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During the summer of 2019, 22 students envisioned and implemented valuable independent programs through DukeEngage with community partners around the globe. The following descriptions offer a brief look into their work; we encourage past, present, and future DukeEngagers to learn more about the wide range of projects our students undertake.


Translated documents to and from Japanese and English corresponding to disaster relief and recovery.

Japanese Emergency NGO (JEN)

One of the biggest things I learned during my time at JEN was that humanitarian aid is extremely multi-faceted, and in order to serve in a way that truly benefits the region or people of interest, a great amount of factors, including those that seem small, must be considered.

JEN staff members smiling

I would like to thank JEN and DukeEngage for giving me this opportunity to grow in ways that could not have been achieved if I were to stay in a solely academic environment.

Collaborated with other volunteers to provide assistance in asylums; worked in after-school programs for children in poverty-stricken areas; gathered information in low-income communities for ways to improve living situations; taught English to native Spanish-speakers in local recreation spaces.

My largest takeaway from this experience is the immense love given by the people of this culture when they see that your intentions are true. Despite whatever situation they may be in, the love they have for one another and the love that they receive from others is the all-comforting and all-healing warmth that can be unmistakably felt in every interaction.

A group of people hugging and smiling
CJ (center) with Colombian friends

I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to travel to this area and experience this culture in a way I would have not been able to if not for DukeEngage. I am also very thankful for the people I have met over these two months in Cartagena who have changed my outlook on life forever.

Taught classes and workshops at non-profit dedicated to improving maternal and child health through education.

Bumi Sehat

My biggest takeaway from this summer was gaining confidence in working in this field and facilitating. Preparing and leading classes helped me to grow out of my shell as a shy person, and my summer culminated in helping to lead and facilitate a change-makers summit with skills I had developed over the summer. 

Four people posing for a photo
Maya (second from right) with a staff member, another volunteer from Australia, and the founder of the organization

I am grateful for the opportunity and support to engage in this unique experience in a place that holds great meaning for me. It was a growing experience as I was alone and forced to adapt to my surroundings, and I developed many unique skills that I can apply both in my personal and professional life in the years to come.  

Public Health

Volunteered at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), answered phone calls from people living with a mental health condition and directed them to treatment, support, and other resources; worked at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), assistied with various projects such as updating their website and recruiting mental health professionals to attend their annual conference and their virtual forum on maternal mental health.



I now realize that the prevalence and severity of mental-illness-induced suffering in the world is far greater than I had ever imagined. The experience of answering a call from someone going through an inordinately complex and devastating experience, hanging up at the end of the conversation, and picking up another call just like the former one immediately after (and having this happen over and over again while realizing, this is one hour at one call center in one country) was pretty jarring and gave me a window into the many millions of complicated and difficult individual realities that make up the statistics about mental illness we hear but perhaps don’t really see and feel.

Woman answering call at call center

I’m incredibly grateful for having had the opportunity to learn how urgently we need to find more solutions for various mental illnesses and to get a closer look at the work nonprofit organizations, researchers and clinicians, social workers, etc., are doing on this front.

Analyzed the nonprofit health sector’s advantages and disadvantages in the fight against the opioid crisis.

Project Weber/RENEW

I gained holistic insight into organizational structure, how nonprofits cooperate with one another and with the public sector, the crisis itself and how it affects the population, and the moral importance of groundwork and civic engagement.

The biggest takeaway I gained from this summer was the power of personal connection and compassion. If one is able to show another that they are genuinely invested in their wellbeing, are willing and able to listen intently to their side without judgement, and can act upon what they and the individual agree are the best for them, then anything, health-related or otherwise, is possible.

Three people smiling
Autumn (center) at the AIDS Run/Walk for Life at the Roger Williams Zoo, posing with the recent winners of Mr. Gay Rhode Island 2019 and Mx. Bisexual Rhode Island 2019

I am extremely grateful to Project Weber/RENEW and the overall Providence community for being so welcoming and open to me, despite being from a completely different place and background. I am again grateful to DukeEngage for guiding me on the path of this project, and I can’t wait to contribute to the next civic feat that is in store for me.

Interviewed 26 key constituents (patients, administrators, doctors, and policymakers) in the Peruvian health sector about the use and obstacles to using mobile health applications to treat chronic diseases (diabetes and atherosclerosis). This will inform doctors and researchers in Peru about the best ways to develop a mobile health application to improve quality of care for Peruvian citizens with chronic diseases.

Centro de excelencia en enfermedades crónicas (CRONICAS)

No matter how much success or recognition I have had in the past, there is so much in this world I still don’t know. Thus, if I want to become a leader in my field of interest (cardiovascular care and research), I need to pay close attention to the voices of those in the community to guide my efforts. I am here to provide what the people need, not give the people what I think they need.

