By Mahnoor Malik

The Africa Centre for Evidence (ACE) hosted Mahnoor Malik, the first student from McMaster Forum to travel abroad through their Global Skills Opportunity program. Mahnoor shares her experience of working with the ACE team and exploring South Africa.

Although my time at ACE was short, it was a rewarding and memorable experience that I will never forget. From the people I met, to the places I visited, I’m happy that I was offered the opportunity to visit South Africa and work at ACE.

Mahnoor enjoying the ACE mid-year social with colleagues at the UJ Research Village lapa

During my three weeks at ACE, I worked on a project in collaboration with the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation to develop a set of briefs for how to perform different research methods that can be used for evidence syntheses. These briefs will act as a point of reference for researchers, as they contain the steps for each methodology, the time required to implement, personnel involved, and what each methodology can be used for. This will help ensure that the research methods are being performed in a consistent manner and according to the appropriate methodology. As I had performed and learned about quite a few of the research methods as a research assistant and health science student at McMaster University in Canada, I was able to write more comprehensive summaries based on my experiences, rather than relying solely on online resources. I was also able to learn about how different research methods are used in a social science context, specifically how evidence synthesis is used by the South African government. This was very eye opening as I was not aware of how impactful evidence syntheses can be in improving the lives of our community members.

Mahnoor’s visit to Soweto, South Africa

During my first week at ACE, I was also able to attend and engage in my first stakeholder meeting, where I got to meet and hear from different members of the South African community about end-of-life care. This was a rewarding experience as I was able to learn about the development process of evidence mapping and the importance of considering different perspectives in research. I was also able to share my knowledge about end-of-life care in Canada while we were brainstorming interventions for the evidence map.

Mahnoor and fellow McMaster intern, Maiura visiting the Mandela house in Vilakazi Street, Soweto

The team at ACE was extremely welcoming and supportive. From showing me around Soweto, accompanying me to the Apartheid Museum, providing me with restaurant recommendations, to always checking up on me, I will always be grateful for the way ACE welcomed me to Johannesburg. Despite only being here for three weeks, I was able to go on a safari at Pilanesberg National Park, which is something I would never be able to experience back home! I also got to visit Cape Town, where I go to see some beautiful sites (Table Mountain!), see more animals (penguins!), and learn more about South Africa’s history and culture. I hope to return again and visit more of South Africa!