Maximum Diva

 

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In the making for the past year and a half, the Maximum Diva Woman Condom is now ready to be introduced to the world! The Society for Family Health (SFH) has finally received the product in country with the brand established and has begun recruiting the Interpersonal communicators (IPC agents) to sell the message of women’s empowerment via this new reproductive health option. So, through this season of product preparation, it has been an exciting time to be a part of the social marketing and communications team at SFH. AND Lute and I got to participate in the first IPC training conducted by our IPC Manager, James Zimba, to our Maximum Diva Woman Condom brand ambassador, Cleo the Ice Queen!

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Cleo is a well renowned artist in Zambia who gained even further notoriety after living in the “Big Brother Africa” house. Not only did we get to be amongst the first people in the office to rock the Maximum Diva Brand (aka neon green and pink polos), but we also had the chance to hang out with the Ice Queen herself and talk about sex in front of brightly colored and branded materials.

So what is the big deal with these condoms?

After extensive research and iterative development following the overwhelmingly negative feedback that SFH received after their first female condom distribution, the Maximum Diva Condom has been manufactured to have improved user experience. The improvements are evidenced by easier product insertion (which is a huge issue that exists in this market since male condoms are often easier to put on correctly) and lack of sound during sex due to the new material used in manufacturing (no more latex!).

As the only designer at SFH, I am excited to see first hand the utilization of human centered design and iterations as it relates to products in the social impact space. I am excited to follow the product’s acceptance and see if the claims of the new product prove to be true in the field since they are now being sold on the market!

CONGRATS TO SFH for a successful LAUNCH of the MAXIMUM DIVA FEMALE CONDOMS and to my maximum diva co-fellow for being the launch coordinator!

#Level24

24. One more year until the quarter life crisis ‘officially ensues’. One more year of being considered someone in their early twenties. These uninspiring thoughts then led to me thinking:

What am I actually doing with my life and how am I actually going to do it?

What am I going to be when I “grow up”?

And will I ever figure out how do my taxes on my own?

Flooded with questions and uncertainty during this time after Q2’s majestic internal  and enlightened reflections coupled with the angst that comes with packing, moving, unpacking and (hopefully) nesting into a new place, I approached my 24th birthday with a doubting heart. As someone who has always loved birthdays, I was not sure it I was excited about this one. Not to mention that it was my first birthday away from my family. I was feeling unsure.

But, what I continue to be reminded of in this season of life is that everything happens for a reason. And much to my surprise, despite all the craziness of other people’s schedules and adjusting to their new living situations, my GHC ZamFam really made it clear that they were my family and that Zambia was my new home away from home. 

Rewind exactly 1 week from my birthday. And it was my amazing co-fellow, Lute’s, 24th birthday. The day right after Q2, we had sweet co-fellow lunch at Noodle. Yummy food, pretty pieces of cake, and surprise and sparkly gifts from the US was how we celebrated the first of our co-fellow pair to get on #Level24. And yes Lute’s older than me…by 7 days. 

Before I knew it,  it was my turn. Showing up to work in my newly made Chitenge pants had me walking with a new “I’m 24 today” swag. I opened my phone to texts and phone calls from the Burton crew and photos of the cards that they got for me (my parents love cards and always gives the to us for the holidays! And it was so sweet to receive mine this year via WhatsAp! #burtonblastoff). And I was so excited for work to be done, so that some of ZamFam and I could FINALLY try the best steak house in all of Lusaka, Marlins. And for those of yall that know me, I LOVE steak/meat/protein. Needless to say, I was super pumped and the day was off to a great start. 

Once we showed up to the Lusaka Club House for dinner  (with Lute dressed to impressed and swervin in her friend’s car), we waited for Kalin and Sara to arrive. Then it was time to eat. And NOM the Pepper Steak was EVERYTHING.

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And just when I thought that I was on cloud9, Lute (aka the best co-fellow EVER) surprised me with a HUGE toilet paper roll cake paired with cute little poop cupcakes that said “You’re Old As Poop”. I literally lost my shit, I was so happy.

