Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Field Placement Climax in Churchill

By Naomi Gichingu, 1st year MDP student

In my first blog, I gave you a sneak peak of the work I had been doing at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). Our research project that hoped to engage organizations working in the Hudson Bay region to enhance more inter-jurisdictional planning was entering its second phase of data collection. With questionnaires out of the kiln, organizations were engaged through telephone calls and emails and most of those contacted consented to participating in the survey. The three methods involved in this research were telephone interviews, online surveys and one on one interviews. The phase was action packed. After sending out online surveys and setting up telephone interviews, it was time to make travels to Churchill, Manitoba to carry out the one on one interviews.  With the support of my IISD supervisor, Pauline Gerrard, and the Masters in Development Practice (MDP) program, I made my one week work and ‘summer vacation tour’.

Douglas Baba, MDP student, and Naomi (R)
The ‘Polar Bear Capital’ as it is commonly known was going to receive a good number of tourists that afternoon telling by a filled to capacity flight and huge cameras spotted during our check-in.  I had high expectations of meeting wonderful people, engaging with them through my interviews and bumping into a polar bear of course. The experience did not disappoint, from receiving VIP treatment from the Municipal Town of Churchill staff at the airport to a tour on the Zodiac where we saw 6 polar bears and beluga whales. The people so kind always invited us to community youth events which are organized to keep youth out of trouble. Engaging with other tourists from as far as Australia and Switzerland made it a worthwhile experience. A tour to the Churchill Studies Research Centre was another highlight with their state of the art modern building that is nothing less than environmentally sound. I would highly recommend a tour to Churchill if you have not already thought about it. 

 My interviews spread out over the five days I was in the town provided invaluable information towards our project as well as interview skills I would not have imagined getting from somewhere else. I got different opinions from the people about the project and captured all these to be analysed later with the rest of the surveys. There was so much to buy as souvenirs and I did not shy away from that as coming from Africa, a person is expected to bring gifts to those they left at home. 

The week after was characterized with the collection of survey responses. Telephone interviews were conducted over the next week and an analysis of the results was done. Working with my supervisor, we drafted a report that will be published by the Institute and will inform the next steps of the project. 

Naomi (L) and Pauline Gerrard, IISD
 There were numerous opportunities at IISD where I was involved in high profile meetings. The staff were also very friendly and easily approachable. We had lunch on average once a week at a restaurant of choice to create team building opportunities. On the last day, an office party was organized for me and a few other interns who were also leaving about the same time. The field placement provided a good learning experience and I look forward to sharing some of the lessons with my classmates.

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