It’s been quite the adventure since my last post. I went back into the field for the questionnaire portion of our field assessment. This part of the project was more interactive, which I enjoyed. For this blog post, I wanted to share with you two main lessons I learned in the field and working with MAZA overall.
Lesson 1. Leave your expectations and fantasies out the door before you enter any new community, venture, job, anywhere.
I realized my first day in the field that my idea of what it would be was very much glorified. I had received words of advice and told what to expect from my preceptor, Nana, but that didn’t prepare me for the actual act of being in the field. For many years, before embarking on this MPH journey, I had created a fantasy of what working in the “field” in public health would be like, and this was not it. It was tedious, and I thought to myself: “maybe I’m not built for this.” But then days 2 and 3 came and I got to learn the communities I was in and it seemed a little less like work every day. I was built for this after all, and it was only when I had set aside my expectations that I began to enjoy it.
Lesson 2. Be aware of what your presence in a new community may represent, of the privilege you have to be working in that community, and its implications.
Be cautious entering into a community you’re not a part of – whether your work requires physical interaction with others or not. The first part of my field work required little interactions with community members outside of MAZA drivers, and that’s when I felt most out of place. I didn’t speak much because my work at the time didn’t require it and I didn’t speak any of the languages, and that’s what made me stick out the most. And though the community members were welcoming of our field assessment as they were familiar with the MAZA team members I was with, there were moments where I couldn’t help but feel intrusive. I had to make conscious effort of my presence in each community to gain perspective and for a more enriching experience.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been back in Accra working on the not so adventurous things like completing a literature review, analyzing data, and writing. I look forward to seeing how this project makes an impact on MAZA’s program in northern Ghana.
Thank you all for the opportunity to share my experiences with you.