This blog post was contributed by Seth Cochran, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. He will be blogging about his experience every month, and you can learn more about him, the other Young Champions, and the program here.
Ever notice how everything starts to change when you know something is about to end? We find peace in routine. The rhythm of life clicks a tempo that grows more familiar and comfortable the longer we hear it. But as the end approaches, the tempo transforms. It flutters an emotional beat of reflection and an urgent call to prepare for life’s next song.
I have been living in a comfortable flat on top of Madrid and working with a brilliant team of engineers in a basement lab. Unlike my other Young Champion compatriots, I have not come anywhere close to a developing world mother in my seven month placement – it’s been all grant proposals, organizational studies, and general high-level strategy.
The experience has been thus far fantastic, expanding my brain in many directions and teaching me how to manage an enormously broad set of tasks. Combined with my growing familiarity of both Madrid and the Spanish language, I feel like I am just settling in to my new city. But, just as I finally get accustomed to my environment, it’s time to move again.
The planning, packing, and preparation makes changing homes a harrowing event for me. Besides packing my life into two bags, I had to get work organized. Since each of the projects I am working on is in close collaboration with another person or people, this proved more difficult than expected. Between everyone’s crazy travel schedule, my Spanish classes, and a crushing case of hay fever brought by a blooming Spain, getting prepared on the work front proved a herculean task.
In the flurry of my transition angst, I found an oasis in a breakfast with my friend Jill Sheffield. You might remember Jill from previous posts, but if not, she is the über motivating maternal health luminary who is at the heart of the Women Deliver conference. Jill had a meeting in Madrid and made some time to have breakfast with me.
Like a guardian angel, Jill provided me a timely safe haven from the chaos of my move. We talked about everything from books to politics to philosophical roadblocks that keep women from getting the help that they need when they need it. I left the meeting full of breakfast, ideas and a new reserve of strength. While always energizing, meeting Jill in Madrid proved just what the doctor ordered.
By the end of the month, I had everything in two bags, all my work prepared for my transition and I had even recruited a new volunteer for EHAS through my Spanish class. The one thing I didn’t anticipate was just how emotional leaving would make me. Over the last seven months, I have developed relationships with my colleagues and quite frankly, with Spain. When my colleagues took me out for a final lunch, leaving both really hit home. I have really enjoyed my time with EHAS – I have grown immensely and quite frankly, I am a bit sad to leave.