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Tackling Hunger at Home and in Haiti

Haiti shown on a map

I first heard about Partners in Health (PIH) in college after a friend recommended Mountains Beyond Mountains, a book about Paul Farmer’s volunteer experience in Haiti as a medical student. He later co-founded PIH.

The book’s descriptions of Haitian communities suffering from preventable and treatable diseases such as tuberculosis and malnutrition were striking. I felt driven to act.

And so when I heard about PIH Engage, a new initiative that helps fundraise and foster local awareness of global health inequities in Haiti, I knew that I wanted to apply and bring that experience to Einstein.

Last August, six Einstein first-year students gathered to discuss how we could translate our own expertise and experiences, especially with regard to fundraising and community activism, to assist an organization that discusses and acts on topics in global health and social justice. That’s how we came to form For Here and for Haiti (FHFH), a club affiliated with PIH Engage.

I was truly impressed by the commitment and experience evidenced at that first gathering. During formal introductions, I learned that one student recently raised nearly $50,000 for a national bioethics conference in Washington, DC. Another coordinated a fundraiser in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Still another had volunteered in Mali and Togo before entering medical school.

Throughout the 2013–14 school year, our conversations took the form of a case-based simulation and reflection on international aid. We also staged several bake sale fundraisers to promote awareness of efforts to combat malnutrition, both locally and globally.

Recently we hosted a culinary competition to raise awareness and funds for the NYC Coalition Against Hunger and PIH’s initiative to combat malnutrition in Haiti. Some 16 chefs and 70 guests attended and we raised more than $800. So far, through our overall fundraising efforts, we have donated a total of $1,300 to these two worthwhile causes. We recognize that our fundraising to date is modest but we feel passionate about these causes and enthusiastic about our future growth.

For the upcoming year, we hope to collaborate with other student organizations on community service and advocacy. In particular, we want to work with service-based clubs at Einstein that are committed to improving the health of our community’s most vulnerable members by, for instance, cuddling infants, teaching the value of good nutrition to elementary school kids and spending time with the homeless. We also hope to strengthen connections with other PIH Engage communities across the nation.

As a student organization at a research-intensive medical school, FHFH is in a unique position to advocate and advance the idea of health as a human right. As young health professionals and students, we are witnesses to—and part of—a healthcare enterprise that caters modestly to the well-being of the poor and uninsured.

FHFH will continue to advocate for, educate the local community about and raise money for initiatives that improve the lives of children and adults living with treatable and burdensome conditions such as malnutrition, in the U.S. and abroad.

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