My Visit to DGHI’s Student Fieldwork Site in Tanzania

6 09 2012

By Melissa Watt, DGHI Assistant Professor

When you pull off the paved road toward the village of Mwika, the first thing you see is the Lutheran church nestled at the bottom of the hill among the groves of banana plants. The church serves as the center of the community, and we first paid a visit there to meet with the community’s leaders and the partners of DGHI’s Student Research Training (SRT) program.

It was serendipitous that I was in-country this week, since I recently agreed to serve as the new faculty mentor for the SRT site in Tanzania. Vera Mushi, the on-ground coordinator of the site, and Trish Bartlett, who has served as the mentor for the past several years, graciously accompanied me to the site to show me the setting and help facilitate the introductions.

The primary partners of the SRT program are the pastor, the staff of the Mwika clinic and Mama Nancy, who provides the homestay experience. These three partners work together to welcome and support the group of Duke students who go to the village each summer. Their summer experience includes cultural immersion, a clinic-based project and a household survey on the knowledge and needs of the community.

Mwika partners shared with me how successful the student projects were this summer. Duke students completed two large projects. (READ THEIR BLOG.) They organized all of the patient files in the clinic to create an electronic database to link medical record numbers with patient names, and they completed a household survey on major health issues that culminated in a community workshop and a colorful brochure to share the findings. In addition to these accomplishments, the pastor praised the students for how enthusiastic and kind they were during their stay. Mama Nancy told us about how the students became part of her household during the two months they lived with her.

I feel grateful that I was able to visit Mwika during this trip, get to know the location where the Duke students live and work, and meet our kind and committed partners. I look forward to supporting Duke students in the years to come, in order to continue to build this relationship and build upon the very strong foundation that has been built. I hope to return to Mwika someday to breathe in the cool air and visit again with these warm people.

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