Current YearGlobal HealthPeople@WiRED

Lessons Learned Volunteering with WiRED International

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By Olivia Spirito; Edited by Elizabeth Fine

Lesson 1: Classroom Discussions Ignite Curiosity About Global Health

Before my high school biology class, most of my knowledge about global health stemmed exclusively from fleeting conversations in the most scholarly of venues — around a high school lunch table, where we talked about Ebola’s devastating impact.

My perspective shifted dramatically in 2016 when my biology teacher introduced our class to the Ebola virus, which had killed over 11,000 people between 2014-2016. A Doctors Without Borders cartoon video illuminated the dark classroom shedding light on the harsh reality and widespread impact the Ebola outbreak has had on many underserved communities.

As I pondered the situation, I found myself compelled to learn more about how people are helping these affected communities, sparking a desire to act myself.

Lesson 2: Engaging with a Cause Deepens Understanding and Commitment

When I learned about WiRED International’s (WiRED) mission to provide free, vital healthcare education to underserved communities, I saw an opportunity to enter this expansive field. Gary Selnow, Ph.D., and Allison Kozicharow enthusiastically accepted my offer to help, and I began contributing web articles for WiRED’s website.

During my high school years, I began writing about WiRED’s global initiatives. As each story unfolded, they revealed how organizations like WiRED are essential in fostering strong health systems within underserved communities. I simultaneously built a comprehensive understanding about the indispensable role of community health workers (CHWs) and how their close-knit ties in their communities build unparalleled trust and foster deep community involvement, showing me firsthand the impact of their work.

Lesson 3: Overcoming Awareness Challenges with Creative Outreach

This growing passion for global health seamlessly transitioned into my university studies. In one of my first university-level global health seminars, I talked about WiRED’s contributions to community health with my peers, but I was met with puzzled looks and questions. Despite WiRED being a small NGO, I was taken aback that its work — and that of similar small organizations — was largely unrecognized. Ironically, just as an epidemic had initially inspired me to join WiRED, the arrival of COVID-19 in 2019 reignited my passion to make a broader impact on global health. Seizing the moment, I proposed expanding WiRED’s social media  presence beyond Facebook to include LinkedIn and Instagram. With these social media profiles established, we were better positioned to share our initiatives and gain the exposure necessary to highlight our incredible work.

Lesson 4: Steadfast Involvement Inspires and Amplifies Impact

Now, in my eighth year volunteering at WiRED, that commitment to broadening our impact continues to grow. I am continually inspired by the dedication of the volunteers that WiRED trained and with whom the organization collaborates daily. Hearing the heartfelt stories from CHWs in Kisumu, Kenya reinforces the critical need for ongoing support from organizations like WiRED. These narratives underscore our responsibility to empower communities with health knowledge and provide access to vital resources for treating and preventing diseases. While we have made significant strides, each story serves as a call to action, motivating me to continue contributing to WiRED’s mission and to expand our impact. In my professional pursuits, I look forward to applying my healthcare and global health knowledge to business concepts, influencing positive change in the healthcare industry by prioritizing patient health and access in decision-making processes.

Short Bio — Olivia Spirito

Olivia has been a dedicated volunteer with WiRED International since 2016. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences from Boston University in 2023 and is set to move to Copenhagen, Denmark this fall to pursue a Master of Business Administration in Innovation in Healthcare at Copenhagen Business School.

Professionally, Olivia has collaborated with global health innovation consultancies and worked in life science sectors of international government agencies.

In her free time, Olivia is an avid runner who completed her first marathon this past year. She also enjoys cooking, drawing inspiration from her travels and experiences with various cultures, and creatively adapting recipes to make them celiac-friendly.

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