Three things I learned:
- Over the course of the fieldwork, we conducted many interviews and received some answers that did not quite align with the research we had done in the past semester. Many PHU workers and villagers would tell us that they have not experienced maternal death or if they had, it was in the past. For about a week we assumed it had to do with trauma and not wanting to acknowledge the problem despite how big it was. However, we learned that there could be multiple reasons for that denial, including the fear of being investigated since they were speaking on camera or because any maternal deaths from their patients were referred to the hospitals and were no longer considered deaths of that clinic. I learned that we could not be quick to assume anything, especially in a setting where the culture was different from ours in the U.S.
- Throughout this trip, I also encountered several ethical dilemmas and one of them had to do with the issue of acquiring consent from our interviewees. I learned that we needed to be more aware of our privilege and our own position as the interviewer behind the camera. That we had to be conscious of any power dynamics that might be coming into play. Consent doesn’t always mean a signed form. All of the mothers we’ve interviewed were hand-picked by the nurses we had interviewed prior to them and none of them looked too comfortable to be sitting in front of the camera. This was a much-needed experience for me to properly think about what consent really is.
- For the first few days we were in Sierra Leone, we didn’t know where to start so we simply tagged along to the clinics with the other teams. But we quickly realized that we needed to start reaching out to people first if we were going to get anything done for our project. We couldn’t just sit around and wait for the connections to come to us.
Three things that facilitated my professional development:
- I definitely think that I have become a better interviewer. From my first interview to the last one, I have seen significant improvement in the types of questions I ask. In the beginning, I asked a lot of unrelated questions but near the end, most of my questions would be follow-ups based on what the participant’s answered and they would make more of a story that would fit into a documentary well.
- I have become better equipped with the camera and have become more familiar with shooting at different angles and lighting. Before this trip, I was not very comfortable with the camera but now I feel more confident in my ability to take videos and pictures wherever I go.
- With documentary storymaking, there were multiple challenges we faced during this trip but we were adaptable and overcame them each time. Whenever we had ethical issues or critical stakeholders who denied us interviews at first, we had to figure out ways to still get what we needed. Adaptability was something that we wouldn’t have survived this fieldwork without and it’s a skill I definitely learned.
Three things that helped me grow personally:
- I have become a more social person in general. Most of the time I’m very introverted and have a difficult time spending a lot of time with people but this trip forced me out of my comfort zone and made me feel more familiar being around people all the time.
- I became a much better communicator while also trying to avoid being condescending. Since a lot of our work required working with Sierra Leoneans who have different concepts of time and a different language, it was difficult adjusting to the change at first. There would be times when I had trouble understanding what message people were trying to convey to me and vice versa. To try and remove the language barrier, I would try to use more gestures or use simpler words to rephrase my questions in a lighthearted manner so that I sound friendly while still getting my point across.
- My patience was also improved from this trip. Some of our stakeholders took more convincing than others to get an interview with them on camera but I learned that patience was key with these people. They simply wanted to learn more about our documentary and what we planned on doing with it before they agreed to being filmed and being patient in those situations was vital.