Sunday, July 5, 2015

Week 3: What am I doing? Project shifts and cultural experiences

Week Overview:
To set some context, the full-time ayzh team includes: Zubaida Bai (CEO), her husband Habib Anwar (Founding Director, Operations and Finance), Rahana Razack (Operations Manager), Dani DiPietro (Business Development) & Sanjukta Das (Research and Innovation Associate), Colleen (Responsible for Business Development and writing grant proposals). This week, I have had the pleasure of getting to know and working with all of them (except for Colleen because she is not in Chennai yet, but I look forward to meeting her). I feel very fortunate to work with some of the most inspiring, bright, and incredible people!

Sunday, June 28th 2015: The food at the hostel is amazing!! I have really enjoyed watching the women chat as they work so hard in the kitchen to make everything (the idlys, the curies, etc.) from scratch.

Monday, June 29th 2015: I accidentally drank the water Sunday night and felt quite sick at the beginning of the day. Instead of staying at the hostel for July like originally planned, it was determined that I would be most valuable at the IDDS site at BSAU, an engineering college campus in the suburbs of Chennai so I can work the the participants and be more efficient in my work. I am so thankful that I will be able to be on the sidelines of IDDS!

Tuesday, June 30th 2015: I moved from the hostel to the IDDS venue with the other IDDS organizers and IDDS leaders from the ayzh team (Zubaida and Habib). The IDDS organizer team has worked very hard to prepare for the summit beginning on Monday, July 6th!

Wednesday, July 1st 2015: During the day, the focus of my work shifted to supporting IDDS in terms of finalizing the project areas and descriptions. In the evening, Sanjukta, Zubaida, Habib and I had a Skype meeting with IDEO (the design team in San Francisco that is working on developing prototypes of the newborn kit based on their visit about 4 weeks ago). I am somewhat disappointed that we probably will not receive the prototypes and be able to test them within the time I am scheduled to be here. After learning about IDEO's work, I am very curious about how the prototypes will do once deployed and I have really enjoyed working with Sanjukta. This led me to reflect about my work plan here and where I can be most valuable for ayzh.

Zubaida and Habib have been very kind and welcoming to me! I did not have dinner this night, and so Habib made sure that Zubaida picked up some food for me on her way back to the IDDS venue. I am so fortunate to work for people who have gone out of their way to take such good care of me.

Thursday, July 2nd 2015 – Zubaida and I saw that I may be valuable by analyzing the data that ayzh has collected and looking at the development of ayzh’s current study in incorporating chlorhexidine in their kits. Even though my work on the newborn kit may be limited to working with the supporting institutions, such as IDEO and CAMTech, and looking at a fully disposable kit, I am glad that I can still do other work that will hopefully be useful for ayzh.

Friday, July 3rd 2015 – I went to district hospital in Chennai called Chengalputtu with a group of IDDS design facilitators (people who will be helping support design teams in developing a product over the next four weeks). India's district hospitals are large “public” hospitals (still need to pay if above the poverty line) in large cities with more specialties such as a neonatal intensive care unit that are not at other health setups in India, which cover more general care (I tend to compare compare district hospitals to a place like Harborview because people come from such a broad area). I thought Chengalputtu was better than Vanivillas (the district hospital I went to in Bangalore), although not by much. Areas in the labor and delivery room were defined by small walls, instead of having a large open room. I saw more healthcare workers, but also more patients. The post-care unit (a room with about 20 beds – not your individual or double rooms common in US hospitals) was full! All the women's lay on their bed with their newborn, while many family members sat on the floor with items such as food, clothing and other necessities for the woman. 

Saturday, July 4th 2015 – I spent the day doing more work to support IDDS. In the evening, ayzh had a meeting with a business consultant to go over a section of the company’s Theory of Change model for monitoring and evaluation of the Clean Birth Kit. I have been learning more about business logistics than I expected.

The Ignorant Westerner:
When my small group of IDDS design facilitators walked into the post-labor ward in at Chengalputtu, one of mothers seemed curious about the group of visitors who walked in and I walked over to her. While the patient lay in her bed with the new baby, the baby's grandma sat on the ground between beds and a young girl slept underneath the bed. I was invited me to sit on the bed and I asked how she was feeling (I wonder how often she is asked that basic question in the hospital, too bad I cannot understand the language). She proudly showed me her baby boy and the grandma dressed him with tender care. It has been quite humbling to visit the hospital setups because I still have much to learn about the culture and how to interact with patients better. Sabina, an IDDS design facilitator whose family has Indian roots, was next to me as I sat on the mother's bed and interacted with her.I got up to leave and say goodbye, I put my hands together in front of my chest and nodded my head in thanks. As we walked out the door, Sabina told me “Her name was Christine, which means that she is not Hindu. She probably thought putting your hands together and nodding was weird, because she her community does not do it.” Oh. I felt stupid as I suddenly saw myself as an ignorant Westerner who does not know the cultural nuances. I realized my unconscious assumption that such an action was common everywhere in India was not true. Thankfully, my “weird” action was innocuous. It was embarrassing, but a good learning opportunity. I internally chuckle at myself when I imagine the mother and grandma’s perspective and how they probably looked at each other and laughed as I walked out of the ward.

Iftar: Breaking Fast
Habib fasted on Friday for Ramadan and to break it, he organized a small feast for everyone on the walkway in front of the dorms. He invited every one apart of IDDS, as well as the chef and house workers, who are part of the college. We all sat on the ground in front of fresh fruit and snacks. It was delicious! Although I did not fast, I felt united eating on the floor with my new friends and participating in a different cultural tradition. I will happily help Habib break his fast any time! In fact, I hope to fast one day while I am here to understand what it is like. Habib is the kind of charismatic person who is passionate in supporting and nourishing others, both literally and figuratively, through his organizational skills and hard work! He is excellent at taking care of everyone!!!! 

Next Time:
The four-week International Development Design Summit begins July 6th. I will include more context of the background of the summit and ayzh’s role, along with the adventures of the first week!

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