Birthday Bash in Gbendembu

In this edition of Ukweli adventures, one of our very own fierce warriors – the longest trooper at Lehigh to have stayed on the project – turned a whopping 22 years old today. Indeed, it was a birthday to remember. Cassidy Drost, 5’8″ hailing from sunny San Diego and master of any and all card games, celebrated today in Makeni surrounded by all her Global Social Impact Fellows. Not only did she get to ride shotgun all day, but she was doused with a birthday card, an avocado fresh from the market, ice cream at dinner and several exciting birthday gifts awaiting her back at Lehigh. Cassidy is officially the oldest GSIF and we were all so happy to celebrate her day together in Sierra Leone.

And the fun continued all day. Instead of doing office work all day, we took a ride first thing in the morning to the Gbendembu clinic. While we were originally planning on talking to the clinic’s CHWs on messaging for Ukweli Test Strips, plans changed when we arrived and found out that the CHW monthly meeting actually occurs later on in August. However, we were still able to salvage the visit and had the unique opportunity to speak with the first female CHW I have seen in Makeni during fieldwork. Hassan did a great job yet again guiding the discussion and informing the CHW directly of the opportunity Ukweli Test Strips presents to health workers like herself, both in terms of financial incentive and in empowering them to do more to serve the individuals in their communities.

Some adorable goats outside the clinic!


After the interview with the CHW, we all walked back toward the World Hope van…. until lo and behold, Sierra Leone roads struck again. The victim this time? The back right tire of the van. That’s right, a flat. But with some help from a nice man in the village who helped us change the spare tire, we were back on the road in less than a half hour. The delay was actually welcomed by the team, since the village was pretty and it was a comfortable temperature. It also gave us the opportunity to buy some ginger cakes off of a local woman. Flour, water and ginger is apparently all it takes to entertain a bunch of college kids and keep us happy while we waited for the tire to be swapped out.


Cassidy doing a tree pose under a ginormous almond tree!


On the way back to World Hope, the sun continued to shine and the day kept getting better as Ukweli took full advantage. William, our driver, pulled over by a pretty stream and we were all instantly reconnected with nature. The team took photos, skipped some rocks and then took in the views at the bridge going over the stream… until Hassan got nervous we were getting too close to the edge (us Ukwelians can be ris-que) and walked back to the van.

Two members of the Ukweli team plus Marc on the bridge!

Back in the cave at the World Hope office, the team got right back to work on Hassan’s contract and motorcycle logistics, which we hope to finalize tomorrow in our last day in Makeni. We also identified a quality control test to run and some last-minute edits to the training materials. The day ended with an upbeat meeting at Radio Mankneh, where we connected with an employee at the radio station and got ideas for programming for Ukweli along with pricing options. Patrick from Mankneh was very engaged with our project and we hope to get Ukweli on the air both through in-studio interviews and in-the-field coverage of Hassan’s training sessions.

I was about to sign off… but, wait. This just in from THE Khanjan Mehta. Breaking news out here from the Makambo resort. The money for the marketing license has FINALLY been officially submitted, and our 90-day countdown until approval from the Pharmacy Board starts NOW! Though the team is disappointed at the delay in the whole process, we are so happy that we are now on the right track and we can officially launch the venture, featuring the selling of our test strips, this fall.


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