and how they can improve. As the internship is only a little over two weeks, it’s been extremely fast-paced: just over a week ago, I had no idea how Engage worked; now, my fellow Harvard intern and I have just finished the midyear report and are beginning preparations for one that outlines strategy for the upcoming term.

The work has definitely been fascinating. However, what I’ve found most valuable is the opportunity to see how Partners in Health operates from an internal perspective. There is a marked humbleness in how PIH works, driven by a quiet, but determined, resolve to give people around the world the care that they deserve. They refuse to let any obstacle stop them, and they do their work without any pomp and circumstance. It’s been an inspiring lesson in humility and tenacity.  As J-term comes to a close and we return to classes soon, I take away with me a piece of this drive and an improved understanding of how, with the help of a little willpower, we can take steps to make this world a better place.  

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