8/18/19 – Pain and Parades

Today was a rough day for Ukweli, but we still accomplished as much of possible. At the beginning of the day, Zachary posted his daily meme of the day (which was a fire meme). The team figured out what Hassan will be doing during the interim period of time between acquiring the marketing license and now. He will be traveling to mother support groups in order to educate them about the danger of preeclampsia and maternal health in general. He will also be meeting with religious officials, traditional healers, chiefdom heads and anyone else with a far reach in order to expand the Ukweli operations and educate those under their purview. This will also allow Ukweli to establish our base clientele for when we are ready to fully launch and able to sell strips. Jordan, Cassidy, and Rohan completed the preeclampsia data log for Hassan to fill out after he has talked to one of these groups or leaders. This will allow us to understand the prevalence of preeclampsia in the community and assess the full effect of the condition on the community. In order to check how effective this messaging strategy is, Naakesh and Zach created a survey for the groups that Hassan has presented to. Jawara, another World Hope employee will call the group heads and ask them how effective they felt the messaging was and if they would recommend us to any other groups. Not only would this help us fix any flaws that we did not notice in the education, but it would also increase our range of effect if more leaders recommended our presentation to other groups. During the break in our work, Naakesh was able to beat level 300 on candy crush. (This is not that large of a milestone though because Cassidy is on level 1500). We were also able to name the second puppy at the World Hope office. Originally his name was Boots, which I think is adorable, but we quickly found that the local accent has trouble pronouncing the word boots. We renamed the dog Attin, which means playful in Timné. This is a fitting name due to the fact that this dog really enjoys playing with every person that comes his way. There was also a large parade today on the street in front of the World Hope offices today. The Ukweli team went outside in order to observe the festivities. Only later did we find out that it was actually a memorial service for a recently fallen government official. We were very thrown by this news due to the fact that people in the street were so lively, they were cheering and playing joyful music. I believe that they were celebrating a life instead of mourning a death and that is a beautiful sentiment. Still wish that Jordan hadn’t smiled at the service though. Show a little respect man.

Jordan at the parade with a random dude making direct eye contact with the cameraAfterwards, the team worked on the business paper. This document is the origin of the turmoil for the Ukweli team. We argued with Khanjan but eventually came to a mutual agreement. He will take a hard look at the paper and deem whether or not more resources should be put towards it. Also Chris tried doing a high kick and fell really hard. I could hear it while he was outside and we were on the opposite side of a building.

Now the Unwell team will lay down to rest in each of their respective beds. Hopefully Zach will snuggle with me tonight.

This has been DJ Bambi, thanks for listening. Signing off.

8/15/19 – Bucket Hat to the Max!

Today was an quite a mixed bag of a day. The team arose at an early hour in order to get a jump on a full day of work. We left for the World Hope office at 8:00 AM. A blow occurred in the early hours of the day. The team had to tell Hassan that the marketing license will not be accepted until three months after we leave Sierra Leone. Khanjan confirmed that it will be at least 90 days. Telling Hassan this not only brought down all of our spirits, but hurt the morale of Hassan as well. We tried to get Hassan a job as a translator for the malnutrition team in the mean time while we are waiting on the marketing license. Today left us with a lot to reflect on, between issues in transatlantic communication and bureaucracy reaching to even the farthest corners of the developing world.

In order to store the strips during this new  interim period, the team needed to purchase a large bin. We ventured into market and were approached by many vendors who tried to sell us very authentic Gucci slides and Louie Vuitton belts. Being the shrewd businessmen and businesswomen that the team is, we were able to see through their sales pitch. After purchasing the bucket, Zach was instructed by one of the merchants to place the containment unit upon his head in order to minimize stress to his very weak forearms. During this process, we stopped at a stand to buy Sierra Leone bon bons. Cassidy described them as, “It was better than I expected and it reminded me of SpongeBob”. After doing this, Zach was heckled by many a locals.

Once we returned to World Hope International, we observed that each member of the team that ventured into the market had sweat through their shirt due to both the high temperature and humidity. Hassan promptly pointed out that we paid too much for the bin (which was supposed to be a wooden crate, apparently) but we did our best. The team went out for a stretch in order to circulate blood and increase creativity.

Sage wrote the job description for HR to review.

Zach and Naakesh wrote the planning document that will guide how the mock training at World Hope will go. The mock training is used to determine how the training content is presented in the most digestible way possible. The training document is also used to see how easy it is to fill out the data collection documents which are paramount to our success.

Rohan tried to perform exposure tests in order to determine whether the strips have an accelerated rate of deterioration when exposed multiple environmental factors. This test yielded inconclusive results due to the weather changing from sunny to down-pouring in the span of fifteen minutes.