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The INCREDIBLE cake coupled with the AMAZING steak and the ECCENTRIC light up crown that adorned my head courtesy of Kalin in addition to the PRACTICAL work goodies that Lute also gave me ALL made moving on up to #level24 so special.

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As icing on the cake, Lute and I had a joint ZamFam potluck celebration that also served as Effie, Doris, and my official house warming party at our new pad. It was so much fun to bring the gang back together again over yummy drinks and food (and I even cooked NOODLES!)

All of my prior premonitions about this year and turning 24 were instantly quelled and replaced by sheer gratitude for the people that I get to call my family- both in Zambia and stateside. Seriously. #Level24 was made perfect by all of them. Thank you all so much ❤ 

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The Move

Months of discussion, propelled by termite infestations, extreme power and water outages and the overall health and safety issues that were becoming more apparent and hard to maintain at many of our homes over the course of the first 6 months homes yielded a complete ZamFam move in early 2016. With GHC’s assistance, we all, over the course of a month, transitioned to new homes scattered across the city. For me, this move was pretty bittersweet because while the housing that we had been living in for our first 6 months in Zambia had a host of physical problems that had been compounded over several years that affected the collective livelihood of the group that lived there, the housing complex had been an integral place of community for the 4 years of Zambian based American fellows (as well as many of the Zambian national fellows) who were a part of Global Health Corps. The history of the complex and just the sheer convenience of living next door to other members of our cohort made the place special because it housed many memories and enabled new group memories to be born which meant that the official announcement of our move called for a grand farewell celebration. Kalin headed up a going away Braii or BBQ for friends and family of current and previous GHC fellows based in Zambia, and the turn-out was great. It was a beautiful way to move into a new phase of our Zambian GHC experience.

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Fast forward a month later, we somehow managed to pack up all of our belongings (which for me was a heinous process since I tend to collect massive amounts of random things) and have since moved to various homes in Lusaka that boast improved maintenance and power as well as being a bit more convenient to most of our cohort’s work places.

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For GHC, one of the main focuses for our move was to improve the commute from work to home so that less people were traveling to and from work after the sun was down. And because this was a main part of the move and new housing selection, roommates were swapped and new living arrangements were made. Effie and I are still roomies and have welcomed Doris into our day to day lives as our new third roommate in our spacious and beautiful new home (complete with accent walls and a red kitchen!).

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We all had to adjust and set new expectations for one another to ensure that we live as peacefully and productively as possible in our third official living arrangement since moving to Zambia. While this experience was definitely bittersweet at the beginning and learning how to get to work or grocery shop or just live in our new contexts added a certain level of anxiety for me as I sought to find my new norm, the move has proven to be for the better for all of us and I am thankful for all of the new opportunities that this new housing arrangement has to offers us (like intentionally traveling to visit each other or hosting dinner parties with one another).

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This just goes to show that the only constant in life is change, and that’s a beautiful thing.

 

Q2

A few weeks into 2016, and Global Health Corps had us fellows hit the ground running in the most rejuvenating way possible. This year long fellowship is set up in a way that requires quarterly reviews and group check-ins that are intended to provide us with not only the time to process our personal and professional growth, but also the space to socialize and keep morale high amongst the community despite the hardships that working and living abroad might yield. Maintaining high spirits while trying in enact positive and innovative change within our placement organizations or just in the name of health equity as a whole has proven to be, at times, exhausting, which is why these quarterly retreats are such a great and valuable re-energizing part of the fellowship. Most of us have experienced highs and lows throughout the year and will continue to do so as the remainder of the 5 months pans out. Calibrating personal and professional expectations while also seeking to leave a lasting impact has simultaneously proven to be a delicate challenge that most of us have or are continuing to face. Needless to say, bringing together groups of GHC fellows to discuss shared experiences and process their realities is cleansing.

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I was unable to attend the first quarterly retreat, which focused on experiences faced within country groups, as a result of my prior commitment to attend and present at the Humanity in Action “Arts and Activism” conference in October. So for me, Q2, or the quarter two retreat, was the first time I had the opportunity to experience the cleansing and inspiring nature of the GHC retreat system. In mid-January, ZamFam jumped on a small plane and made our way to Mfuwe, which was about an hour’s flight from Lusaka.

