Jennifer Rowley was a kid herself when she volunteered at a Cambodian orphanage. Every child there had lost a parent to AIDS; many were HIV positive.
“That experience was a turning point in my life,” Rowley recalled. “It really laid the groundwork for my interest in health and medicine.”
Rowley, an anthropology major in Arts & Sciences, had volunteered for a number of community projects when a local clinic asked her to start a sexual health seminar for teenagers who had been pregnant or treated for sexually transmitted diseases. She recruited volunteers and developed the curriculum.
“We answered everything from ‘Where does a period come from?’ to ‘How does the adoption system work?’ ” Rowley said. “We weren’t there to tell them how to live their lives but to give them that safe place to ask questions and share their experiences. In the end, they discovered their own power to make the right decisions for themselves.”
Rowley’s efforts earned her the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award this spring. After graduation, Rowley will serve as a Princeton in Asia fellow in Bangkok, Thailand. There she will work with Population Service International, a global health organization dedicated to improving maternal health and AIDS and HIV care.
“I’m coming full circle,” Rowley said. “To go back to that part of the world is so exciting.”