The Ukweli team received an email from Allieu about the application for expedited review. There were certain edits that needed to be made within 15 minutes of receiving that email. The team sprang into action and was able to make the edits and finalize the email within 14 minutes and 59 seconds.

After a sobering day, the team decided to brighten their spirits with a round of a Capella singing in order to practice for the GSIF talent show. There was also a round of the card game ERS, in which Rohan won like a champion, and Jordan cam in close second. Sage and Cassidy were new to the game but showed promise for improving in the future.

Thanks for listening hope you tune in next time, this has been DJ Bambi spinning up some live beats for y’all.

8/14/19 – Clinics, New Strategies, and More Rain

Hello Ukweli Fans!

We had a loaded and interesting day. Rohan and Zach split off from the rest of the team this morning to visit two different peripheral health units: Makamp and Mapaki. Although the meeting with the Nurse in Charge at Makamp ended abruptly because a women in the process of delivering a baby arrived on a motorcycle, we got some good information about their operations and they seemed very interested in our product. Similar to Makamp, the health workers at Makapi were interested in our product, and were excited for our team to eventually come back and train their CHWs. There was also a Peace Corps Volunteer from Pennsylvania (small world) working at the Makapi clinic, and she provided us with very good insights about the health care system of Sierra Leone. 

A photo from the Makamp Community Health Post in the Bombali District.

A photo from the Mapaki Community Health Clinic in the Bombali District.

While Rohan and Zach were at the clinics, the rest of the team was back at World Hope figuring out the rest of the operations for the trip and pushing to get our Marketing License for the test strip approved. During that time, the team found a pretty cool tree to climb, so Ukweli now has a fun thing to do during breaks from work. 

After Rohan and Zach returned from the clinics, the whole team assembled to lay out the strategies for the rest of the trip. We decided on how to conduct trainings without being able to actually sell the test strips, which appears to be a likely scenario with the marketing license being held up for a little longer than expected, and decided on three Community Health Clinics (Binkolo, Kamabai, and Makamp) to target for Hassan to officially train while the Lehigh team is still in Sierra Leone. After calling Hassan to tell him about our plans, a few team members made their way over to the local hospital so Jordan can get his ear infection looked at. Ukweli is glad to report that he is on the road to recovery. After that, the team had enough time to start planning out which song to sign acapella to for the GSIF talent show on the last day in Makeni. We’re not going to spoil what songs we’ve narrowed it down to, but needless to say it will be great. 

Cassidy, Jordan, and a Malnutrition team member in front of the hospital where Jordan got his ear looked at.

While most of the day was fairly calm weather-wise, around 3:30 Greenwich Mean Time (11:30 Eastern Standard Time), it started raining very hard (maybe even four ‘hards’ according to Hassan (inside joke for Ukweli)). 

*Side Note: Lights just went off in the hotel lobby, I’m going to power through and write this in the dark.*

Obviously, going outside and playing tag in a downpour is the best thing to do in the rain, so Ukweli and team members from various other projects took part in a round of tag that lasted 15 minutes and left everyone soaked and very uncomfortable. It will be interesting to see if the clothing will ever dry due to the high humidity Sierra Leone has during the rainy season.

*Side Note: Lights are back on in the hotel lobby.*

A few of the GSIF members who took part in the game of tag.

Dinner tonight was pretty good also! After eating pretty much exclusively rice and beans for the whole trip thus far, tonight we had rice and beans… but also potatoes! Having a little change in the meal made being soggy and cold a little better.

Sage was also very excited that her outfit matched Mark’s outfit pretty well (the kid who couldn’t open the tuna can for all those readers who have been following along with the blog post), and made sure a picture was taken.

8/8/19- A Day at World Hope

Today the Ukweli team spent their time indoors for the majority of the day. The team spent the day running through messaging strategies with our great buddy Hassan. He did a fantastic job learning from Naakesh, Jordan and Zach. While that was going on, Cassidy, Sage and Rohan worked on the hiring contract that Ukweli would need for its employees while also starting preliminary quality control tests. When exposing the strip to a detrimental amount of light and humidity at the same time, it was found that the test strip was still able to hold viability up until an hour of exposure. Testing has started for temperature and humidity exposure and soon, light, temperature, and humidity. The testing had to be performed in the mushroom dark grow house in order to keep temperature and humidity stable, but it is through a field that has many fleas and Rohan wore shorts that day. Thankfully no diseases were contracted from the fleas so all is good on that front.

After this, the team all came together to take about the employee contracts. During a break in this process, Sage taught the team how to play an annoyingly complicated version of crazy 8s. Rohan lost every time they played. During this process many questions were raised that Khanjan had to answer. Questions such as how will we incentives CHWs to track negative readings on the test strips, how will Hassan transfer the money earned to us so that we can buy more test strips from the manufacturer, how can we market this to men who need to be screened for UTIs, and what is for dinner? During this meeting, Hassan brought some special green oils that he would rub in his nose and around his face. He let Rohan try a little bit and it burned like the sun itself. He had never felt such pain, but it did clear his sinuses. Hassan then gave a bottle to the very handsome Rohan telling him that he should rub it on his face that night.

