RHS student takes an inside look at global health

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.—Allie Silber, a senior in the College of Education's rehabilitation and human services (RHS) program and co-president of the RHS Student Organization, traveled to South Africa in summer 2013 to learn about global health and best practices from those in the community.

Silber, who is also part of Penn State’s global health program, a minor designed to expose students to health issues around the world, joined a community health group in Limpopo Province, South Africa.

During her experience, Silber spent most of her time in various clinics observing and talking with nurses. She also shadowed nutrition students from University of Limpopo and learned from two traditional healers.

Silber added that she observed consultations and the distribution of medicine and learned about the healthcare system, education system and the communities she visited.

Silber said the trip was more about learning from the people over there than going to a foreign country and “saving” it.

“I am continuing to reflect and learn from my time there and how it can help me in my career,” Silber said. “South Africa is collectivist, and the people have such a sense of community and helping.”

Silber, a native of State College, Pa., said that during her college career she has dedicated her time to many hometown causes. She also became involved with the RHS Student Organization to make an impact on the State College community and meet fellow RHS students.

One of her favorite community service activities is wrapping gifts for the Toys for Tots Foundation, a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in local communities.

“The greatest thing you can give is your time,” Silber said. “[Volunteering] doesn’t take money or significant resources. It doesn’t have to be life consuming -- just a bit of your life to help people and places in need.”

Silber also volunteers as a hotline counselor at Community Help Centre, a nonprofit organization that provides services, resources, education, training and information to people in need of support. She has assisted members of the community with basic needs, short-term counseling, crisis intervention, drug/alcohol abuse, emergency food and more.

“It’s been one of the best preparations for entering the field because it has shown me how to treat each client as an individual and be empathetic towards their needs,” Silber said about her experience at Community Help Centre.

Silber will graduate in May 2014 and has secured an internship at the Centre County Youth Service Bureau working with the outreach and prevention department and the Youth Haven shelter for teens. She plans to become a mental health and addictions counselor.

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Last Updated December 12, 2013