There is a famous South African and, more specifically, Zulu, proverb Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu translated into “a person is a person because of people.” In one word, it is described as Ubuntu. The spirit of Ubuntu highlights the value and importance of community. These are significant characteristics of communities which include a strong sense of valued relationships, diversity and, most importantly, the different components and people that contribute to success. This is essentially how I would define the culture and ethos of the JSI DC office.
As a young 22 year old from South African with a natural sciences background and very little knowledge about the public health sector but a key interest in development, I have found my experience at John Snow as both challenging and extremely enriching.
The past few weeks at John Snow, I have been working on the President’s Young Professionals Program in Liberia as a SAWIP (South Africa Washington International Programme) Intern. My perspective on global and public health has been expanded beyond measure.
It is often said that if you want to see the success of a company of this size, look at the culture within the organization. It is here where I wish to start my journey over the last few weeks. It has become more apparent than what JSI brings to the world is through the value of the world within the office spaces in Arlington, Virginia.
Through shared spaces and the incorporation of an inter-generational model of knowledge sharing, it has highlighted that there is more than just experience and expertise that is transferred and utilized amongst staff. It is also through the shared stories from Ethiopia in the horn of Africa, to the Central American country of Guatemala that adds to the dynamic environment people are able to develop, learn and thrive in.
In particular, the project I have been working on has also showcased JSI’s ability to engage a competitive environment through the assistance and contributions to the success of the PYPP Liberia project.
What JSI and the Liberian Government have managed to achieve over the last five years has become the catalyst of a different narrative for the African continent. Through intensive efforts to build and develop human capacity, it saw more than just a gap within the market. Post-conflict societies, much like my own home country of South Africa, provide us with the conditions for creativity, thinking differently about how we address challenges, and how countries can be propelled into a brighter future.
The successes of the programs in Liberia are a testament to the impact JSI has had in many other countries whether through AIDSFree, or the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT, or with the research done through JSI’s Center for Health Information Monitoring and Evaluation (CHIME).
I leave JSI with a stronger sense of direction and an indication of where I would like to invest my skills and knowledge to have the biggest impact in the world.