This past summer, a group of students from Cornell’s global health program and School of Industrial and Labor Relations traveled to Lusaka, Zambia for a research project that immersed them in the sociopolitical landscape of Southern Africa for eight weeks. The 12-person team consisting of 9 Global Health students and 3 ILR students interested in global health, worked with one another and with local organizations to study and present their findings on topics ranging from workforce barriers to new development policies.
The program was initiated in 2013 in an effort for students not only to understand and appreciate the full scope of global health and labor relations, but also to apply their academic coursework in an environment surrounded by like-minded individuals and organizations. Each year, the focus of the research efforts differs depending on the current policies and events relevant to the community.
Students had the opportunity to work with the Southern Africa Institute for Policy and Research, a research center in the Republic of Zambia that contributes to governance and policymaking through lecture series, fellowships, seminars and more. They also interacted with other partner organizations and non-governmental organizations.
Alexandra Phelps ’20 worked with the Sani Foundation, an organization dedicated to facilitating inclusion of young people with intellectual disabilities into Zambian culture and providing them with employment opportunities as well as proper protection of the human rights and freedoms. Along with Efe Airewele ’20, Phelps researched the barriers faced by these people upon trying to enter the workforce. They interviewed key stakeholders and detailed their findings in a 50-page research paper.
Eight weeks of study in Lusaka also meant coming into contact with a new environment and culture. One of the key aspects of the programs was challenging the stereotypical view of African countries as underdeveloped and changing students’ perspectives in a way that would be crucial to their understanding of the society around them. To accomplish this goal, students lived in pairs with a homestay family for four weeks of their visit.
Phelps discussed the experience with her homestay family.
“My host mom went above and beyond in welcoming us to her home and exposing us to the wondrous aspects of Zambian culture,” Phelps said. “The collectivist culture creates a wonderfully tight-knit community where people refer to one another as brother and sister, even if they have never met.”
Amrit Hingorani ’20 investigated the effects of mining on healthcare access in the northwestern province of Zambia.
“At the end of our summer experience, we were expected to produce a policy analysis paper with a comprehensive literature review, analysis of the current situation and recommendations for the future,” Hingorani said.
Hingorani said that, in preparation for the paper, he read numerous articles to get background information on the topic and interviewed many stakeholders who were able to paint a better picture of the situation.
Hingorani also discussed his experience with Zambian culture.
“I had a great time, especially in my homestay and loved learning about Zambian culture and foods from them,” Hingorani said. “I even got to eat a chicken’s toenail during my time there!”
Hingorani talked bonds formed with fellow students on the trip.
“Overall, I loved my trip and getting to know the other students in my cohort. They truly made my time in Zambia special and I am lucky to have been able to spend so much time with them this summer,” Hingorani said.