Tanzania changed Aminah Baxter’s life in the course of five weeks. In ways that she was not prepared for, Aminah was given the opportunity to grow as a person and gain a sense of self that she was very much unaware of. Through courses in public health, Swahili, and Tanzanian culture, Aminah gained interests she didn’t particularly know she had. She became very much interested in women’s health and how that plays into education. And not only did she gain knowledge academically but also personally. Tanzania became a place for Aminah where she was able to flourish when it came to self-confidence and awareness of where she sees herself in the world. Through getting to know the people she met throughout the Iringa region of Tanzania Aminah also was able to form relationships with people that she didn’t dream possible. The simple relationships she gained from just walking up and down Titi Street and greeting the people she saw almost every day or hearing the disheartening but also inspiring stories of human spirit in Mufindi were the relationships that Aminah cherished the most on her trip. Volunteering at the Children’s village (through Foxes' Community and Wildlife Conservation Trust) during “Baby Power Hour” brought excitement into Aminah’s eyes and was the true indicator that this trip was what she needed right at that moment in her life. The emotions of joy, culture shock, and serenity encompassed Aminah’s thoughts in the course of the five weeks there and made her trip one of the most meaningful experiences of her life. Hopefully this experience in Tanzania is only the first step into Aminah’s international experience.
CEE Title: Unveiled: Opening Up the Conversation About Mental Illness
Unveiled: Opening up the Conversation about Mental Illness was a program put on by Vira I Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership members Aminah Baxter, Amanda Hopcroft, Liz Schmele and Jess Pelland of the University of Pittsburgh. The program was inspired by cohort member’s experience abroad in different parts of Africa (Aminah and Amanda in Tanzania, Liz in Madagascar, and Jess in South Africa). While in their respective study abroad countries they all noticed the different view on mental health and mental illness compared to those view in the United States. Therefore, the four woman decided to hold an event that not necessarily compared the views but opened up the conversation about mental illness in hopes of helping eliminate the stigma associated with talking about mental health. The program took place on the University of Pittsburgh Oakland campus where students and community members of the Pittsburgh community were invited to come and discuss mental illness is a very comfortable setting. While at the event residents were able to color as they listened to a TedTalk, watched skits that focused on recognizing signs of distress, and listened to a senior staff member and licensed professional counselor from the University of Pittsburgh’s counseling center. After the presentation the PantherWELL program on the University of Pittsburgh campus, which promote healthy living through various free activities, sent representatives that assisted in making stress balls as students answered roundtable discussion questions and generated their own discussion with each other. The program was a very positive experience and had about 50-60, primarily students, in attendance. The program was meant to continue the campus’s effort in eliminating the stigma tacked on to mental illness. It was also meant to allow those in attendance to talk about their experiences with mental health in a very open and nonjudgmental environment. We also hoped to address how different cultures view mental health in order of showcasing that the diverse community of Pittsburgh, where others may have different views on mental illness and that’s ok! The program also included free food and took place on January 14, 2016.