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A Summer to Remember: Reflections of the Impact of the Rotary Fellowship

June 28, 2022
Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center
Author standing in front of a sign that says "welcome to Kamwala Heath Center"

Simon at the Kamwala Health Centre in Lusaka which is one of the INSIGHT Project sites

It has been great and fulfilling so far.

Before my applied fellowship experience officially started in Zambia (more of this shortly), I dashed to Ghana where I achieved four important objectives: visited family, handed over a brand new clinic to the people of Kuboko and the Ghana Health Service, donated 120 chairs and tables to a school where learners lie on their bellies to receive their education, and of course, touched base with the grassroots supporters of my campaign to be elected to represent the people of the Zebilla constituency in Parliament in 2025.

Thanks to Rotarians and the powerful Rotary network, when school was in session in the Spring, and supported by my Rotary Host Counsellor, I spoke to several Rotary Clubs and Rotarians about the work of the Peoples Foundation for Health and Education Development which I founded in 2016. We raised funds to complete a clinic project named after the parents of the largest Rotarian Donor for the project–Lynne Carpenter of the Zebulon Rotary Club. The people of Kuboko received healthcare under trees before our intervention. Working with the community members who provided labor for the project, I was happy to on behalf of all the donors to hand over the clinic to the District Health Management Team who assured to permanently station staff at the health facility and deliver 24/7 healthcare to the locals.

Aside from the Clinic Project, we also raised funds to change the teaching and learning situation of the Kukuruzua Primary School located in Zebilla in the Upper East region. Adolescent girls were at the mercy of the indignity of lying on the floor to study. This resulted in a high school dropout rate among the girls in the school. With our donation of 120 tables and chairs (and still fundraising to do more), we are hoping to be able to reduce the dropout rate of adolescent girls and shore up the performance of the learners in the school.

Of course, I also siezed the opportunity to visit delegates who form the electoral college to elect the next representative of my political party to represent them in parliament. Along with my team of volunteers, we embarked on a one-on-one visit to delegates in their homes, farms, workplaces, you name them. The future is promising, and I cannot wait to serve my people in such higher calling.

Hope for people at increased risk of HIV infection

A man crouches down to great an older man sitting in a chair. They shake hands to greet each other, smiling.
Simon being received by a community influencer who hosted delegates in his house to meet him.

Now, I am in Lusaka, Zambia. I am doing my official AFE with the UNC Global Projects Zambia. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by researchers from the University of Washington and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I am working on a clinical trial project called INSIGHT which is just starting off. INSIGHT aims to advance Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) discovery and delivery for African women. If successful, this study would be making groundbreaking discoveries that would deliver medication for people at risk so that they do not get HIV if they become exposed to the deadly virus.

In the Global Health world, decolonization is one of the topical issues that we know if taken seriously, we would have consolidated a lot of gains in Global Health practice. I find the work of UNC in this regard remarkable given that this study is multi-site thus engaging participants in eSwatini, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe while at the same time contributing to local research capacity building.

At present, I am engaged with the regulatory aspect of the trial project getting firsthand understanding of the working intersection of three regulators in Zambia. Before the study finally kicks off, all regulators must have had their questions answered and approvals given. The other arm of my engagement here is with community engagement processes for participant recruitment and retention while also immersing myself in Good Participatory Practices (GPP).

My fellowship experiences thus far have been great. And I am hopeful that with the funding support from the Rotary Foundation International for my field experience, I would be well-rounded having been exposed to the praxis of Global Health in a resource-limited setting.

I could not be any more grateful to the Rotary Foundation and the generous Rotarians especially my host counsellor, Darla Motta, for the excellent enriching experience I have received thus far.

Gracias, Merci, Mbusiya, Thank you.


This blog post was originally published by the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center. It was written by Simon Aseno, a Rotary Peace Fellow from Ghana studying Global Health at the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

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