Three people in a medical office
Bing (left) in a doctor’s office in Lima

A lot has changed for me in these last 2 months that I have been in Peru. From publishing a commentary piece on health systems corruption to starting a club focused on improving health habits for Peruvian youth, I am extraordinarily grateful for the lessons and experiences that DukeEngage has provided me. It has not only showed me the possibilities for making a personal impact on the community if one approaches a project with humility, but also the amount of life lessons one can take away into future careers. DukeEngage has narrowed my interest on cardiovascular disease into preventative healthcare for patients with myocardial infarctions, coronary artery disease, and atherosclerosis. 

The above has allowed me to connect all aspects of my academic life- research, classes, and club- towards becoming a future advocate/care provider for chronic diseases.

Assisted healthcare providers with research on the treatment of obstetric fistula, a severely stigmatized pregnancy complication.

Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative – Malawi

The biggest takeaway from my project was that one can never predict what they might have in common with another culture and how those commonalities will affect your interactions.

Man sitting in front of a waterfall

I will be forever grateful to everyone I met in Malawi for the opportunity to help with a project that means a great deal to me but also for the most personally transformative months of my life. 

Developed a mobile Android app for survivors of sexual assault. This app will provide survivors in South Africa with access to remote trauma counseling.

Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust

I learned countless lessons from my time with Rape Crisis, but a key takeaway was growing to understand the importance of a social issue’s context. Sexual violence, for example, manifests itself differently in every country and community; addressing the issue of sexual violence in South Africa will not look the same as addressing sexual violence in the United States. This may sound intuitive, but I had not appreciated the many contextual complexities that must be considered when working within a social issue.

A woman sitting at her computer

I am so, so grateful for the resources and personal support that were given to me and that allowed me to pursue this project. The support from both Duke and Rape Crisis vastly exceeded my expectations and provided me with everything that I needed to ensure an incredible and developmental experience.

Worked in the organization’s legal department reviewing case files, meeting with clients, and accompanying supervising attorney to court for restraining orders, divorce proceedings, and custody hearings

1736 Family Crisis Center

I feel so fortunate that I was able to take such a hands on role within the legal department and learned so much from my mentor within the department. When I wasn’t working at the legal department, I was at one of the organization’s domestic violence shelters where I spearheaded a “Teen Group.” The survivors living within the domestic violence shelters were predominantly mothers and their children; there were resources in place to help the mothers and there were various groups and activities for the younger children, however there was not a specific space constructed for the teenagers who were living in the house. Working with the pre-existing staff, I facilitated weekly group sessions with the teenagers living in the shelter.

It was an incredibly rewarding experience and I was so lucky that the directors and staff at the shelter empowered me to develop a project I felt especially passionate about. In addition to planning and facilitating the sessions, I was trained to work on the crisis hotline. Overall, it was an incredible summer and none of my experiences would have been possible without DukeEngage and the individuals at 1736 Family Crisis Center.

Conducted preliminary research on women in prison for drug offenses in South East Asia, health provisions in correctional facilities, human rights violations in mainstream drug control, and the historical India-China opium trade. Produced a weekly newsletter tracking regional developments in drug policy and legislation, and helped run a media campaign for the global ‘Support. Don’t Punish’ harm reduction movement in collaboration with local activists.


International Drug Policy Consortium

A group of people holding campaign signs
Defne (lower right) with colleagues

Supported increasing arts accessibility, engaged in the discourse of disability studies, and explored the intersection of arts and healthcare.

Dance for Parkinsons

This summer, I had the opportunity to work with Dance for Parkinson’s Disease and immerse myself in the incredible Parkinson’s community in Brooklyn and other boroughs in NYC. Half my time was spent volunteering in class and the other half was doing administrative work in order to best support this unique community.

A group of people dancing
Connie (in the back) dancing with colleagues and clients

Thank you to DukeEngage for making this experience possible and for giving me an opportunity to develop not only as a more skilled professional but also as a more reflective person.


Researched and wrote two articles for community partner focused on investigative environmental journalism.

“Status of plans to frack SA’s ‘water tower’”

“Steps up in my journalism career”

A woman standing on a mountain

I absolutely loved my internship and my time in Durban!

Studied the genetic diversity of captive tigers that have been exploited in the United States.

Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)

During the summer of 2019, the DukeEngage program helped me work at Stanford University on tiger conservation. The work I did over the summer exposed me to a new career and inspired me to continue the work in my own career.

A presentation on genetic diversity of captive tigers
Vicotiria presenting her research at the community partner

I am so grateful that the DukeEngage allowed me to create a project tailored to my interests. The independent project gave me an opportunity to learn new skills and explore a field that I had not experienced.

Worked on understanding the occupancy and detection of native Malagasy frogs and ran a camera trap grid of three local forests during four weeks.

The Mad Dog Initiative 

For the frog project, we found close to a hundred frogs (the majority have not been previously described), and for the camera trap project, we were able to confirm the presence of fossa in the local forests.

A man setting a camera trap in a forest
David setting a camera trap in Madagascar

Thank you very much to DukeEngage for giving me the opportunity to partake in fieldwork in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. 

