Women and children in Sierra Leone

Women and children gather to participate in a mother's support group inside their village in Makeni, Sierra Leone. 

Making an Impact in Sierra Leone

Lehigh Global Social Impact Fellows work to develop more positive health outcomes in the West African nation.

Photography by

Stephanie Veto

In early August, 23 Global Social Impact Fellows arrived in Sierra Leone to conduct field work on projects designed to fight hunger and disease and increase global awareness of health crises. While their research and projects varied, the Lehigh students had a shared goal—sustainable impact. 

This fieldwork was the culmination of months of lab testing, documentation and business-plan development during the spring and summer semesters on campus. 

Photography by

Stephanie Veto


Kamara, at approximately six months pregnant, visits a clinic in a village outside of Makeni. 

After landing in Sierra Leone, Khanjan Mehta, vice provost of Creative Inquiry and director of the Mountaintop Initiative, led the group to the town of Makeni, where the students and their mentoring professors spent three weeks doing hands-on research, testing, building and learning. Some groups were at the final stages of their work. Others were just beginning. 

Ukweli, an inexpensive test strip that screens for urinary tract infections and preeclampsia, has been in the making for about five months, and is prepared to hit the market. The students trained local health workers for its launch. 

World Hope offices in Sierra Leone

Belle Sullivan '22, center, and Marc Rubin '20, right, return to World Hope International, following a trip to a market to get coal for use in mushroom production. Mohammad Jawara, left, is helping the team grow and maintain mushrooms in Makeni while the students are back at Lehigh. 

The Global Social Impact Fellowship is an opportunity for students to come together, collaborate and work on some of the most complex challenges facing low-and middle-income countries.

Khanjan Mehta

Three student filmmakers entered the production stage of a documentary on maternal health in Sierra Leone. The country has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. 

A team of two students had the challenge of growing mushrooms in a self-made greenhouse in order to help fight hunger. 

Two more students began early testing of a sickle cell diagnosis strip, while another team of three students assessed socioeconomic factors underlying Ebola.   

And seven students fought malnourishment by working alongside locals to bake and taste-test nutritional foods targeting infants and young children. 

Ukweli team members

Ukweli team members implement a plan to get the test strip to health clinics in the villages. Clockwise from left, Vice Provost for Creative Inquiry Khanjan Mehta, Cassidy Drost '20, Jordan Wolman '21, Zach Day '21, Rohan Ekambaram '21, Community Mobilizer Hassan Sorie Koroma and Sage Herrick '20. 

Maria Lancia

Maria Lancia '21 conducts a test at Adamamartha Memorial Community Health Centre near Kono to learn how to diagnose sickle cell to help her team in developing a cost-effective test strip.

Lehigh Visual Storyteller Stephanie Veto, who joined the university contingent to document their work, came away inspired by the passion and dedication of the students. 

“I was constantly impressed by how passionate they were about changing the world,” Veto says. “They never stopped amazing me. They were doing it for something greater than themselves, and it was truly awesome to see that.”

In the following pages, Veto shares some of the images she captured during the group’s time in Sierra Leone.    

To see a short documentary about the journey, go to: go.lehigh.edu/sierraleone

These are conditions that are easily treatable and manageable in other countries like the U.S., and women should not be dying from them.

Jordan Wolman '21

Hassan Sorie Koroma

Hassan Sorie Koroma demonstrates the Ukweli test strips for health workers at Masongbo Community Health Centre outside Makeni. 

maternal health documentary team

From left, Grace Boak '20, Jessica Mun '21 and Griffin Fox '22 of the maternal health documentary team set up an interview with a local health worker, who is assisted by an interpreter.

Midwife Ramatu Barrie

Midwife Ramatu Barrie listens for a fetal heartbeat as she examines Isatu Sesay. The maternal health documentary team filmed the exam, which took place at Kalangba Community Health Centre in the Bombali District. 

mushroom production

A local carpenter hired by the mushroom production team builds a greenhouse. 

Kayla McMillan with mothers

Kayla McMillan '22, who was part of a team developing products to help fight malnourishment, joins with mothers learning to make nutritional breads in Makeni, Sierra Leone. 

Professor Javier Buceta

Professor Javier Buceta helps the Ebola team conduct surveys in local villages in the Bombali District. 

Downtown Makeni

Downtown Makeni at midday

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