I am proud to announce I’ve finally made an elusive summer plan! Over the past few months, I’ve lived vicariously through the Sagehens surrounding me, as acceptance letters trickled into their mailboxes and “Congratulations!” sprinkled their inboxes. Until yesterday, I felt like the lone jobless leper secretly mingling amongst financial interns and language teachers and physics researchers and volunteers. But now I, too, have been gifted a happy announcement—Pomona’s own Pacific Basin Institute (PBI) is funding my half-summer trip to Thailand to shoot a short documentary on reproductive health!
Every summer, PBI funds student-directed short films shot in Pacific Rim countries. My project is all about Mechai Viravaidya and his wildly successful condom distribution programs run through the Population and Community Development Association. This was intended as a family-planning solution to tackle dire poverty problems in the 1970s, and the newfound accessibility of birth control helped slow population growth and prevent many STIs. (For example, there were 143,000 new HIV infections in 1991, and that number decreased to 19,500 in 2004.) In addition, in the short time since Viravaidya’s program launched, the average number of Thai children per family has decreased from 7 to 1.5. I hope to record many personal accounts and reactions to the quickness and effectiveness of this shift, and to discuss how this affected citizens’ daily lives.
In my original grant proposal, I asked for three weeks’ worth of funding. In true Pomona fashion, Professor Hung Cam Thai, PBI’s Director, suggested I elongate my timeline to be six weeks to ensure a more immersive and complete experience. Moments like these are the little golden flecks of my college experience, which shimmer when I reflect on them in a sea of readings and papers (some of which may prove to be sparkles themselves!) I think PBI’s thoughtfulness regarding the quality of my own experience is an indication of an over-arching attitude across campus: Faculty is genuinely concerned about student well-being. Needless to say…I appreciate it!