Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Progress! And thoughts on research in the developing world, pt 1.

View of Kibera from the roof of the Clinic, the upgraded flats in the distance

These past two weeks I have slowly made progress on my research project. In short, the project is attempting to do a program assessment of the sexual reproductive health program which aims to create a history of the program, understand the context that the program fits into, and understand the obstacles to meeting the objectives to the program. I also intend to help create a way for CFK to evaluate the program in the future. I am so fortunate to work with an enthusiastic and inspiring group of staff and volunteers at CFK. It truly makes my job easier to look forward to coming into the office. I appreciate their openness and willingness at allowing another American to come into their work space and attempt a new project.

I work closely with Ben, the program officer of the SRH program, and over the last couple weeks we have managed to plot out our plan for the summer. Although on paper this looks like only about 40 hours of interviews/focus groups over 6 weeks, this is quite a bit of time. And I am lucky enough to "get" to transcribe each audio recording! Yee haw! But like I said, because I am enjoying my time at CFK and really am interested in the project and in supporting the community of Kibera, the task becomes less of a drag.

Last Thursday I pitched my project via a hastily made powerpoint to the key staff members that I will be interviewing and relying on throughout my stay here. Because it is the intent of the project to be of use to the organization, it is important to have staff buy-in and to emphasize that we both stand to benefit from the time used. I thought about this in terms of some of the discussions we have had at Duke this year about research in the developing world. All too often, students and researchers come into a community, use local resources, and leave with all the necessary data without even once looking back. CFK, and organizations like this, have had experiences like this where they have individuals come for a period of time, invested time and energy and staff into the project, only to be completely left in the dust. When I asked for questions from my audience last Thursday, they were quick to ask (and rightly so) exactly when and where they should expect to see the results. I think they were looking for my flight number for December (I wish). I assured them that not only did they have my word, but also that I had mentors back in the states who had CFKs interest in mind. I didn't take it personally that they were still a bit hesitant, even after my assurances. It isn't my place to judge the individuals out there who do research without the communicating the results with the community back in the developing world (although I may have some thoughts on the matter), but whoever they are, they left a jaded audience for the next guys.

On Monday I had my first real interview with Ben and I managed to make it last for 1.5 hours! I am still working out my methodology as I go and have given myself liberal permission to 'wing it'. The interview went well and consisted mostly of a framework for the program. I was better able to understand what I would need from the other staff members. Because of a severe lack of documentation of almost any type, it is up to these interviews with the staff, volunteers, and participants to complete my project. It is a really good experience for me, almost a sink-or-swim way of learning how to do this, and for all the messiness and uncertainty I am thankful for the opportunity. It just takes one short stroll around Kibera to give me encouragement to complete the project in the best way that I can.

The rest of this week and next I will be continuing to interview the staff and then will move on to the volunteers and finally a handful of participants. This will not be a random sampling of participants, as the number of participants of the SRH program number in the tens of thousands, but a good enough sample to give me an idea of how the program is working.

That's the research update!

I managed to take a few more picture of Kibera under the cover of a troop of Americans visiting the office.

Eat your heart out PNW - Recycling center in Kibera run by CFK's Trash is Cash program

Our neighbors at CFK - a smiling, "how-are-you"ing group of kiddos

Winim Bike Repair Shop

An ad for soap (Ushindi) ironically covered in garbage

The sign for the original Tabitha Clinic


  1. Hmmm... presenting the information back to the community... good idea... Haaoww are jooouuuuuu? (from the kids in Honduras to the kids in Kenya :)

  2. hi chelsea,
    we really enjoyed reading it. good luck and be safe.
    love from Van Auken,
    Uncle Jim, Aunt Molly, William and Clare