Peer Global Health Initiatives, Inc. is a private non-profit corporation governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors. The program is primarily conducted by Ms. Reva Peer (President) and Ms. Anika Peer (Vice-President). We are supported by several additional Board Members in out efforts.
Reva Peer is a MS4 medical student studying at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry (URMC) in Rochester, NY who has a deep passion for the physically and intellectually challenged, and has contributed towards supporting the cause of the disabled. Global Health advocacy and more specifically advocacy for the under-served and under-represented populations in health care has been a passion of Reva’s. Reva has been fortunate to have had ample opportunities to fulfill this passion throughout her adult life.
Community service has been a core value of hers, and she has had numerous opportunities to serve her community both locally and globally through her involvement with GlobeMed, Interact Club, 4-H YES Program, Placer County Youth Commission and Girl Scouts. Reva is a Silver and Gold Award Recipient with the Heart of Central California Council of the Girl Scouts of America. Being a Girl Scout has instilled within Reva a purpose to help her community. While helping others, Scouting has also contributed to Reva’s personal development. Earning the Silver Award, Reva unintentionally challenged the prejudice about the disabled when upgrading a storage facility for a local Special Olympics Program. This experience exposed her to the physical and emotional needs of the physically and intellectually handicapped in her immediate community and the limited resources they have access to. For her Gold Award, Reva pursued her passion for helping this segment of our society, by reaching out to those who live outside her immediate community in a developing nation and receive no assistance. Reva’s research of World Health Organization (WHO) publications, regarding the handicapped in developing countries, revealed that because of poverty and illiteracy, the disabled people in the impoverished areas of these countries lead miserable lives. Children and adults with mental disabilities are segregated and often exiled from their communities. Those with these disabilities are regarded by society as a blemish on family status, a punishment for misdeeds in a previous life, an omen of bad luck and generally an object of shame for their families. Such attitudes make the disabled susceptible to exploitation, neglect and abuse. To confront some of these misconceptions, to learn firsthand about the plight of the disabled and to provide some relief and help to this segment of our society, Reva traveled to one of the impoverished regions of India. She volunteered her time shadowing a physician in a hospital and at his clinic and then spent several days at SAMADHAN, a non-profit organization that works with the disabled in the slums and refugee colony of Dakshinpuri. She accompanied the outreach workers from SAMADHAN during their community surveys, interviewed the locals, met with the families of some disabled children, and convinced and helped them understand the importance of education and regular medical check-ups. Additionally, by working hands-on with the handicapped children in the Inclusive Preschool, in the physical therapy center and at the medical clinic, she was able to provide some relief and help to this segment of our society. Eventually her experiences as a scout helped dispel some of the stereotypes of the disabled even within the slums of India. After returning home, Reva developed and is hosting a website, Care For Disabled, about her Gold Award Project and her efforts in India.
Reva’s travels to the slums in India exposed her to differing views regarding disabilities and emphasized several cultural gaps and severe prejudices against the disabled. Although discouraged, Reva reflected back on her efforts with the Special Olympics Program and other disability awareness programs back home; and did not put her feelings of disappointment above their suffering. Reva continued working towards transforming both her and others’ ignorance, and reveal the stereotypes about the disabled. During her interactions locally and overseas, Reva further realized the importance of being able to communicate and learning from other cultures and communities. Reva also learned that working at the grassroots level with a community can foster a closer, trusting bond which facilitates such continued exchanges and promotes finding solutions to global health-care issues.
Committed to raising awareness, which causes beneficial change and promotes equality, Reva then founded Peer Global Health Initiatives, Inc. to inspire others in her community to get involved in the cause of the disabled. Reva’s community service efforts and experiences have made her cognizant of injustices that exist in our society; PGHI gives her an opportunity to assist this diverse but underprivileged disabled communities.
