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SWC hosts Health for Heritage Week with collaboration from campus clubs

Students post notes on a poster board at the “Caught on Film: Food for the Feed” event hosted by Student Wellness Commission’s Total Wellness and Southeast Asian Campus Learning and Retention on Friday. (Anna Syed/Daily Bruin)

By Kaitlin Browne and Megan McCallister

March 2, 2020 2:54 a.m.

When Mihika Sridhar ran for Student Wellness Commissioner last year, she wanted to encourage marginalized communities to engage with their health and wellness.

Sridhar finally realized her idea with the inaugural Health for Heritage Week from Feb. 22 to Feb. 28, which was an 11-event collaboration of the Student Wellness Commission and various clubs.

The week included discussions and presentations about the intersection of culture and health, a hygiene drive, an interactive art gallery, a beach cleanup and a CPR class.

Sridhar, a fourth-year microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics student, planned the event with Sophia McMurry, a fourth-year philosophy student and SWC platforms director, and reached out to almost 100 student organizations. Once they narrowed down their list, they pushed for the SWC subcommittees to reach out to the organizations that sparked their interest.

Sridhar said her goal for the week was to push for collaborations between organizations that might not have come in contact otherwise.

“A lot of times people can get sort of pigeonholed,” Sridhar said. “I think collaboration is a really great way to impact a greater number of people who may not have originally ever been privy to even knowing that an event was happening or that a topic is of interest to them.”

Health for Heritage Week kicked off Feb. 22 with a beach cleanup co-hosted by SWC Environmental Awareness, Recycling and Terrestrial Health and the Indian Student Union. Around 200 pieces of trash were collected over a span of two hours from Venice Beach to Santa Monica Beach.

Kiera Dixon, the co-director of SWC EARTH, said that students were handed trash bags and forms to record the types of trash collected. The cleanup allowed students from different backgrounds to bond through environmental beautification efforts, she said.

“I feel like it’s very important to be exposed to different types of cultures and establish friendships with people of different heritages,” said Dixon, a fourth-year molecular, cell, and developmental biology student.

Another event that hoped to expose students to new cultural knowledge was organized by SWC’s Student Education And Research of Contemporary Health along with Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán de UCLA. These two organizations collaborated to create conversations about Latinx culture, relationships and intimacy through answering anonymous questions from a box. Other activities included making love potions and meditation.

Tara Shooshani, co-chair of SEARCH, said the event was inspired by Latinx cultural traditions. The two clubs wanted the event to be a celebration of these traditions to share with the UCLA community.

“I think the main takeaway is for people to have a renewed respect and interest in other cultures to be interested in learning about other people’s traditions and customs,” said Shooshani, a fourth-year human biology and society student.

SEARCH also partnered with the Afrikan Student Union to hold “Unpacking Medical Racism,” a three-speaker panel regarding the topic of medical racism. Speakers talked about the history of racism in the medical field and why it continues to this day.

Kylie Paramore, a panelist at the event, does research within the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health to uncover the subconscious racial bias on the health outcomes of black patients. She said the more discussion and research on the topic, the more inclined the health care system is to change this problem.

“A lot of times, we’re fed this false narrative that our society is so progressive and colorblind … but unfortunately, that’s just not true,” said Paramore, a fourth-year African American studies student. “We have to have these conversations because these conversations are about real life.”

To address the intersection of mental wellness and Pilipino culture, Active Minds and Pilipinos for Community Health co-hosted an event called “Utakatawan: Physical x Mental Health in the Pilipino Community.” The event incorporated Pilipino food, dance and a cappella performances, a panel and a presentation.

Three undergraduates and two graduate students participated in the panel to share how they have overcome struggles that pervade Pilipino culture.

“With our culture there’s this word called ‘hiya’, which translates to shame, as well as to be shy,” said Robi Bucayu, who spoke on the panel. “We’re not good at seeking help or talking about our feelings, so I think this forum really helps to dispel that culture of silence.”

Vernadette Laderas, a second-year psychology student, said that it was refreshing to hear raw conversations about taboo topics within Pilipino culture.

“There’s definitely trends within the culture, like … constantly giving and giving, and waiting until it’s too late to start to take care of yourself, (which) is something that I have struggled with, specifically with my mom,” Laderas said. “It … surprised me to hear anecdotes that sound almost exactly like mine.”

In another effort to promote mental wellness, Total Wellness and Southeast Asian Campus Learning Education and Retention hosted an event that consisted of five stations to prompt reflection on the negative effects of social media.

The first of five stations asked participants to rate their happiness and provided tips on how to foster a healthier relationship with social media. Other stations asked students what makes them happy outside of social media and which part of their body is their favorite.

“It’s important to recognize how (social media) might be affecting you, even though you don’t realize it because you think it’s a necessity, and then take the steps to use it and in a healthier way,” said Rebeca Gasper, a second-year political science and communication student.

Sridhar and McMurry said they hoped different cultural communities would gain insight into each other’s various health needs.

“I really hope that committees and the other students who do attend these events just make meaningful and thoughtful connections with other groups on campus and hopefully (that) continues throughout the year,” McMurry said.

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