Paul-Andre Coulibaly '23 and Ahlam Houssein '24 Support Wellness for African and Caribbean Immigrants
This summer, they interned at the African Family Health Organization, where their responsibilities included running health and wellness-related workshops for young people.
Paul-Andre Coulibaly '23 and Ahlam Houssein '24 both know what it’s like to move to Pennsylvania from Africa. Coulibaly, a political science major, grew up in Senegal and Nigeria before moving to Connecticut for high school and then coming to Haverford. Houssein, a biology major, moved with her family to Springfield, PA, from Alexandria, Egypt. That’s one reason that they wanted to spend this summer working in service of others who have made a similar move.
With support from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, they interned at the African Family Health Organization (AFAHO), a local community-based organization that provides health, human, and educational services to African and Caribbean immigrants and refugees in the greater Philadelphia area.
“Given my background in Africa, AFAHO’s mission to provide health and educational services to African and Caribbean immigrants initially jumped out at me,” said Coulibaly. “As I learned more about the organization, I realized my interests and experiences aligned perfectly with the role, and the internship would be a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of the societal landscape of Philadelphia.”
His primary job was to help plan and execute curriculum for AFAHO’s first STEM camp, its ongoing African Youth Empowerment Program (AYEP), and additional health and wellness-related workshops for children. He also got a chance to flex his design skills by creating flyers for upcoming events and programs.
“The first five weeks of the internship were mostly committed to program planning and preparations for the camps,” he said. “The role became much more active once the programs began and we spent most of the day with the youth going through the various lessons, field trips, and activities we planned.”
The nonprofit’s African Youth Empowerment Program runs year round to empower African and Caribbean immigrant and refugee youth to improve their educational and health outcomes by supporting their academic success, nutritional knowledge, participation in physical activities and community and civic engagement, and more. Coulibaly credits his role on Haverford’s men’s soccer team with providing him a lot of the information he’s shared with other young people in the program.
“As a student-athlete at Haverford, I’ve learned the importance of balancing physical and mental health,” he said, “and I had the opportunity to apply that knowledge to programs such as the nutrition workshop.”
Houssein, who is minoring in health studies and neuroscience, designed and led workshops for the AYEP students as well, but she was also responsible for developing informational health materials in several languages to distribute to AFAHO’s diverse client populations. She sought out the internship at AFAHO because she wanted to spend her summer in an immersive community setting and felt a connection to its mission as both a future health professional and as someone who might have benefitted from its services when she was a newly arrived immigrant herself.
“The work AFAHO does resonates with me personally as a first-generation immigrant from Africa,” she said. “Such services as it generously provides would have helped my family a great deal as we first settled in the U.S. Being able to participate in efforts to ease this transition for others, as well as to hear their stories and oftentimes relate to them, is incredibly rewarding. I am grateful for this opportunity to make such meaningful connections with my community.”
Over the course of the summer, Houssein said she learned about the needs of Philadelphia’s African and Caribbean immigrant communities, and about how those needs are addressed by AFAHO, and what the gaps are in mainstream healthcare institutions that make AFAHO’s services necessary.
“As a health studies minor, I am interested in notions of migration, language accessibility, and the African diaspora,” she said. “The courses I take at Haverford have given me a background in how such themes have manifested in various historical contexts and the impacts they have especially had on people’s experiences with the health sector. My work with AFAHO has shown me this landscape on a real, local level and allows me to gain more first-hand perspectives on modern challenges as they relate to these ideas."
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ campus-supported summer work.