Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Research, Volunteering, and Publishing - Oh My!

I know, I have been a very bad blogger lately. Things have been absolutely insane here as my research gets into full swing while I juggle my volunteer duties at ECO Kitchen with academic pursuits back in England. But, you know what they say... absence makes the heart grow fonder... right, lovely readers? So, now to update you all on my activities of late.

Friend I made while waiting for an auto rickshaw

First up, my research. The main goal of my time spent here in Chennai is to collect data for my PhD research into HIV/AIDS here. To that end, I am interviewing HIV-positive women who live here in the city, focusing on the different obstacles, issues and experiences they've had as a result of their positive status. My interviews are designed to be semi-structured, so I have a sixteen starter questions that are designed to lead to the participant opening up about their personal experiences. I intentionally left the questions vague because I'm interested in what they choose to share with me as this can be quite telling in terms of how they prioritize different issues in their lives or what they feel is the most important element to share.

Interviews with HIV-positive local women will be conducted in Tamil, and as a result YRGCARE have kindly organized a team to help me. One of their ethnographers on staff will be conducting the first interviews with my inputs in order to ensure the participants don't change their answers to what they think a foreigner will want to hear (which has been a problem in the past). These interviews will then be translated into English and transcribed by a local translation service. After I review them, I can then ask to meet with the participants for a follow up interview with a translator. The first interviews are hopefully going to get started this week and we'll be meeting with the rest of the research team (myself, the interviewer Manjula, her boss Thambu, and my mentor Krishnan) to discuss them and see what needs to be adjusted in order to get more data on specific subjects. Crossing my fingers everything goes well!

The quiet street that leads to ECO Kitchen's headquarters in Injambakkam

After the first interviews come in, I'll have a better idea of the types of obstacles facing these women. Armed with that data, I can then move on to interviewing members of the YRG staff, such as the counsellors and doctors who interact with local patients daily. These interviews will be in English and I'll be able to handle them on my own. I thought this would give me an opportunity to flush out issues that were mentioned in particular interviews in order to ascertain how common they are amongst the HIV-positive community. So, overall, pretty exciting times in my research at the minute!

The other distraction has been my volunteer work with ECO Kitchen here in Chennai. My current project is the creation of a training course designed to get the servers who will be working buffets in corporate settings ready for their roles. This has been a really interesting experience for me as it is completely different to the sorts of experiences I have with my research. I've had to fall back on my waitressing experience during university to try and see the food service stations from both the employee and customer stand points. So far, the course is complete with five modules: Safe Food Handling, Personal Presentation (hygiene and uniform care), Customer Interaction, Food Service, and Problem Solving.

So green and lush outside of the city center! 

After I finished putting together the course (it will then be published into little booklets to use during training), we had a pilot session with some of the managers on the program. Luckily, they seemed to be very positive about my work! I was obviously feeling relieved after that! Now we're working on the handouts and activities for each section. The deadline we've given ourselves in June 8th, which is when we hope to have the completed course in booklet form and ready to be used. In the meantime, we need to work on the power point presentation to go along with it and set up photo shoots for some of our activities. For example, the Personal Presentation module activity will be a spot the difference exercise. We're hoping to have sets of photos where, in the first one, the employee will be appropriately dressed (for example, not wearing jewellery on their hands) while in the second photo, they will have lots of jewellery. The participants will be asked to circle what the incorrect element is and then explain why that was not appropriate in the food service setting. I'm hoping we can have at least five pairs of photos so that will take some time to organize. Really looking forward to seeing the completed version of the course!

Pretty flowers that are everywhere right now

And finally, the last distraction has been a really good one. I had my first article published! It was an opinion piece for an online magazine. A friend of mine in my PhD program back in London contacted me and asked if I'd be interested. The hardest part was finding a subject to write about! I ultimately chose to look at the impact HIV-status is having on dating websites and match making here in India, a subject that I think is really interesting. The article can be found here:


Overall, it's been a busy few weeks! Apologies again for the lack of communication, I'll try to be better in the future as I have a lot of interesting elements of life in India to share!

No comments:

Post a Comment