Global Health Corps is a program which aims to mobilize a global community of emerging leaders to build a movement for health equity.
Young professionals from around the world work on the frontline, presently in Africa and the East Coast of America, during year-long paid fellowships. Fellows work in teams of two —one foreigner, and one young leader from the country where they are stationed. They work on a wide range of assignments—from coding electronic medical records systems in Rwanda with Partners In Health to counseling homeless youth in Newark, NJ with Covenant House International. GHC seek to mobilize and empower a younger generation whilst providing them with relevant fellowship opportunities combined with training, mentorship, and a strong alumni network. The overall aim is to engage a new generation of leaders who will impact the fight for global health equity in the years to come.
My participation with them this summer included helping to prepare and support the two-week training session held at Stanford for those fellows who were selected to work in Africa and the East Coast of the U.S. for the forthcoming year. There were thirty fellows who came to the training, including African partner fellows, and they brought with them some very impressive skill sets. All the fellows were graduates and under thirty. They came prepared and trained to work in supply chain analysis, community health, healthcare distribution and management, hospital design, HIV/Aids related work, health programs consultants, project management skills for team-village health, agronomists, network and systems programs for health, pediatric care and chronic and infectious disease management, health literacy of medicine, and dentistry. All had either spent time in Africa or had prepared research papers on Africa. All were additionally dedicated to public service and really wanted to make a difference.
The aim of the training session, apart from the obvious logistical issues of a year of service, is to build a sense of community and support amongst the participants. The team (Jonny Dorsey, Barbara Bush, Katie Bollbach and Karen Warner) are passionate about this process and open to exploration and innovation so it was a great pleasure to work with such a vibrant team.
We had talks from professors from the medical and business schools, the political science department, and experts from across the country on specific issues. Apart from covering the global health landscape, a critical analysis of the non-profit sector and community building, there was also an emphasis on personal development, leadership training and reflection. We had great fun working through leadership and trust exercises, reflecting on our personal mission statements, and exploring how to gain the most from the year ahead.
The speakers challenged us to consider many issues in a new way. For example, Professor Rob Reich led a session where we discussed whether or not we can at times do more harm in development work than good. We talked a lot about how we needed to respect the community we were working with, be receptive to their needs, and not feel we had all the answers or that our way was always best
One of the most important elements of the training for me was the bonds that were created between the participants. Bringing together people who have a similar vision and passion is a palpable force. Coming from different walks of life and different ethnic backgrounds the group melded as one in their desire to make a difference through service. Having such a support system, one does not feel so alone on the journey.
The GHC leadership team went from Stanford to Tanzania to meet with the 2009-2010 fellows who had just completed their year of service. The meeting took place at a beautiful resort in Bagomoyo, Tanzania and it was such a privilege to share this time with them and for them to share their experiences with each other. For many of the fellows this had been their first experience of working for such a long-period of time in unfamiliar surroundings in the non-profit sector and it was clearly a life-changing experience. Being able to share these stories with others who had embarked on a very similar journey seemed extremely rewarding for them and was really important for the Global Health team.
I look forward to seeing how GHC grows in the future and to see how similar models may evolve to address development and community building challenges as a result of lessons learned throughout the fellowship.