2008 Community-Based Research Fellows
My research this summer focused on the drinking behaviors of incoming first-year students. Students received a questionnaire during their summer orientation session (CTOPS). They were asked to self report their past drinking behaviors as well as give their best estimate as to how many college students drink. Overall, we obtained a sample size of close to 16,000 students`````. With this data, we ran preliminary analysis that showed that males engage in binge drinking (5 or more drinks at one time) more often than females. Parents’ acceptance of alcohol was also important in predicting who has engaged in binge drinking. With this research, it is my hope that we can impact the community of Chapel Hill by creating a dissemination plan that will create a set of talking points around which we can reevaluate the programs and interventions designed to decrease the incidence of binge drinking on this campus. This fellowship provided me excellent opportunities to explore one of the more important issues facing our students!
Blog Link: http://alcoholproject.
For three months I interned with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Freetown, Sierra Leone. With the UNDP, I worked on two projects. First, I helped administer the largest health survey in the country’s history. I joined up with five different UN agencies in the towns of Makeni, Kenema, Bo, and Kailahun to audit and review the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS). I worked one-on-one with local researchers and health professionals to pinpoint shortcomings in the survey model and logistics in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of subsequent DHS administrations.
I also helped draft a new waste management model to submit to the Government of Sierra Leone. I helped organize meetings with six different government ministries, local NGOs involved in waste management, three UN agencies, Freetown’s private waste management firm, as well as the German government (GTZ). The government council approved the framework and so I set off to hone down the project. I traveled again to Kenema to meet with the City Council over waste management issues. I met with the newly-elected mayor of Kenema as well as workers on the ground. I asked from a grassroots level what sort of waste management equipment was lacking. It was interesting to discover that expensive machines that are frequently budgeted for were less of a priority in Sierra Leone. These workers needed gloves, boots, shovels, and masks rather than front-end loaders and dump-trucks. I then went on a study tour of Monrovia, Liberia to assess their new waste management initiative. I met with five different CBOs in the waste management sector, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and the World Bank. I met with workers in private, and we talked about everything from the problem of hospital expenses from job-related injuries to protective clothing expenses being taken out of their paychecks. We sat down and tried to reach a compromise with their respective CBO directors.
Sierra Leone is an incredibly difficult place to work. I was admitted to the hospital once for severe dehydration, I was sick from food poisoning three times and again from salmonella. Though the economic and political situation in Sierra Leone is among the world’s worst, it is amazing how much joy and excitement there is in what is deemed the world’s least developed country. I made many life-long friends and have countless memories of the craziness and insanity that is Sierra Leone.
The goal of research is to learn from the outside about the inside. It is easy to sit back and write-off Sierra Leone’s idiosyncrasies with the excuse that it is the least developed country in the world. It is another thing to see Sierra Leone for what it could be in the future if certain institutions were improved. I want to change the status quo, but I want this to happen with all stakeholders onboard. I do not want my perspective to change things from the outside; I want to challenge the country to change from the inside.
Blog Link: http://geeeter.blogspot.com/
This summer, I obtained institutional support at a local university, established a working relationship with a local non-governmental organization, and collaborated with members of a local community to accomplish the goals of the CBR fellowship. What's more, through this experience I have been granted the opportunity to continue collaborating with the local university on an extended community-based research project.
To accomplish the primary goal, I first vetted the design of my project to a local anthropologist at my partnering institution in Chiang Mai. This university connection in Chiang Mai provided video-editing facilities, libraries, archival resources and important logistical support—namely translation services. I surely could not have proceeded with the project without institutional support due to many factors that make community-based research a very slow and extremely involved ordeal. Through the university, I was soon linked to a local non-governmental organization. The NGO was more than just a liaison between me and the Lisu community with which I worked. They were accustomed to community-based research protocol, and their staff provided suggestions and critique of my proposal.
Together with NGO and university support, I established a working connection with several Lisu villages. Through talks and many phone calls with village representatives and NGO staff, Ban Mai Thaha village became the focus of the project. Once I was introduced to the village, immediately I began planning with a bamboo carpenter, the village headman, and several interested youth in Ban Mai Thaha. Somewhat to my dismay, I soon discovered that very few people were building houses during July—the beginning of the rice farming season. This meant that we could not film the construction of a full bamboo house, as I had originally planned. We resolved to instead conduct interviews with a number of local elders and builders to gain multiple perspectives on the evolving traditions of building and how those traditions are (or are not) being preserved orally.
Over the next four weeks, I conducted a total of seven interviews in the Lisu language. Visual footage accompanied these interviews, mostly consisting of architectural details that contrast traditional Lisu building styles to that of the more modern Thai architectural materials and technologies. A deep oral history embodies the tradition of building, and a wide array of stories emerged from multiple sit-down sessions with several male and female elders, often lasting well over 2 hours. Through this collaboration with the Ban Mai Thaha village, I was able to collect this variety of rich narratives comprising a very specific chapter of the vast oral history that comprises the Lisu tradition of building. Not counting the personal relationships and other experiences of immeasurable value, the project yielded two research products: a data-base of over 16 hours of visual media and a community-research journal. The documentary video data is now in the editing phase, and the final version will last approximately 10 minutes and will be distributed in the form of video-CD to the Ban Mai Thaha village.
Looking forward, I have chosen to continue working on an extended community-based research project with a local graduate student in the Faculty of Architecture. We will be collaborating with several Lua and Lisu villages to initiate a regional database of oral history and architectural description.
Blog Link: http://bamboolisu.blogspot.
I spent six weeks in the summer of 2008 in the rural community of El Gusano, Mexico. It is a small town with few resources and a high rate of emigration, especially for men. I spent the first four weeks working with a Nourish International project and getting acclimated to the community. My last two weeks were spent doing research in the community and with government officials in the state of Guanajuato, where El Gusano is located.
I had four focus questions that guiding my interviews: How accessible and affordable are healthcare services in Guanajuato, Mexico? What are the main illnesses that citizens suffer from? Are community members knowledgeable about illnesses that they are at high risk for? How has migration affected public health in Guanajuato?
The interviews were conducted with 20 community members who represented their households; there are 66 total households in El Gusano. I also spoke to two officials at the Guanajuato Health Department who provided a different perspective on health issues throughout the state. I partnered with the local NGO Fundacion Comunitaria del Bajio, which was essential for me in getting interviews and attaining a better grasp of local struggles with healthcare, illness and migration.
I found that community members were struggling mainly with a lack of access to appropriate healthcare, poverty that prevented them from buying the food that they felt they needed, and an array of illnesses that were not being properly monitored and treated. The most commonly reported illnesses were diabetes, high blood pressure, and alcoholism among men. Women did not report using contraceptives or family planning methods. Nearly all interviewed community members said they felt that migration had benefited them because remittances allowed them to buy the food that was essential to their well-being. Families with members in the US who were not receiving remittances reported struggling to find money to pay for basic needs and reported no benefit from migration. However, many families did feel that they were benefiting greatly from government programs that helped them pay for food and clothing.
The research was intended to be a profile of the public health situation of El Gusano, which can be used in the future by FCB in developing health-related projects and by subsequent Nourish International projects in the community.
To obtain contact information for the current CBR Chair, please refer to the APPLES' Organizers directory.