Since 2015, we have been delighted, with the kind support of Fiona Deane with money left to her by a family legacy, to have offered the Forward Bound scholarship to MSc Health Promotion applicants from low or lower-middle income countries. This award is intended to support health and other professionals who are employed or who volunteer in roles where they will be able to influence and shape health promotion practice and policy on their return. Due to this generous donation, we have been able to offer tuition fees, accommodation, travel and a living subsistence each year to successful candidates. There have been six scholars so far. Our third scholar, Comfort Rudzuna, graduated in 2020.
For more information about the Forward Bound scholarship, visit here – https://www.brighton.ac.uk/studying-here/fees-and-finance/postgraduate/international-students/scholarships/forward-bound-scholarships.aspx
We asked Comfort to reflect on his experience.
The masters had an immense impact on me professionally. I did not go back to my previous post and initially struggled to find a job as my return coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic. Doing health promotion enabled me to go into other areas of public health. I realised that though there were not many opportunities in formal work settings, there were opportunities in consultancies for various charities and government departments. My masters equipped me with skills to conduct many of these, such as in organisational change management and baseline surveys for different projects. I teamed up with former colleagues and we managed to do various projects mainly related to HIV and developing manuals for projects. We have conducted work successfully for local and international charities. Doing these assignments has also enabled me to improve my skills in several areas such as management, report writing and research.
I have recently been appointed to work as a Social Behaviour Change advisor for a health program that includes nutrition and Maternal and Child Health. Having the Masters qualification has opened up these opportunities and I am able to utilise many of the knowledge in behaviour change that I acquired from the course. I also have gained management skills that I feel will enable me to develop myself from a technical player to higher management positions. I hope that I will also attain positions that will place me in a position to influence the design of health projects that are implemented in my country and other developing countries.
I have come back to a different organisation. The work culture has changed dramatically due to the covid pandemic. Most organisations have been affected and funding for programs has dwindled. The work environment has also been affected immensely by several lockdowns and this has slowed down the progress of most projects. During the Masters programme, we did a module on strategy and program planning. I feel that it has affected the way in which I work. Before the course, I was focussed on the primary goal of the project I was implementing and achieving targets. My focus has widened to understand the wider things that affect the change that we are trying to implement. For example, in nutrition, we have a project that focusses on improving agricultural production as a means of improving food intake. Other social determinants such as food varieties available to the communities, the ability to store and preserve food well and decision-making power dynamics affect the choice of food at household level and hence affect nutrition outcomes.
I feel that with a Masters, my input is better considered within the organisation that I am working with, and I feel that I am making real change for the communities that I serve.
I feel that the experiences I had living in England have had a great impact on me as an individual. I was able to interact with people from different nationalities, and I feel I have a more diverse approach to life and understanding to different cultures. This has enabled me to relate with a wider scope of people whom I meet at work or socially. I feel I am more confident in my everyday life. The Masters also opens up many opportunities for my career and I have been able to dream bigger and peruse more opportunities than I would have in the past.
Adjusting back to life in Zimbabwe was difficult after living abroad because I had become accustomed to the faster paced life in the UK. I had the opportunity to visit many places in the UK which I consider a lifetime opportunity, and I hope to visit more places in the world. I have great respect for the class of 2020 from which I continue to relate to many people and this has widened my circle of friends and colleagues. My children and family have been inspired, and I have had many people asking me how they can pursue studies abroad. The stories I brought back have certainly inspired many and given hope to others.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has not been easy to live normally. One of my Masters modules was managing change which I find has wide applications not only in the world of work, but in life. I have applied things I learned on this course and applied them to my life with great results. My dissertation was on sleep and this has helped me improve my personal health through improving my sleep. It has also given me deeper insights into some of the health challenges that friends come to me with every day.
My hope is to go and work abroad in international health development, since I have acquired skills that are demanded internationally. This will help me move ahead in my career and achieve more than I had ever hoped I could. I hope that I will be able to make meaningful contributions to my work area and improve the way things are done.