So its been a minute since I’ve taken a minute to sit and capture the lived experiences that have beautifully and transformationally hallmarked my life. A 9 month hiatus and it has been the greatest–learning how to realign and to be present. But I love and appreciate the art of documentation through storytelling and aspire to resurrect those habits. Here’s the highlight reel of how I left 2016 and embarked on the new journey of 2017 with the best of people.
We celebrated my ZamRoomie Effie’s birthday in style with a nice girls brunch!
My lil sis came and we adventured around Lusaka doing touristy things and toilet things (ps no animals were harmed in the making of this photo)
Kalin, Kenya and I jetted off to Kigali, Rwanda to check out its beautiful rolling hills and learn more about its history.
We crossed the border for a quick camping trip on Lake Bunyonyi which was both beautiful and adventurous especially when we canoed (slash got a bit lost/stranded) and saw some amazing fresh water otters.
April began with an awesome Global Health Corps ZamFam retreat to Siavonga where we got to reflect on our fellowship experience, talk about our post fellowship plans, take a sunset boat cruise all while being greeted by some beautiful zebras every morning! Love this group ❤
During this time, Society for Family Health started incorporating some human-centered design (HCD) methodologies into their new approach to increase the uptake of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision in Zambia. It was awesome to be apart of this HCD ideation workshop, help in the production of the social marketing designs and design thinking and have proud co-fellow moments when Lute gave sassy speeches (like below) throughout the process.
One of my closest friends from home even got to come all the way from Nicaragua (where she was living and working) to hang with me in Zambia and work with me on toilets stuff. Such a beautiful soul ❤
Oh and of course, toilet work was happening through it all! After installing it with some of the team and then iterating, I then worked to monitor and lead focus groups with other members of the team! It was so exciting to truly integrate human centered design in this pilot throughout each stage.
In May, some of my GHC ZamFam organized a Professional Development workshop in Kitwe, Zambia for university and postgraduate students. It was awesome to be apart of the the team and also represent with these ladies.
I also had the incredible opportunity to be a WASH consultant for a WASH Needs Assessment project that was being executed by a Save the Mothers-a Ugandan based NGO that promotes and supports mother baby friendly hospitals across the country. During my time, I got to check out the sanitation situation in 5 hospitals across the country and compile a list of recommendations for use in upcoming grant applications. It was a really cool experience to get to work with these girls and to work at the intersection of WASH and Maternal + Child Health. View our project report here.
My time in Uganda happen to overlap with Taylor’s (one of the girls in the photo above) birthday! So of course we all had to celebrate by going on a river rafting adventure on the Nile. My raft even ended up going down a class 5 rapid backwards, which was fun/terrifying.
After months of coordination by some of the incredible members of the ZamFam GHC team, we collectively pulled off a super successful community health fair and soccer (football) tournament. BIG ups to the project coordinators for pulling this all together as it was so great to be able to talk about different organizational health services all the while cheering for the very competitive Lusaka soccer stars!
July was a month of a lot of movement. I first began with the incredible opportunity to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as a Human Centered Design consultant for a local WASH project where we talked about the design process and the importance of iterating products and services after effectively capturing user feedback. It was such a cool project and I loved being able to work with them at their toilet sites too! One night, I also had the chance to check out a performance called Common Threads which is a Pan African community engagement performance project which used Ethio-Modern Dance as a medium for cultural exchange, and it was AMAZING!
July also marked the end of the Wish for WASH 2016 beta toilet pilot! We have since been compiling our findings into reports for our project stakeholders and for potential funders in order to determine if we can begin scaling our work in this community. To check out the pilot process video, click here and check out our 1 page project write up here.
Just after wrapping up the Wish for WASH pilot, I had the opportunity to travel to Toronto, Canada to speak about my journey as a social entrepreneur, WASH and health advocate and as an aspiring global citizen at the 2016 International Baccalaureate Conferences of the Americas Regional conference! What an honor it was to reflect upon how my experience as an IB student helped act as my foundation for the person that I am, and that I am continuing to develop into being. I even had the chance to see Niagara Falls with my friend that I met on my trip to Uganda!
My Co-Fellow, Lute, and I celebrated a great year of progressive and passionate work on our last day at the Society for Family Health!