Partnering with Aim Higher Inc., and with SAMADHAN, has allowed Reva to incorporate and transition her passion for serving the disabled from her local community into the global arena. Reaching out and supporting the Asian Federation on Intellectual Disabilities (AFID) has also linked Reva to the disability issues confronting the entire Asian sub-continent. Conducting research on Cassava, the staple food in sub-Saharan regions, which has been linked to several disabilities of its consumers, has exposed Reva to the cause of the disabled in those impoverished regions.
Reva’s desire to continue promoting cultural exchanges of information, especially related to mental health and disability, influenced her time as an undergraduate at the University of Rochester where she earned a degree in Molecular Genetics with a minor in Psychology. Additionally as Director of Communications for the University Of Rochester’s chapter of GlobeMed, Reva strived to improve global health of populations across all socio-economic backgrounds by promoting discussions to address challenges faced by our society. As advocate for global health equity, Reva and her team partnered with grassroots organization Kallpa Iquitos in Peru and SOVA in India to tackle health disparities alongside these organization, and helped them plan projects to improve health of their community through fundraising so they could become self-sustainable. Reva planned large scale local fundraisers in Rochester to raise funds for the organization; and assisted with creating and maintaining website for the UR Chapter of GlobeMed. Reva also lead a group of committee members to develop and implement all public relations and advertisement strategies for the UR Chapter of Globmed.
Reva enrolled at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) to study abroad for the Fall semester of her senior year. Reva’s interest in mental health and disability motivated her to take courses in psychology and psychiatry at CUHK. Reva also chose Hong Kong as her destination since it is a city actively pursuing a cultural exchange of information between Western and East Asian thought and philosophies related to health care and life style in general. During her time in Hong Kong, she took psychology classes that focused on mental health and disability. In addition, she also volunteered through a group associated with CUHK to teach English to students in rural communities once every week.
After graduating college, Reva applied to and was accepted to serve as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Grantee in South Korea. Reva lived in South Korea for the one gap year between undergraduate school and medical school. For that year, Reva not only taught English to her Korean middle school students at a public school in Changwon, but also served as a US cultural ambassador. In her role as a cultural ambassador, Reva taught lessons where she and her students explored different world perspectives on topics ranging from healthcare to media to even pop culture. In addition to her required responsibilities as the English language teacher, Reva in her personal time lead a language and cultural exchange group with other Korean teachers at the school. Reva assisted with club classes for the special-needs students at her school; and volunteered at a government center for North Korean Defector students. Reva’s goal for entering this program was to push herself out of her comfort zone by choosing to live and work in a foreign country and stay in a homestay arrangement with a local family, expand her cultural perspective, and gain personal experience mentoring young people. Reva chose this assignment because in the future she hopes to lead advocacy trips overseas for the disabled and mentally challenged communities in other countries, while also learning from the people in those countries about their healthcare system and health practices to determine how best to increase awareness.
Anika Peer is a student at Richmond Hill High School in Richmond Hill, Ontario who aspires to attend an engineering school after graduating. She is a well-rounded student, who has remained a member of various student societies and clubs throughout her high school career. Anika works with the Breakfast Program at Richmond Hill High School in meal preparation for less fortunate teenagers at the school. She also assists in event planning to ensure that club meetings run smoothly. Richmond Hill High School is one of the schools in York Region District School Board that educates students with disabilities concurrently to its regular students.
In December 2017, Anika also attended a York Region District School Board conference on inclusivity in schools. She learned that a significant percentage of the homeless youth in Richmond Hill suffer from physical and mental disabilities. This, in turn, ignited a passion for helping teenagers, and she volunteered her time to assist in accounting, for a project in partnership with 360 Kids. In December 2018, homeless youth at 360 Kids received all the Christmas gifts on lists provided to the organizer of the program. From March to May 2017, inspired by the conference, Anika assisted her Breakfast Program supervisor Mrs.Hadi in creating memory scrapbooks for graduating students with disabilities in her spare periods. She received an opportunity to speak with teachers and the students and formed personal connections with many of them. In the summer of 2019, Anika plans to volunteer at a camp for students with disabilities many of whom will be students from her high school. She enjoys teaching them, and her interactions with them help reinforce the importance of inclusivity to herself and those working with her.