Sometimes Turlock High graduate Anne Marie Hyer would ask herself “What am I doing?” That question would pop up as she wore long pants and a long-sleeved shirt in 120 degree heat in India while scrubbing the hands and feet of lepers. But she quickly reassured herself, it was for the people.
The heat in India is just one of the challenges she faced while visiting one of the four countries she traveled to throughout her college career. And through all those adventures, she created a stronger passion and understanding of people.
“I have always been interested in people and trying to understand them,” Hyer said. “Everyone has a different story. I wanted to get out and understand people of different cultures. I love culture, colors and fabrics.”
Hyer’s adventures started after she graduated from Turlock High School in 2005. That is when she packed her bags to attend Brigham Young University where she majored in psychology and minored in women’s studies.
Her first out of the country adventure started her sophomore year when she lived in France for a semester, but this wasn’t part of the series of humanitarian trips that would later take place. She went to understand the language, unaware of her future trips to Africa, Peru and India.
Since Hyer could remember, she has always wanted to visit Africa, Thailand and India but she never thought she would visit two out of the three so soon.
Hyer started learning more about research, health and teaching to look deeper into the health field for her future career interests.
Through a professor at a neighboring university who specializes in women’s studies and health, Hyer decided to go with 16 other students to research the teachings about the human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
She traveled to Ghana, Africa and worked with orphanages and schools learning about the education of HIV/AIDS through the villages. Students did questionnaires to see how much the African people knew about prevention, transmission, myths and consequences of the diseases and then taught them using a specific method. They later tested them again to see how much information they obtained.
Hyer and a medical team then traveled to Peru to present their research to the Peruvian people.
When she arrived, Hyer said she noticed a big difference in cultures from the musical and talkative African people to the quiet and kind people of Peru.
Walking down the streets in Peru with vendors stationed on the sides of the streets and people flooding the area dressed with heavy sweaters and baskets on their heads, Hyer said she was amazed at how the streets remained calm and silent.
India was her next adventure where she worked with various leper colonies providing the residents with medical testing, educating the children and helping with micro loans to open up businesses.
Hyer said one of her most memorable moments in India was when she was playing with a little girl named Abbi.
“She was laughing and playing,” Hyer said. “Having that interaction back from a child with that culture barrier made it the best day. I was hot, but that day I didn’t care.”
Now back from her out of the country adventures, Hyer plans to find a job in education to help teach or counsel children and go back to school for her master’s degree. Now that she has India and Africa checked off of her travel list, Thailand is calling to her.
“Every day I am reminded of what I learned and what I felt and that is very humbling,” Hyer said. “I feel changed.”
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.