#GlobalGoals: Using What We Have

It’s ridiculous. For our family of five, there are five functional mobile phones in the household (even for the 86 year old with short-term memory issues who has an extremely limited social calendar). In addition to the five functional phones, an inventory of our home would probably unearth another five abandoned phones, set aside in favor of newer technology, more memory, and the ability for Youtube videos of cute kittens to load EVEN FASTER.

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Philippa Kibugu-Decuir of Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa Inc. would be happy with one smartphone per village in Rwanda, East Africa, never mind five per household.

That one smartphone per village would make a difference in a place characterized by lack of knowledge and help-seeking behaviors, as well as fear and poverty. These factors result in many African women presenting their breast cancer at late stages when it is difficult or impossible to treat.

With a smartphone and an educational app, trained volunteer ambassadors can spread information about early detection among villagers. This makes it likely that women will catch signs of breast cancer much earlier than had previously been the case.

The app is currently in English, but Kinyarwanda and Swahili versions are being developed.

In the photos below, Valerie, in the village of Gisozi, Gasabo District, Rwanda, receives a smartphone which she will use to educate women.

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Photo Credit: BCIEA

Philippa says:

We believe we can use what we have to get where we want to be.

Our world needs people like Philippa to achieve Goal 3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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One of the subgoals is: Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks. Philippa is directly impacting this goal, through improving early warning and risk reduction for women in Rwanda as it pertains to breast cancer.

In addition to this goal, the The UN has identified 16 other Sustainable Development Goals which will set the world’s agenda for the next 15 years. The 17 goals will be officially adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, September 25-27 in New York City.

Philippa inspires me to think harder about what I have, to be more creative in how I use it, and to have a more ambitious goal for the change I want to make in the health of the world around me.

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Although I chose to focus this post on the BCIEA project, I want to give a shout-out to some other organizations and individuals who are “using what they have to get where they want to be”:

  • An organization near and dear to me, Shot at Life, which helps ensure children around the world have access to life-saving immunizations. Learn more by clicking here.
  • The Kupona Foundation, which works closely to provide maternal healthcare, disability services, and sustainable health care in Tanzania. Learn more by clicking here.
  • I am also inspired by Jennifer Kate Lovallo. When her travel plans landed her in Budapest at precisely the same time that Syrian refugees were streaming through on their way to (primarily) Germany, exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and disoriented, she arranged an impromptu effort to provide a relief station so the refugees could meet their basic survival needs. That particular situation may be over before the summit even convenes on September 25, but seeing her ability and willingness to initiate such an action on zero notice and to mobilize inspired me. Read more about her efforts here.

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To become more involved in the Global Goals, here are some resources:

Website:     Global Goals

Facebook:  The Global Goals

Twitter:       @UN and @TheGlobalGoals

Instagram:  The Global Goals

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UPDATE: Brenda of 1010 Park Place shared a great profile of Philippa here in October 2016.

15 thoughts on “#GlobalGoals: Using What We Have

    • Thank you, Brenda! I so appreciate you telling me about her work. I can only imagine the challenges these women in Rwanda faced with no access to information.

  1. When we are wrapped up in our tech-filled lives and first world problems it’s so easy to forget about those who lead very primitive lives in comparison. Personally I think it’s sad the way people are so engrossed in their phones these days but that’s another issue!

    • Thank you for your comment; I agree. This work in Rwanda really put the power of apps in perspective for me (and the hard work required to train the humans to get the most out of the apps for the women involved).

  2. I’m an ex social worker who has spent lots of time in non-profits and NGO’s. I’ve seen lots of big ideas and big money go to waste. Your post points out really well, that individuals with smart ideas, who are willing to just do it and act on them, can often do more than the big bucks.

    • Exactly!! It still takes a ton of determination, grit, and creativity but it’s such a logical starting place!! Thanks for your comment!

  3. Thank you so much Paula,
    I’m honored and humbled by your beautiful and most inspiring words that serve to refuel my passion for what I do. So many friends and colleagues and others I don’t even know commented on your article. In fact has even been used to validate my work–you can’t beat that! Thank you again and as Brenda said, I apologize for this delayed response, I did have internet issues!

  4. Hi Paula! Good for you for helping to share the word about Global Goals and their intentions. It is a wonderful initiative and very helpful to remember that there are people around the world working to make it a better world for us all. THANK YOU to you and all of them! ~Kathy

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