Q2 acted as a 5 day period of internal reflection and external processing between members of the ZamFam country team and the GHC Malawi country team, that are collectively known as the MalPals. Through co-fellow presentations, spiritually awakening lectures led by Still Harbor, and one-on-ones with GHC staff members including our fearless leader, Barbara Bush, in addition to the post session socializing and catch ups, I felt refocused and refueled for the second half of the fellowship to unfold.

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In addition to the internal relief the Q2 provided, there was so much natural beauty that surrounded us in Mfuwe, Zambia that made the experience even more enlightening. Staying at the Croc Valley Camp lodge, which was immersed amidst Zambia’s Natural Park and game reserve in South Luangwe, was not only beautiful, but it was also such a unique experience. I shared a room with 10 other girls in hostel style set up with mosquito nets draped across the room that made it feel much more lavish and helped compensate for the 1 toilet and 1 shower situation that the 10 of us were trying to figure out over the course of the 5 day retreat.

The roof to our hostel style room was tin and acted as the perfect tap dancing stage for the local monkeys and baboons that began dancing away at the crack of dawn. Speaking of monkeys, they were everywhere which was cool, but kind of terrifying. I never realized how much baboons specifically act and look like humans; one even opened the door to our room and walked in! Those opposable thumbs though.

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And in between heart felt sessions, as a group we got to experience a day and a night game drive through the South Luangwe National Park. Baboons/monkeys were frequent (per usual), elephants were friendly, giraffes were curiously cute, zebras sparked debates about if they were white with black stripes or black with white stripes, and hippos darted in and out of the bushes all of which made our experience so surreal. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any of the big cat predators, but our time in Mfuwe was still incredible.

These games drives were beautiful and really helped me to physically feel the vastness of the world and God’s creation which helped me to at least momentarily feel at peace with uncertainties that I was feeling and remember that everything and everyone has its place and purpose. It will all work out the way that it is supposed to. Thank you Q2 for reminding me of that.

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Chronicles of a Toilet Crowdfunder

2016. It’s a new year for all, including Wish for WASH. Founded in December 2014, it has officially been 1 year of this social startup’s existence. And wow, what a whirlwind of learnings, growth, perseverance and creativity it has been! The continuous and outpouring support that we continue to receive from people and organizations around the world with whom we are related and whom we have never met is truly a testament to the mantra “it takes a village to raise a child”. In this case, Wish for WASH is an infant organization run by young passioneers who have worked tireless throughout weekends, between classes, late after work and in countries around the world to bring into fruition the social mission of improved sanitation in low resource communities. While we have a lengthy journey ahead of us, we have come so far because of our incredible communities of support.

We ended last year with a high energy and frequently marketed indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with the hopes of raising enough capital to fund our 2016 beta toilet pilot in Zambia as well as in a resettled refugee community in Atlanta. As a team who prides itself on valuing human centered design to fuel our product and service innovations, it is now time to bring our work into the field for critical feedback.

Does the toilet work?

Does it improve the user experience?

These are questions that will catalyze much of our work this coming year. As tough as it is to hear that something that is more or less your baby isn’t working as planned, it is necessary to receive this constructive criticism to continue iterating until it has the impact and value that is intended. It’s a long journey, but it is an exciting one for sure.

Emerging from my first ever crowdfunding experience with a 100% funded campaign that was rooted in an intense, almost guerilla-like, social media strategy has given me a completely new perspective of the sustained level of energy and passion required to be a fundraising professional. For me, November and December 2015 were months where I was almost exclusively fundraising for this Toilet Testing campaign, and it was- quite frankly- exhausting. I learned just how challenging it is to actively translate passion and excitement into a financial donation, especially since the SafiChoo toilet does not directly or tangibly benefit the lives of those who have donated. Luckily, our strong following and communities of support helped us cross the finish line after we developed consistent social media schedules, exciting new perk offers, creative ways to expand our reach through new media outlets, mentoring support from organizations that had been through their own crowdfunding hurdles before as well as learning a slew of other social entrepreneurial lessons. One of my favorite learnings that kept my spirits high despite the grueling hours spent mass emailing or facebook messaging hundreds of people was that much of the millennial generation is willing to support social missions in ways beyond financial contributions. I had friends from college, childhood and even people whom I have never met offer to write blog posts, share the campaign on their social media pages, connect me with potential partners/donors/media outlets to broaden our reach, donate a portion of their monthly pay check to our cause, create pieces of art that would be sold with a percentage of the money going to Wish for WASH, offer their website and digital media expertise pro bono, or host events where the proceeds went to Wish for WASH. As a huge fan of creative problem solving, I was amazed at how many unique ways that people supported our mission beyond solely direct funding. And despite the level of anxiety that spamming to raise money may have caused, I am incredibly honored to see how selfless people can be. Broke students and fellow entrepreneurs who are in the same penny pinching situation as Wish for WASH frequently shelled out $5-$10, and it was truly inspiring and catalyzed personal reflection.

