Health Studies Alumnus Alexandra Winters recently shared with the School of Nursing and Health Studies her experiences volunteering with the Peace Corps in Mozambique, and her current work in the Ukraine.
From 2015-2017 Winters served as a “Health and Organizational Strengthening” volunteer in Mozambique. During this time she worked at a district hospital in Marracuene, Maputo through a partnership with the Mozambican Ministry of Health. While in Marracuene, Winters worked closely with the hospital to form and strengthen existing patient support groups and to provide HIV testing. She also partnered with local NGOs to help support vulnerable populations by reducing the stigma and discrimination of PLHIV.
Peace Corps mural reading "Peace Corps" and "Kill/Eradicate Malaria" in Portuguese
One of Winter’s most powerful experiences was working with the Jovens Unidos no Trabalho do Oportunidades e Successos (JUNTOS) or “United Youth in the Work of Opportunities and Success” project. JUNTOS are groups of local youth between the ages of 13 to 23 who meet weekly to discuss promoting positive behavior change through art and cultural expression. JUNTOS groups focus on photojournalism, dance, theater, or other expression of art. Through empowered creativity the groups aim to reduce the burden and stigma of HIV/AIDs.
JUNTOS Certificate Ceremony
Of her time with JUNTOS Winters says, “My best friend at the site [Mazuze] and I ran our JUNTOS group every week. It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my two-year service. My friend and counterpart was such a great influence for the local youth. He opened up his home to kids as a community library, for dance lessons, homework help, and as an overall safe space. I learned so much from him and our community.”
Alexandra and JUNTOS Co-Runner Mazuze
Perhaps one of the strangest things of her time with the Peace Corps occurred when Winters ran into friend and fellow Health Studies Alumnus Aimee Desrochers at a training in Senegal. Neither had any idea that the other would be there. Coincidence though it may be, it is inspiring to see the positive impact Health Studies alumni are making in the world.
Alexandra with fellow Health Studies Alumnus Aimee Desrochers
After serving in Mozambique Winters wanted to continue to work in the global HIV field. When a position opened up to serve as a Peace Corps Response PEPFAR Volunteer (Presidents Emergency Plain for Aids Relief) in Ukraine, Winters says: “I was ecstatic! [now] I’m working with a local HIV organization in the South of Ukraine that focuses on interventions with vulnerable populations: injection drug users, sex workers, and their children.”
Peace Corps Response Ukraine Group Photo
Once her time with the Peach Corps ends Winters plans to go back to school for her graduate degree and to continue to work in the Global Health field. Her experiences truly have set Winters on her future career path. “Once you start working abroad you are never really whole again! I will forever feel bonded to these places and experiences.”
Story content and photos provided by Alexandra Winterrs. Edited by SNHS staff.