Student Spotlight: Water Up! With Chiara Dell’Aira
How long have you worked with the Avance Center and in what capacity?
I worked with the Avance Center for almost nine months, beginning in August 2016 and ending in April 2017. For five months I worked as an intern and for an additional four months as a paid research assistant.
Why did you become interested in working with the Avance Center?
I did my Master’s program at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, where students are free to plan their final year as they wish. I decided to come to study for a semester abroad in the US at GWU, but I did not want to miss out on the opportunity to get some hands on experience too. I sent my resume to the exchange program coordinator at GWU and she showed it to Dr. Colón-Ramos, since most of my experience is in the field of nutrition. Dr. Colón-Ramos contacted me shortly after to offer me an internship with the Water Up project, which I was very glad to accept. It was great because I got to take courses at the GWU School of Public Health while also gaining practical skills on a research study.
Tell me about the different projects you’ve been working on.
My main responsibility was the management of Water Up’s social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter. I created culturally and linguistically appropriate content and infographics raising awareness about the importance of drinking water and the health consequences of consuming sugar sweetened beverages. In fall 2016, I organized a photo booth with a contest at the Avance Center’s Annual Conference to promote the social media platforms. I also got involved with other projects, most importantly the creation of six brochures in Spanish which meant to provide information for the community about tap water safety, healthy water infusions, and the prevalence of obesity and diabetes among Latinos. This project involved collaboration with stakeholders and community members in content creation and message development.
What were your biggest challenges on the Water Up project? Successes?
One of the biggest challenges was definitely the language; being Italian it was easier for me to understand Spanish, but I often did not feel as confident speaking to the audience or writing content without checking several times that my verbs were correctly conjugated. My biggest success was achieving a much greater social media reach and following. I also am very proud of the connections I established with the target audience during my visits to Langley Park, MD. I even got the chance to visit and interview one of our Facebook followers (and fan) in person.
What have you gained from working at the Avance Center?
I learned a lot about the health issues and barriers that recent Latino immigrants face. I also learned several skills in the field of health promotion, and gained confidence as a professional. Finally, I learned about the many steps that go into the design and implementation of projects and how important it is to set realistic, time-bound goals.
How will you use these skills in the future? What are your goals for the future?
In the future I would love to work again with a Latino target population, perhaps as a project officer in Central America. I will make sure to use my communication skills and implement health campaigns with other types of interventions!
Ms. Dell’Aira’s research interests include nutrition, immigrant health, health disparities and sexual and reproductive health. Ms. Dell’Aira is back in Sicily, Italy finishing up her Master’s thesis. She will be graduating from the University of Copenhagen with an MSc in Global Health in August, 2017. Upon graduation, she hopes to continue her pursuit of global health by working in a developing country and eventually making her way back to Washington, DC.