In this reflection, I made the following realizations:

  • People genuinely care. Despite how tight their time or budgets may be, the people who feel your translated passion, regardless of whether the product or service directly benefits their day to day life, find a way to support you in a way that may lead to incredibly lucrative (both fiscal and personal) results which you may have never known was possible. Anything really is everything when it comes to supporting passion.
  • Fundraising is hard work. For the people who do it as a full time job, I am seriously impressed because it takes unbelievable time and passion as well as a heart that will not be deterred when faced with an inevitable slew of rejection. I learned throughout our campaign that if 3 out of 10 emails were answered positively, then that was a successful campaigning day. Having realistic expectations and not taking unanswered or rejection messages personally is crucial to be a successful fundraiser. So, hats off to all of the fundraisers out there for having an amazingly creative and resilient spirit!
  • Crowdfunding is a team sport. There is no way in the world that I would have been able to do this alone! Thanks to the Wish for WASH team, we had continuous creative graphics to post, new opportunities to pursue, new perks to offer, new student members that were excited to contribute and more passionate people to help reach out and respond to the mountains of emails that were surfacing. Additionally, having the support of my family to help spread the word and to keep me sane during peaks of frustration was, and continues to be, invaluable throughout this entire process. If you are thinking of launching a crowdfunding campaign, definitely ensure that you have a team that has your back no matter what the results of the campaign may be.
  • Anything is possible. So cheesy, I know, but I believe it now more than ever. If Wish for WASH was able to reach our goal of $25,000 for toilet testing in low resource communities in just over a month’s time, then anyone who is driven to make a difference can attract the kind of support needed to follow their dream to its furthest. This campaign was for a proof of concept test for a toilet that many people who donated will never physically see or get to use, but still through successful communication and advocacy strategies, they now care, and they helped in whatever capacity that they could. And for that I am extremely thankful.

Overall, I am incredibly re-energized by the results of this campaign and am excited to continue sharing our story as it unfolds. Regardless of whether this pilot is a “failure” in terms of traditional metrics of success, we will be able to share our learnings externally for growth in the sanitation community as well as continue iterating our work so that it one day achieves its intended impact as a meaningful and sustainable step in the direction of universal access to hygienic sanitation. Thank you to everyone who has helped us arrive to the place where we are today. We are forever grateful for you believing in us because #everybodypoops. Happy 2016!
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Kuti + Kafue

The past 2 weekends in Zambia have been adventures for sure! Last weekend, we began by hittin up the monthly Dutch market to get some beautiful prints and patterns. Of course this means that we had to flex our negotiating muscle, and luckily, Kenya and I were successful as we walked away with these beautiful Chitenge dresses for a really decent prices! I cannot wait to wear mine as wearing something that wasn’t a fortune is always particularly satisfying.

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After taking quit naps in Kepa, we made moves to the BareFeet Music Festival, which was an incredible 2-weeks of African performances and arts all benefiting poverty initiatives sponsored by incredible organizations such as UNICEF and UNHCR. Last Saturday was the finale of the 2 weeks of festivities, and the festival went out with a bang with headliner FEMI KUTI.

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Being unfamiliar with this amazing artist before last weekend, I was completely blown away by this man’s talent paired with his passionate voice of advocacy for the continent of Africa. With lyrics like:

“Yesterday, Dem tell us sey
Sey today, na we go gain
So we struggle, suffer dey
For this new democratic change
But the truth of the matter be sey
Dem disguise another way
To continue their crooked ways
Oh Yes! Dem bobo!”

