Our first full day in Sierra Leone!
Our day began with a brief tour of the facilities here at World Hope International, our primary partners in-country. A World Hope employee, named Musa, then took us to the bakery that was recently completed on the grounds. The bakery, Betteh Bakery was just recently completed and workers are going through training before the facility becomes functional. Primarily built for the purpose of making bread, the facility’s oven (pictured below) will be perfect for cooking our muffins and potentially dehydrating ingredients for the bouillon cube. Most of the other equipment inside would not be necessary for the project.
Following our visit to the Betteh bakery, we travelled to a facility overseen by Musa where disabled workers work on various crafts including: metalwork, woodwork, and farming of cassava, ground nuts, ginger, and development of cornflower and palm oil. This was important insight for both of the malnutrition groups, as it showed us that most of our ingredients are readily available. We also came across a possible new ingredient. The moringa leave is very common here in Sierra Leone and is believed to be one of the next superfoods. The leaves are high in both Iron and Vitamin A. The leaves can be ground down to a flower and perhaps mixed into our products. While there, Musa, who oversees social ventures at World Hope, explained that he has the resources to set us up with suppliers for a lot of the ingredients our recipes use, which answered a lot of our supply chain questions very early.
Finally after returning from the visit, we went downtown to explore the markets.
Once again our ingredients were confirmed to be available in the markets. We received our money towards the end of the day and plan to figure out the cost of the ingredients most likely tomorrow. We also travelled to a supermarket to see the price of certain ingredients that we were thinking about incorporating into our recipes. For example, we looked into using coconut milk as a base for the pudding product. As expected, the prices were too steep to include in the products.
All in all, we had an extremely productive first day here. In Khanjan’s words, we really “hit the ground running” and are excited to keep moving forward during the next few days.
Signing up for the Creative Inquiry classes was an easy decision for me. The Malnutrition project allows me to research an area of the world that I am not very familiar with and allows me to make a difference. I began working on the Malnutrition project last semester and quickly became attached to it. I was also attracted to the uniqueness of the program. Often times I find myself wondering in a typical lecture, where and how am I going to apply this knowledge to the real world. The Global Social Impact Fellowship gives me the opportunity to learn how to apply the knowledge that I have acquired throughout my academic career. In my opinion this skill is crucial to being successful in the future. Finally, helping others is something that I feel should be a part of everyone’s life. Being able to positively impact the lives of an entire population is truly an opportunity that I could not pass up.
As a bioengineer, we are taught how to think creatively and problem solve. I don’t think there is another program at Lehigh, or anywhere, that more accurately addresses these two skills. At the start of the Malnutrition project, our group was given a simple problem statement, and from there we had to determine how we would address the problem with advice from our mentors. While this project helps me to learn how to think creatively and problem solve, it also teaches me what life is actually like in the workforce. In school, we are used to being given a problem and solving for the answer, and for the most part there is always an answer. I know now that this is absolutely not the case in the real world. The path to the solution is not predetermined and is not direct. The solution to our Malnutrition project will take years and the minds of many individuals to determine.
Compared to the rest of the world, the African continent is extremely deficient in physicians. Training to become a physician is expensive and time consuming. For this reason, citizens in many African countries have a difficult time addressing their health-related issues. For instance, there is almost no access to optometrists in many countries throughout Africa. Even still, access to these doctors often requires a lot of travel time and is expensive for people who live off a very low income. Living with unaddressed eye deficiencies can be incredibly disruptive to the lives of a person. It would effect every aspect of a person’s life, including their work. Eye deficiencies would make productivity levels much lower and could lead to an individual losing their job and/or not receiving the compensation that they would if they had adequate eye sight. Addressing this lack of optical care is something that entrepreneurs and humanitarians have been trying to address for years and have been unsuccessful. There are many things to consider before just coming up with a plan. How will 1,000,000,000+ people get eye exams that are affordable and accessible? Do these people even want glasses? Often times, there are cultural differences in other countries that people do not take into consideration when developing a plan. For instance, some cultures may view eye glasses as a sign of weakness and thus, would refuse to wear them. In my opinion, I do not think there is a feasible way to simply distribute glasses that are easily accessible, affordable, and effective to the entire continent of Africa. So, my next thought is to figure out why so many people are suffering from optical deficiencies. There are many reasons why people can have blurry vision. In most cases, it is just natural for someone to develop blurry vision. However, there are some cases where blurry vision can be prevented and, interestingly enough, they can be connected to the Malnutrition project. Deficiencies in certain nutrients such as Vitamin A can damage parts of the eye and lead to blurry vision that is preventable. So, one way to address this issue would be to develop a food supplement! The supplement would have to include ingredients that contain high values of Vitamin A, while also making sure the product is something that would go along with the population’s everyday diet. After the product is developed, we would have to determine how the product would be manufactured and distributed so that it was easily accessible. Although this solution would not address eye deficiencies in their entirety, I believe that it would make a notable impact over time.
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