After this meeting, the Ukweli team ran over the bakery to catch the malnutrition team making their first batch of bread. It was amazing. The dough was pillowy enough to take a nap in and tasted so delicious that it made Sage say “Gee willikers”. Over the day was a success but it gave the team a lot to think about and a lot to work on in the future. The puppies at World Hope also were so adorable today, especially when they took their naps.

This is the bakery where the malnutrition team made that amazing bread.

8/7/19 – Visits to Rokulan and Kalangba

Another day of traveling for Ukweli Test Strips! Today the team, along with the Sickle Cell Diagnostic Team and Safe Motherhood Documentary Team made trips to two different clinics within the Bomboli District: Rokulan and Kalangba. These trips were made in order to talk to more health system employees to better understand the current situation regarding Community Health Workers (CHWs) and how we could implement our test strip into these clinics systems.

Section of the road on the way to the CHCs in Rokulan and Kalangba.


After an hour and a half ride along semi-paved roads, we arrived at Rokulan, an understaffed and undersupplied Community Health Clinic (CHC). At this clinic, we were able to talk to Mister Francis, a Community Health Officer (CHO) for 26 years who is the head CHO of the chiefdom and leader of the chiefdom. During our time with him, we learned that the CHWs working under the Rakulan clinic were still waiting on the quarterly stipends that should have arrived, and often are not supplied the proper devices to effectively do their job. When we asked Francis about preeclamspia in his clinic, he said the location has not dealt with cases, but since the clinic refers any expecting mother with symptoms of preeclampsia to other hospitals, preeclamptic women could have been to the CHC. Despite the zero confirmed preeclampsia cases, Francis seemed very receptive to our UTI and Preeclampsia test strip, and was happy to work with us to train other CHWs at his location. We are planning to come back to the clinic to train the CHWs on how to use our test strip later on in our trip.

Rokulan’s CHC sign with part of the village in the background.

The CHC located in Rokulan.


Our next stop was at Kalangba, a Community Health Clinic that was along the highway back to our hotel from Rokulan. During this visit, we mainly talked to the Community Health Officer and Midwife, but other members of the CHO were present. Similar to the health workers in Rokulan, the workers at Kalangba were very open to us returning to their clinic and training their CHWs, a great sign in the project’s push to expand throughout the Bambali district. The Midwife at the clinic also confirmed that pregnant women have come to the clinic with preeclampsia and many more have shown signs of it, making them even more excited about our test strip being introduced to their clinic.

Images from the Community Health Clinic is Kalangba.


After Rokulan, Ukweli returned back to World Hope International, where we met with Burnadette Udo, a World Hope Worker that has recently moved from the Makeni office to the Freetown office. After sharing more about our project, Mrs. Udo seemed very optimistic about our test strips entering the market, and thinks that our product can eventually successfully make its way into Freetown. After our meeting with Mrs. Udo, we continued our work finalizing our training protocols with Hassan Suri, a World Hope International employee assisting us with our project. Hopefully the training and messaging protocols will be done tomorrow so the team can begin mock training sessions!

Wrapping up Mountaintop Initiative

With a little over a week left before the Ukweli team leaves for Sierra Leone, Mountaintop has entered the final stages of work. Sage and Naakesh have returned to Lehigh from Washington DC and Uganda, respectively, so our team now has four members working at Lehigh.

With a month gone by since the last update, a lot of progress has been made. Our crowdfunding campaign has wrapped up, and we would like to thank the nearly 40 donors who contributed almost $3,ooo to our campaign! We have begun submitting corporate grant applications in addition to our crowdfunding effort, and will hopefully bring in some more capital to help our venture fund operations for Ukweli in Sierra Leone.

With crowdfunding over, more attention will now be put towards concepts of operations and messaging. The team is wrapping up marketing and messaging strategies specific to different stakeholders in Sierra Leone (Community Health Workers, Mother Support Groups, Peripheral Health Units) in order to get the word out to pregnant women about the importance of getting screened. In addition, more work will be done on spreadsheets that will help Ukweli and partners on the ground keep track of inventory, purchases, and other data that would help Ukweli operate at a higher level.

Work has continued to be ongoing in regards to quality control testing of our strips, mainly towards the preeclampsia parameter. Basic light, humidity, and temperature tests have been conducted and finalized, and it is still determined that the preeclampsia assay holds up much better to harsher conditions than the UTI parameters on the strip. With the basic testing done, work has begun on compound exposure tests, which expose the strip to conditions for a shorter period of time over multiple trials. The goal of this testing is to see if multiple, short term exposures impact the quality and readings of the strips in the same way one, long term exposure does.

