I am living in far southeastern Sierra Leone, conducting research for OneVillage Partners (OVP), a Minneapolis-based NGO that was my capstone client. A research assistant and I spent the first month here developing a household survey on OVP recognition, water/sanitation and nutrition issues, and some wealth proxies. With the help of two translators, we are working this week and next to conduct the survey
in almost 50 households. In addition, we are going to local clinics to examine childhood malnutrition rates throughout the three villages in which OVP works, and potentially training OVP's community health workers to measure and calculate this information. We are also designing a household census as a way to measure wealth and will be
performing focus groups looking at issues related to women's empowerment and out of work youth.
I'm staying with a host family of 4 adults and 5 children. My host father works in the village mosque translating Koran readings into Mende, the local language. The other family members that aren't in school work on the farm, and we spend evenings on their porch greeting people that pass by. Sometimes I practice reading or math with the
younger kids but otherwise I can't understand much of anything. That said - and I'm sorry this is trite - I feel a genuine connection to them and many of the people I've met here, which has been the most rewarding part of the experience. Even though OVP has been working in these villages for five years, the children still are thrilled to see the pumois (white people) come by and will shout our names and chase after us. This can be amusing or annoying depending on your mood, but I always enjoy watching a particular two-year-old irrepressibly contort and scream out of pure excitement every time we are within her field of vision.
This summer the villages are hosting three interns from Amherst College - my research assistant and two others planning and running an English proficiency summer school - along with an agricultural researcher from France and a Fulbright fellow from Vermont studying agroecology. We've all made time to visit the beach recently, and before the Amherst interns and I leave in a month we hope to get in some hiking at the nearby national forest. The picture is of me and my translator and buddy Fallah.