And we even had matching chitenge dresses that we revealed at the close of our Global Health Corps year at the End of Year Retreat in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania! The retreat was a beautiful way to close out our time as fellows with reflections and fellowship as well as catching up with other fellows that we hadn’t seen since the year before! Such an awesome experience.
And the celebrating, fellowship and reflections continued to the beaches of Zanzibar, Tanzania with these beautiful pipo ❤
After Zanzibar, I hung around in Tanzania for a bit longer and was joined by my little sis as we experienced nature at its finest via extreme sister bonding through camping in the Serengeti and hiking Mount Kilimanjaro! Check out the highlights of this awesome #burtonblastoff memory below:
Finally stateside for the first time in months, we didn’t waste anytime getting that family bonding in from trips to the beach to attending the Nanticoke’s Annual Powwow to walks on the Beltlin, I always love spending time with my favorite people. I even got to swing by GT a bit 🙂
Jet setting again, I packed up and moved to London to begin my MSc in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar! And what a time it was transitioning back to classes, learning the UK academic system (which is quite different from the US’s) and meeting some of the most inspiring public health practitioners from around the world! Oh and Kalin is getting her degree here too, so that she been a consistently fun and rejuvenating thread of friendship and inspiration in my life 🙂
After a whirlwind of orientations and the first few weeks of classes, it was time for LSHTM’s first reading week of the year. With new friendships relatively fresh, this acted as time of extreme bonding for me and 3 girls I met here (Bethany, Lauren, and Hanaa) all of whom are beautiful souls that I am lucky to have adventured to Norway with! That’s right, Norway. We went to Bergen for a few days and it was beautiful seeing all the fjords and checking out the fish markets. Needless to say, it was also EXTREMELY cold. Good times with new friends 🙂
Also in November, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Mumbai, India to present Wish for WASH’s work at the Toilet Board Coalition’s 1st Annual Toilet Business, Innovation and Investment summit. Going from the cold temperatures of Norway to the heat of India was not the only thing that extreme for me, but it was also completely inspiring to be in the same room with the world’s leading toilet people who were dedicating their lives to improving global sanitation crisis. SO SO SO AMAZING! And after talking toilets for a few days, I had the chance to venture around the city which is always fun 🙂
Term 1 at LSHTM ended with a slew of practice assessments and work which has all been super interesting. From health economics to statistics to issues in public health, the first 3 months of course work were intense but really eye opening and catalyzed my heart for this work even more. After wrapping up coursework, the ultimate #burtonblastoff moments ensued as my mom, dad, and lil sis came to tourist around my new city with me. As this was the first time the 4 of us had been really been abroad together, every moment was necessarily documented. I loved every minute of having them here 🙂 Check out our family video that highlights our touristing adventures here.
After our English adventures we headed back home and continued the family bonding through conventional means (ie movies) and nonconventional means (ie INDOOR SKYDIVING..WHAT?!?!) Haha it was amazing and as always, I love spending time with them. Check our family indoor skydiving compilation here.
We kicked off the New Year with all of us still stateside, and ready for the new year. Court was the first to go as she set off on her Georgia Tech Pacific Study Abroad Program where she is studying, living and exploring New Zealand, Australia and Fiji for this semester. As a big sister, I love seeing her grow and experience her own adventures and build her own life. Proud of you court! Love always ❤
As for me, I set off a couple of days later back for my second term at LSHTM. But first, I had an Icelandic Interim where I got to explore the land of fire and ice which was a beautiful transition into the new year of course work.
Following an intense time of politics and demonstrations in addition to stresses that come with being enrolled in an advanced biostatistics course, the communities of support and the amount of love that I have received in this season has been immense and truly amazing. I entered what some have coined as “Q2” on my 25th birthday earlier this month and despite the darkness that is consistently threatening to consume this world, I am constantly reminded of how important and valuable it is to be a source of and to be surround restorative light and love. Thank you to these lovely people that celebrated with me at the British Museum for high tea despite all of the craziness that is school assessments and life.
Talk about a 9 month whirlwind! Cheers to being 25, to hopefully being a bit more kind and wiser, to figuring out my thesis (BAHHH!), and to continuing to authentically write the story that is this life. AND OF COURSE to always remembering that #everybodypoops 🙂