Africa To Do List

Hey everyone, Tracy here.

Being part of the video shoot has definitely gotten me more excited about this whole project!  The filming crew was really amazing, and it’s a great confidence booster to meet other people who believe in idea you are pursuing enough to invest much of their own time and resources into it as well.  Also, props to Sherol for pulling this whole thing together.


So, what is the idea we are pursuing?  To re-iterate: It’s for us, a group of graduate students and post-grads, to visit universities in Africa in order to learn about the higher educational system there and what, if any, part we could have in that system.  We also want to get a different view of our own system of higher education through cultural comparison.

That said, as many a graduate student learns over time, big ideas need to be broken down into small action items that eventually lead you to an answer or to a degree, whichever comes first.  You may not get everything on the “To Do” list done, and it may change over time, as ideas develop or die off, but it gives you a start.

Here’s our Africa To Do (in no particular order):

1. visit with orphanages.  We hope to be able to serve in some orphanages in order to put ourselves to use while we are there, but also to learn.  What kind of research would benefit orphanages or the people living in the poorest areas there?  What kind of research is already being done?  For example, AIDs is already being studied and cures are being searched for, so how is that impacting the people and what do they think of it?  How involved are the people and children in research, and how could they be involved?

2. visit with schools.  How long are children in school, and who goes to school?  What is being taught, and for what purpose?  Perhaps we could teach basic subjects like math or give a presentation at the schools about ourselves and our research to inspire young scientists. We could even exchange teaching methods with the instructors of these schools.

3. visit with universities.  What does the university life look like?  Who goes to university, and what do they study?  What kind of research is happening?  Is there a need for professors from first world countries to come teach?  What do the universities see for their future, and how do people not in university view them?  We could also give research presentations and connect with fellow graduate students.

4. visit with government.  How do government and universities and schools work together?  What kind of research is government sponsored or involved in?

5. visit with hospitals.  How do hospitals and universities work together and what kind of research is happening through hospitals?  Is there a need for medical workers or educators from first world countries?  What kind of medicine is practiced in hospitals, and what is done outside of hospitals?  For example, the west has become more accepting of eastern medicines over time, so are there other non-western medical practices that we could learn about?  Perhaps we could also be of service in hospitals while we are there, doing menial or skilled tasks depending on our abilities.

Any suggestions of either groups we should try to connect with or questions we should be asking while we are there?

5 responses to “Africa To Do List

  1. Tracy, this is sooooo good. The major feedback I keep getting is that people aren’t sure what we’ll be doing in Africa. This perfectly captures where we are currently at, and realistically explains how things will change over time. We’ll need to do another report about the specific places we’ll be visiting, but more on that after our Kickstarter launches 🙂

  2. I see the potential, but its’ still a bit vague i think. Maybe if you had a clear goal of finishing/accomplishing something that’s currently an issue. I guess…what i’m saying is that you can do tons of research online here…figuring out what or how you can make a huge impact…then go there with a clear purpose. Research at home, build a solution, then funding goes to the solution…not a documentary. The video stuff can be done for free by yourself and crew…dont need a top of the line production company to do it all.

    Stats on a problem would be good to sell the project. Basically, i’m not sure what exactly the problem or need is and why Africa? Why not North Korea, China, or some other random place? Good start, but i think it needs some concrete facts, goals, stats, etc. Oh…and does it matter that it’s PHD students?


  3. What will you do? You’ll find out when you get there! A lot of problems jump out at you when you get to the developing world.

    Why Africa? Why not Africa? Africa has a lot of problems, many of which have known solutions (especially in healthcare). Picking a place and committing to it is as good a place to start as any.

    I think building relationships and looking for people to ally with should be your top priority. Finding a guide should be the top priority, and I would even guide my country selection based on finding someone you can trust. Maybe it’s a professor, or NGO worker, or missionary. Someone who knows the country and is on your side can save you immense amounts of time and greatly accelerate the process.

    I’d add “church” or (as the case may be) “mosque” to the list of places to visit. Religion is very important, especially in Africa. Wherever you go, religious leaders are likely already engaged in the work you would like to do.

    Finally, check out if you haven’t already.

    Sounds exciting!

  4. @David,

    Yea, it’s an interesting point-of-view. People all want us to have a clear plan for things, a bit like how writing a grant proposal requires the answer before we can afford asking the problem (hence needing the grant). Am I crazy to be ok with not knowing?… Why risk going to Africa?.. Well I could easily think, why risk wasting a Summer doing the same thing you do every Summer?.. Or, why miss out on going to Africa?


    In editing our Kickstarter page, I recently wrote this:

    Many people have been asking us what the “problem” is that we are solving. As we stand now, we have no idea what “problems” we will come across, because the purpose of the trip is to experience these circumstance for ourselves. It wouldn’t be fair to start this journey with the mindset that there’s some problem over there that is hopeless unless we intervene.

    The “problem” is us and the circumstances we currently find ourselves in. That’s all we know about; so it makes the most sense to target ourselves– not just ourselves, but our friends and colleagues, and all the others who find themselves in similar situations.

    The project is meant to create meaningful and artistic expression for inspiring people through the bias points-of-view of grad students, academics, and professionals going on a journey together.


    In response to their: “Thanks for writing in. Your project looks interesting, but we don’t allow “fund my life” type projects that raise funds only for food, travel, equipment, and living costs. Is there a way to frame your project more on the creative endeavor and what you’re trying to create, rather than the costs that go into it?”


    Haha, it’s all resolved now though.

    In any case, we’re working through our spread sheet of sites to visit via Google Docs. Just got an email from a Med school in Mozambique.

    Thanks for your input, David.. I hope Med school is treating you well 🙂

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