Community Health Students Study And Spread Health Advocacy In India

Community Health Students Study And Spread Health Advocacy In India

By Lindsay Mower, Staff Reporter 

Escaping Maine’s cold winter by traveling 7,800 miles to India, Community Health Education majors at UMF Minarva Craig and Bri Martin are spending their semester abroad studying and spreading health advocacy to local children and their families.

The pair are now settled into New Delhi where they are trying to fully immerse themselves into the culture by learning the basic vocabulary and eating the wide variety of foods.

Bri Martin dressed in traditional Indian attire (Photo Courtesy of Bri Martin)

Bri Martin dressed in traditional Indian attire (Photo Courtesy of Bri Martin)

For Martin, this adventure is a mental promise to embrace the physical chaos in India as she lives outside of the country for the first time. Craig, who grew up in Maine but was adopted as a baby from India, says she is excited to be spending her last undergraduate semester back in her homeland. “When I go to a village and see people I wonder if they may be someone I’m related to,” she said in an online interview. “I will forever thank my birth mother for doing what is best for me,” she said, “My mother in America is the best person I know.”

Craig and Martin have both created blogs where they are documenting their traveling experiences for their family and friends back home. Martin’s blog, “Finding Solace in the Chaos,” is dedicated to reflecting upon her new lifestyle as she deviates from her daily schedule of attending classes in Farmington. Quoting Brazilian lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho who once said, “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal,” Martin’s says in her blog post that while taking in the new spicy smells and admiring the intricate clothing patterns around her, she can now see that Coelho couldn’t have said it any better. “I am so beautifully disoriented; so immersed in beautiful chaos,” she says, “My inner stressed out perfectionist missed the flight, but I’m not terribly worried about it.”

Craig says that it’s sad to see the major health disparities she has witnessed among the families in New Delhi. Martin agrees, saying she feels slightly ashamed for not helping any of the people asking her for rupees, after being advised not to for safety reasons. “On a practical level, I understand. On an emotional, and spiritual level, I simply cannot comprehend the rule… I don’t think I will ever be desensitized when a child approaches me for money,” she says.

 As part of their exchange, the pair have visited an unorganized living area, also called a slum, where they noticed the community members seemed to have all the necessary amenities, but generally didn’t have an abundance of material possessions. “I saw kids playing with toys, women washing clothes and men sitting in chairs smoking and enjoying each-other’s company,” said Martin, adding, “I got the overall impression that the area was a truly strong community. Neighbors seemed fond of one another and people were laughing.”

Recently, Craig and Martin went on an excursion to Udaipur, “The City of Lakes,” and, Jaipur, “The Pink City,” in the state of Rajastha to visit rural communities and community health centers. Along with their classmates (students from around the world studying in the same program as Martin and Craig) the pair visited a “medicine man training organization” where a 60 year old man with a permanent smile took them on a tour of his herbal garden. Martin, who commented on how he even had a plant to slow the progression of tumor growth, was impressed by his ability to provide natural treatment methods to villagers who otherwise would not have access to medicine; a health care practice that is different than most approaches in the U.S.

A more emotional experience for the pair was visiting a child malnutrition center. Martin says she tried to make the mothers laugh because her Hindi probably didn’t make much sense to them. “‘What’s your name?’ ‘beautiful child’ and ‘nice to meet you’ was the extent of our conversations, but it was nice to create a connection,” she said. Another intense moment for her was seeing a man missing one of his legs, shimmying himself down the street. Martin says, “You wonder, is he severely impoverished? How did he lose his leg? Was it infection related?”

Mina Craig laughs with local children in New Delhi, India. (Photo Courtesy of Minarva Craig)

Mina Craig laughs with local children in New Delhi, India. (Photo Courtesy of Minarva Craig)

The cultural adjustment is made easier for both of the girls with the help of their host family. Martin admits she is struggling with learning Hindi, but has gotten some assistance from her host family’s woman helper who is around her age. “The funny part is that she’s learning English at the same time that I am learning Hindi. Her and I have become good friends. We often like to quiz each other on English and Hindi words.”

Craig commented on how time in India works differently than in America in her blog. “When someone invites you to their house at 8:00, it would appear strange to arrive any earlier than 9:00,” she says, joking, “I have been in India for about a month and it’s nothing like Elizabeth Gilbert’s, ‘Eat Pray Love.’ I don’t wake up and partake in meditation, I eat way more then Elizabeth Gilbert and I am constantly on the move in New Delhi.”

One of Martin’s most recent blog posts gives an update on her adaption to the crowded streets. “I am still scared as Hell of crossing the street but I’m trying to think of it as an extreme sport,” says Martin. “I have not picked up on the honking cues, but I am convinced that I will learn another language other than Hindi while I am here; the Delhi Honk.”

