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From BGSU'S Public Health Program to the Peace Corps
Ohio Ag Connection - 01/11/2018

Isaac Sakyi '15 is making a difference abroad as a Peace Corps community health volunteer on the island nation of Vanuatu. Using the knowledge gained from Bowling Green State University's public health program and his internship experience, Sakyi is effectively planning and administering health education programs to residents in a remote village called Lolovange with a population of 200, where he has been for the past 18 months.

"Peace Corps offered me a chance to use my education and experiences to help make a tangible difference," Sakyi explained. "It brings forth a new perspective and allows me to learn from the perspective in which I find myself."

"Peace Corps offered me a chance to use my education and experiences to help make a tangible difference."Prior to his position in the Peace Corps, Sakyi interned at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department during his senior year at BGSU, where he participated in the Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) related to the harmful algal bloom. Sakyi shadowed a sanitarian/health inspector to conduct on-site inspections of facilities to ensure both public health and welfare as well as compliance with applicable standards and criteria.

"I found BGSU had an ethnically diverse student body that fostered experiences with the potential to change perspective and behavior for the better," Sakyi said. "Flexibility in the program coupled with outstanding faculty such as Dr. Philip Welch, assistant professor in public health, and Dr. Fleming Fallon, a former Distinguished Teaching Professor of public health, emboldened my focus on the general population and inspired my journey as a Peace Corps volunteer."

"Isaac is a thoughtful, caring young man," Welch said. "He possesses a maturity beyond his years and a fantastic sense of humor. In Intro to Public Health class, he helped provide an international perspective to students who had never traveled abroad. He is walking the servant leadership path and improving the lives of the less fortunate. He is a great ambassador for public health."

As a community health extension volunteer, Sakyi works in counterpart with a nurse at the local health dispensary/clinic while facilitating community outreach programs. There, Sakyi teaches basic health sessions covering subjects such as nutrition, sanitation and hygiene to improve awareness of prominent community illnesses. Additionally, Sakyi collaborates with other Peace Corps volunteers based in schools to work to identify the students' prior knowledge on hygiene and sanitation. They effectively build on that knowledge and develop health-based strategies for the future.

Sakyi explained that the most meaningful thing he's experienced while in the Peace Corps was being able to name a newborn child. "I knew child birth was a remarkable thing to witness, whether it's your child or not," Sakyi said. "But I never expected to feel so emotionally overjoyed with someone else's birth." He then added, "But I'm not the nurse -- I'm simply a Peace Corps volunteer, and I have to respect the culture and privacy of the family." Still, following the birth, Sakyi was given the honor of being able to name the child. "I originally declined, because I felt that's an honor belonging to a relative of the child," Sakyi said. "However, the grandmother and mother assured me there was nothing taboo about me naming the child, so I obliged and named her Theresa, after my mom."

Currently, Sakyi is applying for graduate study programs in public health, where he hopes to pursue a career as an epidemiologist after his service as a volunteer ends in March 2018. For advice to current BGSU students, Sakyi said, "My best advice would be to embrace opportunities for change."

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