Eleanor Campbell

Student, Columbia University
  • Columbia University
  • People
  • United States of America

About Eleanor Campbell

Hello! My name is Eleanor Campbell, and I am a 2021 Laidlaw Scholar. I am a student at Columbia University in the City of New York, and I am originally from Raleigh, NC, USA. I major in Economics and am particularly interested in Behavioral Economics.

During my first year with Laidlaw, I worked with Professor Hitendra Wadhwa of the Columbia Business School in developing a leadership fellowship for aspiring young changemakers.

For my Leadership in Action project, I worked with World Vision on a menstrual hygiene management campaign in West Gonja, Ghana.

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Scholar

Area of Expertise

Economics Leadership Social Sciences

Research Topic

Education Health

Laidlaw Cohort Year

2021

University

Columbia University

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:

English

My hobbies/interests are:

Cooking/Baking Dance Gym Hiking/walking Running/jogging Travelling Volunteering

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes

Yes

Influencer Of

Topics

Channels contributed to:

Leadership

Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

Jul 24, 2022

Week Five:
What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

Other people have touched on the language barrier being something they've struggled with and adapted to during their time away. Although I would have with other countries, I didn't think about it much before coming to Ghana since I knew the official language is English. Even so, I've been surprised by how difficult communication can be here at times. It has nothing on a country where the official language is something other than English but still has taken some adjustment. Many of the young children or adults who never went to school speak only their native language (usually Gonja). There's not much to do about the language barrier given how short our interactions usually are, so I've been paying more attention to gestures, body language, and other non-verbal cues to convey my gratitude for their hospitality and my interest in their concerns and well-being.
I've also been surprised by the accent barrier even between other English-speakers and me. Sometimes it seems like we're speaking in two totally different languages! My family has told me for years that I talk too quickly for other people to keep up; now I see they're right, and I've been practicing speaking slowly, deliberately, and as deeply as possible. Usually this is enough for World Vision staff to understand my strange American accent, but when I go to junior high schools a World Vision volunteer usually has to translate my English...into English. It's been humbling and I think has made me more patient. I know the students are very eager to please and that their nodding doesn't necessarily mean they understand, so I've been much more careful not only in my delivery but also in confirming they understand me.

Jul 23, 2022
Replying to Dennis Zhang

Week Five:

One invaluable new skill I’ve acquired this summer is actively taking notes and reflecting at the end of each day. Heading into my experience in the Huntington's Unit at the Terence Cardinal Cooke Healthcare Center, I was intimidated by all the learning I would have to do on the spot. From remembering so many new names to handling difficult discussions, there was no online guide that would tell me what to expect or even prepare me how to respond to different scenarios. How could I understand the wants and needs of non-communicative residents? What was the best way to engage each of them? With so much going on each day, my solution to feeling overwhelmed was to keep a small notebook and pen on me at all times. I was committed to treating my volunteering experience like a college class- I would capture every detail and review them at the end of each day. X likes country music? Got it. Y only communicates by thumbs down and thumbs sideways? Got it. Z participated in a Huntington's disease therapy clinical trial? Noted.

Actively taking notes and reflecting has undoubtedly enriched my summer experience. Tying this skill back to leadership, creating and taking a few moments each day to review my small "memory bank" has enabled me to take initiative and innovate. I remember that certain residents like going onto the patio and, every chance I get, I bring them outside. I remember that certain residents are music lovers- and blast their favorite tunes on a speaker whenever I can. I remember the life stories of my residents - from their past lives working in the Met Opera to their rocket science research, little talking points that not only function as powerful conversation starters but also starting points for new ways of service that will hopefully bring them joy. In the grand scheme of things, actively engaging and reflecting is crucial for building upon the status quo. It’s a habit that I’ll take with me wherever I go moving forward.

Dennis, your work this summer is admirable, and I would love to learn more about it! How much you care about the patients really shines through in your post. It's easy to step away at the end of a long day and relax, but sometimes going the extra mile makes all the difference! The stories and details you remember after putting in the time after work probably makes the patients' day and makes you an immeasurably better caretaker. I have to imagine that having someone in their lives who so clearly cares about them as individual people rather than just names on a checklist contributes not just to their mood but to their health, too.

