Addressing Global Health Challenges in Sierra Leone

Addressing Global Health Challenges in Sierra Leone

[MUSIC PLAYING] The Global Social
Impact Fellowship is an opportunity for students
to come together, collaborate, and work on some of the
most complex challenges facing low and
middle-income countries. They are all multi-year ventures
with one team passing the baton onto the next team,
semester after semester, until they have a spectacular
failure or an amazing success. And that’s really
critical, because a lot of the challenges
that we are working on are not things that we
can truly understand, find ways to engage,
develop practical solutions, and actually implement
them in the course of a semester or a year. So I’m a member of the
Ukweli Test Strips team, and our venture or
project is focused on lowering maternal mortality
rate in Sierra Leone. Well, Sierra Leone has been one
of the poorest in West Africa. There has been high rates
of poverty in all regions. The test strips are a specific,
affordable, and accessible technology. They have three parameters–
lucocytes, nitrates, and protein. And this will screen for both
UTIs and pre-eclampsia, which are things that can
endanger a pregnancy, especially in rural settings. These are conditions that are
easily treatable and manageable in other countries, like the US. And women should not
be dying from them, or if they don’t
die from them, they should not be having a
reduced quality of life from these easily treatable
and manageable conditions. This type of project
is like nothing else that I have ever
encountered at Lehigh. It’s an amazing opportunity
to tie in everything that I have learned. I get to do research, I
get the lab experience, and then it also has
real world impact. I’m on the sickle
cell anemia project. So basically, we’re designing
a low-cost, easy-to-use sickle cell anemia diagnostic device. And we want to eventually
implement it in Sierra Leone and throughout other low
and middle-income countries. I think it just brings our
research to the next level. Not only are we
developing the device, but we have the control, and
we have basically the power. It’s all up to us for
it to be implemented. I think at least
with our project, having that long-term goal– everyone on the project
is so excited about it that we all put in just way
more time than is required, because everyone is just
genuinely excited about it. And it’s also just nice
knowing that what you’re doing has the potential to
actually make a difference. [CAWING] It’s been a really
great experience. I’ve had an opportunity to work
on a few different research teams that we have. But doing the GSIF
program has really been the best research
I’ve been able to do. It’s been hands-on when
needed, but we’ve also had a lot of freedom
to do and work on what we think is the
most important part. I’m on the Malnutrition team. It’s a group of
seven students that’s looking to address
malnutrition in Sierra Leone. I’m a bioengineering
major, so a lot of the stuff that we
do in the classroom is quantitative, like
numbers, stuff like that. And it’s really hard to
see how it would translate when you’re just
staring at formulas and coding and stuff like that. Once you see how it can
translate, at least for me, at least, it opens
like a lot of things, like what I want to
do for my future, what avenues I want to take. And those are things
that I wouldn’t have realized I could pursue. It gives you a greater sense
of what you can do as a person. It gives you a more
connected sense also. See the scoop? Can you grab– use it
to pick up a few things? Yeah. And then– We call ourselves
the Mushroom Team. And our goal is to create a
socially conscious, sustainable business venture
here in Sierra Leone. Currently, almost half the
labor force in Sierra Leone works in a rice farming. And so a very good portion
of the year, there’s really actually not
very much food around. And so mushrooms
are an alternative where you could actually
grow mushrooms year round. And there actually are
no mushrooms commercially grown in Sierra Leone. So really, we’ll be
introducing a new market, which is pretty exciting. Obviously, the project can
have a much far-reaching impact than what we’ve done so far. But even just on an
individual level, the people that I’ve
met, I can actually, if our project is
successful, provide jobs for them for a really long time. And that’s really
an amazing feeling to change the
livelihood of someone you consider to be a friend. It is really not an opportunity
you have doing anything else. [MUSIC PLAYING] This is actually
going to a place where you are actively
trying to make things that could
change, actually, the life of many, many people. That part of the experience–
if we are actually able to do that, that is
something so rewarding. So the project is assessing
the socioeconomic factors underlying Ebola infection. The two professors we’re
working with currently have a computational
model that can accurately predict in real time
and space the density of Ebola-infected bats. We were really surprised,
just the energy and how great our translators were. I think if we were to
go find them on our own, we would never be
able to find ones that were as effective as ours. I think having the
connections to be able to go into the village and
do surveys is really important. We have a formal memorandum of
understanding with World Hope. And this is a partnership
that really enables the Global Social Impact Fellowship. Because for all the
projects, we serve as the intellectual partners
while World Hope serves as the operational partner. So World Hope has a very
entrepreneurial mindset, and so do we. So they have been challenging
the status quo and trying to pivot from traditional,
aid-based approaches to trade-based approaches. And that aligns perfectly with
the social entrepreneurial approach that is
emphasized in the GSIF. Sustainability is one of the key
aspects in human development, If you want to– if you want to change
and impact life, you should be able to
scale and empower people to be a sustainable community. [NON-ENGLISH SINGING] Students today want
to have impact. They are thinking beyond
themselves, you know? They want to
influence other lives. They want to have positive
social change in the world immediately around
them and beyond. I think if you have
a heart, you know that it’s essential to
moving the world forward. And by moving the
world forward, I mean moving everyone
forward together. [CHEERING] I shouldn’t only be concerned
about myself, you know? This isn’t my world, and
everyone else lives in it, you know? I live in this world
just like everyone else. I’m in the Safe
Motherhood team, and we’re making a documentary
series on maternal health, because Sierra Leone has the
highest maternal mortality rate. So we are trying to figure
out the causes of that, and what steps have
been taken, and how the community is handling that. The story has become more real
for me being here because it has a face, and it has a voice. All the research that went
into it was eye-opening and important, but
actually being here– it gives the story
a personality. And I think that’s what’s going
to draw people in and make them care about the issue. I have learn something new every
time I’ve left this office, whether it’s riding in the
back of the truck with the Safe Motherhood teams to
all of the clinics, just getting to watch
what their process is. It’s impressive. It’s a beautiful thing
to get to see everyone doing separate, independent
things, but for the same goal. We just want to make
powerful change. Everyone is invested
in each other’s work. When the Mushroom team grew
their first batch of mushrooms, I was ecstatic. I was taking pictures of it. And we all have a vested
interest in making sure each other succeed. It’s a lot of
gardening and a lot of growing really, really fast. It’s a lot of
personal development. It’s a lot of seeing yourself
in new and different ways. It’s a lot of seeing how you
fit into a larger context, into a global context. Every single student is
passionate about something. And part of our
job here is to help them find what it is that they
are really passionate about. What keeps them up at night? What is it that they’re
willing to give a lifetime for? And that’s where we’re
looking for alignment between those deep, personal
passions and real challenges in the world. I think this program is really
unique in that this one is fundamentally about
creating tangible change. And whether that’s through
saving the lives of women directly by providing the
means to test themselves for infections or diseases
to raising consciousness and trying to create cultural
change, all of it is tangible. We are all about
creating new stuff, creating new movies and
documentaries and technologies and businesses and policies
and drug delivery mechanisms and what have you. Right? So we want students
to create stuff. And when students create
stuff, they learn best. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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