I enrolled in this course for the same five reasons that I indicated in my initial application to be a Global Social Impact Fellow. But the main reason I am here is to solve problems and to help people. I am dedicated to solving problems and creating a more fair, prosperous and righteous world – and doing everything in my power to meet the diverse and sometimes overwhelming challenges that plague today’s world. This course and fellowship almost seem like a dream come true in that I have an opportunity to make real, tangible strides to advance solutions toward complex global sustainable challenges alongside my motivated and committed peers across all disciplines at a prestigious university. I cannot wait to learn from the other Fellows in the program, hear about their inspiring work and answer tough questions to improve myself and my team’s project, which at its core is about saving lives. In summary, I am in this course for no reason short of changing the world, making a positive impact on the world and, of course, impact.
Something that I am so enthusiastic about is the ability of this project and this course to change not only hopefully people, families and communities in Sierra Leone, but also for its promising nature to change me personally and fundamentally. And one benefit of this course that cannot be overlooked is how major-inclusive it is in the fact that everybody is expected to learn about all parts of social impact. Nothing stands in the way of business majors from understanding the technology aspect of a project, nor a political scientist from learning about the role of communication. One missing link will cause a project to fail in some regard, and the magic of interdisciplinarity is alive and well in this course. For me as a journalism student, this course will challenge me to practice good writing habits with the weekly blog assignment, and will challenge me to choose my words, both verbal and written, carefully and with precision when presenting in front of professional academics and my peers and through grant writing and research papers. And as someone interested in political science, I will have the opportunity to learn about various countries’ domestic policies, infrastructure, place in the world and the operational structure of their government. Importantly, I will also be pushed in new directions – even within my own areas of study, and much more so in topics I am less familiar with. Though I have extensive experience in writing, editing and multimedia, I have never designed a radio program before, which is one of my roles within my project. And I will also be asked to learn and understand the ins and outs of a foreign country’s healthcare system – something that I find fascinating but nonetheless will be a challenging task. However, I am confident that the course’s demands to self-discover a sense of leadership, perseverance and curiosity and willingness to try new things will allow for much personal growth with the result of a stronger and more versatile journalism student.
The primary problem in a situation like the one described in Kenya with a lack of optometrists is education. Once we identify the root cause of an overwhelming problem, we can work out from there. Similar to the Urinary Tract Infection test strip method, the first step before diagnosis is knowing that you have a vision problem. Though this may seem simple, a common issue is the individual “shrugging off” their complication and either just dealing or truly believing it’s normal. Getting eye test kits into the hands of individuals – especially youth as they mature and the elderly – will be the big task of addressing this issue. Of course, training optometrists is the ultimate goal here, which involves access to education and economic resources. But a more immediate investment into this issue would be to offer Kenyans affordable eye test kits, which would include a basic eye test chart and instructions (i.e. stand 15 feet away, cover one eye, etc.). With someone else “scoring” this individual, if the person taking the test cannot answer a certain percentage of letters correctly, he or she knows that they will have to look into medical assistance. Simultaneously, leveraging partnerships with medical organizations in Kenya and the United Nations, Lehigh University should propose a movement to train and educate individuals in an affordable way to result in a certification in optometry, who can then be deployed to regions most vulnerable. Therefore, this combination of easily dispensable eye test kits and low-cost optometry education would attack the issue of a lack of access to eyeglasses from two directions and subsequently result in a better vision, more productivity and a greater quality of life throughout the country of Kenya.