Leah Yingling

International Experience Country:
South Africa
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

Carnegie Mellon University

Heinz Programming Area:
International Experience Summary:

Leah Yingling immersed herself in the Northeastern South African culture for five weeks while studying global health, conducting a research project and living life through the eyes of the Venda people. She studied infectious disease and access to healthcare in a multidisciplinary setting by gaining knowledge through lectures, home‐based care workers, interviews with healthcare providers, and conversations with healthcare users. She learned about South Africa's socioeconomic situation and how it has dramatically changed in the past decade because of the abrupt transition from an Apartheid government. During Apartheid, the goal was to secure White control and promote racial separation by classifying all South Africans into ethnic categories. She studied the intricacies of policy and, how prior to 1994, the government established a segregated employment system in which race was the qualifying factor, thus allowing for legal discrimination and many other injustices. Leah’s research and global health studies were set on the foundation that apartheid laws and policies affected all aspects of a citizen's life, including the health sector. She traveled to Bushbuckridge, a municipality that was declared a ‘poverty node’ by the South African government. In Bushbuckridge, she traveled with home‐based care workers to deliver medication to, have conversations with and experience the adversity faced by those who receive home‐based care. She found that the poor infrastructure of the rural South African society is sometimes just as debilitating as the disease itself. In Bushbuckridge and in Sanari village, her third research spot, she gained exposure to true diseases of poverty including tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDs. She was intrigued by the pluralistic nature of disease in the South African culture. By visiting with several traditional healers and herbalists along with visits to private and public hospitals, she compared modes of treatment and categories of the population treated. It was evident from these experiences that the public health sector treats over 75% of the population, yet receives less than half the appropriate funding. This inequity was demonstrated in the care provided to rural villages. During her homestay in Sanari village, Leah conducted a research project on disability and the availability and accessibility of care. Through her research and conversations with her homestay family, she observed that disability was defined solely as physical limitations by the majority of the Sanari population and care providers. The discrepancy existed when the population saw mental and learning limitations as disabilities, yet there were no services for this population. From this experience, Leah is looking to dedicate her next two years to a health clinic in an underserved area where she can encourage awareness about disease and disability.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: Green & Global: Starting Local

Green and Global: Starting Local was a sustainability symposium intended to educate the public on green initiatives in Pittsburgh. As a public education and engagement effort, the event made use of five pillars of green practice: recycling, clean energy, clean water, creative re-use and agriculture. To advocate for one of the five pillars, local businesses, campus organizations, experts in the field and individuals set up a booth and provided a small demonstration, workshop or information to attendees at the event. Each attendee was encouraged to bring a recyclable item for admission into the event. Upon admission, they were given the opportunity to build a sustainability city. By creating a sustainable city (by attending a booth from every topic), attendees were entered into door prize drawings for Pittsburgh green practicing restaurants and organizations. Over 20 businesses, organizations or individuals contributed to the event. Contributors offered a wide range of sustainability topics and demonstrations from patching a bike tire to creating a recycled guitar pick to estimating one’s water usage per year. Attendees came from five campuses and across the region and left with new knowledge regarding sustainability efforts. The event offered an evening of solution-based, interactive events designed to educate people of all ages and backgrounds about: renewable energy, alternative transportation, sustainable agriculture, green building, natural health, environmental and social responsibility, local economies and more. Though Green & Global: Starting Local was not the end-all-be-all for sustainability efforts on college campuses, it was the necessary platform for further initiatives. The event was not only an energetic, solutions based approach to building and enhancing a sustainable community but it also allowed for our team to facilitate connections among organizations and individuals for a healthier, increasingly sustainable future in Pittsburgh.