Diving In

What does one do when she lands in a new project, in a new country, in an unfamiliar culture, and she needs to run a mental health program? 

I have been reflecting on this issue since I arrived in Shire [in Northern Ethiopia] four days ago. Balancing continuing the scheduled activities with getting to know the needs of the population, the context, and the culture is an art! The clinics and services are running. My staff is present and is waiting for guidance and supervision. And, most importantly, the population needs our help now—not tomorrow. So I dive in—as slowly as I can, but I dive into activities!

As far as diving in, this week was already quite busy. On my first day, I participated in eight interviews for the recruitment of community health workers (CHWs). We successfully recruited two CHWs who will provide psychoeducation in the community of the Hitsats Camp [a refugee camp for Eritrean refugees].

I also began preparing a three-day mental health training to be led in ten days. The training was requested by some of the national doctors and nurses and will focus on refreshing their knowledge and increasing their skills around caring for patients with mental health needs. A three-day training is significant! And it feels daunting to hear about it on my first day, too. But I am sure we will do just great.

I complete my first week feeling motivated and eager to work. I am now much more informed about the needs of the population, aware of the issues the project is facing and excited by the dedication and motivation of the staff I will be supervising and training.