Back with Spices, Chocolate and.. Lessons!

Muriel Bassil, Nutritional Sciences Student

Marlene, Souad, and Muriel outside the Minsitry of Education in Grenada

Note: There was a temporary pause in the publishing of our blog posts as our team returned in early March to the rapidly changing nature of the Coronavirus in Michigan. We now wish to share the thoughts of students on their experiences just before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Our week in Grenada had unfortunately ended and I am back with many learned lessons and tons of chocolate. Monday through Wednesday we conducted different interviews and focus groups in order to understand the perceptions of the Grenadian population regarding alcohol and marijuana and their opinions regarding a substance abuse prevention program. The Drug Control Secretariat wants to use sports as a medium for this program, so we met with athletes and coaches as well.

My experiences with the locals were invaluable; however, we did face many challenges, including the ones I mentioned in my previous blog. The clash in culture and the different dialect was definitely an issue but I learned that it is not offensive to ask for clarifications when needed. Interviewing high school students and young athletes was also an expected challenge, especially when it came to taking us seriously. It was also difficult to get the coaches to speak up about their athletes when it comes to substance abuse.

This experience taught me a lot about cultural humility. Alcohol and marijuana are both part of the Caribbean culture, according to the information we gathered. People use them to celebrate, to mourn or just to lime1. As foreigners, it was important to keep that in mind throughout the week. We can’t just inform them about the consequences of these substances if their grandparents encouraged their first drink. For this reason, a lot of our recommendations for the Ministry of Education focused on behavioral change instead of policy or legislation changes.

Strangely enough, a lot in Grenada reminded me of home in Lebanon. This includes the beaches, the flowers, the beliefs and the community. This made me think about a concept we talk a lot about in our global health classes: countries in the global south working together for a better global health. In the focus groups, many Grenadians weren’t comfortable in opening up to us because of our color and the presence of our laptops as a barrier between us; however, whenever they know that I am not from a high-income country, attitudes differed. I think this was a huge advantage for me but could be a disadvantage for white Americans who are working in global health.

This trip was one of the most valuable learning experiences from my MPH program. I finally have an answer when they ask me during interviews to talk about a challenge!

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