Lauren Long, BME, UmichGradSWE, Masters Student
After a long trip of flying from Detroit, Michigan to Newark, New Jersey to Brussels, Belgium to Freeport, Sierra Leone to Monrovia, Liberia, the first day of camp kicked off well. The start of the day included a cattle spotting, delicious homemade coffee, and meeting Ellen (our lovely caretaker)!
Breakfast consisted of delicious donuts, plain or with cinnamon sugar, and hard boiled eggs – yum! After breakfast we got to work talking about orientation (presented by the amazing and fearless Melinda), group introductions, the Do’s & Don’ts of working together at camp. The discussion ranged from being nice to your neighbor, respecting each other and making sure camp has lively activities. Quinnetta, an LSWE member since 2015, emphasized that we are all here to work together, and learn from each other.
After orientation and introductions it was time for lunch, this writer’s favorite part of the day. During the scorching walk to the cafeteria , University of Michigan students and Liberian students got to know each other and conversed about the excitement of camp. Lunch was a flavorful Jalloffed rice with chicken seasoned with black pepper, fried plantains.
After lunch we headed back to the classroom. The afternoon included a presentation about DISC profiles or personality/learning/group work styles (presented by Lauren). Through this everyone got to work together, discuss, and try to survive. The main event of the afternoon was the survival simulation called “Lost at Sea.” The object is to pick 15 different items you think you need to survive while lost at sea, everyone does it individually and as a group. The results are compared to the coast guards recommended list. Then people can see if they survived or not. The winning team: Akewah, Harriet, Angie, Felicia, and Olivia survived the longest. The overall message from the workshop was communication and understanding each other.
After the group learning workshop, Melinda hosted a variety of team building activities. The first activity brought everyone to their feet, standing in a circle, one person in the middle. The chosen middle person states something that their friends enjoy, then everyone who also likes that moves to a new spot in the circle, the last person left in the circle repeats the exercise. This continued with a lot of laughing, giggling, and even an innovation with water bottles indicating the open spots.
The next activity was a spectrum opinion sharing, where there are four spots in the room that say “strongly agree,” “agree,” “disagree,” “strongly disagree.” Melinda then said a statement, each person then decides to move to the location of strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree. Melinda then asks a person from each group to share their opinion. The questions started out basic – “Forks are better than spoons,” “Math is more fun than science.” They then progressively got more poignt. The most memorable discussion was “Engineering is necessary for Liberian development.” Strong opinions came from Quinetta, Bettina, and Angie. Quinetta disagreed on the basis that Liberians need to change their mentality towards development for engineering to be successful. Countering, Angie and Bettina stated the reason they are in engineering is to gain the knowledge and skills to convince people that engineering solutions will increase development. After this lively discussion, everyone headed off to a quick break at the apartments, and then on to dinner.
Dinner was a delicious, tasty, fried fish (bone in), with salad, and bread. The fish was a little hard to debone in the dark (electricity is not always on), but was well worth the work. After dinner the Liberian students with some UM students gathered to dance, and hang out before bed.
The first day was bustling, busy, and bright. It was a great start to an amazing collaboration!