Inspired to improve the health and wellbeing of diverse populations, Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) Bachelor of Sciences graduand Charity Mudhikwa came to SFU as an international student in 2018 with the goal of advocating for not only the student community, but disproportionately impacted communities.
It was particularly difficult in the beginning for Mudhikwa as an international student, being thousands of kilometers away from home, family and friends. In addition to adjusting to the university experience, she had to navigate a whole new country and culture with no one familiar around her. However, she recounts how her time at SFU taught her how to be resilient.
“I would not trade that experience for anything - it taught me resilience, independence and was just overall a great journey of self-discovery,” she explains. “I also made some life-long friendships along the way which was definitely an important part of my journey because without them, I don’t know how I would have made it.”
Mudhikwa’s journey getting involved with the community brought her to SFU Career and Volunteer services, where she led a student engagement initiative interviewing and showcasing volunteers of SFU in a video series called One Small Step. Her charismatic nature extended into her work with SFU’s Point Church, where she led student events and was a part of community service efforts with assisted care living centres and winter sock-drives in the Downtown Eastside.
In addition to her community work, her academic goals to help others found her studying the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and its disproportionate burden on certain populations and people. She decided to tackle an honours research project studying patterns of hospitalization among people living with HIV who have experienced violence in BC, solidifying her passion for HIV/AIDS research. She recently began working as a research assistant on a study investigating healthy aging among women living with HIV in BC, assisting with data work, and recruitment and interviewing of study participants.
Meeting women from all walks of life opened her eyes to the diverse groups of people in BC and the diverse experiences they have. She points out how easy it is to cast judgement on the way people live or the activities they engage in, but drives home how unfair it is to immediately judge others without listening or understanding another person’s story.
“I just know that my biggest goal is to be an advocate of women all over the world who are disproportionately impacted by sociostructural and socioeconomic inequities. Marginalized communities are often excluded from research and public health efforts,” Mudhikwa explains. “Once I learned this realization, it was important for me to be a part of changing that story. As a Black woman, it is also very important to me to do research that meaningfully includes and respects the experiences of Black women both in Canada and globally.”
With her BSc in tow, Mudhikwa is excited to join the FHS Master of Science program during the Fall 2022 semester to focus on sexual and reproductive health research among women living with HIV in BC. As for advice for students new and old, she recommends people take every opportunity they can.
“Whether that’s asking a professor for help, applying for a scholarship, applying for a position, they want to help you succeed - they are not as scary as you may think,” she advises. “So, apply for that award. Apply for that position. Send that email. The worst that could happen is getting a rejection but that’s better than not trying at all."
This story was originally published on the Faculty of Health Sciences website on May 31, 2022.