Jul 17, 2022
Replying to Victor Jandres Rivera



WEEKS 2, 3, & 4 

Week 4

I am going to start with the week 4 question because it explains why I have to combine weeks 2, 3, and 4. Week 2 of my work in the field, my hotel caught on fire and my room was burned down. I had to travel to the capital of Ghana, Accra, for a little under two weeks to replace most of my things such as suitcases, clothes, hygiene products, documents, medications, etc. It was a significant challenge, but I continued my research by making sure I was still communicating with national staff members in Accra, regional staff members from the field, and conducting research virtually. Dealing with the issue required remaining calm and mechanical about the steps I needed to take to return to the field. I received help from Columbia Global Engagement through Dr. Shannon Marquez and from staff at World Vision, but I tried to minimize my dependence on other people. I made lists of what needed to be replaced to ensure I could proceed by prioritizing immediate needs. I contacted physicians to have my prescriptions sent to Ghanaian pharmacies, found street markets to buy affordable clothing, set up appointments to get new glasses, ordered my own cars to get around, etc. It required an immense amount of tedious research. For example, the contact solution is only carried in a few pharmacies in town, so I called distributors to find where it was in stock. Only one hospital across the city had my medications in stock, so I needed to go through the process of having an American prescription accepted in Ghana. It definitely taught me how to remain calm, meticulously plan the steps I needed to take, and execute those plans in a timely manner. It is quite funny because my co-workers still joke about how I was making phone calls to inquire about getting medications, acquiring funds to replace my lost items, and starting a list of who to call while I was standing in front of the actively burning hotel rooms. Although my attitude towards the fire was perceived as indifferent, I was actually quite panicked. It was the leadership training and independence that helped me find tranquility in focusing on what I could act on and not on a past I can’t change. 

Week 2

I visited communities in West Krachi with the NGO I am observing. I have had the opportunity to engage with community members such as politicians, health professionals, community volunteers, students, school staff, and citizens receiving funding from World Vision. I keep my role as mostly an observational one to prioritize learning over imposing. Working with communities with unique cultures, languages, and customs that are not mine, I understand the importance of not asserting my opinions and beliefs. I am mainly studying the role of Citizen Voice and Action (CVA) in NGO work as a tool for empowering local communities. The World Vision Krachi West Area Program has worked with CVA groups to strengthen local child advocacy projects by enabling citizen engagement, facilitating community gatherings, and supporting local-level campaigns. Although the funding and resources come from the NGO, the goal is to negate the influence of donors and non-community members in community projects. My role is mainly an observational one because I am learning about human rights and child advocacy, and it’s not my place to impose myself onto communities I am not part of. All of the projects by the World Vision Ghana Krachi West office are created by Ghanaians, managed by Ghanaians, and are sustained by local facilitators not associated with the NGO once the NGO leaves. I am here for a short amount of time and successful sustainable development projects can take decades to accomplish, so erroneously claiming I have made an impact would be taking credit for the work of the Ghanaian people and the immense effort these communities have put into contextualizing and sustaining their own successful projects. I shouldn’t even attempt to have an impact in decisions because it’s not my place to try, and it would be imperialist to think I’m able to do so. My interactions with community members begins with having the local community leaders and facilitators agree to welcome me into their community. So far facilitators, chiefs, and community leaders have all been very welcoming and understanding of my role with the NGO. I ask for NGO workers to take the lead in asking questions because most people speak English, but I don’t want to impose myself and my linguistic preferences given that many people in the community are more comfortable speaking one of the ~50 Indigenous languages spoken across Ghana. The questions the NGO asks are all questions I can learn from, and they can provide direct translations given the World Vision staff are Ghanaian and many speak multiple languages in addition to English. I am happy to go through all of these procedure because it is the bare minimum for me as a Western researcher going to foreign country with a history of colonization that I am not culturally or ethnically connected to. 

