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Nadalyn Bangura: Remembering Ebola: Memorialization of Ebola in Post-Outbreak Sierra Leone

nadalyn-bangura.jpgWith this research grant I had the opportunity to travel to Freetown, Sierra Leone for six weeks to conduct an ethnographic research project that I designed. This was a particularly salient experience to me, not only because of how this research supports my future endeavors, but because my whole family is from Sierra Leone. This summer I met my grandmother (and many other aunts, uncles, and cousins that were all elated to see me).

This past summer spent conducting research in West Africa was the first time in many years I had the sense of falling in love. As a first- generation American and college student, the learning curve of life at Northwestern has not always been kind; there have been moments over my past two years here where deep senses of unfamiliarity, discomfort, monotony, and failure peppered my view of my work. Finding passion again amidst the setbacks and confusion has been no easy task and I found myself at the end of my second undergraduate year considering giving up. I say all this not to emphasize how discouraged I have been, but to contextualize the weight that the encouragement I found this summer holds to me. Working in Sierra Leone to study the memory of health care workers in a post-Ebola infrastructure was far more than a research project for me —it was work that fully reminded me that I love what it is I do.

My ethnographic research project is titled “Memorialization of Ebola in Post- Outbreak Sierra Leone,” and sought to understand how the collective and cultural memory of healthcare workers that engaged with combating the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone may inform the country’s infrastructure, policy, and response to any future disasters. It was incredibly interesting and humbling to be able to hear the stories of those risking their lives to help their country in times of crisis. I am grateful for the opportunity to have exercised skills in qualitative interviews, coding, and problem-solving in order to make this project successful. This research project helped to lay the groundwork for a senior thesis, which will help prepare me for graduate school as I pursue a Master’s in Public Health. A post- graduate experience will strengthen my chances of getting into medical school as I work towards my overall goal of being a practicing physician working to improve the healthcare infrastructure of Sierra Leone.

A large learning outcome of this project was recognizing the need for collaboration. Sierra Leone is a country where no man acts by himself, and all men are willing to give help. Without the support of my family, mentors, and donors, there is no way any of this would have been feasible.