Interned with the Animal Research Issues Department at The Humane Society of the United States in Washington, DC. Developed an analysis of government spending on canine research, investigated the ways in which dogs are currently being used for invasive and non-invasive research in the US, and learned about effective animal advocacy.

The Humane Society 

My summer experience opened my eyes to the importance of social impact work and community service. Working in animal advocacy filled me with a sense of urgency to help solve the world’s problems, and I hope to find a career where I can continue to do such meaningful work.

A woman holding a kitten

I am so grateful to DukeEngage for enabling me to pursue a summer project that resonated with my core values and allowed me to explore my passions. This summer was such a gift, and I am so thankful for the encouragement, support, and resources I received from DukeEngage.

Refugees/Human Rights/Empowerment

Created documentary on healthcare inequalities for migrants in South Korea.

International Organization for Migration Republic of Korea (IOM ROK)

When I was not outside interviewing people or filming B-roll, I was in the office translating materials for the ‘Holding On’ campaign which showcases the stories of internally displaced people and their connection to their most cherished possession or reviewing past public health case studies relevant to the topic of my documentary.

When I first started, I thought the initial research and interviewing process would be the most challenging part. Once I started putting together the documentary, I realized I had undermined the time and effort it takes to cut hour-long interviews to short clips, translate Korean into English (while keeping the idioms of distress, cultural nuances intact!), add text/transitions, and incorporate factual information/statistical data.

A website showing a woman telling her personal story

For my capstone project, I created a short documentary film depicting inequalities in the migrant health care system in South Korea. I focused specifically on female marriage migrants and the linguistic and cultural barriers that limit patient-provider interactions.

Worked with a local refugee organization to build a sustainable fundraising structure through grants; translated projects from French to English; connected organization to international resources; conducted a research project addressing gender-based violence in the female refugee community; worked with refugee children in school.


I’d say the biggest takeaway of my summer was learning that you can find community anywhere in the world, as long as you’re open to it. Cameroon can be very overwhelming for foreigners, and at first I shied away from that. But once I overcame my discomfort and made the effort to join my community, I discovered a world of beauty and generosity.

A world map highlighted Cameroon

This was by far the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life, and I am extremely grateful to my parents and the DukeEngage staff for all the support they provided me, both leading up to and throughout my journey in Cameroon.

Volunteered with a non-profit that works to combat human trafficking, raise awareness, and care for survivors rescued out of the system.


Perhaps my biggest takeaway was that coming alongside hurting people can be messy, and is not glamorous – it’s frequently inconvenient, and the deepest impact is in our faithfulness to the seemingly mundane, everyday tasks. The little details we pay careful attention to, and the small things we do excellently, show we care far more than words could, and really can affect someone’s life forever.

Three people smiling
Anna (front left) with two colleauges

I am so grateful for the chance to work with A21 this summer; I’ve been challenged in many ways and grown in even more! All of what I learned could not be possible without DukeEngage’s support.


Participated in a colboration with A Single Drop for Safe Water (ASDSW), the municipal government of Pilar Sorsogon, and SEAOIL Foundation to develop and launch a 3-year WaSH improvement plan for the communities in Pilar.  Learned from ASDSW staff, worked closely with the Municipal WaSH Council, and hosted educational and data-gathering sessions with village health workers.

A Single Drop for Safe Water

I have gained so much appreciation and admiration for the individual village leaders and health workers. Despite their lack of formal education, these people possess a fierce love and responsibility to their respective communities and truly want the best for their neighbors and friends. 

A group of students learning about hygiene

I would not have had such an amazing experience in the Philippines without my coworkers in ASDSW, particularly Chito and Siti. They always made me feel welcomed, and never hesitated to explain or help. Miss you, and ingat!

Participated in a colboration with A Single Drop for Safe Water (ASDSW), the municipal government of Pilar Sorsogon, and SEAOIL Foundation to develop and launch a 3-year WaSH improvement plan for the communities in Pilar.  Learned from ASDSW staff, worked closely with the Municipal WaSH Council, and hosted educational and data-gathering sessions with village health workers.

A Single Drop for Safe Water

Worked on an energy access project with IBEKA, an NGO that uses energy access as an entry point for economic development;  interviewed several dozen families about their energy and water situation; analyzed interview results to find a potential solution that would help alleviate the electricity access problem on Sumba; concluded on creating a wind turbine solution using local materials that could be built easily by local villagers; started developing prototype.


Throughout our time there, aside from hearing inspiring stories from the founders related to their philosophy towards rural economic and human development, to learning about human-centered design and how social work is just 30% engineering, and finally to getting connected to a local Duke alum who was a former deputy minister in the Indonesian government, we were endowed with such great experiences that few other summer opportunities Duke offers could rival.

Three people standing in a field
Winston (left) with project partners

That human connection and knowledge was perhaps the greatest gift we could receive from the incredibly intelligent, dedicated, and kind people at IBEKA.