1) What are the greatest challenges you have to face?
I would have to say that the greatest challenges vary based on your personality and past experiences. Culture shock is fairly common amongst most JFs since there are many practices that we have never been exposed to. Traveling is a lot more exhausting than in Canada so you have to plan a lot more before leaving the house.
2) Tell us more about VOTO mobile and how it impacted the local community?
VOTO Mobile is a really great venture with an amazing communications platform that I got to work with throughout the summer. An example of their work is providing geographically isolated and illiterate pregnant mothers with information on their pregnancies in a format they understand while also providing them with one click access to a midwife that speaks their language and dialect. Through projects like these VOTO has been creating systemic change in areas such as Health Care and even the government.
3) What were your fears and how did you overcome them?
My biggest fears were going to a country that I had no knowledge of. The thought of forgetting something that I could possible need within the four months also played on my mind a lot. I was afraid of falling sick and losing a lot of weight due to things like Malaria and other diseases. Food was another concern because there was no question of not adapting to it since there were limited options.
4) What’s your greatest accomplishment from this experience?
I feel like my greatest accomplishment was working with VOTO to create positive change in a manner that is long lasting. I am confident in the people I worked with and I know that they will take VOTO very far. I also feel like I learnt a lot and became a person who say more of the grey in a world that I perceived to be very black and white.
5) If you were to give 1 advice to future applicants, what would that be?
APPLY! Don’t be scared because you are capable of so much more than you think you are. If you learn to conquer your fears and really put yourself out there you will learn an incredible amount of things at a really fast pace.
6) Tell us an interesting incident during your trip.
There were many, from failing to buy a hardboiled egg to the police taking bribes to getting proposed to (I face planted so hard it’s not even funny), so it is really hard to pick. I guess I will go with the time that we were in the Volta region and one of my fellow JFs decided that she was going to catch a chicken. She simply got up while eating and started to run after one of them and it squawked and ran. The villagers soon realized what she was trying to do so they tried to herd the chicken into a position so that she could catch it. After 15 minutes of watching her fail one of the young boys decided to catch it for her and as soon as she gets it in her hands she walks over to another JF who was mocking her and throws it in his face. He just stood there with his mouth open because he couldn’t believe what she had just done.
7) How did your experience help EWB McMaster grow as a chapter?
I feel like my greatest impact has been the sharing of the experiences and knowledge that I have gained. I am also able to communicate with the ventures more effectively because I have worked with the individuals in person and have built a lot of connections. This is really useful for things like the it takes a village contribution we made because knowing the individuals who benefited allows me to get valuable information from our chapter.
8) How did the pre departure training prepare you for this experience?
It was actually super helpful because it gave me information on health, safety and wellness that I was simply clueless about. In addition it forced me to work with the other JFs and get to know them so we had a strong bond before we left for our placements. This came in handy when we encountered problems because there was always someone to share them with.
9) Tell us more about your networking experience with the other Junior Fellows
Living in the tiny EWB house with one functioning washroom with 24 other people really forces you to get to know one another. I feel like because we were always around one another it really accelerating the friendship making process. We all share an experience that we will remember for the rest of our lives and because we get to see each other every year at National Conference I’m sure we will be friends for years to come.
10) What do you enjoy most about this program?
I enjoyed the fact that it expanded my boundaries and forced me in into a position where I was outside my comfort zone because that is when you learn most effectively. I feel like my perspective on a number of things that I felt strongly about has changed and that I have greater empathy for people who don’t see the world in the same way that I do. I learnt a lot about topics that aren’t always discussed and to further appreciate the systems that we take for granted in Canada.