Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Asante Sana, Nairobi

By Rachel Bach, 2nd year MDP student
At front desk of Population Council with Frank

My three-month field placement was an educational and enlightening journey. As it comes to an end I am able to reflect on my experience and the lessons I learned.

I spent the first three weeks of my placement in Ghana as I was initially going to be working on a project there. However, unforeseen circumstances meant that project did not go ahead. Arrangements were made for me to relocate to Kenya where I, as mentioned in my previous post, “interned” at the Population Council with a group of MPH students from UCLA.

I had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the role of large global health research organizations in improving policies and programs. I worked closely with Population Council research associates and fellow interns to conduct a research project and complete a draft report for potential publication. I was also able to accompany field workers to the field as they conducted interviews in remote areas on the Kenyan coast. That experience really completed my time in Kenya. I was able to experience the challenges that go into gathering data of that kind firsthand and witnessed the geographical and transportation barriers that people face when attempting to access health services. 

My time at the Population Council provided me with the opportunity to learn more about the role of research in identifying neglected health and development problems and improving well-being and health of current and future generations. My main project was focused on the barriers that women face when attempting to access care for obstetric fistula. The Population Council has a partnership with Fistula Care Plus at Engender Health. They will use the systemative review that I produced over the next year as they design and implement future intervention projects. I really appreciate that the Population Council’s work does not end with conducting research; they strive to ensure that their findings are translated into concrete improvements in policies and programs.

Doing a summary presentation on my time in Kenya for the office
Furthermore, I learned invaluable life lessons through living and working in Nairobi. I learned about a new local culture (while eating delicious foods). I developed new daily routines, made wonderful friends, and saw some amazing sights. There were certainly some challenges. Levels of risk varied as some areas of Kenya are currently facing threats from terrorism that has hurt the local tourism industry and meant I always had to be cognizant of personal security. However, it was definitely interesting hearing local opinions on the travel advisories and comparing daily life in Nairobi to what is portrayed in the media. Kenya is facing a difficult situation, but it is not important to not let media sensationalism overshadow local vibrancy and beauty.

All in all, I had a wonderful experience that I will carry with me as my time in the MDP comes to an end. I want to say asante sana (thank you very much) to my mentors and peers at the Population Council—especially Ben, Timothy, James, Zoe, Amy, Ian, Melissa, and Nicholas—and to the various friends I met along the way. I am going to miss Nairobi and look forward to coming back one day!

Amy Westerman (UCLA intern), Zoe Baker (UCLA intern) & myself with a team of Population Council fieldworkers

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