A young woman from Virden has her eye on world health. Chelsey Weir has finished her second year of University in Brandon.
Her pre-nursing education has stirred a quest for knowledge about women’s health in Africa.
On June 29, Weir will leave Canada for destinations on the east and west coasts of the African continent.
Travelling on her own, her first destination is Dar Es Salaam, the capital city of Tanzania, where she will spend two weeks.
While assisting a researcher there, she will job shadow in a maternity ward. “I’m really excited about that,” says Weir.
This year, during her second year at Brandon University, Weir stumbled upon a fascinating class which opened a window on the world – a view she found inviting as she studied global public health under Dr. Emma Varley. “I loved it.
That was a fascinating course,” she said, adding that she found herself to be the only pre-nursing student taking the fourth-year class.
The professor, a medical anthropologist, put Weir in touch with Adrienne Strong, in Tanzania. Over the two weeks, the BU student will get a taste of research with the American medical
anthropologist who is studying maternal mortalities for her own doctoral thesis.
Meanwhile, Weir is waiting to find out, next week, if she is accepted into the nursing program in Brandon.
She has also been job shadowing medical doctors in Brandon.
Rather undecided about her future, she hopes to shadow a nurse practitioner. Weir has a definite interest in maternal health, pediatrics and infant health.
Following the work in Tanzania, she will fly from Tanzania to the western coast of Africa, in Ghana.
“There I’ll be part of a Canadian nongovernmental organization called Operation Groundswell, with a group of 10 – 15 young adults focusing on a global public health program. The
organization works off of the World health Organization (WHO) recommendations,” she explains.
The program is also referred to as Backpacking with a Purpose; another program the Brandon anthropologist introduced Weir to.
“It definitely relates to my future goals. I hope to be a health care provider; working oversees.
This definitely speaks to my dreams, as well.” Everything in her eight weeks of African travel will have a health focus. She will be involved in a national program of tuberculosis and AIDS
She will have a tour of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, a premiere facility in Accra, Ghana. “There won’t be much hands on opportunity because I’m not a qualified health care provider.”
However, she expects to see the inside of Old Sadama, a large slum outside of Accra, where she and other students will be using sports to connect with youth there. They will
incorporate a health component in their interaction - simple public health interventions such as hand washing and safe sex.
Another destination is the town of Cape Coast. More formalized placements are planned within that community.
Weir expects to work with local NGOs, helping children and mothers. She will also be looking at the history of their medical system.
Her summer travels will cost about $7,500. Aside from flight costs, Weir has to pay to volunteer with one of the organizations. In Tanzania she will be staying with Strong, the researcher.
Weir has also received a bursary from Brandon University of $700 toward her travels.
She has held a couple of fundraiser events so far, including a fundraiser breakfast at Applebee’s Restaurant in Brandon. The eatery provided the food and the cooks. Weir provided
the servers and received $4 on each meal.
“I’m very happy with what I’ve raised for my trip,” she says, adding that fundraising continues in Virden on May 30.
Among other community garage-salers, Weir will hold a garage sale with proceeds going toward her summer excursion.
She sees this travel experience as an opportunity to make lots of connections in the field of her interest - a “stepping stone” for her future, and a valuable piece on her resume.
VCI students took a trip to Kenya in 2013, where they helped establish wells for clean drinking water in rural villages. This trip turned out to be a valuable precursor for Weir.
“It definitely opened my eyes to a whole different way of life.”
In 2014, during her first year of university, the Virden girl joined the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), a globallyminded group established to provide opportunities that improve
the lives of millions of disadvantaged youth around the world.
Through this, students from refugee camps can attend a Canadian university. “I ended up being the chairperson this past year. I have met some incredible people through that,” says Weir.
She describes a student named Ibrahim, who grew up in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, established because of the ongoing conflict in Darfur, Sudan.
Ibrahim’s mother died leaving him and his three-year-old sister.
He quit school to help her. When he later returned to school, he excelled.
Through WUSC he came to Brandon University. She describes such students who also work to support themselves, and to send money home to their families.
As for her own endeavours and her family, Weir says of her mother, Denise, “I give her a lot of credit. She’s been very supportive.”