Researching outside the box

When Chubb was 13, she read a stereotypical teen novel titled Angels of Mercy. The characters were fictional but the events were based on reality. "Not a particularly influential book; just a teen fiction novel with an ending that was written for girls who enjoy a good cry every once in a while. The book discussed one girl's volunteer mission on the Mercy Ships to Uganda - the famine, disease, the refugee camps, and the devastation." It was the book that got Chubb interested in Africa and from there led her down a very focused path.

Chubb's first trip to Africa happened in 2009. She fundraised for a year with MUNHOPE, a student-run, non-profit organization at Memorial that promotes health. She spent two months with eight other Memorial students teaching English, business, computers and health to adults living with HIV and AIDS in Tanzania. Chubb described this experience as life changing and she knew it was only the beginning.

After finishing her bachelor of physical education degree with a minor in political science here at Memorial, the St. George's native couldn't get funding to do the masters research she wanted to do, which was a little outside the usual kinesiology research realm. But that didn't stop her. This past August, Chubb left for a three month trip to Kenya to do a qualitative study Women's health knowledge: HIV and AIDS in a global health climate. It examines where women who are HIV positive, aged 20-25, living in Mombasa, Kenya, receive ideas and information about HIV and AIDS and how it influenced their lived experiences with the disease.

"Examining the socio-cultural aspects of health is a new area of study in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation graduate program," explained Chubb. "With all of the field options such as biomechanics, motor learning, sport psychology and exercise physiology I didn't quite fit into any field. However, it is important to realize that societal conditions, the institutions and political systems we are a part of, our own feelings, as well as the relationships we share with others do influence how we conceptualize and practice health as much as understanding how the body and movements of it work."

Chubb did one on one interviews with the women to talk about their experience with stigma, loss of membership in their communities, a lost sense of identity, as well as the constant struggle they face to maintain their health. In addition, each woman was given a journal and disposable camera for one month to compile a photo-journal about what it means to be HIV positive and a woman living in Mombasa. They documented where they receive education and support, and how the disease can suppress their ability to lead a life free of stigmatization and marginalization.

She says she couldn't have done it without her family. "Although they didn't fully support my connection with Africa at first, they have slowly begun to realize that it is something important and a part of me. They are very supportive after hearing my research stories, and now that I'm home safely."

Chubb would like to live in Africa someday. In the meantime, she's hoping to start her PhD in September. "If not, I'll be applying for positions the United Nations that will allow me to work with various NGOs and travel and participate in work I really care about such as research in the field of HIV and AIDS, health, educational policy, and women's rights.