Week 3

This week, I visited “Kids Club” programs in the Kpatchu, Abujuro, Twesoro, and Nchumuru communities to learn more about how World Vision prioritizes sustainable development and capacity building over imposition. We visited a reading club devised to improve literacy rates in the area while also strengthening childrens’ sense of belonging. Children receive resources that give them the opportunity to attend school and have the opportunity to play together, perform plays, read poetry, etc, because of the centers created with World Vision funds. The area program I am working for is getting reviewed this week by the national office to analyze the sustainability of their community-led projects, so I was able to learn more about “capacity building” from them. I met the individual facilitators from each community to learn more about how the NGO puts projects in the hands of non-affiliated local community members who contextualize the projects to their own communities and sustain their success after the NGO completely distances itself from the operations of the project. I also had the opportunity to learn about how World Vision has allocated funds to pay locals to run training programs with curriculums that promote family unity and child protection. I was present during interviews and data collection indicating that the trainings have been successful in lowering rates of physical and sexual abuse in households registered in the program. My research last summer was on sense of belonging, child advocacy, and education, so it has been interesting seeing it from a sustainable development programming point of view and in a new context. Every day of work is very different because of how varied each community and child advocacy group is. 

Victor, your ability not only to keep your basic personal logistics in order but also to continue focusing on the work through it all continues to amaze me in the aftermath of the fire. I've been surprised myself how hard even the little things are (the contact solution is the perfect example. I hadn't encountered that one yet, but it makes complete sense given all the little hurdles I've seen on a daily basis here), so I can't begin to imagine how hard tackling such a big thing was. Bravo for your resilience and keep doing the good work!

Jul 17, 2022

Week Four:

What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

The main challenge I've faced here was getting involved in the work I set out to do. My first couple of weeks I spent more on administrative tasks than the field work I had hoped for, which left me feeling anxious both that I wasn't having the kind of impact on local communities I should and that I wasn't getting out of the program the leadership development I should. 

At first I didn't know what to do, as at the same time I felt guilty about not doing field work, I also felt guilty about raising any difficulties for World Vision. I'm here to help them, after all, not to add to their burden! 

Part of the Columbia GLiA program is an ongoing Collaboratory while we're over here in our separate locations. Luckily they asked us to post about our experiences and current challenges two weeks ago, so I was able to raise this concern in an arena that felt appropriate. The program administrators saw my concerns, and one of them set up a call so that he, a World Vision manager, and I could all meet to discuss how I could actually get involved on a WASH project. I was able to share my interests and went out into the field that very day!

Jul 17, 2022
Replying to Adina Cazacu-De Luca

Week 3: What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other media submission!

7:30 am: I wake up and head to the panadería below my apartment to get a spinach empanada. I put on a pot of coffee, eat breakfast, and get ready. 

8 am: I walk to the Andalusian School of Public Health (about 15 minutes). Siesta is respected here, so the work day goes from around 8 am- 3 pm, when the heat makes it hard to do anything other than take a nap. I'll start on data analysis, geocoding, or translation tasks. I work in a large room with ~5 other scientists, and we'll go back and forth on ideas (about coding, experimental design, etc). 

12-2 pm: School of Patients workshop! (See previous week for description).

2 pm: more public health research tasks :)

3 pm: I walk back to my apartment, stopping at a restaurant in Plaza Larga for a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice. It's siesta time. 

5 pm: Another school of patients workshop! The evening workshops are usually led by a medical professional or patient and are more lecture/presentation style. Past workshops have included: Nutritional recommendations for patients chronic renal disease, information on multiple sclerosis, nutrition and Alzheimers, and a public debate between political candidates of various parties on their public health agendas. 

8 pm: I eat dinner with friends I've made around Granada, and afterwards we might go to a flamenco concert or to an overlook with views of the Alhambra where guitarists play late into the night. 

(I am not sure how to add pictures but as soon as I figure it out I will edit this post!)

Hi Adina, wow this sounds like such a busy day! Like Dennis, I'm very impressed by how you manage to include a mix of public health work and cultural experiences, and I think the siesta is the funniest thing. Do you notice people coming back more energized in the afternoon, or is it a bit of a limbo time between siesta and finishing work for the day?

Jul 17, 2022

Week Three:
What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other media submission!

Apologies that I'm a week late in writing this, but I think waiting will have paid off! This week I was finally able to start some WASH work in the field, so I'm hoping that this day is more representative of what I'll be doing for my last two weeks in Ghana.

