Coming home to be met by Hurricane Irene and the frantic pace of senior year only solidified my feelings of missing South Africa. Though I left South Africa at a time when my work was just starting picking up speed, I’m very proud of what I was able to help the delegation accomplish. We’re working with two private organizations, BroadReach Health Care and Foundation for Professional Development, to provide training, mentorship, and resources to facility-level health care managers and leaders. Programs will start in the next month in two districts in KwaZulu-Natal and several areas of Gauteng. Since these programs address an area of critical need for South Africa, everyone involved is extremely hopeful that they will have a large impact on maternal and child deaths and on the strength and efficiency of the health system overall.
I’m incredibly grateful to the countless South Africans who made my time in their country the most productive and intellectually stimulating experience of my life. At every meeting, whether it was at district, provincial, or national health offices, with private health care organizations, or at the University of Pretoria, people were welcoming and friendly, yet extremely professional and dedicated. Many people with whom I worked (including the six delegates) had enormous work-loads and severe staff shortages – particularly by U.S. standards – yet they jumped at an opportunity to contribute to the GHLI delegation’s project, seeing in it a way to improve their country’s health system. It was such a privilege for me to work with so many dedicated people throughout the health sector, and I feel very fortunate that GHLI made the opportunity available to me. Even before the plane took off from Johannesburg, I was already brainstorming ways to go back.