I’m going to Africa!

I got a job! Wow… I’m still kind of in shock.  I am officially a Professional Fellow (ProF), and will be leaving in August for four months to work in Ghana with Engineers Without Borders.  Although I’ve talked to a lot of people about it in-person and on facebook, it still doesn’t feel real!  I guess I haven’t yet articulated what this job is and why I am so excited, so hopefully this post will help me do that (and answer a few questions for my friends and family along the way).

Okay, first of all, what is Engineers Without Borders (EWB)? 

ewb-canadas-logo-jpg1

Engineers without Borders is an amazing organization committed to change in a systemic way.  Instead of just building wells for people that have no water, they look at everyone involved, and try to figure out how to make a sustainable improvement to the entire water system.  They work on investing in people and creating innovative solutions, and work towards systemic change in Canada and Africa.  They have ventures in many different African countries that work with different areas like business, sanitation, and agriculture.  EWB has many chapters all over Canada, and works within the country to make sure that people are educated about international issues and that government is persuaded to make the right decisions about aid. You can check out their website here (http://www.ewb.ca/).  I have recently graduated from Carleton University, and have thus joined the Ottawa City Professional Chapter, which you should also totally join if you’re in the Ottawa area and care about international issues (http://ottawa.ewb.ca).

Wait… aren’t you still in school?

Nope, I have officially finished my thesis.  For those of you that don’t know me very well, I originally did my undergrad in Industrial Design at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.  Although I love the creativity and innovation that comes with design, after 4 years I decided that creating products like cell phones that would end up in a landfill in 6 months just really wasn’t my thing!  I started reading more about international development, but didn’t want to start a whole new degree.  It was at this time that I started seriously considering a master’s program.

Although I would have loved to go to a different school internationally, I chose Carleton for three key reasons (the first two of which are very shallow).  The first reason is that the program was fully funded, and I would not have to incur any debt.  The second reason is that I would be automatically accepted, and would not have to stress about getting in (which I’ve been prone to do).  The last, and most important reason, is the interdisciplinary nature of the program.  This allowed me to learn more about design while taking all of my elective courses in development related issues.  So, although I still do not consider myself an expert, after two years I definitely know a lot more than I once did.  My thesis title ended up being “Income-Generating Products for People with Disabilities in the Majority World: Understanding the Complexities of Participatory Design in Rural Uganda”.  I even got to travel to Uganda for two weeks, which was an amazing experience, and made me want to go work in Africa even more.  Hopefully I will be attending a conference in a few months to present my findings, however only my abstract has been accepted so far, so I will have to keep you posted!

What are you actually going to do in Ghana?

I’m not entirely positive yet, as I only know which group I will be working with.  However, I’m excited to learn more about the specifics over the next few months, before I arrive and once I get to Ghana.  I’ll be working with a group called Mobile Business Clinic (MBC).  MBC is part of EWB’s Business Development Services (BDS) in Ghana (http://www.ewb.ca/ventures/business-development-services-bds).  MBS supports businesses by offering courses and mentorship programs to middle management.  The clinics are run in the capital region (Accra), and help to increase access to funding and networks for the businesses that they work with.  I’m really excited to join the team!

So, what are you up to now?

Over the next few months I will be very busy!  Yesterday I officially finished my thesis, what a relief!  Next week my sister is in town from Vancouver, so it will be really nice to visit.  The week after that I have my first fundraiser, am moving into Steve’s apartment, and am going for the weekend to my first Ottawa Professional Chapter retreat.  On June 4th, Steve and I leave for South America, and we get back July 11.  That weekend I have a conference on disability issues in Ottawa.  Two weeks later I will pack up my bags and head to Toronto for a week of training (where I’m super excited to meet my fellow ProF’s)!  Then straight to Ghana for a big adventure!

Stay tuned for more on my upcoming travels, my job, and everything international!

You can help me to fundraise on my “Enable” website, hosted by Engineers Without Borders!  I would really appreciate your support.

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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