Spicing up Spring Break


Erin Bagazinski

Yesterday I was in Ann Arbor, and after months of waiting, today, I'm in Grenada in the Caribbean! Grenada is also known as the "Island of Spice" due to its large exports of nutmeg and mace. Tomorrow, my team and I start work with the Grenadian Ministry of Social Development and Housing. I'm nervous and excited to start work, but for now, I'm taking the moment to reflect on the whirlwind project our team is about to undertake. The last time I did something similar, I was working on a project with a student team in Cape Town, South Africa, in partnership with the Haven Night Homeless Shelter. This was a two-month long endeavor, working to develop and implement an information tool for social workers. The Caribbean is going to be vastly different than Cape Town, but there are some elements that will remain similar about this project, for example being embedded in the community and the collaboration between team members.

In order to be successful, our team will need to pay close attention to the community. Our undertaking is a preliminary needs assessment for the elderly in Grenada, with the goal of delivering recommendations that help the Ministry better understand, and address the needs for that population. Our team will also need to collaborate well together in order to work efficiently, as we only have a few days to run the interviews, piece together a quick qualitative assessment of the information and deliver impactful recommendations for the Ministry. While I have confidence in the intelligence and work of our team, I am a little apprehensive that despite all our effort we may just miss the mark of being truly helpful to the community. My goal for this work is to have the purpose at the forefront of my mind as we undertake the project. By constantly bringing our actions back to the purpose, we can make sure we are asking the right questions of the members of the community. We can be sure to critically assess our own direction and our own information - if it isn't aligning well with the purpose, how can we adjust? How can we learn more to move in the right direction? How can we ask questions of Ministry employees to validate our direction? I think these questions will be immensely important to us as we wrap up our preparations and make plans to begin work on the ground.

Overall, I think this experience will be an awesome learning experience working directly with a governmental entity applying public health. I hope to keep learning and practicing collaboration, active listening, pushing my comfort zones, and producing thoughtful, work of quality. It also wouldn't hurt to make it to the white, sandy beach in this 80 degree weather :)

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