Through the recommendation of my advisor Dr. Millesen, I am currently in the process of applying to a study abroad program through Ohio University’s Education Abroad Center for International Studies. This excursion would take me to Port Elizabeth, South Africa where I would be volunteering with an NGO (non-governmental organization) that is working to raise awareness and prevent HIV/AIDS.
Through my studies in Nonprofit Management and the projects I have worked on so far this semester, I’ve found that my research interests are in community development of nonprofit organizations. I believe that there is something to the concept of building a nonprofit around what a community actually needs, instead of developing programming based on what the organization thinks the community should have. Traveling to South Africa will allow me to experience how this NGO is organized and to understand how they view the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa. I want to learn first hand how the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in their community has shaped their programming and services.
When I first moved to Columbus, Ohio four years ago, I got involved with the Columbus Aids Task Force (now the AIDS Resource Center of Ohio). I was given the opportunity to work with them on a number of projects, which opened my eyes to the difficulty and stigma that is involved with education and prevention of HIV/AIDS in the US. I want to understand the differences between outreach, education and prevention tactics in the US and abroad. We will be working directly with the NGO and the community members they serve. I know that this trip will be hard and I will be exposed to a lot of things that I never dealt with working with the Aids Task Force in Columbus. But I truly believe that if I want to make a difference with my research into the development of true community nonprofits, I have to be willing to push the boundaries and expand my horizons.