Archive for the ‘training’ Tag

Make like Apple: Think Different

About half way through my term of service with AmeriCorps, I have written lesson plans for our new college counseling curriculum and I am building our volunteer managment program from the ground up. I can imagine these activities are similar  to the process needed to write a communication plan for a health behavior intervention and then work to train the community health workers that would education the community about that health intervention, but I can not be sure. I have amazed myself with how much my thought process has changed in such a short period of time. My first concern has become what is probable rather than what is possible for organizational sustainability. Where I used to focus on only the program I worked on, I now have to make tough decisions about our limitations.

I know that professional and personal development has improved as a result of my daring to think differently about my potential and my role in a nonprofit.

GlaxoSmithKline is daring to think different(ly)  as well by expanding access to medicines for neglected diseases in some of the least developed countries. The corporation also plans to open access to their medical technologies in development to other sciences to expand research on treatments for neglected diseases. Whether out of a moral obligation or the pursuit of a financial opportunity, this unprecedented level of access has the potential to help countless numbers of patients. Furthermore, this is the first time that I have heard of a private sector company acting on the reality that universal access to treatment while necessary is not sufficient for eradication of certain diseases.

There needs to be a simultaneous focus on expanding access and improving health systems to build capacity for increased usage. Even then, it is unlikely actions GSK takes now will become the only road for eradication of diseases. As a corporate social responsibility venture, GSK may reap the benefit of positive public relations and somewhat increased profits from the now possible sales. However, it is difficult to tell how many countries will be able to afford medicines even at these discounted profits. The real benefit for developing countries lies in the potential for increased research for neglected diseases that affect developing countries most. OneWorld Health is the only major nonprofit pharmaceutical company that focuses on research and development of treatments for neglected diseases; having a major Big Pharma company devote more time and resources might be enough to tip the balance for some substantive development.

One step closer

This week, I received a surprising call from an organization here on Monday. They were hosting a training on combating stigma and discrimination for Mozambican NGOs working HIV/AIDS. The project director asked me if I would like to volunteer with note taking and other various odds and ends. I thought it would be a great opportunity not only for the prospect of additional work opportunities but also to observe the training in action.

I have seen other trainings before for various topics but this one was unusual for a number of reason besides just the language barrier. The lead trainer was a Canadian who has done hundreds of trainings across Africa. He was so animated and engaging with all of the participants. Everyday began with a warm up song that would often reoccur during the day as a transitional device or to bring the room back together after small group sessions. The training was interactive and physical because it was a training of trainers. The participants were pairs of trainers from their respective organization and were expected to return to their organizations to implement the lessons they learned.

While this sounds like a easy task superficially, the obstacles that I heard about from the participants made their task sound virtually insurmountable. One of the participants, who was very petite, worked with children with HIV and she told about one of her visits to the hospital. When she reached the ward to talk to the doctor, the doctor wanted to know why the organization had sent a child to look after children. Each of sessions focused on stigma that people living with HIV faced across contexts from their family, the workplace, the community, their place of worship and other social institutions.

Watching the afternoon practice facilitation sessions was particularly interesting. Here the participants practiced what they learned in the morning with their peers acting as the populations that they would encounter. Some organizations were obviously more advanced in facilitation before attending the training, but by the end of the week, it was clear that everyone had some innovative applications of the techniques that they learned. It was truly amazing to watch the increasing sophistication they integrated over the course of the week. However, the real challenge now is what will happen when they go back to their organizations to integrate discussion of stigma into current programming.

I found the experience interesting for my opportunity to learn more about the capacity building project that the organization does here. The participating partner NGOs receive training on a number of topics from stigma and discrimination to financial management. Some of the NGOs receive funding as well for applying knowledge gained in the training to their programming with the organization offering site visits and technical assistance for support. I do have a pretty good chance to have continued work opportunities with the organization as a consultant, but since nothing is set in stone, I am not referring to them directly here.

I have found that the waiting game here is the worst part of the job situation here. As each day passes, I go through bouts of anxiety about if I have made the right decision. I always come back in the end being glad that I am trying this. I think that it is better to try and fail rather than to always wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t come here. That said, the anxiety still nags in the most annoying way that only self-doubt can (particularly, my variety of self-doubt). I have started to apply to public health jobs in other African countries to give my rational side a backup plan. However, I very much want to stay here for a variety of reasons. Meanwhile, I am waiting for reality to catch up to my desires.

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