In a new country where they can barely speak the language, the girls are adapting quickly. Craig says, “I have learned the best experiences or adventures are when you go out of your comfort zone. I will continue to learn more Hindi and enjoy every moment of it.” In the meantime she manages to find others ways to communicate; she says, “Everybody smiles in the same language.”

You can follow Craig’s blog at and Martin’s blog at

Johnny Islieb: Profile Of A Senior

By Sarah Williams, Assistant Editor 

Casually dressed for the in person interview in a button down black shirt and jeans, Jonny Islieb knows where he is at. Working four days a week while attending UMF full-time, as well as being a member of the Rugby team, Islieb leads a busy life.

Islieb talked about his active lifestyle and how he balances everything while remaining sane. “I’m in my fourth year, business economics,” he explained, “I’m interested in helping small and local businesses compete on a larger scale so they have more room for growth in their community.” Said Islieb, “Right now I am in Managerial Economics. It’s a senior class it’s pretty intense. I do about 2-3 hours studying per night for my classes.” Islieb went on to talk about a philosophy class he is taking which turned out to be quite interesting for him. “We are talking about the difference between science and religion and social context.”

Living off campus with roommates, Islieb also works at U.S.Cellular part time as a retail sales associate. “I started there in July, after working at The Roost, a local pub, for a little over a year. I’m a sales consultant. I love my job.” He expanded saying, “It’s definitely difficult getting into a routine with work and school, but once you get a schedule it’s easy to manage.” He admitted that last semester he did work full time and it took away from his being able to play rugby. “So I’m excited to take more days off and get back into the sport,” he said enthusiastically.

”I play rugby, this will be my fourth season playing. A few guys recruited me and I went to some of the practices and I fell in love with it.” Islieb said they meet a few times per week and have two tournaments this coming Spring. They are The Maine Cup in Portland sometime in May, and Beast of the East, April 22 and 23 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. “I play fourteen, which is the wing.” He said rugby is like a mixture of football and soccer with the physical aspects of football but the nonstop pace of soccer. Islieb then echoed a famous quote by Winston Churchill, “Rugby, a hooligans sport played by gentlemen.”

“I grew up in Willimantic, Connecticut. I went to a really small public school where I played basketball and I was in a band for awhile playing guitar a few years.” Islieb went on saying he played punk rock, and that he still played guitar as well as piano.

Islieb has big plans for the future. “Eventually I want to move out west and start my own business someday. I want to explore and see what the country has to offer.” He explained that he had been to California when he was younger and liked it. “I want to start a fitness center and a recording studio.” In his free time he likes to play music. On a final note he mentioned his favorite eats. “Burritos and breakfast sandwiches, l live off them.”

Titcomb Challenge: UMF Business Class And Outing Club Team Up To Create New Community Event

Titcomb Challenge: UMF Business Class And Outing Club Team Up To Create New Community Event

By Autumn St. Pierre, Contributing Writer 

Community members gather for the first annual Titcomb Challenge event. (Photo by Clyde Mitchell)

Community members gather for the first annual Titcomb Challenge event. (Photo by Clyde Mitchell)

In collaboration with the Farmington Outing Club (FOC), students of professor Clyde Mitchell’s Alpine Operations Leadership and Management class organized and carried-out the first Titcomb Challenge; a day-long community event hosted at the popular local ski-hill, Titcomb Mountain. Held over February break, the event attracted mostly community members, and the organizers of the Challenge are already evaluating both its success and room for improvement in future seasons.  

The Titcomb Challenge originated from a project assigned to Mitchell’s class. The students had to think of an event that they wanted to create and organize in conjunction with the FOC.

Mitchell explained that the Challenge was comprised of eight different events throughout the day. According to Mitchell, the project provided good “practice for students to gain event planning and to serve the community at the same time,” he explained.

Awards were held at 8 p.m. where participants were given prizes including a $1 raffle, give-aways, skiing apparel, donated lift tickets from Sunday River, and donated t-shirts from Sugarloaf. “Any surplus goes to Titcomb, this year it will just go to prizes,” said Mitchell.

Because this was the first year the Titcomb Challenge was held, it was new to the public as well as the people organizing it. “We weren’t really sure what to expect because it was our first season ever trying something like this,” said Maria Noyola, a member of the class and FOC.

The challenge lasted from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Students who planned it were tasked with different jobs such as working the registration table, supervising events, and overall coordination and making things run smoothly. “We were definitely aiming towards the fun aspect versus the competitive aspect,” said Connor Dunn, a member of the class. “More music, fun events, etc.”

