A World of Experience
Questions for Stephannie Moore
The staff coordinator of the SPH Global Health Program talks about kids in need, life overseas, and the orphanage she helped found in Tibetan China.
What drew you to Tibetan China?
I’ve studied and translated Tibetan for about a decade. In 2005 I went to an extremely poor part of Tibetan China known to Tibetans as Golog to study with Buddhist scholars as part of a cultural preservation initiative. In Golog I met a Tibetan named Dockpo, who wanted to start a home for orphaned girls, but he had no idea how to do such a thing.
So you got involved. How?
First I worked out a budget. Then I began massive fundraising and helped Dockpo convert an unfinished building he’d used as a medical clinic into girls’ dorms. Then we drove around from village to village and found about 30 girls whom we’d heard were abandoned or came from families who couldn’t support them. In one family, the mother and father both had cancer and no money for treatment, and six children to support. Every girl’s story was like this. It was just heartbreaking.
Why so many orphans in the area?
Maternal mortality is a huge reason. The rates in Tibetan communities are out of this world. A friend of mine who runs a woman’s health NGO in Tibet often says, “The rates wouldn’t be worse if the women were giving birth on hot coals.”
How did the girls adapt to life in the orphanage?
We raised enough money so they could all go to school and have private instruction, even some Buddhist training, which girls usually don’t have access to. They learned traditional arts like dancing and painting. They loved going to school. With better nutrition, the weaker ones gained weight and began looking healthy and vibrant. It was obvious the girls were thriving.
You left China in 2006. What happened to the orphanage?
It still exists, and it’s doing great. They have a fair number of Chinese donors, and they’ve gotten a grant from Sony to build a library.
In your job with the SPH Office of Academic Affairs, you oversee several student programs, including global health. Your own experience abroad must play a role in your work.
The part I’m most passionate about is helping students prepare for that global experience, which, best-case scenario, can be incredibly enriching and life-changing. There’s a level of humility and flexibility that often doesn’t develop until you force yourself to be in a situation that’s really different, even uncomfortable, particularly in places that are really poor. It forces you to look outside your limited culture and self-interest.
By the Numbers: Earthquake Relief
In the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, members of the UM and SPH community sprang into action:
8,378 unique visits to UM’s Haiti blog since the blog launched on January 22. The blog includes at least 25 events through which UM students, faculty, and staff have raised over $12,000 towards Haitian relief.
$1,201 collected at SPH during a lunchtime drive conducted by Public Health Students of African Descent and the Public Health Student Assembly: All proceeds went to Partners in Health, which has worked in Haiti for 20 years.
816 bottles of hand sanitizer sent to Haiti in January from Allison Aiello, the John G. Searle Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, who studies the efficacy of hand sanitizers.
138 people who registered for a free online “Coping with Disasters” course through the SPH Office of Public Health Practice between January 12 and April 30.
100 boxes of food & clothing collected through the UM campus-wide program “Let’s Do It for Haiti!”
60 UM students, staff, and faculty who formed “Tet Ansamn Ak Ayiti” (United with Haiti), a volunteer group dedicated to partnering with agencies in Haiti to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and respond to immediate needs. SPH Research Associate Armando Matiz Reyes facilitates the group.
30 minutes after which student and graduate nurses at the Faculté des Sciences Infirmières d’Leogane (FSIL) began providing emergency care to people in Leogane, near the quake’s epicenter. SPH alumna Rosemarie Rowney is president of the Haiti Nursing Foundation, which supports FSIL.
10 UM Health System employees deployed to Haiti in February.
Further south: UM students, staff, and faculty are working with Armando Matiz Reyes, SPH research associate and director of the school’s Field Experience Office, and the Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago to collect food, medicine, and winter clothing for victims of the February 27 earthquake in Chile.