I was in college when I first travelled to Africa for the launch of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Among the many images seared into my mind was one from a visit with a little girl I met. I assumed she was three years-old; I later discovered she was almost seven. She was very tiny because she was born HIV-positive in a place where access to basic healthcare wasn't an option. I never knew the fate of that little girl – or if she even lived into the next year – but I was struck by the overwhelmingly unfair fact that her life would have been drastically different had she been born just a couple of years later or in a different nation. I knew I had to do something about these issues but didn’t know what that would be.
Years later, after experiences from working for Red Cross Children’s Hospital in South Africa to interning for UNICEF in Botswana, my world changed. At the aids2031 Young Leaders Summit, UNAIDS’ CEO Peter Piot challenged the young leaders in the audience to think about how they would continue the miraculous work that had been done on HIV/AIDS and more broadly on global health. My sister Jenna and four other guests put our heads together and hatched a business plan for an organization that would harness the passion, skills and talent of young leaders with diverse backgrounds to confront the massive health challenges facing our world. The six of us would call it Global Health Corps.
I had never started an organization from the ground up, but I believed so strongly in the vision and mission of our plan that I left my job to devote all of my time to our mission. GHC believes young people are the solution to global health challenges. We place recent college graduates and young professionals from around the world in health non-profits and government offices in the US and East Africa for a year of service. Fellows focus on a variety of current health issues like HIV, maternal child health and healthcare access. Through additional training, community building, leadership development,and mentorship, these young leaders complete their fellowship with the skills to be changemakers and paradigm-shifters in the global health field, not just now but throughout their entire careers.
Together with my co-founders, trusted advisors and partners, we have created an organization that has deployed 216 young leaders to work in East Africa, Southern Africa and the US, where we have served the health needs of underprivileged communities. Fellows have built financial management systems for grassroots HIV organizations in Uganda, counseled homeless teenagers in Newark, supported Rwandan district pharmacies in rolling out new supply chain management tools and conducted AIDS policy research in Washington DC.
Collectively, the six of us leaned in to work to change fundamental inequities in global health, but everyday I’m inspired by our fellows who work on the front lines. My hope is that the health equity movement will flourish and that women and men from around the world will continue to lean in and commit themselves to social justice.