The recent snow days created a delay in communication and planning. “We’ll market it a bit better next year,” said Mitchell.

“I would start the planning months in advance to allow more room for fundraising, organizing, and marketing, getting the word out more and notifying people ahead of time so we can preregister for events,” said Noyola. “I think something like this has a lot of potential at a place like Titcomb to involve the kids and the community.”

Having the event over winter break caused an absence of UMF students. “I think having it over February break was good and bad. If it was during school I think we would have had more students,” said Dunn.

Though not many college students made an appearance, the timing of the event made it possible for school-age participants. “We were thinking about getting more younger kids,” said Dunn.

“I think we should stick with break and give the families something to look forward to in the town,” said Noyola.

The Titcomb Challenge is a convenient experience for people. “I think this is a great event because it will give kids the opportunity to participate in small and playful events with their peers while being challenged with their skill of riding,” said Noyola. “It has a variety of different ways to challenge the kids in a very laid back and fun environment.”

Roundtable Review: Native Voices On The DAPL

By Donald Hutchins IV, Contributing Writer

Historian, environmental activist, and peace advocate Maria Girouard of the Penobscot Nation recently spoke on campus about her experiences traveling to Standing Rock, the historical struggles of natives in America, and the hardships we face right here in the state of Maine. Students, faculty, and community members loaded the evening event with support and interest regarding the pipeline and ways to get involved.

Professor of Anthropology Gaelyn Aguilar introduced the event and speaker, concluding that, “this is not over.” Girouard bolstered that sentiment when she briefly discussed DAPL, but she quickly turned the focus to the Penobscot Nation and issues in Maine. The Penobscot River faces a different threat from pollution, and has also been disenfranchised from the tribe. Girouard traveled to Standing Rock in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux in 2016, but was disheartened to see so many traveling so far to be “active” when the same issues remain unaddressed in their own backyards.

In the state of Maine, alterations in the defining framework used to appropriate treaties disregarded the rights of the Penobscot Nation and restricted their use and affiliation with the river, which is a part of their people. “I feel like many Mainers do not know the significance of the situation being faced by the Penobscot people,” said junior Brian Wardwell. Girouard discussed the communities response with “the Penobscot River Case,” where judges eventually ruled against the tribe– in similar fashion with historical dealings between the American government and Natives.

Girouard also mentioned changes in regulations previously disallowing out of state waste disposal in Maine that have resulted in elevated waste levels near the Penobscot, which has impacted the river. “It was great to be informed on environmental and Native Rights issues so close to home, and to have an opportunity to hear the voices of the people most impacted,” said freshman Austin Garrett. “We must come together and honor our treaties with the people who called this home first,” he concluded.

Unified as “Water Protectors,” activists of many tribes and walks of life remained in Standing Rock, North Dakota, from the summer of 2016 to the latter end of February 2017 to protest Energy Transfer Partners’ project, whose planned path is through sacred Sioux Tribe land and under Lake Oahe, where their subsistence needs are met. Cheyenne River Sioux are currently encamped on private land a mile from Oceti, and other camps are reportedly beginning to emerge.

“This is not the sexy issue of the day,” Girouard mentioned, “these ‘Standing Rocks’ are everywhere.” DAPL publicity has brought attention to the Florida Sabal pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, and others in developing stages around the country. It has more notably brought out the historical turmoils between the government and native tribes. With or without the pipelines, there are native groups being undermined, hurt, and disregarded just like their ancestors– east coast to west.

Political Science professor Linda Beck was glad that the roundtable was “giving voice to a Native American on an issue that is Native American.” However, Beck had anticipated more discussion on Maine involvement in ND. She also noted that with the talk turning more unexpectedly into local issues, it would have been useful to have a voice representing some of the opposing perspectives concerning the river. “Given the centrality of the Penobscot River, it would be good to hear from the other side,” said Beck.

“True solidarity can look ugly on the surface,” remarked Wardwell, “but I for one am ready to stand with our true native people, and with our true environment,” he concluded. Girouard founded the Dawnland Environmental Defense alliance for natives and non-natives to unite for the protection of our environment, or “the Dawnland.” Updates, news, and ways to get involved can be found on their Facebook page. You may also get involved and stay updated by writing to your representatives and financial backers of the pipeline projects, and also by downloading the free app “Accountable,” which blends information and activism on current political issues. Future Roundtable and other informative events like this are also in the works.

