My name is Rachelle McGrath and I am a Youth Challenge International (YCI) innovator working in Zanzibar, Tanzania. The project I am working on is 10 weeks in duration, and I am currently at the end of the 3rd week. My project focuses upon developing useful monitoring, evaluation, and reporting guidelines and workshops for the Zanzibar NGO Cluster on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. In order for the guidelines to be useful, which is the ultimate goal, they need to be very succinct and clear because some member organizations operate predominantly in Swahili. This is proving challenging considering the breadth of information that I will need to synthesize.
Prior to my project with YCI, I completed a Master’s of Public Health. In a classroom setting my peers and I would talk about global health, development, and monitoring and evaluation. Many of my peers already had significant international experience, and I always felt a little dwarfed. The things that I was studying theoretically my peers already had direct experience with. I couldn’t wait for when I was finished my Master’s degree and would actually begin work in the field. YCI provided just such an opportunity and I eagerly took it. Although I am still early on in my project, it has confirmed my belief that experiential learning further enriches classroom knowledge in a manner not possible by other means. While I had learned about numerous things that may be encountered on such a project – language barriers, cultural miscommunications, time constraints, and culture shock – it is really a different type of learning to experience these things firsthand.
As far as my first impressions of life in Zanzibar go, I am glad to be in a location where time isn’t so strictly structured! The weather is extremely hot and humid, but it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. It’s also a bit of an adjustment to be so used to living in a familiar situation where I would take things for granted – safe and clean drinking water, reliable electricity, hot water, air conditioning, most people speaking the same language as me, and not being a visible minority – that I can’t take for granted here.
Finally, the individuals I have meet here (YCI volunteers and staff, partner organization members, my house family, my fitness class peers, and fellow travellers) have been amazing. I am excited to continue working on my project, and I really hope that I will be able to help create something positive and sustainable.
– Rachelle McGrath, Youth Innovator, Tanzania 2013