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!