Try and Fail, but Don’t Fail to Try

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By: Sara Al-Lamki, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by Sara Al-Lamki, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. She will be blogging about her experience every month, and you can learn more about her, the other Young Champions, and the program here.

January has been a busy month. With my project in full swing, it’s hard to believe just 5 months ago I had packed up my life after an intense Master’s course and barely any time to come up for air, and up and moved to a new country, city, culture. If I hadn’t heard an inspiring talk by Dr. Wendy Graham during the Global Maternal Health Conference in August, before our Young Champions placements, where she ended by telling us to learn to ‘fail better’ after every challenging experience, the whole journey would have seemed impossible.

Unfortunately, no one could’ve predicted that my placement with YRS would come at a very complicated time in the organization. With problems and challenges of their own, and ones I was powerless to understand let alone contribute to. Still, the eagerness and kindness of my colleagues meant I was never without work, and they were sure to keep involving me in every aspect of the program, making sure there were lessons learned every step of the way. It took over month for Dr. Sari and I to hash out the best project that would benefit the organization at this time, and also benefit me with my interest in maternal health and antenatal care within a predominantly reproductive health centre. The arrival to this did not come easy. Once we figured that my background in research could greatly serve the clinic, it took another month for me to figure out how to develop an effective questionnaire and to make sure that when translating it, the same aims were clear, and the intended information being extracted. They also had to be thorough enough to be able to draw solid conclusions about the maternal health and pregnancy status of these women, but short enough to get a large number of women willing to participate.

It all worked out for the best of, course—as do most failures like winding journeys that end in spectacular beauty. I am well into conducting the interviews, with over half the sample already obtained. The interest it has sparked has been astonishing, with women coming to the clinic volunteering to participate. Through it, my language skills have drastically improved and I have met the most inspiring and courageous women through whom I am learning a side of Indonesian women I wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to see. The word of YRS is also spreading to women who may have not heard of it yet, or have not visited, as my interviewers reach the far and wide expanses of the market during hours that the clinic is not operating and, if nothing else, that is a personal achievement. I am eager to draw conclusions from this study, learn what the patterns are and help incorporate this into YRS’s educational and (possibly) health services.

I’m very much learning as I go along and things are far from running smoothly, but the challenges are exciting and manageable, especially now that I am settled into life in Bali and my project is up and running and I’m discovering my stride. Learning from my fellow Young Champions also gives me strength. I could not have found a better group of people to share this experience with, even if it’s virtual, and having an amazing conference call with them recently just reminded me how much potential is in the world, and how worth it the journey is. They have also offered they’re very own personal advice whenever I have needed it, and when I was at a loss in those first weeks, Julianne Parker gave me very productive ideas that made everything more manageable.

I can look at my journey with a little perspective, and when similar ‘bumps’ occur, I can fail better.