The Thinker and The Doer

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By James and Alida, Global Health Corps

The Thinker

My co-fellow and I have been part of PSI/Burundi’s Marketing and Communication team for the past four months and most of the time what I do is ‘translating’.

I’ve been living outside of my country for the past seven years, sometimes making me feel as though I was ‘missing in action’. But wasn’t this one of the main goals? To get the education and experience that would help me be more useful to my nation?

Thanks to Global Health Corps (GHC), this fellowship has allowed me to come back and work in an area where I get to make an impact. But it comes with a lot of emotions; anger due to a system that’s failing its own people, frustration because of the slow pace at which we work, guilt for being so privileged and sadness because I can do so little.

I find myself spending my days translating my Kirundi emotions, into English thoughts and then French words. And by the time I am done explaining them I always end with “I’m not sure if this makes any sense, what do you think?” At which point The Doer shrugs, takes the time to think and share his thoughts; then we act!

The Doer is my fantastic co-fellow, who is more instinctive but most importantly he knows to stop me and push me to act; to begin somewhere, as the thoughts develop, and the understanding and translations continue.

In all, working with the youth, especially on a sensitive issue such as HIV/AIDS has showed me that sometimes you have to make sure you check all your thoughts and emotions before going into the office. Go in with them, sort them out and then translate them. As we work to make health a human right, we must assure ourselves that our work is a pure translation of the love we have for our fellow human beings.

Alida and James speaking about GHC on the radio

The Doer

When given the title The Doer, in no way must you constitute this individual as being one that just simply takes orders and does whatever is asked of them. We must realize the importance of such a person in any scenario, especially when it relates to the co-fellow relationship that is a vital component of the Global Health Corps Fellowship. Both working within the Marketing & Communication Department at PSI/Burundi, Alida and I realized early on what our individual strengthens and weaknesses are and how we can use them to work effectively and become outstanding additions to our placement organization.

Within the realm of development there are too many occurrences where you find yourself attending high profile seminars or conferences, listening to experts giving their theories on how to end world hunger or ways we can decrease the infant mortality rates amongst the world’s poor. Whatever happens after the seminars conclude?

Here is where the Doers come in. Those who take action when it is most needed. Individuals who seek the opportunity to ask the crucial question; what do we do next?

In relation to our work at PSI/Burundi, we too attend various meetings and seminars, where we discuss the logistics of our projects or the pressing issues facing Burundi’s health system. Working with a Thinker, Alida gives me the opportunity to look at the bigger picture and way out my options before making a conclusive decision on how to make my actions affective. I can honestly say that one fault that comes with being a Doer is that we tend to act out on our first instinct, and as we all know, doing such a thing can actually do more harm than good.

Even when asked to write this blog I immediately thought of an idea, shouted it out to Alida across our office, and began typing. What happened afterwards? Let’s just say this wasn’t the blog that first came to mind.

Global Health Corps selects fellows with diverse skill sets ranging from art to architecture to engineering. Applications are now open for the sixth class of Global Health Corps fellows. If you, like me and my co-fellow Aaron, are passionate about making an impact in global health, we encourage you to apply for a fellowship in Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, or the United States.

To apply for a 2014-2015 Fellowship, please visit http://ghcorps.org/fellows/apply/.

All applicants must be 30 years or younger, have earned an undergraduate university degree by July 2014, and be proficient in English. Applications close on January 26.

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A Global Health Corps Member Starts Her Journey

By Melissa Mazzeo, Global Health Corps 

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I am surrounded by 105 other twenty-somethings at one of the most beautiful college campuses I’ve ever seen. Many of them have backgrounds similar to mine: public health with an international focus and a social justice bent. Others have followed completely different paths: computer science, economics, agriculture. But we share the belief that health is a human right and we are dedicated to ensuring equitable access to health care for all.

We are the fifth class of Global Health Corps fellows, on our way to yearlong placements at health organizations in Africa and the US. Our mission is to apply the skills we’ve developed in our academic and professional careers to improving health care delivery in resource-limited settings. It is a formidable task, but I am ready for it.

