Fulbright recently awarded a student from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio with a scholarship to start a health community in Burkina Faso, Ghana. Samy Bendjemil will implement a community health club model and hopes he can improve local education.
Bendjemil, an M.D./M.P.H. student, will work in a rural village of Dierma (3,500 people) in order to engage the local people. He plans on implementing a community-led healthcare program and utilizing a community health club model, which has been implemented in other developing countries, including Haiti, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.
Bendjemil’s project has been planned since August 2012. Bendjemil met Dr. Moumini Niaone in the General Assembly of the International Federation of Medical Student Associations in Mumbai. The doctor has family in the rural village of Dierma, Ghana. Their talk and eventual partnership has changed the course of the student work.
“We talked a lot about the health conditions in his country and the effects that poor sanitation practices and a lack of education have on the burden of disease,” Bendjemil said. “I was deeply impressed with the selfless devotion that Dr. Niaone has to the future of his country and was inspired to take a year off from studies to develop a health education program for his village.”
The student traveled last year to Dierma and met the community leaders and members who he believes are open to work with him in order to decrease avoidable diseases. Bendjemil wants to identify barriers to education and share possible solutions with the local community.
During his visit to Dierma, Bendjemil verified that the population lacked knowledge about disease transmission, sanitation, and hygiene. “Almost all cooking areas were outside without any barrier from livestock or flies. It was very common to see animals defecating in the eating area. Residents drank and ate from pots with dozens of flies flying between them. Many compounds did not use a latrine, and those that did were used by more than 50 people,” he said.
Bendjemil will represent the United States as a cultural ambassador. The awarded said the Fullbright Program, a, international educational exchange program, will challenge him to design a project that brings together different cultures and share skills.