Several students knee deep in their workshops have submitted posts to the blog recently. This post was submitted by Sawako Sonoyama.
I just returned from an unforgettable two-week trip to Ethiopia as part of my SIPA curriculum. This program is called The Workshop in Development Practice with the Economic and Political Development (EPD) concentration. The workshop allows students to gain practical experience by engaging in on-going actual development projects with organizations that often involve traveling abroad for fieldwork.
My EPD Workshop is with Family Health International (FHI) in Ethiopia. FHI is a global health and development organization that focuses on providing interdisciplinary training programs related to HIV/Aids. My project was to assist in developing a measurement system and tools to monitor and evaluate the extent to which knowledge and skills transferred through training are applied in practice. After conducting an in-depth desk review, conducting several conference calls with Ethiopia, and creating preliminary evaluation tools, my teammate and I were ready to go.
Upon arriving to Addis Ababa, we were welcomed with a ride from the airport, traditional coffee ceremony, and a delicious Ethiopian feast. I have never been to a more welcoming and warm country in my life. Every day of our trip, our Ethiopian counterparts went out of the way to welcome us and ensured that we were able to get our work done.
Picture: Welcome lunch with FHI
During our two week visit, we were able to test out the evaluation tools we have created for two different trainings. The first training was the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) Refresher training in Addis Ababa. We were able to observe many of the training modules while conducting focus group discussions and supervisor interviews. The nurses were shy at first, but gradually opened up to us and explained the main challenges involving pregnant women in Ethiopia – mainly the inability to open up to their male partners to involve them with family planning. Furthermore, to evaluate how the nurse practitioners who attended the PMTCT training were doing on-site, we visited health centers and spoke to the clients directly. Through an interpreter, I had my first experience of interviewing pregnant women who are getting ready for a new life of starting a family.
Photo: Interviewing Clients
The second training we attended was titled Family-Based Alternative Child Care (ACC). The ACC training covers various formal or informal arrangement whereby a child is looked after outside of the birth family. This program is aimed to better support those children who have lost their parents due to HIV/Aids. The ACC training is more complex to evaluate then the PMTCT, as the behavior change of individuals is less practical. In fact, the behavior of multiple organizations must change for any region to successfully adopt an Alternative Child Care mechanism. Trying to work with this training made me realize how complex working with children from an institutional level can be.
Apart from working on the two trainings, through the wonderful cultural exchange we had, I was able to formulate a close friendship with many of the FHI staff. I met Estsegenet Asefa, a beautiful woman from the Southern region of Ethiopia. Estegenet is a Community Health and Social Development Officer of the Southern region that was here to coordinate the training and facilitate group discussions. While she works full time at FHI-Ethiopia, she is also pursuing her MPH as a part-time graduate student. She has already completed her courses and is working on finishing her thesis is on relationships among People Living with HIV/Aids who are going through antiretroviral therapy. We shared stories about the challenges of balancing both professional and academic life, and where we hope to be after we graduate. She is also a vibrant dancer and gave me some tips on Ethiopian dance moves. We formed such a wonderful friendship and it was sad to say good bye. I am confident that she will be successful in the field of public health in Ethiopia and I hope that we meet again.
My new friend, Estsegenet
My two weeks in Ethiopia was fulfilling in so many ways – new experiences in monitoring and evaluation at health centers, interesting realizations about the complexities of working with HIV/Aids, and countless moments of absorbing the rich and wonderful Ethiopian culture. I am so thankful that I was able to travel to Ethiopia on the EPD workshop. Our work is nowhere near complete, as we must prepare for my team’s second visit to Ethiopia and finish our final report. I hope that the work we present will be useful for FHI-Ethiopia’s training programs and that can provide a meaningful impact to their clients.