Strides in Solidarity

Bright and early on the morning of Sunday, April 9th, a group of Harvard students headed to the indoor Boston University Track and Tennis Center to participate in Strides in Solidarity, a 5K race or walk-a-thon to show solidarity with Partners in Health community health workers around the world. Partners in Health Engage teams from Harvard, Northeastern, Boston University, and Boston College, along with the PIH Young Professionals had spent weeks fundraising and spreading the word about this event.

Strides in Solidarity ran from 10:00AM to 1:00PM, and opening speakers included Joia Mukherjee and Jon Shaffer. Dr. Mukherjee is an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Global Health Equity, Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, associate professor of global health and social science medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the Chief Medical Officer of PIH since 2000. As Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mukherjee provides strategic guidance on the implementation of programs at PIH’s sites in Haiti, Rwanda, Malawi, Lesotho, Peru, Mexico, and Russia. Jon Shaffer was the Community Engagement Coordinator and Senior Strategist for Community Organizing at PIH until recently, being the person who grew PIH Engage from a mere concept to more than 90 volunteer-led teams with over 4,000 actives members.

blog(Photo Credit: Karen Malacon)

The course itself consisted of 25 laps around an indoor track field, and while running around in a circle 25 times may initially appear to be repetitive, the level of energy and excitement from everyone there made the laps fly by. With a face-painting station, a photo booth, raffles, and food donations from JP Licks, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes, there was something for everyone and much opportunity for interaction with other people who were just as passionate about the work PIH conducts.

Strides proved to be a success with approximately 100 people attending, and the event itself raised a total of $1,500. Our Harvard team raised $1,288 during our fundraising campaign, and the PIH Boston chapter as a whole raised $5,704. The money raised will be used to build an outpatient care clinic in Neno, Malawi. Since 2007, PIH has worked with a partnership with the Ministry of health in the district of Neno to provide care for approximately 150,000 people.

During its time there, PIH has built Neno District Hospital and a community hospital and revitalized the ten health centers that had been in disrepair. These health centers provide treatment and prevention for diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, as well as initiatives to treat and prevent malaria and child malnutrition and to reduce maternal mortality rates. PIH hopes to expand its reach through another health center in order to reach those most vulnerable in Neno.

For me, the most incredible part is being able to listen to, talk to, and interact with individuals just as passionate about health as a human right as we are. Strides provided us the opportunity to fundraise for a worthy cause, while at the same time allowing us to enjoy good food and even better company.


Karen Malacon is a sophomore in Currier House originally from Southern California. She is especially interested in the fields of maternal and child health, mental health, and HIV/AIDS. Her passion for global health developed after spending January in Bolivia giving public health workshops and conducting water surveys. She spent this past summer in Kisumu, Kenya as an intern for Omega Foundation developing a program with the goal of increasing male involvement in reproductive health in the community. Karen hopes to pursue an MD/MPH in the future. Besides being a part of the HGHI SAC and PIH Engage, she is also involved with Strong Women Strong Girls, Seeds of Hope, Latinos in Health Careers, and is currently conducting research in neuroscience on the olfactory system in fruit fly larvae. During her free time, she enjoys having water balloon fights and playing soccer.