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Jel’s Journey to Rwanda

Jel’s Journey to Rwanda

The majority of African countries have poor healthcare systems, and the burden of COVID-19 has put an enormous strain on the health systems. I have always wondered how I could impact the health sector positively in Africa, especially in my home country, Liberia. To help educate people about COVID-19 back in my home country, my project team members and I created the “Safe Community, Healthy Lives” project to create a proper and resourceful awareness of COVID-19. The project’s primary purpose was to ensure that all communities were safe from the virus, including people with health disabilities. Thinking of this, I felt the urge to do more and felt that only learning in class wouldn’t be enough. This program was a great way to improve my experience so that I can help improve the health sector in Liberia. 

I also participated in The Global Health Innovation Lab: a hands-on learning course where student teams are matched with peers from institutions around the world to identify and resolve issues pertaining to creating and applying health innovations in low and middle-income settings. 

This program was a great way to learn more practically about health innovation while gaining knowledge about real-life problems and solutions. As an African and from my personal experience, it was a privilege to relate solutions given to my experiences.

As part of the course, we were In Rwanda for nine days in January, working on health initiatives with students from the nation’s University of Global Health Equality (UGHE). These initiatives, which aim to have a long-lasting effect on Rwandans, address various health-related challenges, such as tracking rabies, increasing hospital transfers, communicating pregnancy information, and improving communication for deaf patients (RNUD).

I chose to work on the RNUD project (improving communication with deaf patients). The director’s anecdotes that we heard while touring the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf (RNUD) office were fascinating. It inspired me to put more effort into this project.

According to the director of RNUD,  speaking with doctors was never easy for these impaired (deaf) persons. “They don’t even think of us as disabled people,” he claimed. Deaf persons frequently receive an incorrect diagnosis. Moreover, translators are ineffective and aren’t recommended. This is because there won’t be any privacy between the interpreter and the patient. Moreover, they could also translate the wrong message to the doctor. Hearing these tales inspired me to create additional valuable animations that can aid these deaf people and help them feel included, at least in the very vital health field.

The historical viewpoint and the time spent with the UGHE peers taught me a new strategy for approaching innovation activities: “fail quick, learn quick.” Our plans might not all work out. When this occurs, it is critical that we swiftly learn from our mistakes. Progress toward group innovation will be measured by the prototype’s testing and an initial focus on a specific goal.

Furthermore, vital to the project’s success is the generation of fresh ideas. It doesn’t have to be over the top; a small donation can have a significant impact. Lastly, I gained knowledge about the value of teamwork, experimenting with new ideas, and the fact that even situations that seem insurmountable can be solved. Most importantly, I learned how to refresh my mind after a long workday by appreciating nature, culture and eating healthy food!