A Day in the Life of a Health M&E Volunteer

Welcome to the Day in the Life series, where you can get to know the volunteers and what they do every day in a more informal way!

 

My name is Katherine Wong, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of Health Team. I decided to volunteer with CDI because I wanted to gain some fieldwork and real-life experience on how to conduct research. As a psychology student, it is very difficult for us to apply what we learn in university to real life, and I think CDI provides me with a unique opportunity to do so. I also enjoy the process of working on a project from scratch, follow it through and evaluate the impact of our work at the end of the summer. I think this will be a challenging yet rewarding journey, I am looking forward to the things we could achieve as a team!

 

8:30 – Wakeup / Breakfast – I usually skip breakfast or have a few Digestives before heading out for work. (Totally not because I wake up super late every morning because I value sleep over everything.) When I do have breakfast at the canteen, this is what it looks like, plus some Nutella which my friends kindly share with me.

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9:00 – Work time!

When I’m at the classroom, I usually have a cup of tea or a cup of coffee to kick-start my day. The plan of my day really depends on the amount of work I have, but for today, it looks something like this:

  • Complete M&E a day in the life blog post (Top priority!!!)
  • Emotional well-being student baseline survey data analysis
  • Coding for emotional well-being teacher interviews #1 – #6
  • Plan and design sampling method for NCDs workshop, Then speak to the central M&E officer, Adi.   

 

10.00 – Emotional well-being student baseline survey data analysis

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There are currently two ongoing initiatives within the health team: emotional well-being and non-communicable diseases. For the emotional well-being project, we are collaborating with the Education team. I have been working closely with their M&E Officer for the past couple of weeks. Last week, we conducted our baseline survey with students from two different secondary school. We collected responses from a total of 114 students, and the survey consists of 18 questions, which means there are A LOT things to go through.

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You can probably tell from that pile of surveys, we are dealing with a relatively large set of data right here. Emotional well-being is a topic I am personally very passionate about, so this is very exciting for me!

11:00 – Emotional well-being data analysis with Simina

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It would be pretty tough if I had to go through all the surveys alone, so here is Simina – the M&E officer from the Education team, and together we have successfully finished analysing all the surveys! Yay!

Big shout-out to Simina for all her hard work despite the immense workload she is facing and thank you everyone on both the Health and Education team (Priyanka, Fatmah, Oliva, Florida, Nasma, Irene, Mahamudi) for going onsite to conduct these surveys and interviews. Also, a token of gratitude for all the Kite volunteers and our counterparts for translating the question and responses from Swahili to English, also for communicating with the schools – without you guys, none of this would have been possible.

 

13:00 – LUNCH TIME (WHOOP WHOOP!!!)

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After a morning of hard work, finally it’s FOOD TIME!!! I usually have wali (rice) and makange (beef), alongside with some oranges and banana. Sometime if we’re lucky, we get spinach and even some maharage (beans) on the side! It is always nice to sit and chill out with my team and friends from other projects, especially hearing about what others are working on at the moment. Occasionally, we will have weird, philosophical discussion such as the nature of chicken as a continuous verse a discrete concept. Other times, we would have a heated debate about whether the beans they serve are peanuts or not.

 

14:00 – Back to work! Coding teacher interviews

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After lunch, I’ll be working on coding the teacher interviews from the schools we surveyed. I learned about qualitative analysis at university, but this is my first time actually doing it myself. In the emotional well-being initiative, all the qualitative data will be analysed using a bottom-up/data-driven approach. As there are no prior studies on student mental health in Tanzania, this makes it difficult for us to form theories prior to research.

 

17:30 – End of work!

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We usually have our daily briefing at 16:30, where we come together as a team and update each other on the things that we have been working on during the day, plus our progress so far. Here is a group photo of the health team!

 

19:30 – DINNER TIME

I usually have street food at night, and whenever I have mishkaki (meat skewers), I often have to protect my food from the hungry cats in the canteen…

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23:00 – Bedtime!!

Today has been a very productive day – lot of work was completed, but I am exhausted. I will be working on more data analysis and drafting more surveys / interview question tomorrow. My days are generally quite different, as they really depends on the progress of the project. Some tasks might take days to finish, while others can be done within the hour. Although many may say that data analysis and drafting surveys seems to be quite dull, personally I find this quite exciting. It is exactly what I was hoping to do when I decided to volunteer with CDI. Through working on sensitive topics such as mental health and NCDs,  CDI also made me become more mindful of cultural differences between different countries.

Going through some of the responses we have collected from the surveys and interviews, there is often a sense of helplessness within me, but also an intense feeling of wanting to do more for the locals. Stepping back for a second, two months is a very short period and there are only a limited number of things which can be achieved. Yet in the face of this realisation, I still want to make the most of this summer, and hopefully, create some positive changes for various communities.

Let’s end this blog post on a lighter note, here is a cute kitten outside my room, AWWW!!

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