Three lessons learned:
- Asking for what we needed: The role I took on during fieldwork was coordinating with World Hope to meet mothers and children. Everyone we had met at World Hope until that point had been very nice and eager to help with our project, but we hadn’t really asked for any significant help with anything. Later, we realized that everyone was extremely willing to help with anything we needed. I approached Momoh, a World Hope/CHAMPS employee, about reaching out to mothers and children to come to the World Hope office for taste tests. It was the first day I had met Momoh, yet he wanted to help in any way he could. He claimed he had the names and phone numbers for “all the lactacting women in Makeni.” Even though he was obviously joking, around 200 mothers and children came to the World Hope office thanks to Momoh that day. Another World Hope employee, Musa, is in charge of social ventures, and he connected us with farmers that we could contact when we eventually need to buy foods in bulk. Both clinics we visited, Kalongba and Kamambai, interrupted their normal days to accommodate us. The CHO set up areas for us to collect data and helped us control the line of mothers we were interviewing. When we went to villages, we notified chiefs that we were coming the day before, but essentially just walked up to people’s homes and asked if they wanted to be interviewed. In the US, most people would not be receptive to people coming up to their homes and asking them to try food, but (almost) everyone was extremely welcoming and willing to participate. Later on in our project, we will need to take advantage of these relationships and people’s willingness to help us for possible clinical trials and testing of our products. We were very grateful for all of the help and resources we received in country.
- Our products could be sold in SL: Lastly, our team’s biggest insight was that our products were actually well-liked and could be implemented into the diets of children in Makeni. We have not done extensive data analysis yet, but generally, mothers and children enjoyed our products and said they would purchase them in the market or in a shop setting. We were able to get over 350 data points for the two recipes, and we will be able to assess any changes that need to be made to the products. This semester, we want to analyze our fieldwork results and explain our methodology and reports in a paper. We also want to secure funding in order to advance the project forward.
- Prevalence of fortified baby foods: We learned that many mothers already feed their younger children fortified baby foods like Nutrilac and Cerelac.
- Importance of team dynamics: The first few days of our trip were difficult. We quickly learned that trying to listen to the opinions of 7 team members on every issue was not going to be efficient. Thanks to Khanjan, we were able to refocus our energy and reevaluate the role of each member of our team. We became much more productive over the course of the trip and were able to reach our goal number of data points and more. Additionally, each member of our team really stepped up and took on an important role. The days were extremely long but having everyone responsible for one aspect of the project really helped. Moving forward, we will definitely continue with the assigned roles of each team member to prevent any miscommunication and increase productivity.
- Having a plan A,B,C: In Sierra Leone, we faced a lot of hiccups. In the beginning, it seemed like there was a new obstacle each day that we weren’t prepared for. We learned how important it is to prepare more than one back up plan. We cooked our products at the Betteh Bakery, but when they were closed, we used the hotel oven, and when that didn’t work well, we used a pressure cooker/coals, and when that didn’t work, we only took interviews for one of our products. Our entire team got better at adapting to every situation as fieldwork went on, and I think this well be very helpful in facing the next stages of our project.
- Conflict resolution: When we had to come up with plans A, B, and C, our team would sometimes feel defeated or be angry at how things turned out. We each developed conflict resolution skills to get to the bottom of each issue that we were presented with and were able to reach our interview goal despite these obstacles.
- Knowing when to step back: On this trip, I was really able to develop my leadership skills and learned when it’s important to step back. I talk often and openly and forget that sometimes my opinions can come off strongly. In the beginning of the trip, I think I was taking on too many responsibilities, but once we delegated roles to each team member, it became much easier, and I felt better about my role on the team.
- Communicating directly and efficiently: Initially, I was nervous about asking for too much and telling people what we needed. I thought I was taking advantage of people or being rude if I asked for help from people at World Hope and our translators. On the other hand, sometimes there was a miscommunication between what I would ask others for and what they thought I meant. By the end, I learned how important it was to state exactly what I needed in order to collect data efficiently.
- Finally, I was reminded of my privilege and the disparity in life across the world. We had to work with much less in Sierra Leone, and it made us creative and more knowledgeable, but it also made me put things into perspective. Whenever I was angry about being sick or sick of the food their eating, I reminded myself that these are things people go through every day of their life.