After college, I worked for three years at a global health organization in Boston. It was a great experience and I learned more about international development, social justice, and Microsoft Outlook than I ever could have in a classroom. But, after a while, I couldn’t help feeling detached, situated as I was in an office building thousands of miles away from the communities where the organization worked. I was developing skills and gaining knowledge, but I still felt like my understanding of the work was more intellectual than personal. I was inspired by the dedication and passion of my colleagues who worked in the field; I spent my time thinking and writing about global health equity, but they were living it. I wanted to live it, too.

Flash forward to Yale University: my apartment subletted, my passport renewed, and my two fifty-pound suitcases stuffed to the breaking point. My background in fundraising had paid off (pun intended) and I had been selected for a resource mobilization fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation, a pediatric HIV organization in Uganda. It’s exactly what I wanted – a chance to use my existing skills and to witness global health work being done first-hand – and I couldn’t be more excited about the challenge ahead of me.

Melissa is living and working in Kampala, Uganda for a year through a Global Health Corps fellowship. Her placement organization is Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation – Uganda. During the year, she will be guest blogging about her experiences.

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PBS on the Consequences of Unintended Pregnancies

The PBS series To the Contrary shows how increased access to reproductive health services can save the lives of women and children around the world. Viewers meet some of the people who see their lives changed by healthcare access and features the May Women Deliver Conference held in Malaysia.

One section (~15 min mark) highlights the work of PSI and our ambassador, Mandy Moore. She says that people should challenge themselves to drive the conversation about reproductive health forward by making allies, meeting people and starting discussions about the issue.

“The majority of the young people I talk to really are advocates and passionate about sexual health and reproductive rights,” says Moore.

Give the video a watch and also see PSI board member Barbara Bush talk about her organization’s, the Global Health Corps, impact on family planning in Malawi.

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Health Care is the fight of the Millennial Generation

The current young generation, known as the Millennials, are oft discussed and at times maligned. Barbara Bush and Andrew Bentley say there is a slow building movement for global health equity that is lead by the Millennial generation. The two are a part of the founding group of the Global Health Corps (GHC). The most recent

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Barbara Bush: Technology and Innovation Supporting Global Health

Social entrepreneurs gathered this past December at the Social Innovation Summit to share lessons on how to create social good through technology and innovation. PSI Board Member and Global Health Corps co-founder Barbara Bush was one of the event’s featured speakers. Brian Sirgutz of the Huffington Post caught up with Barbara after the event to talk about technology and social good through the lens of global health.

Here is a selection of the discussion:

Brian: Your supporters include top names in information technology, like Cisco and Hewlett Packard. (Note: Cisco sponsors the ImpactX section). Can you talk a little about those relationships and how they add to your mission?

We’ve actively worked to build relationships with non-traditional partners that share our values — innovators like Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Cisco who are leading the charge to build products and systems that connect communities, and increase information sharing.

Interestingly, global health organizations desperately need many of the skills employees at multi-national corporations like HP and Cisco have. Cisco employees who are experts in management information and technology systems have mentored some of our fellows working in Malawi with Elizabeth Glaser Pediatrics AIDS Foundation to build out stronger electronic medical records and data tracking systems.

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Fast Company Profiles Barbara Bush and Global Health Corps

Hearing former UNAIDS head Peter Piot speak in 2008 sparked an idea within PSI board member Barbara Bush that led to the founding of the Global Health Corps. The volunteer organization places passionate global health volunteers around the world to support the work of hospitals, organizations and governments.

A story in Fast Company coExist profile’s the work of Bush and features comments from Adanna Chukwuma, a Nigerian Global Health Corps fellow working in Newark, New Jersey. Below is an excerpt, but you can read the whole article here.

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Global Health Corps Accepting New Applicants

PSI Board Member Barbara Bush co-founded the Global Health Corps (GHC) through the 2008 aids2031 Young Leaders Summit hosted by UNAIDS and Google. In the four years since the summit, GHC has continued to send talented volunteers to work with organizations like Partners in Health and PSI in countries like Rwanda, Uganda, the United Sates and Malawi.

