Being able to go to Kiribati was an incredible experience. Not only because it was the culmination of the work I had been putting in for the Kindling Kiribati organization, but also because I was able to finally contextualize the life of the people there. I can research and imagine, but being able to walk alongside them and ask them questions myself was indispensable. I will be able to edit and revise my content in order to appeal and relate more directly to their needs and desires.
While on location in Kiribati, I was able to accomplish quite a bit. I worked closely with the organization’s local employee, Teemari, to establish the organization in country. This included meeting with ministry officials, bank representatives, potential beneficiaries, and partners. She and I traveled all over the island on the local transportation to get to each of these meetings. In between meetings, I would train her on the curriculum and she helped me to localize the courses, by developing relevant examples and identifying segments that needed clarifying. Together we were able to build a tight bond as teammates on this project and also as friends: she invited me to her family’s house for dinner on the last night of my stay.
If I could give any advice to future students, it would be to do as much preparation as you can before you go (read, research, etc), but then be willing to leave those notions behind as you listen and learn on the ground. All your prep work will have given you context, but the value of being in a place, with its people, seeing with your own eyes but listening to their experiences, is invaluable. Let yourself be immersed in new ideas and perspectives, and you’ll be able to produce more relevant and worthwhile work.