Ellie speaking with FACE AIDS chapter members. Photo Credit: Ellie Deshaies

Ellie Deshaies: Global Health Co-op with FACE AIDS

by Monica Kacprzyk

Ellie Deshaies, a senior International Affairs major at Northeastern, completed her third co-op at an organization called FACE AIDS. FACE AIDS provides socioeconomic support for youth affected by HIV and AIDS in Rwanda.

Ellie worked as a Program and Communications Associate in a small town in eastern Rwanda called Kirehe. As a Program and Communications Associate, her duties revolved around supporting the FACE AIDS youth empowerment program, which included over 1,000 youth organized in 32 chapters. She provided support primarily by assisting with small business trainings and documenting the activities of FACE AIDS chapter members with photographs and written testimonials. She was a correspondent, sending photos and stories from the team in Rwanda back to the team at FACE AIDS U.S. headquarters in San Francisco for use in internal reports, marketing materials, and fundraising campaigns.

A prime example of the importance of networking for internships and jobs, Ellie got the co-op quite through her participation in the Ride against AIDS last summer. She approached the Executive Director to inquire about an internship with the Rwanda team and then had one meeting with members of the U.S.-based FACE AIDS team in San Francisco before leaving for her co-op in Rwanda. Despite not knowing all of the details of her position, Ellie was excited for the opportunity to exercise her independence and self-motivation on a project that she was passionate about.

Ellie’s co-op in Rwanda left her with a wealth of experiences, insights, and aspirations for the future. During her work with FACE AIDS, she learned more about HIV/AIDS, youth empowerment, and the nature of working as an expat for an international NGO. She also came to realization of her suitability for independent, highly self-motivated working environments. Her passion and initiative culminated in her conception, development, and creation of a video project on the FACE AIDS project in Rwanda.

In addition to learning about herself and FACE AIDS work, Ellie learned the basics of the local language, Kinyarwanda, and realized the large commitment that is required in order to do meaningful work in a culture and language that is not one’s own.  She now knows that if she decides to work internationally in the future, it will have to be a serious, long-term commitment to maximize social impact. As a student with a social entrepreneurship minor, Ellie seeks ways to make connections from the classroom to real world experiences, and maximizing social impact is a major tenet of a good social entrepreneur.

Overall, Ellie’s experience with FACE AIDS provided her with an unforgettable international experience in global health, a field she hopes to pursue in the future. Along with amazing memories, she has deepened her understanding of issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in resource poor settings and of health challenges facing developing nations in general. If you are interested in learning more about her time in Rwanda, please check out her blog!