Mazzoni begins renovation project after time in Zimbabwe

Meaghan Wilby, Staff Writer

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As part of a summer internship, Jessica Mazzoni, ’15, spent more than two months living in Nyadire, Zimbabwe with her friend, Natalie Geer, a student from Ohio Wesleyan. While Geer spent her time studying education at a local primary school, Mazzoni shadowed doctors at the Nyadire hospital.

As a global health major, Mazzoni was looking for an internship related to global health in a developing country and said that she discovered that her parents’ church in Pittsburgh, the United Methodist Church, ran affordable trips to Zimbabwe.

Mazzoni and Geer raised a total of $40,084 when they returned to America, surpassing their original goal of $30,000 for their crowdfunding campaign, which was associated with The Nyadire Connection, a Pittsburgh based non-profit leading a project to renovate all six clinics in the Nyadire area.

In addition to shadowing at the hospital, Mazzoni visited three of the six clinics. The clinics are primarily responsible for taking care of pregnant mothers and babies, providing care for children, HIV testing, counseling and treatment as well as treating common diseases.

Mazzoni was not focused on learning medical practices, but community health as a whole.

“What I really looked for was…the full functioning of the hospital, its interactions with the community and community health challenges in general,” Mazzoni said.

One of the clinics Mazzoni visited – the Nyahuku clinic – is the most remote, about 110 miles from the Nyadire hospital. It lacks running water, power and communications. It is also located in an area bordered by landmines. This is the second clinic that TNC is helping to renovate and the money Mazzoni and Geer raised will go toward this goal. The total cost is $347,000.

Geer said they started their campaign to stay involved with Zimbabwe.

“Being able to work on this project after being there for two months allowed us to still be working with Zimbabwe while still adjusting to the States,” Geer said. “We have both struggled coming back, but this project allowed us to still be there mentally at least.”

During their time in Zimbabwe, Mazzoni and Geer lived in a two bedroom apartment in Nyadire. According to Mazzoni, they were unable to rely on electricity or running water so they used solar chargers and filled huge buckets with water when they had the chance.

“Electricity was usually on four days a week, water two…we didn’t want to waste water, so we did bucket showers twice a week and only flushed when we had to,” Mazzoni said.

Mazzoni said that they never felt unsafe, though they took precautions. They never showed their knees or shoulders, boiled all their water and moved their mattresses into one bedroom. They lived in a malaria endemic area and Geer got malaria, though both women took preventative pills.

Despite the hardships, Mazzoni said her experience was not hindered by any of the above.

“I had two goals for my trip: the first was to learn as much as I could about global health and community health in the area – in a developing country – and the second was to see if spending an extended amount of time in a developing country was something that I enjoyed or was willing to do since I always thought that my professional career would be in a developing country,” Mazzoni said.

Jenny Kawata, director of international education said that Mazzoni has brought back what she learned and applied it to her life at Allegheny. Mazzoni has participated in the India Experiential Learning seminar in 2012 and works in the international office as an assistant and often peer mentor to the international students.

“Jessi is very passionate about her interests in global health and I admire her dedication to finding an independent summer program in Zimbabwe that would help her learn more about her field of study and another region in the world,” Kawata said. “She is definitely practicing the many cross-cultural skills that she has developed over the past few years as a student at Allegheny and a member of the international education office.”

She said that her experience with the crowdfunding campaign and living in Zimbabwe for two months are both things she would do again.

“It definitely showed me that living in Zimbabwe or somewhere similar is something that I can do in the future,” Mazzoni said.

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