It makes you think. Advocacy entwined with incredibly sophisticated rhythmic beats.

Effie, one of my ZamRoomies, is Ghanaian and has grown up loving Kuti’s work so it was incredible to experience this performance with her with the rest of the Zamfam. What an amazing night!

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Fastforward to this past weekend, my ZamRoomies and I went on a day trip excursion to the Kafue River which was about 45 minutes outside of Lusaka. Effie’s co-workers invited us and organized this excursion and we were so thankful to have been invited! Setting up a picnic, we enjoyed a beautiful and scenic view of the nature that Zambia boasts that we don’t usually get to see in the cityscape of Lusaka.

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The best part of the trip was getting a chance to explore via a speedboat in a hippo infested waters! It was such a beautiful adventure and a nice escape to a lush natural haven at the Cheetah Lodge at the Kafue River.

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The last two weekends listening to Kuti and at Kafue were amazing!

Let’s work the way you work

After graduating from Georgia Tech, you feel so full of potential, and so ready to go out to make a huge and memorable impact on world as soon as possible.  And all of these feelings are extremely valid because being equipped with an incredible education and powerful critical thinking skills while simultaneously being surrounded by inspiring change-making peers ultimately challenges you to be the best version of yourself possible. For me, this collegiate environment activated the ‘achieving’ part of my personality; thus, planning and efficiency have become integral parts of my existence a  result of being bred in a culture of ‘doers’. At Georgia Tech, we are taught to see problems and creatively work to devise ground breaking solutions. This task-oriented, incredibly efficient STEM mentality, coupled with lifelong teachings from both of my parents with military backgrounds, has made me value the concept of working smarter rather than working harder.


With the coming of age of my generation, Gen Y, the western business world is bracing itself for massive changes as millennials advocate for increased flexibility, transparency, and independence in the work place in an effort to create an environment that stimulates valuable output for each individualized person. Most of my work experience throughout my collegiate career mimicked much of these values as I freelanced, made my own hours or worked remotely on task oriented projects where I could largely work when and how I needed in order to produce the most meaningful content. Additionally, as a blossoming social entrepreneur and creative humanitarian activist, I have begun to translate the work ethic that I learned from Georgia Tech into my professional life, on my own terms and in my own way-which usually means working in the most efficient way possible while simultaneously challenging conventional institutions and strategies in the name of progress and innovation.


However, ‘efficiency’ has different meanings and different rankings on lists of priorities to different people from different places who work in different sectors of society.  Moving to Zambia and deeply immersing myself in a non-profit, non-American, and traditional corporate work place has definitely been a culture shock for me. I joined the Society of Family Health (SFH) immediately after an intensely inspiring Global Health Corps training, so I was prepared to make immediate impact within my first 90 days and to hit the ground running. However, I have quickly learned that in order to make meaningful impact, you have to gain people’s trust and show respect to the culture of the organization before trying to push the needle of change. SFH is an incredible organization that I am blessed to be a part of, and in my first few months here, I have grown to learn the value of taking a step back and slow down my constant quest for forward progress to simply listen and observe. And it has been a big and important professional development adjustment.
 I initially spent several days feeling frustrated with myself. I felt like a burden or that my ideas were not being embraced or that I was not achieving the aggressive goals that I had set for myself all of which made the “achieving” part of my personality feel neglected. This neglect often manifested as a form of candor that can be perceived as aggressive in many non-western countries and in many non-profit settings. I have recently realized how selfish that mentality has been. As much as this experience is about developing myself as a professional, I am still an outsider to this organization and its culture; thus, in order to be embraced as a valuable member of the team, I have to listen and translate the principles of  my empathic design work into the work place. Rather than allowing myself to feel like a burden, I have actively begun asking questions and seeking ways to get ‘doable’ tasks assigned to me. Rather than feeling offended when my ideas are not embraced, I now recognize that I approach problems with a western perspective that is not always correct or applicable in every context, despite how awesome or efficient the idea may be to me. And rather than giving myself lofty, high reaching goals, the “achieving” part of my personality has found satisfaction in setting feasible and attainable goals each week in order to ensure the continuity of my contributions to the team. Advocacy is essential in social impact work, but it has to be smart in order for it to be effective. It is important to discern when to advocate for yourself and your ideas and when you should sit back and work with what you are given in an effort to learn and build trust. Trust is essential and is the only way to get things accomplished within a team.