Applications are now open for new corps members. This year, applicants can apply for 3 positions that match their interests and skills, from project management to monitoring and evaluation, engineering, communications and more. GHC says they are  looking for people from a broad range of sectors and disciplines. No prior health experience is necessary! The only things we ask are that the applicants be 30 years old or younger, hold a university degree, and be proficient in English.

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From the Field: I Talk About Condoms Too Much

By Hiba Iqteit, Global Health Corps member with PSI/Rwanda. This originally appeared in the GHC blog.

Of all the things I thought I would be doing in Rwanda, selling condoms was not one. Through my work with Population Services International (PSI), I’ve been engaged at the forefront of condom marketing and sales across the country.

As one of its major initiatives, PSI works to fill a crucial gap in the Rwandan market, by selling and promoting condoms as a method for preventing sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, and HIV. Before PSI launched its programs in Rwanda, Rwandans had three options to acquire condoms: receiving them for free at public clinics, paying for expensive foreign brands, or purchasing low-cost condoms smuggled in from neighboring countries. Through careful market analysis, PSI concluded that free condoms are neither valued nor utilized, while the alternative quality brands were prohibitively expensive or illegal. As a result, condom use in Rwanda was low at best.

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Let's Talk About Sex, Baby (Burundi Flash Mob)

By Leah Hazard, Communications Officer, Global Health Corps Fellow at PSI/Burundi

Burundi’s a tough place to talk about sex. That makes it an especially tough place to sell condoms. And that’s what my Global Health Corps co-fellow Dedo and I have been doing for the past six months with PSI/Burundi — working with their team on creative ways to market and improve the sales of Prudence Class condoms.

One of PSI/Burundi’s key target audiences is youth ages 15-24 years old. We reach youth through trainings, billboards, television spots, and radio shows to promote the correct use of condoms in order to prevent HIV and other STD’s, as well as unwanted pregnancies. But the challenges are pretty big. Sex is taboo, and people are generally embarrassed to talk – let alone touch – a condom. Youth frequently don’t know how to correctly use a condom, and are often too embarrassed to buy them at a local shop where parents or family may see them.

So, how do you connect with youth? How do you present a new face of your brand that’s cool, approachable and hip? How do you do it with pretty much zero resources? Dedo and I thought: flash mob. Definitely.

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Tube Class: Bringing Sex Education to Burundi’s Youth Through Radio

The Following post is by Leah Hazard, Communications Officer and Global Health Corps Fellow in Burundi.

Mwiriwe neza, ba jeune na mwebwe mwese bakunzi bikiganiro Tube Class. Ndikumwe hano na Fernand kugira tube turabateramisha kuruno musi mwiza wa gatandatu, aho muruhukiye, iwanyu canke kubagenzi banyu.

In a mixture of Kirundi, Swahili and French, Mimi starts the show: “Good afternoon youth and all of you fans of the show Tube Class. Whether you’re at your house or spending time with your friends, I’m here with my co-host Fernand to have a good time together on this beautiful Saturday afternoon.” Rihanna’s latest hit plays in the background.

Mimi is actually introducing a pretty revolutionary concept in Burundi: a youth radio show that talks openly about relationships, sex and health – in a fun and engaging manner. Tube Class (which translates to “Be Class” in English) aims to increase youth knowledge about how to protect themselves against STDs, HIV and unintended pregnancies. Prudence Class is PSI/Burundi’s condom brand, and was a name chosen because youth routinely use the word “class” as a substitute for being “cool” or “chic”. And in a country where talking about sex is taboo, and youth routinely report being too embarrassed to buy condoms, it’s an important subject.

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PSI Board Member Barbara Bush Discusses Global Health Corps at Social Good Summit (Video)

PSI Board Member Barbara Bush kicked off the third and final day of the Social Good Summit in New York on Thursday. She discussed why she decided to create the Global Health Corps–an NGO she said is modeled on AmeriCorps. Check it out! Watch live streaming video from mashable at livestream.com

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