Connecting Poverty and Health
April 4, 2014 | 3627 views
Each year at the Skoll World Forum, nearly 1,000 of the world’s most influential social entrepreneurs, key thought leaders and strategic partners gather at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School to exchange ideas, solutions and information. We asked a number of speakers to discuss the critical issues, challenges and opportunities underpinning their sessions in advance of the Forum to ground a richer debate both online and in Oxford.
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After three trips to South Africa as an undergraduate, Eva Koehler knew she wanted to pursue a career in international health and development. Seeking additional concrete skills before working abroad, she pursued a Masters in Public Health. After graduating, though, Eva found herself without the financial resources to accommodate a long job search for an organization that would hire a young professional with relatively little experience to work overseas – and to pay them. She began working at the Boston Public Health Commission to gain exposure in the administration of health programs, while looking for opportunities abroad.
Eva’s predicament is familiar to every development professional: jobs in the field require experience, but few organizations offer positions to candidates without previous experience. Years of internships, a master’s degree, or both, are often required for young professionals to get their foot in the door at an international organization.
Some organizations are setting out to change this Catch-22, motivated by the belief that great ideas don’t change the world, great people do. Truly solving the world’s complex issues—ranging from poverty, to maternal deaths, to malnutrition—will require an influx of new talent and fresh ways of thinking. By providing young professionals the experience and training they need to launch a career in development, we can ensure we’re building a pipeline of leaders committed to changing the status quo.
Global Health Corps (GHC) is one such organization that is building a community of young changemakers committed to service, partnership, and results. GHC provides yearlong paid fellowships for young professionals from diverse backgrounds to work at existing health organizations and government agencies in Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, and the United States. Through intense training and leadership development, fellows complete their year of service with at least one year of hands-on work experience, tangible skills to make an impact on development and global health, and a strong network of peers and advisors who serve as professional mentors and partners. They complete their fellowship poised for the next phase of their career, armed with the right tools to get the job done
After 18 months of job searching, Eva’s patience finally paid off. She joined Global Health Corps’ second class of fellows where she was placed with Burundi’s Village Health Works, a clinic and community center serving as the only means of healthcare delivery to rural Kigutu. As a fellow, she faced unique obstacles not encountered in the United States, and was given a great deal of responsibility overseeing finances, human resources, and M&E for the ambitious organization. She tackled huge health problems such as malaria, pneumonia, and malnutrition – making an incredible impact in one year. During Eva’s fellowship, the clinic saw between 1000 to 2000 patients a month and expanded its capacity to treat malnutrition significantly with expanded hospital space and a re-energized food security program.
Following her fellowship, Eva accepted a position in Burundi with One Acre Fund, an innovative social enterprise that invests in 180,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania to help them increase their farm yields. One Acre Fund provides a “market bundle” of services including inputs, training, and market access, and is repaid for these services. The organization’s model has proven effective: on average farmers increase their income by 50-100% on every planted acre.
While making the transition from global health to agriculture may seem difficult, Global Health Corps fellows and alumni recognize that issues of poverty and health are closely intertwined. The community Eva worked with in Burundi sought to, “improve their lives beyond simply the absence of pain and disease – and 80% of them rely upon farming as their livelihood. Rapid agricultural development can help drive the growth of communities and improve health outcomes.” Eva is now part of a team providing One Acre Fund’s package of services to 21,000 Burundian farmers. And, furthermore, by working on agriculture at the grassroots level, she’s combatting two of the world’s greatest health challenges: hunger and malnutrition.
Global Health Corps and One Acre Fund collaborate to create a sustainable pipeline of leaders who understand the complexity of poverty and health and who will be future Ministers, Directors, and influential changemakers. By supporting and training young leaders, our two organizations are investing in a generation who can and will disrupt traditional thinking and bring about new solutions to a range of issues – from hunger to health access, from HIV/AIDS to sanitation. Global Health Corps and One Acre Fund have collaborated on a number of initiatives to transition alumni from their fellowship to a career of impact (especially with One Acre Fund) through a series of annual webinars highlighting opportunities in the field, career trajectories of One Acre Fund senior leadership, and networking.
One Acre Fund currently employs more than 2000 staff, including about 1900 local staff from the communities where it operates and more than 100 international staff responsible for bringing the organization to the next levels of impact and scale. Eva is one of six former Global Health Corps alums to find success at One Acre Fund. Another alum, Jourdan McGinn, began her career as a 2012-2013 Global Health Corps fellow, serving as the Communication and Partnership Development Fellow for Action for Community Development (ACODEV) in Uganda, an organization working to employ innovative solutions to strengthen communities’ ability to address their problems, specifically in the areas of HIV/AIDS, reproductive and child health. Jourdan came to GHC directly out of college and utilized her ability to distill and communicate difficult messages to large audiences. During her fellowship, she built eight strategic partnerships for ACODEV, raised over $63,500 in benefits for the organization, and designed a dynamic media strategy to spread ACODEV’s message to people in 17 countries. Without her skills, the organization could not relay their information to larger audiences, nor could they raise the funds necessary to carry out life-saving work in communities in rural Uganda. Jourdan says, “My time as a Global Health Corps fellow was one of the most transformative experiences in my career, providing me with an entry point to serve vulnerable communities at the front lines of the global health movement.” After her fellowship, she began her current work as a Program Associate for One Acre Fund in Kenya. She says her training with Global Health Corps armed her with the practical skills to make a seamless transition moving, “from the hills of Uganda, I now serve communities in the flatlands of Kenya, standing alongside some of the world’s most hard-working farmers so together we can end hunger.”
At Global Health Corps and One Acre Fund, we believe in the importance of investing in driven young professionals committed to improving the lives of others. We chose to work on two issues—global health and poverty—that won’t go away overnight, but the more great talent we have working on these issues, the more quickly we can accelerate impact. We invest in talent because it’s a detriment to the communities we’re serving not to, and because, frankly, it works.
Global Health Corps fellowship applications in Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, or the United States are currently closed until November 2014. To apply for a 2015-2014 fellowship, please visit http://ghcorps.org/fellows/apply/. All applicants must be 30 years or younger, have earned an undergraduate university degree by July 2015, and be proficient in English. If you already have experience in the developing world and are interested in serving East Africa’s smallholder farmers, consider applying to One Acre Fund. One Acre Fund has more than thirty job openings in a variety of functions and locations. For job descriptions and to apply, visit http://www.oneacrefund.org/careers/job-openings.