One Heart World-Wide. Observer. Opportunities.
After stepping off the 1-hr flight ride from LA to SF, I had never felt such a strong disorientation. Ironic indeed. As a DukeEngage Independent Project participant, one would expect to be landing in somewhere 50 degrees hotter than Durham, somewhere unsearchable on Google-Map (probably not, considering the advancement of Google), or somewhere that makes one a minority. Well, not for me apparently. I was instead greeted by Starbucks and Pinkberry, a frozen yogurt joint that is widely celebrated on the West Coast. Without any hassle or delays, I was able to retrieve my luggage, buy a metro pass, and travel from the airport to my apartment carbon-free (not on foot but by hybrid-savers).
Since I arrived on a Sunday, my organization thoughtfully gave me an extra day to settle in. I arrived at 1818 Pacheco Street, the location of One Heart World-Wide (OHWW), on a chilly and foggy Tuesday morning. Typical SF weather. From the outside, One Heart World-Wide looked like a residential house. It was. The house belongs to One Heart World-Wide. Being there sure felt like home.
On the first day of work, I was immediately oriented. The 2011 Annual Report of OHWW’s achievements as well as its future goals consumed my first two hours at the office. I was amazed by the its impact on the two target areas- Nepal and Mexico. Never judge a book by its cover, because great things do come in small packages…
I spent the first week getting to know OHWW, Arlene, and the two full-time coworkers, Jenny and Marsilio. My program coordinator is Dr. Sibylle Kristensen, the Chief Operations Officer of OHWW. I asked them how they got involved with One Heart World-Wide and how Arlene found OHWW and the challenges she faced as she piloted the program. Starting a nonprofit is as rough as saving lives in the secluded regions of the world.
What exactly does OHWW do? One Heart World-Wide is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that is dedicated to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes within remote communities. With ten years of community assessment and program implementation in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), OHWW has developed a culturally appropriate, replicable, and sustainable life-saving model called the Network of Safety that is currently effecting its impact in North-Western Nepal and Northern Mexico. The programs include community outreach programs, health care providers training at multiple levels, emergency evacuation systems, and health facility improvement programs. The programs heavily emphasize on the integration of local resources, collaboration with local communities and providers, and respect for cultural norms and practices. Because of the model’s effectiveness, the Nepalese and Mexican governments have granted OHWW official recognition as well as support for the programs’ operations in its respective area.
One main lesson I learned this week is the essence of being an active observer. Being an observer is far from being on the sidelines and passively watching things come and go. It entails asking questions, being open, and seeking opportunities to be immersed in the community.
On the weekend, I resisted the temptation to stay in my apartment since I hadn’t met any friends to hang out with in the city. Thus, I decided to seek my own opportunities and adventures. I walked around the streets of San Francisco, utilized public resources (libraries, parks, street festivals…etc.) for entertainment and leisure, and tried various eateries and cafes. Yelp became my best friend.
Openness and flexibility are must-haves as an observer. Once you have them, opportunities will definitely be coming your way.