I am the sum of my life story’s parts including military-based efficiency, STEM teachings, and an entrepreneurial work ethic; however, in order to effectively work as a member of a team in this global space, I have to understand how to approach problems with an open mind and learn when I need to advocate for myself or my ideas versus when I need to respectfully sit back and say “Let’s work the way you work”.

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Out on the Town  

This past weekend was an eventful one! My usual, casual Friday half day commenced, and afterwards, I went home and immediately to sleep. It was the last day Lute was house-sitting for her cousin and the last day that she would be driving us to work. Not having to worry about dealing with mini bus fee negotiations, sitting extremely close to strangers’ armpits, and praying that we wouldn’t drive towards incoming traffic everyday last week was glorious while it lasted!
After waking up from my cat nap, the roomies and I decided to watch some quality television AKA PITCH PERFECT and PITCH PERFECT 2, courteous of hard drives with massive amounts of space. Over the course of a few hours, people came in and out to watch with us and then, out of no where, Alexis made announcement.

“I have a surprise”. And in walked REENA + MWANSA!

We haven’t seen them since they left 3 weeks ago for Kitwe, which is about 6 hours away from Lusaka. We talk everyday and have been venting to one another about the inevitable adjustment struggles that we are all facing, but seeing them in PERSON was SUCH A SURPRISE!!

Reena stayed with Effie, Kalin and I which enabled long night chats about our lives here and what we envision for ourselves in the future. Saturday was full of events as well as we were celebrating  BRIANS 26th birthday, which was birthday number 4 for ZamFam.

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We began the day by getting picked up by a one of last year’s ZamFam fellows, Robyn, and going to ZamBean-a coffee shop notoriously known for having the best coffee in all of Lusaka. AND IT WAS FABULOUS! I got an incredible iced coffee slushie and a bacon/egg breakfast combo (per usual) that I shared with Reena since she got French toast. MEAT! Nom Nom!
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Of course, we all napped and Kalin put up her hammock following this breakfast feast.

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Next on the agenda was going  to Chengdu, a local Chinese restaurant and casino for dinner! We were really worried about prices, but it turned out to be really affordable and delicious. And to celebrate Brian, we placed a candle in a dumpling!

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Following dinner, we had a Zambian style kick back at our casa before heading out! After sorting out the cab/ride situation, we hit up CHICAGOS first. It was definitely a different scene than it was the first time I went there as it is a restaurant in the mall. Afterwards, we hit the Lounge for some dancing and mingling and then finally headed home to hit the hay. #wehitthatscene
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Sunday, was sad because Reena and Mwansa left and Brian left for Botswana for a work training :(. But it was happy in the sense of productivity. Effie, Kalin and I thought the power was going to go out so we cooked a lot, worked out, showered, and prepared for the week all before 1pm. AND I COOKED THIS INCREDIBLE BAKED AVOCADO + EGG MEAL that Reena taught me! It turns out that the fear of loadshedding makes us really productive, even though power did not go out on Sunday. Lawlz.

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WHAT an eventful weekend going  OUT ON THE TOWN with my ZamFam homies.

Adaptability

In preparation for our Global Health Corps training at Yale University, we all had to prepare ourselves for work in the field through a series of personality assessments. Luckily for me, I love personality assessments and comparing my results from now to 5 years ago in an effort to track my growth as a creative and social justice oriented professional. The medium for this personality assessment was the well-known Strengths Finders Assessment-an assessment that is one of my favorites after taking it 4 times now.

The beauty of this assessment is that it lists your strengths from 1 (top) to 34 (bottom) and the top 5 are the most essential in understanding your leadership assets and weaknesses. Over the course of the 4 times that I have taken this assessment, there have always been a few constants that appear in my top 5 strengths-activator, connectedness, and strategic.  While their placement in my top 5 has shifted as I have grown and matured, these traits have proven to be embedded in my character and my approach to leadership and life in general.  According to the assessment,

Activator: People strong in Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.