The day here starts pretty early for college students! While many of the locals wake up even earlier, I generally wake up between 6 and 7 am, eat breakfast, and am ready for my manager to pick me up by 8:30. It's nice to have plenty of time getting ready in the morning! 

Then we ride on her motorbike to the office, which is not far from where I'm staying. We get organized for the day, and then she stays back at the office while I ride with a local volunteer (again by motorbike-that's really all anyone drives here!) to a nearby school. We spend a couple of hours there answering questions about menstrual health and asking the girls questions about how World Vision's menstrual hygiene management interventions have impacted them.

Then we might visit another school first or go eat lunch. After, I'll come back to the office and write down some notes on what we found and a plan on how we can improve interventions moving forward. 

Around 5 pm or so we pack up and head out for the day. I come back to my hotel room, do some exercise and talk to friends or family from home, take a much needed shower after being out in the field, and go to bed around 9 in preparation for another day!

I'm having trouble figuring out how to upload photos, but if anyone has any tips I'm all ears and would love to share some!

Jul 05, 2022

Week 2: 

I engage predominantly with the American expat community in Paris; however, I have also interacted with French people interested in English and cross-cultural exchange. As an events intern, knowing that my audience is largely fellow Americans or French people with extensive knowledge of English and the English-speaking world has definitely shaped the kinds of events I propose. I want to create experiences that resonate with this community and allow them to interrogate their unique position in both American and French society. Therefore, I look extensively at speakers who are Americans in Paris or creating panels with both French and American participants. I also want to highlight issues surrounding immigration and explorations of French culture and history. 

In my work, I am present although I aim to be invisible. As an art history major and someone passionate about decolonial studies, I am very partial to those topics when planning events. Although I express the most interest in those speakers and books, I do aim to cater to a wide variety of subjects and make sure that the library draws in the largest audience possible. 

My interactions with the public are fairly limited to general questions about the library. I have yet to host an event, so I have not facilitated a QnA or interacted with the audience about the subjects of the talks. In terms of connecting with the community, I believe there is an automatic kind of solidarity between most patrons of the library and I due to our nationality being American. This relationship is only strengthened by our international location. It is very comforting to be around people who understand your background and your accent when you are in the middle of a large foreign city. 

Jacqueline,

 

Thanks for sharing this! I certainly resonate with your point about shared nationality conferring solidarity. Even as I waited for my bag at the airport in Accra, I found myself gravitating toward and striking up a conversation with another American student about our age.

When you get to do one, I hope your first event goes well! Decolonization work is important but can sometimes be a touchy subject prone to backlash, so I hope the audience engages respectfully.

Jul 02, 2022

Week Two:

If you are doing a leadership-in-action or community engagement project, how do you interact with community members, and what kind of conversations are you having? How do you connect with this community of people, and what common cause do you find?

Unfortunately, due to a number of scheduling and logistical issues, I haven't been able to work in the field with the community I'm hoping to serve yet. My first two weeks have been spent getting acquainted with the area and introduced to World Vision, along with doing some paperwork in the office. That said, even though I'm not in the field, I have been engaged with the community in other ways. Simply going on a walk outside entails meeting members of the local community. I have yet to see another white person in Damongo, and I am acutely aware of the color of my skin in a way I am privileged not to be at home. Children are particularly intrigued by me, and they point and wave and shout "obroni" at me as I pass. They use the term simply to refer to my being white, but it actually means "wicked man" in the local language, in reference to white people's historic forays into Ghana as slave traders. It breaks my heart to hear a word complicated by such dark history tumble out of their mouths at the same time as I see their wide smiles and friendly eyes lit up with curiosity.

These everyday interactions have not been the only kind I've had here, as meeting the World Vision employees at their staff retreat and in the office to which I've now moved has offered another opportunity to engage with locals. With them, finding common cause generally means talking about the work. They're admirably committed to changing their country for the better: increasing access to resources, dispelling harmful beliefs, and improving children's prospects. Still, even with our shared goals, it's interesting to see our differences in backgrounds and values, especially in terms of religion and gender.

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