My name is Vikas Munjal and I am currently a senior studying Public Health (Environmental) with a minor in Humanitarian Engineering. For STEP Signature Project, I pursued an internship with the Sustainable and Resilient Tanzanian Community (SRTC) program. The SRTC program is a collaborative process across The Ohio State University initiated through the Dept. of Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic engineering and the School of Environment and Natural Resources. the program is in partnership with the in-country NGO Kilimanjaro Hope Organization (KiHO), the University of Dodoma, and the people of Marwa Village in the Same District, Ruvu Ward of the Kilimanjaro Region. The SRTC has the acknowledged support of, and alliance with, the Same District Council (representing the Government of Tanzania).
Marwa Village was first settled in 2009-2012 and is located in the Same District, Ruvu Ward of the Kilimanjaro Region, in the Northern Zone of Tanzania. Marwa Village is a predominantly Maasai settlement, with a small, yet emerging, Chaga and Pare community mainly located in the Marwa sub-village. Marwa Village has an estimated population of between 5,000-7,000 people. The Maasai are under increasing pressure from the Tanzanian and Kenyan national governments to establish permanent village settlements, transforming their traditional wandering pastoralist lifestyles and culture. The village is constituted as four subvillages: Patteli, Lesirway, Njakatai, and Marwa (Figure 1). Marwa sub-village has Maasai, Chaga, and Pare peoples, while the other 3 sub-villages are predominantly Maasai in population. The village’s governing body is the Marwa Village Council, which consists of the Village Chairman (Mr. Elifuraha Mason), the Village Executive Officer (Mr. George Madea, representing the Tanzanian
In May 2016, the Sustainable and Resilient Tanzanian Community (SRTC) Program identified Maji Marwa as their inaugural anchor project of bringing “maji” (Swahili for “water”) to the four sub-villages of Marwa: Patteli, Lesirway, Njakatai, and Marwa. Additionally, an impact framework (Figure 2) of bringing water to Marwa was identified through a participatory community consultation process in September 2016. A priority need was identified in regard to health and water, and in May 2017 a rainwater-harvesting system was installed on the medical dispensary (clinic) in Marwa after the people identified the dispensary as a facility used by everyone and the need for clean, safe, and accessible water.
In June 2017, during my internship with the SRTC I conducted an initial health assessment in Marwa. The goal of the assessment was be to provide baseline data on health indicators prior to the arrival of clean, safe, and accessible water in Marwa, and so that it could be compared with data collected after water is introduced.
Initially, a series of questions were identified that focused primarily on basic demographics, HIV, child health, and waterborne illnesses; however, these questions were updated twice after consulting with Mr. Kateri Daniel (Executive Director of KiHO) and Mr. Tony Duke (SRTC staff). A series of guided questions to facilitate a focused dialogue and discussion within the sub-villages was deemed to be a more appropriate and engaging medium. The initial questionnaire was very limited and focused only on certain health issues, whereas the final questionnaire would allow a more fluid and open conversation around community health that was led by the Community members.
This internship provided me with a hands-on Public Health experience that completely transformed my views on sustainability, development, and health. Learning about the participatory development process highlighted the proper way to conduct any development projects abroad. Many mission trips or service-learning experiences can neglect to consult the people whom the projects will effect, and many participants go into the experience knowing very little about the community they will be impacting. This dynamic often leads to project failures and misunderstandings between community members and volunteers.
Through this transformative experience, my perspective on sustainable international development has changed completely. I have grown more compassionate about issues related to health inequity and accessibility, garnering skills in health assessment and conducting consultations. For many years, I thought I wanted to go to medical school, assuming that was the only way for me to have the most direct impact on someone’s health; however, after this experience I have realized that there are many routes to improve the health of an individual. This STEP experience has helped me decide to pursue a different career after graduation and taking a break from going to medical school.
A report I authored after the trip: