Parma (HN Grad.) resident promotes health, through WHO internship…

By Susan Ketchum, Sun News 
on January 11, 2013 at 4:28 PM, updated January 11, 2013 at 4:38 PM

PARMA– Even in high school, Charles Hayes knew that working in fast food was not going to help him reach his goal of helping make the world a healthier place.

Looking for a job that did not involve working with grease led the Parma resident and 2010 Holy Name High School graduate to apply for a research internship with the Cleveland Clinic. That turned into two years of working with the Clinic, including as a research assistant for the nursing administration at Fairview Hospital, and with the Medina Hospital Office of Civic Education.

Now a junior international studies major at Baldwin Wallace University, the hospital experience paved the way for him to be chosen as one of the youngest interns for the World

Baldwin Wallace student Charlie Hayes of Parma stands near Le Moleson, a mountain near Gruyeres, Switzerland in the foothills of the Alps, not far from Geneva, where he interned with the World Health Organization

Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He returned in December after four months spent working with the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative.

He called the job part research, part education, and part party planning.

“In Europe, the packaging on cigarettes says ‘Smoking Kills,’ but there are more smokers in Europe than in the U.S.,” Hayes said. “We try to educate people. Believe it or not, there are still people in the world who don’t know that tobacco kills.”

In some cases, he was called on to do research on a country’s tobacco laws and court cases, or to help parliamentarians in a country pass legislation to help control tobacco products. For instance, Australia recently passed a “plain packaging” law for cigarettes that includes graphic pictures of people affected by smoking on each pack of cigarettes, Hayes explained. In Tazmania, the government is trying to create a smoke-free generation by not selling cigarettes to anyone born after 2000.

“Being in Geneva opened up my eyes. There is so much you can do,” he said.

But the experience was not all work. Hayes also kept up with his studies by taking courses through a branch of Kent State, and learned about European culture, including indulging in the Swiss tradition of fondue in Gruyeres, made with the local cheese.

“They are much more relaxed there. Dinner always takes a good three hours,” he said. “The only fast food is McDonald’s. Geneva has the most expensive Big Mac in the world.”

The lack of fast food is only one of the ways the European diet differs from that of Americans. Alcohol is legal for young people, often at age 16, but there is little binge drinking, he said. Overall, food is more expensive, especially beef, because cattle are allowed to graze naturally. However, fruits and vegetables often are cheaper than in the U.S.

“It made me look at some of my eating habits. It is cheaper to eat badly here, when you can get a fast-food hamburger for a dollar,” he said.

He did not have classes on Fridays, so he frequently took long weekends to explore the rest of Europe. He went hang-gliding in Interlaken, Switzerland, took in the sights of Rome, marveled at a performance of Don Giovanni at the Vienna State Opera, and enjoyed the nightlife in Barcelona and Budapest, where he has extended family. Over Thanksgiving break he traveled with friends to Paris, London and Ireland, where the weather was uncharacteristically sunny and beautiful.

Language was no problem in Geneva, where French is the primary language, but most people are also fluent in English. His German minor helped him get by in many of the other countries he visited. Communication was only a problem during one of his first trips, to a friend’s home in Bordeaux, in southern France. He had forgotten to exchange his Swiss francs for Euros, and had no money and no way to get to his connecting flight. On top of that, no one spoke English, and his French was minimal.

He found himself walking downtown to find a bank, but it was closed and the ATM would not take his credit card because he had not informed the company he was traveling. He finally saw a sign for American Express, then found a taxi to take him back in time for his flight, about 50 Euros, or $70, poorer.

“That was the one time I had culture shock,” he said. “It was an expensive lesson learned.”

Now back home and ready to return to classes, he called going abroad the “best decision of my life.” He would love to go back, but also wants to travel to new places.

“I will see where the road takes me,” he said.

With three semesters left, he is still unsure what he wants to do after graduation, but law school is a possibility.

“Ultimately, I want to somehow help make the world a healthier, happier and more equal place for all people,” Hayes said.