Connectedness: People strong in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.

Strategic: People strong in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

Clearly these traits are demonstrative of several of my character strengths as well as (ironically) some of my character flaws. However, this particular round of top strengths that were listed for me truly reflect where I am in my life right now with “adaptability” listed as my number one strength.

Adaptability: People strong the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.

For those of you who know me well and have seen me progress with my work with Wish for WASH over the past year, you know that this word-adaptability- encapsulates my character so much so that I say that I “go with the flow” for almost every aspect of my life these days. Many people believe that I say this phrase as another toilet pun, but it is so much more. Evidenced by the fact that I just up and moved to Zambia after being accepted into this fellowship in May after randomly completing a post-baccalaureate certificate at Georgia Tech this past spring while simultaneously trying to launch the new iteration of Wish for WASH’s toilet in both Atlanta and Zambia, life for me is crazy and unpredictable. While I was raised under a very disciplined roof and was taught the value of planning and goal setting, I am in a place in life where the “now” is consuming me. How will I eat today? How will I pay my bills today? Where am I living tomorrow? –are questions that have recently bombarded my newly independent brain, pushing out a lot of the discipline and planning mentality that I was raised with and leaving me in a place of adaptability. Which is both good and bad.

In terms of survival and living, adaptability has been proven to be necessary evidenced so far during my time at GHC. From Yale dorms to my first room in our transitional housing site in Lusaka (Belevedere) to my second room in Belvedere to my room and roommate debacles in  the Kepa Apartment complex, embracing this sense of adaptability has helped me maintain sanity during this time of uncertainty and room hopping. And in retrospect, it has made it all the more sweet to finally unpack and nest in my room in Kepa. While I may come off as high maintenance in some ways, my sense of adaptability has proven the opposite in other ways especially in situations like this.

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In terms of long term future planning, the sense of “adaptability” makes life a bit challenging at times. Focusing on the “now” has distracted me in a lot of ways from accurately preparing for future events like I did throughout my childhood. Luckily, my communities of support inclusive of my incredible parents have really helped keep me be aware of and accountable for my future-helping me to plan for applications and timelines so that I can be prepared to take my next steps of life in the next years following this Global Health Corps Fellowship despite my brain being overwhelming focused on surviving the “now”. “Adaptability” is crucial in this field of work especially as a twenty something year old learning her place in the grand scheme of life; but for me, that “adaptability” and even carefree spontaneity that is my life these days is necessarily balanced by having overarching goals that I strive to achieve daily to ultimately get me where I hope to one day be. I am still learning to find balance in this crazy adventure of life.

VMMC

This week, Lute and I had the privilege of attending the launch of Society for Family Health’s Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision Campaign (VMMC) with the rest of the Communications team. It was Tuesday, and we had just concluded a long VMMC meeting at the office when Lute and I received an email informing us that we were invited to attend the launch the next day! One of our co-workers agreed to pick us up at 6:30am near Kepa to take us to the launch in the Matero Compound. Of course we were sporting our VMMC tshirts and were excited to represent SFH at the event; however, it was SO COLD. Jeans and jackets were a must in terms of wardrobe that day!

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When we arrived, much of the decorations had been set up so we were responsible for distributing awareness information and setting up the pop-up banners in order to complete the branding for the event.

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Around 8:30am, the event began with a marching band to bring awareness of VMMC to the community. The event proceeded with a series of speakers including doctors and government representatives in addition to a slew of press. There was traditional African dancing and drumming and even a skit was performed that showcased some of the common myths and fears that barred men from moving forward with the surgery.

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The overall goal of the event was to break the stigma surrounding such a sensitive topic by calling for the cultural acceptance of VMMC because of how much the procedure has been proven to significantly improve community health. In fact, VMMC procedures reduce the spread of heterosexual HIV by about 60%, which is huge! Despite the weather and perhaps awkwardness that some people felt, overall the event was a success. And I even got to play the drums with some cute new little friends! I am excited for future launches that we will participate in at the Society for Family Health!

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