Following Donald Trump’s executive order, the Dakota Access Pipeline is being constructed from the Bakkan regions in upper North Dakota and Canada to Illinois, where it will connect with an existing pipeline for transporting crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico for export. Further construction of the 1200-mile pipeline resumed a few weeks before the Feb 22 eviction date of protestors from Camp Oceti Sakowin and those around it. The Huffington Post reported two days of raids to clear the camp out, where the remaining 46 protesters were arrested, and many camps lay in ashes after ceremonial burning.

ABC News reported that two days prior to Trump’s executive order, U.S. Dept. of the Interior withdrew an opinion from Dept. Solicitor Hilary C. Tompkins, who had produced an opinion that justified denying easement of the project, as the top lawyer in the department under President Obama. Tompkins’ 35-page analysis of environmental impact and treaty rights issues was dated Dec 4, 2016– the same day President Obama denied easement and initiated environmental impact statements for the rerouting of the pipeline. Tompkins’ opinion was suspended for review by the department, under the current administration.

“The camps will continue,” Phyllis Young, a leader at the camp, said in interview with Time. “Freedom is in our DNA, and we have no choice but to continue the struggle.” Vice News interviewed Laura Hinman, a young Kumeyaay Native who was a writer in New York before Standing Rock called her to action. “We are facing the same beast our ancestors have faced for hundreds of years,” she said, refusing to stand down. As authorities surrounded the camp she continued the call to action: “keep demonstrating, keep talking about the movement and keep us all in your thoughts and prayers.”
“I am very happy to say that we finally introduced rule of law in the Oceti Camp,” said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier in a post-raid interview with The Huffington Post. A similar sentiment was shown by Donald Trump when he relished in his executive orders during his first speech to Congress. But this isn’t really “the law” they’re introducing. The treaties this country was founded on are being disobeyed, and what’s supposed to be law of the land is being supplanted by the interests of corporate influence on our current leadership. Though, for Maria Girouard, the Penobscot, Sioux, and other natives, this is all just business as usual.

New Rainbow Floor In Scott Hall Gives Safe Haven for LGBTQIA+ Students

By Joshua Beckett, Contributing Writer

The third floor of Scott South Hall was transformed this past fall by adding a new Rainbow Alliance Floor which houses about 40 students. This floor provides a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to grow together.

People can be randomly assigned to live on the Rainbow Floor, but in order to live there, a Rainbow Alliance agreement must be signed. By signing the agreement, students give consent to support their neighbors to create a community that appreciates the variety and vivacity of gender and sexuality.  

“I found out about the Rainbow Floor during my campus tour,” said Lily Hood, a resident of the Rainbow Floor. “Admissions gave me a book about campus and in the housing section, the Rainbow Floor was an option.”

“I honestly thought there would be rainbows everywhere,” said Hood, “but to my surprise when arriving, I found that it looked like any other floor.” Hood continued, “I actually didn’t select the Rainbow Floor when signing up for room placement for fear of my family finding out,” said Hood, “however I did want to be on the floor because I felt like it would be a safe and accepting place for me to live and explore my identity.”

Community Assistant Matthew Wyman found out about the Rainbow Floor because there had been a long push for LGBTQ-specific housing. “Being a CA on this floor has been a dream come true,” said Wyman, “I wanted to work on this floor since the second I decided to apply as a CA and I genuinely can’t see myself anywhere else. “Since coming to college, I’ve effectively immersed myself in the LGBTQ+ community because that is where my passion lies. I love my community and its members, so it only felt natural for me to go for the rainbow floor.”

Wyman says he would be devastated, not just for himself but for his residents if the floor was ever cut from housing. “I have the rare privilege of having a family that accepts who I am without hesitation,” said Wyman, “but there are some who can only be who they are in their hearts when they’re home on the floor. This floor and the community it represents is a safe haven for those people to be themselves without fear of judgment or rejection,” said Wyman, “and to lose the floor would be to lose that security, I think.”

Kelsey Champagne-Smith, Assistant Director of Housing and Academic Success, has been very involved with helping to create the Rainbow Alliance floor. “Since we began doing surveys last year, we have received a number of ideas from the students,” said Champagne-Smith. “If we find that there is a common interest in a particular theme, we try to work towards gauging student interest throughout the different residence halls.”

The Rainbow Floor will be an option for housing for the Fall 2017-2018 year as well as a few other new housing themes. The complete list of housing themes for next year can be found on the UMF website. There will also be an upcoming Housing Selection Night on April 6 in the North Dining Hall where students can select where they would like to live in the upcoming year.

Wyman is hoping to stay a CA on this floor in the coming year, but if that’s not possible, he would like to be a CA in an area very close to this floor because the community means the world to him. “We have something truly special here, and the residents are the cherry on top.”