We are also proud to announce that two different papers by Ukweli have been accepted to the GHTC conference that will be held this fall in Seattle. One of the papers highlights the quality control measures that Ukweli has taken to ensure that our test strip will hold up against the more humid and hot conditions present in Sierra Leone, and also how these measures can be translated to other medical devices. Our other paper highlights the concepts of operations strategies Ukweli institutes in Sierra Leone to ensure the venture runs as smoothly and effectively as possible. Both papers have been accepted with revisions requested, so our team has been busy making edits to make sure the papers are in the best form they can be.


Testing the Strips and Raising Money

These past few days of Mountaintop have been quality control focused for the team, as we were given access to our lab on Monday. Since gaining access to the lab, our team has conducted a few different light exposure tests, and completed one round of temperature exposure tests for the preeclampsia parameter on the test strip.

What we have found is that the preeclampsia parameter fares pretty well when exposed to light compared to the urinary tract infection parameters. We exposed test strips to a light that mimics sunlight for 45, 60, and 75 minutes. Even after 60 minutes, which is when the UTI parameters are impacted according to previous tests, the preeclampsia parameter remained in good condition and correctly identified urine with preeclampsia, as well as correctly identified urine that did not have the proteins that signify preeclampsia.

Light exposure test for preeclamptic urine: the green bottom parameter signifies a positive screening for preeclampsiaLight exposure test for clean urine: the yellow bottom parameter signifies a negative screening for preeclampsia

In addition to the light exposure tests, the test strips fared well with heat exposure. We kept strips in an incubator for 23, 24, and 25 hours at 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), then tested to see if they would still give accurate readings with fake urine that had preeclampsia. We found that even after over a day of high temperature exposure, the strips were still able to give accurate readings for the preeclampsia parameter. More heat exposure testing will be done to determine if the preeclampsia parameter will give false positives after prolonged heat exposure, but the fact that it accurately read contaminated urine is a positive sign.

Heat exposure test for preeclamptic urine: the green bottom parameter signifies a positive screen for preeclampsia.

Aside from the lab testing, we have continued our crowdfunding efforts. Visuals about each team member and their roles were created, and will be put on the Ukweli website.

In addition, with this week of crowdfunding was focused on reaching out to local healthcare businesses about the possibility of donating to our venture. A script has been written out to be sent to local healthcare businesses such as Orasure, B Braun, and Sanofi, and our team has contacted Lehigh’s Office of Economic Engagement to get in touch with these companies.

Looking forward, next week will be focused on more lab testing and continuing the crowdfunding effort. With our egg incubator coming in, we will be able to conduct humidity exposure tests on our strips, and eventually combine different variables to test the strips quality (heat and humidity, etc). Next week of the crowdfunding plan is focused towards engaging Lehigh alumni in healthcare fields, so more scripts more specific to this group of potential investors will be written up and then sent out to the appropriate people.


Launching Mountaintop & Crowdfunding

Mountaintop has gotten off to a good start for Zach and Rohan. With the Crowdfunding up and running, the first few days of work were dedicated to creating a short animated crowdfunding video clip showcasing ‘Amie’, a fictional women in Sierra Leone who is pregnant with her first child. This video highlights the overall problem of Urinary Tract Infections, Preeclampsia, and the maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leone, and was then paired with the filming our team conducted during the school year, which focused more on our product.

This video will shortly be up on our crowdfunding page!

Our crowdfunding focus continued, as we created visuals highlighting some of the main points of Sierra Leone’s healthcare issues and how Ukweli can help solve them.

These images, as well as a few others, were shared with all team members of Ukweli so they could post them on their social media pages to help spread the word about our venture and increase awareness about our crowdfunding effort. More visuals will likely be created so we can continue to spread the word of our crowdfunding to the public.

As for tangible work going with us to Sierra Leone, a new Ukweli poster that will be displayed in clinics was in the works.

Although our team brought posters highlighting UTIs to Sierra Leone last summer, the addition of preeclampsia to our test strip meant a new poster highlighting both UTIs and Preeclampsia was needed. A few more drafts will most likely be created to give the team more options to choose from.

Outside of the lab, we have worked on the IEEE quality control paper and have made steady progress. Several revisions have been done and the paper is beginning to come to fruition.

We have designed testing procedures for light, temperature and humidity in order to find the vulnerabilities of the preeclamptic assay. We have also designed procedures for testing the strip’s sensitivity to water ingress and dust/wind exposure. Testing has begun on the sensitivity of the stickers that were purchased to monitor exposure to environmental conditions.

With us recently gaining access to our own lab, it is looking like a lot of next week will be focused on the quality control testing of our test strips.