Broadleaf welcomes two college interns to our team this year, we asked Aarti and Kelsey to introduce themselves in their own words. Welcome Aarti Katara and Kelsey DeSchriver to the Broadleaf team and thanks for your contributions so far!
Hi, my name is Kelsey DeSchriver and I am interning with Broadleaf. I am going into my third year at Temple University where I study social work. I am also a graduate of Stroudsburg High school. I was born and raised in Stroudsburg, PA and am lucky to have had the experiences and opportunities that my high school offered. Their many volunteer programs and involvement in the community is what led me to choose my major of social work at Temple University. After moving to such a big city like Philadelphia my horizons have broadened. I’ve realized how much more was out there for me to experience and how many people truly need help in our world. This led me to researching volunteer opportunities where I could learn more about helping others and making an impact on communities in need. As I came across the Broadleaf website and read about this organization, I realized their mission supported everything I stand for. “We believe in improving communities through health and education and that access to quality education and healthcare are fundamental human rights.” Broadleaf builds communities from the ground up in the Eastern Himalayas. So far Broadleaf has implemented programs in more than 70 schools that have affected over 1,400 children. I feel honored to be a part of this organization and to be learning from such down to earth, kind, and selfless individuals. I originally reached out to the founders of Broadleaf, Denna and Mike Matergia, who actually graduated from Stroudsburg High School as well and now live in Denver, Colorado. Denna and Mike were so welcoming and encouraging when we first met and right off the bat showed me what leadership looks like. Throughout my internship with Broadleaf I have learned how they run such a powerful organization in another country almost entirely virtually. I have also learned how to communicate effectively, create PR content, interview individuals, and my latest project includes learning about the process of grant writing. The knowledge I have gained throughout this internship is priceless to me and I can’t wait to travel to India with Broadleaf and get to experience these communities first hand!
For the past fifteen years, I’ve grown up in a small, quiet town in Northeastern Pennsylvania by the name of the Poconos. The Poconos is beautiful. I was often told it was the “honeymoon” capital of the country, as the sweeping views from Mt. Tammany, placid lakes such as Lake Wallenpaupack, and steep slopes at Camelback often attract swaths of tourists. This was all exciting to me as a kid - growing up in nature, seeing a black bear in our backyard every once in a while, etc. Yet, it was also a secluded bubble. Only in high school did I really begin to understand that the way of living in other parts of the world was far different than my life in the Poconos.
In high school, I knew that I was interested in science and the medical field, but I didn’t quite know why, and I wanted (or maybe even needed) to prove to myself that it wasn’t because both of my parents were physicians. As I explored the numerous questions that helped me solidify my interest in the medical field, I thought it would be a good idea to reconnect with my roots. My parents immigrated to the United States from India after they got married, and they then pursued their medical professions in America in hopes of better opportunities. From both of them, I had heard numerous stories about how different life in India was, and how lucky I was to have access to abundant, safe, and hygienic medical services. It was hard to fully grasp what they meant until my senior year, when I traveled to Madagascar on a medical mission trip. In Madagascar, every patient was thrilled to see the doctors who had arrived. They traveled many miles - often by foot - to arrive at the medical site in time and have the chance of being, or having their children, treated. It hit me really hard at that moment - that the people of Madagascar had waited so long to have access to the services we were providing, whereas I took access to safe and hygienic healthcare services for granted. From then on, I knew then that I wanted to commit my life to working in the medical field, and to help people who didn’t have access to the same medical services that I do.
Following this realization, I was introduced to Broadleaf. Broadleaf’s aim of helping individuals with a lack of access to basic healthcare and education aligned really well with what I was hoping to work on. Whereas in Madagascar, I was able to work on a medical team providing services, with Broadleaf, I knew that I would be able to work at the ground level - educating people on how they can take care of themselves and keep up their health. I reasoned that if I wanted to help people without access to medical services - this was the first step, in giving them the tools such that they can lead happier, healthier lives. I immediately reached out to co-founder, Michael Matergia, about contributing my time and energy to Broadleaf’s mission. Fortunately, Michael was just as excited about this idea as I was, and offered me to intern with Broadleaf once I returned home from school. Although COVID-19 certainly changed the direction of my involvement with Broadleaf this summer, my experience has helped me understand all of the behind-the-scenes efforts that go into helping the individuals in Darjeeling. Two of the most important things that I learned through this internship are that 1) it truly takes a village of individuals with genuine desires to help change the world and that 2) I could make a difference simply working from my home in the Poconos. From my virtual interactions with Broadleaf’s team members, I’ve learned the incredible amount of teamwork that goes into developing programs in order to help people with access to minimal medical resources. In addition to this, my work with Broadleaf has inspired me further to connect with my local community such that I can better understand healthcare insecurity and available resources. As this summer comes to a close, I can’t help but look forward to next summer, where I hopefully will be able to experience Broadleaf’s work firsthand. But until then, I am excited to contribute behind the scenes in every way I can to help continue and support Broadleaf’s growth.