by | February 03, 2014
By: Jo Ann Jones/College of Education and Human Development
This summer, many San Antonians will pack their suitcases for a week at the beach, or maybe a weekend venture to the Texas Hill Country. But not Roxanne Bowman. She will be taking a much longer trip, a trip not for relaxation, but to help the community in a developing country.
From June 2 to July 12, 2014, the May 2012 graduate of the College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), will travel 9,214 miles from San Antonio, Texas, to Cambodia to work with the local community through the New Hope Volunteers’ Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) Project, a worldwide volunteering program. This trip abroad is part of Bowman’s efforts to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“It has always been a dream of mine to do something like this,” said Bowman. “I want to be part of a health community that works to make a change in the world to stop the spread of infectious diseases.”
More than 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV according to the World Health Organization. Seventy-six thousand of these people are Cambodian.
During her time abroad, Bowman will work with the Cambodian community, educating them about HIV and performing HIV tests. She will also work directly with HIV/AIDS-infected children, ages two to 18, in local orphanages alongside local doctors, nurses, and fellow New Hope volunteers. Some of these children lost their parents to HIV/AIDS or were abandoned by their family because they are HIV positive.
“There are thousands of children who are HIV positive or are now orphaned because they lost their parents to an AIDS-related disease,” said Bowman. “It is very difficult for Americans to think of a world where children have lost their parents to such high rates to HIV.”
Although she has always had an interest in infectious diseases, Bowman did not find her passion for it until she took a sexual health class in COEHD’s Department of Kinesiology, Health, and Nutrition.
“The community health classes at UTSA had a huge impact on my decision to help individuals infected with HIV,” said Bowman. “When I started taking these classes at UTSA, my favorite one was Sexual Health with Dr. Sara Oswalt. I loved the class not only because we talked about diseases, but also because we discussed reproductive health. After [that] class, it was absolutely clear to me what I wanted to do with my life.”
Bowman continued her community health courses and graduated in the spring of 2012 with a bachelor’s of science in health with a concentration in community health, an abundance of experience volunteering at local non-profit organizations, and a passion to help the community.
“I am really proud of her,” said Dr. Sara Oswalt, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Health, and Nutrition. “When Roxanne was a student here, she was one of those people who was really quiet in class. And now to see her help those in need in Cambodia is just one more piece of how she’s grown as an individual and as a sexual health professional.”
Three months after graduating, Bowman began working as a prevention educator for the San Antonio AIDS Foundation (SAAF), an organization she previously interned with during her time at UTSA. During her time there, she helped educate more than 20,000 people annually about HIV/AIDS, STDs, transmission, protection, and testing through community presentations in San Antonio.
Now, Bowman is working in the STD/HIV department of the City of San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health District, a job, she said, that has allowed her to reach the community on a larger scale.
“I absolutely love my job and I am passionate about educating the community,” Bowman said. “I may never have had the opportunity to work for SAAF or the Metropolitan Health District if it was not for COEHD and all of the faculty and staff that helped me along the way.”
Bowman, who is taking unpaid leave from her position at the Metropolitan Health District, has already begun fundraising to cover the costs of the six-week trip. Her goal over the next four months is to raise the remaining $2,500 needed.
“This volunteer experience is a stepping stone to a much greater future for me,” said Bowman. “I have many goals I want to accomplish in my field of community heath and I hope that working and helping in Cambodia will give me a broader perspective to build on.”
All of the donations collected thus far will go towards the New Hope Volunteer program and HIV/AIDS Project, her travel and living expenses, immunizations, and registration.
“I really want to make a difference in someone’s life, whether it is in San Antonio or any other city in the world,” Bowman said. “I want to bring back important lessons learned from the patients and workers in Cambodia. My hope is that my work inspires someone to change their behavior, to get tested, and to educate others about HIV/AIDS.”
For more information about Bowman’s trip or to donate, visit www.volunteerforever.com/volunteer_profile/roxanne-bowman.
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