By Lauren Stadler
Coming from a global public health background, I am intrigued with tackling large scale social justice problems that are deserving of complex interventions. By interning at a small public health NGO in Kampala, Uganda for the semester, through a program called Insight Global Education, I’ve had the unique opportunity to immerse myself in local development complexities working to fully comprehend the repercussions of colonial history and how it continues to affect livelihoods and health in many modern African states by interning at a local ngo and taking classes at a local university.
The organization I’m interning at, Health Access Connect (HAC), uses a micro- finance model to loan motorcycles to individuals in rural at risk communities in order to provide transportation for community health workers (VHTs) so that they can reach underserved communities in Uganda through monthly outreach clinics. The outreaches focus on HIV testing, anti-retroviral treatment, maternal & child healthcare, vaccinations, and essential health services. Community health workers oversee the clinics and work to mobilize community members. Each patient pays $0.55 to help pay for transportation expenses of the driver ($22-28 total for the day), otherwise all health services are free. The goal of each program in each village is eventual local ownership and accountability, thus setting up a sustainable way for people in difficult-to-reach areas to access life-saving health services.
This experience has proven that to address socio-economic health disparities one can consider using a well-conceived business model that empowers individuals to enhance both their own wellbeing as well as their community’s health. From this experience, I have come to appreciate that public health goes beyond just the absence of disease. The field focuses on all aspect of wellbeing and the interdisciplinary study covers diverse sectors including health sciences, statistics, environmental health, business, policy, law, and much more. I’m on a journey of discovering not only which areas best suits my interests, but I am also devoted to discovering where I can have the most impact. At Health Access Connect, I’ve been given the opportunity to involve myself in a variety of tasks to help the organization and gain more clarity into what careers I might pursue. I’ve taken an interest in organization development and program management as I’ve witnessed the necessity to support more small community-based nonprofits like Health Access Connect that work to build local capacity. Possible careers in this field would include working in social impact consulting, social impact investing, or working as a development officer for a specific ngo.
The overall goal of my internship was to learn. Typically, when I tell people that I’m interning in Uganda, they tell me I’m going to change the world and I’m inspiring. However, as an outsider with no experience working in a developing context, I did not expect to come into Uganda and “save” those in need, as that viewpoint, though well intentioned, is patronizing. Instead, by interning at Health Access Connect, I had the specific goal of gaining a better understanding of the logistics that go into creating and operating a social business that focuses on enhancing local capabilities and structures. Specifically, I was interested in learning how large scale projects are financed, how donor investment is stimulated, and how to foster relationships with local stakeholders in order to grow the organization. I spend most days at the HAC office in Kampala learning how to work in various databases and management softwares, especially Salesforce. Managing a small and growing organization with few resources is not easy. My boss and I figure out how we can use these tools most efficiently to improve HAC’s ability to fundraise, oversee staff, and serve people in the remote communities where we work. Another major component of my internship is granting writing and applying to social entrepreneurship prizes, which is a vital part of financially maintaining any nonprofit/ngo. Additionally, I have taken on the management of a project that interviews and analyzes successful local ngos to learn and apply their growth strategies. Intermixed with this are field visits to the communities were HAC works, various small administrative tasks such as a monthly newsletter, social media management, and HAC networking meeting with prominent donors and investors. I’ve met many people here with the passion of combing global health and sustainable development goals with innovate business solutions, and from these vast experiences I hope to walk away with a better grasp of the interdisciplinary skill set needed to properly manage and grow a social organization.
Net Impact E-Board
Check back weekly for new posts!