Interning with AS – A Reflection of the past, present and future
By Gio Alanis Vega
This past year was a tough one for everyone. Everything we know was tested; our physical health, mental health, passions and hobbies, cooking skills, and our actions as a community. With so much time locked in our homes, it allowed us to rethink our choices and make changes to our lives. One of the things I learned this past year was the importance of public health. Public health is about promoting and protecting our people and communities where we live, learn, work and play.
More than ever, public health matters because it’s what makes our society healthy, united, and sustainable. We learned to work as a team to fight the deadly virus. However, our time to work as a community does not end after this pandemic.
These last few months, Austin Smiles has proven me that more than ever. I am constantly amazed how two strong women continue to lead Austin Smiles and everything they offer. Being an intern has been a privilege to serve the Central Austin and Latin American community, and the work Austin Smiles does locally and globally has no comparison.
Every child, mother, and father deserve the opportunity to get care regardless of their income, origin of birth, or condition. The support and love the Austin Smiles team provides at every mission trip and event truly change lives.
In my most recent work, I have connected with parents from Latin America, and their appreciation for Austin Smiles is reflected in every conversation. The most common phrases that these parents use to describe Austin Smiles are “thank you very much,” “you all are angels,” and “there is no way I can ever repay you.”
Although COVID-19 put a pause on Medical Mission trips and social-emotional support events, it did not stop the work for Austin Smiles. New programs such as Surgical Care Kits and Speech Therapy have been added within the last few months. Additionally, Austin Smiles just celebrated 35 years of changing lives, one smile at a time! It’s a true testimony of the dedication, passion, and love of the hundreds of volunteers who have contributed to the mission of Austin Smiles.
Nonetheless, as the year is ending, the work of Austin Smiles is not. We are currently planning our next trip to El Salvador in February 2022. I am genuinely excited to join the next group of Austin Smiles volunteers and staff traveling to Latin America to change more lives and create more beautiful smiles.
Gio Alanis Vega, Global Public Health Intern Fall 2021
Concordia University – Masters in Public Health