Why “HEAL”?

Why the acronym “HEAL” for Health Equity Advocacy Lanterns?

Two reasons: 1) I believe all individuals working in global public health advocate for health equity in one way or another and 2) those individuals are lanterns shining their own bright lights.

A short story behind why I chose the word “Lanterns.”

In college, I felt a stark, though oftentimes unspoken, divide between domestic and international students. Micro-aggressions and racist comments prevailed in some circles.

Being Thai-American, I felt like a gutter–an in-between space that didn’t belong in either the domestic or international student spheres. One evening, I told my hall mate about Loy Kratong, my favorite festival in Thailand where families and friends gather to release lanterns–a symbol of hope and beginning anew. From that conversation, I slowly learned to stop compartmentalizing myself. I could be my whole self and create my own space. Little by little, I shared more about my background and culture. When I was appointed a leadership position on the Multicultural Leadership Council, I founded “Lanterns,” a cohort of international students, with a mission to bridge the domestic-international student gap. With the Lanterns cohort, we hosted the Lanterns Showcase, which gave students within the cohort an opportunity to share their stories about their transition to life at Vanderbilt. The Showcase’s overarching message was that students have the power to come together to build community. Lanterns has taken its own shape and form since then, and it makes me content to know that more conversations between domestic and international students are being held and that little by little, the gap between international and domestic students is growing smaller. 

Storytelling–the core of Lanterns’ existence–is key to building empathy and to our collective healing. I extend this to the HEAL blog, with “Lanterns” a part of the acronym.

In case of interest, check out the below “A Gift of Stories” video I made in college interviewing 19 other students on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The majority of students engaged in such issues were students of color while truly all of us should be in conversation. I center storytelling as a powerful tool for building community and raising awareness around DEI and beyond.

A Gift of Stories

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