My name is Keely Brookes and I graduated from the MSc Health Psychology programme in 2010, after completing the psychology undergraduate programme in 2009.
After graduating from the psychology programme I wanted to focus on a specific area of psychology that I felt would be applicable in whichever field I would eventually go into. I felt health psychology, would open many doors for me – the concepts related to the field are applicable and important everywhere – and I wasn’t wrong! Since graduating I have done several jobs that have in some way encompassed my degree, all of them ultimately leading to my current position.
I did two funded research projects for the university focusing on programme evaluation and I also worked as a learning disabilities and mental health support worker for a few years in Cardiff. I loved this, but I wanted to experience more and I wanted to find out how my studies could be used across cultures to support those in developing countries. After much debate on how to do this, I landed in Haiti for the first time in 2013.
I had applied for a psychology instructor position at a small private university where I would teach health psychology concepts to Haitian students. It was intended to be a 3 month trip that would allow me to explore a different culture while using my academic knowledge to help others. My 3 month trip turned into 6 years.
After leaving the university and teaching I spent some time doing research, data analysis and report writing for a research group based in Haiti that was commissioned by different organizations, such as UNICEF, WHO and the World Food Programme to explore different social, cultural and humanitarian issues in order to evaluate and improve policy within Haiti.
In 2016, I started in my current position, which is truly a dream job. I am the Director of Operations at Middle Ground Malnutrition and Family Preservation Centre (www.middlegroundhaiti.org), which is a non-profit organization based in Port-au-Prince Haiti. Following a holistic and family centred approach, we provide three specific programmes – malnutrition treatment, caregiver education and on-going sustainability programmes. I am responsible for managing the day to day operations necessary to ensure that the organization achieves its objectives – this includes administrative work, networking with partners, programme design, curriculum writing, data management and analysis for impact and evaluation purposes and accounting.
I love not only seeing the children get well but also seeing parents get the support they need, from mental health support to education programmes to business or agriculture classes, they are given opportunities to learn so that when they go home they can continue to thrive at home as a family. Health education is one of the many reasons children are admitted into Middle Ground for malnutrition treatment. A sustainable treatment process must be partnered with education. Creating the education curriculum was one of my first projects when I started at the organization – using my knowledge from the Health Psychology masters programme I was able to work with medical and nutrition specialists to develop an effective curriculum that aims to not only increase knowledge but also change behaviour through health communication that is specifically targeted to the families and population we serve.
Working in Haiti and at Middle Ground has its challenges. We see extreme poverty, starvation and death. But I am so lucky to be a part of the journey for those that beat malnutrition, become healthy and then continue to thrive at home with their families. It is these success stories that keep us fighting every day.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Cardiff Met, and the masters programme and I am so thankful for the opportunities it has given me and I love being able to use my knowledge from my degree here in Haiti.