The Untold Benefits of the GHC Felowship

Next month (July 2014) will be the last month of my fellowship placement at my host organisation – Action Africa Health International (AAHI) in Kyangwali refugee settlement, where I have had a wonderful fellowship year, I must say. AAHI is an African-led, international non-governmental organization, based in Nairobi, Kenya, that supports livelihood-challenged communities in East and Southern Africa to find sustainable methods to improve well-being and standard of living. With country programs in Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia, AAHI has over 20 years of experience working with communities in conflict and post-conflict situations, including refugees, internally displaced people, and host communities. More recently, it has expanded its activities to work with other marginalized communities including pastoralists and urban slum dwellers.

At first when I was given an offer for the fellowship, my anticipation was gaining that much needed field experience as a fresh graduate from University, which will be of an added advantage in the job market after the fellowship. But there is a lot that I have gained which was not included in my fellowship offer letter, and even told to me by any GHC staff. Last month I realized that my GHC advisor has become more of a friend and a colleague, guiding me in all angles of my professional life, something that I was not expecting – hands up for Heather Anderson (GHC’s Vice President of Programs) for making that perfect match for me and the marvellous Dr. Joseph Ekong (my GHC advisor.)

The quarterly retreats have been another big GHC occasion that I enjoyed most. Our quarter one retreat made me overcome the cultural shock between theoretical organization best practices, and the practical organization culture at my host organization. The midyear retreat made me learn the coping mechanisms my peers (other GHC fellows) are employing in other East African countries to adopt and fit in different organization cultures at their respective host organizations.

The quarter III was the best ever; I interacted with two groups of social justice, and health equity crusaders with whom I still chat with up to today. The first crusader is the One Health Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA) This was a team of professionals from a network of seven public health and seven veterinary higher education institutions that are located in 6 countries in the Eastern and Central African region that have partnered with two US-based institutions, to drive a transformational change for the continuous improvement of health and well-being of human, animal and ecosystem through multidisciplinary research, training and community service. Like the GHC fellowship program, the One Health program selects individuals from different professions for a two-year residence program, working together to improve human health. This was a very vital encounter for me because I have developed a permanent contact with the One Health residents, and I am set to host them for two weeks in Kyangwali for a multidisciplinary data collection on refugee maternal and child health research.

Ugandan Fellows pose for a photo at the End of the Q 3 retreat

The other very vital encounter at the quarter III retreat was my chat with the CEO, Founder, and President of Unreasonable East Africa, Mr. Joachim Ewechu. This gentleman has teamed up with his peers to give entrepreneurs tackling East Africa’s greatest challenges an “unreasonable advantage” of mentorship and networking. This is a very vital approach of supporting upcoming high-impact ventures tackling health, and equity in Africa. Up to now I still go for happy hour events organized by Unreasonable East Africa to interact with its first batch (class) of entrepreneurs.

As a supporter of the GHC fellowship program, an aspiring GHC fellow, or a newly recruited GHC fellow reading this post; you may not find the above mentioned fellowship benefits written anywhere on the GHC program materials. I realized that I have benefited a lot from this fellowship program last week when I went through my GHC fellowship diary.

I maintained this special GHC fellowship diary separate from my other daily chores recordings at the encouragement of Brenda Lagrange Johnson – a retired U.S diplomat whom I met at Chelsea Piers in New York; and Sophia Valner – One of the GHC Fellowship Training Institute’s staff at Yale in 2013.