CINQ Fall Blog 1: Lessons Learned from Fieldwork

1: What are the top 3 things you have learned during your GSIF trip this summer?

  1. In terms of the operation and business side of my GSIF project and the fieldwork trip, I learned you and your team often times have to constantly be checking in on progress and actions that need to be done, especially when dealing with a complex and foreign system of operations such as the Sierra Leonean government. This realization came when the team found out that although we gave money to one of our partners in Sierra Leone to pay to start the product registration process, we learned while we were in Sierra Leone that that payment had not been completed yet and the process of getting our product registered had not started. We sent the money over to Sierra Leone and more or less relied on the process to be carried out smoothly, but now seeing how that turned out, it is important to see everything through that relates to the project you are working on, regardless of if it is out of your hands or not.
  2. I also learned how much of a role culture plays in terms of how a project or venture operates in a foreign country. While my team was working on the venture in America, we tried to take into consideration how what we were trying to implement could be viewed differently in Sierra Leone. Although we tried to make edits to our training protocols and such to better reflect Sierra Leonean culture, upon arrival to our fieldwork and after having our employee, Hassan, read through the training and messaging protocols we realized that there was a lot more about the culture that we did not take into consideration. We realized how many of the things we had that would not make sense to Sierra Leoneans, and we realized how many things were necessary for us to add into our operations to best present our venture to Sierra Leone.
  3. One of the things I learned that meant the most to me was getting an actual understanding about how grateful the people in Sierra Leone were for us implementing ventures that will help their communities. Prior to fieldwork, I had an understanding of the impact we were making andI knew that we were doing good for their communities, but actually being in Sierra Leone and communicating with the people in the clinics/markets/etc made me realize just how much they appreciate all the work we were doing in their country.

2: How did the GSIF trip facilitate your professional development?

  1. This three week fieldwork trip made me much more communicative and a leader in group work and in projects. Prior to coming to Sierra Leone, I would not have considered myself a strong leader who felt comfortable calling shots or being the first person to bring up ideas. However, while I was in country, I became much more confident directing certain parts of the operations, like working with Hassan on the messaging and training sessions, because I realized that my teammates and me were the experts in how the venture should be run.
  2. Spending three weeks completely dedicated to a venture that experienced a lot of twists and turns during our time in Sierra Leone made me more comfortable dealing with adversity and having to pull things together when projects hit road bumps. The biggest example of this came when the news broke that our product registration approval would not come during our time in Sierra Leone, and that we could not launch our venture until later into the year. Although this was a big blow, however, we realized that we had to pull something together that would allow our project to still be productive during our extended wait to launch. In the end, myself and the team created a messaging protocol to get the word out about Unwell and the service it offers prior to us being able to sell our test strips.
  3. Working on this venture also forced me to look more at the bigger picture when working on projects like Ukweli Test Strips. After spending time at clinics in the Bombali District and witnessing Sierra Leonean culture and the healthcare system, I started to try to understand how an action that Ukweli takes could impact the health workers, the patients being screened, and the healthcare system that Ukweli is trying to implement itself into.

3: How did the GSIF trip help you grow personally? 

  1. During my time in Sierra Leone, I became much more comfortable branching out and getting to know and communicating with people I didn’t really know well. I realized that I would be spending three weeks with these people so I realized how important it would be for my enjoyment of the trip to get to know everyone in SL. I think this growth from SL will carry over and make it easier for me to communicate with people in the USA also.
  2. Prior to visiting Sierra Leone, I had been to a few countries before, but none that were similar to Sierra Leone. I have always been curious about cultures and countries around the world, and doing this three week fieldwork project helped me gain a much better understanding of a culture that I knew very little to nothing about only a few months ago. It was extremely interesting for me to understand the viewpoints of people of Sierra Leone and the type of lives they live, and having that experience makes me want to continue to travel and learn more about people throughout the world.
  3. What helped me grow the most personally in my opinion were the relationships I created with the World Hope International workers and translators. It was very impactful to create these relationships and see how friendships can so easily be created despite extremely different cultural backgrounds. I loved spending time talking to them about their lives and their views on different subjects, and it was extremely rewarding and eye opening for me to hear from them how appreciative they were that we came to their country to work on projects that will eventually have an impact on so many citizens of their nation.