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, the fourth scholar, Marwa Ibrahim, 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 Marwa to reflect on her experience, 12 months on.
Just as I left the UK, the Covid-19 pandemic began. This time was very challenging. I tried to join the private and NGO sector to work in the field of public health. Things were not easy, and I didn’t manage to get a permanent job in those sectors. However, I worked for casual and voluntary roles with some organisations of those sectors. I worked for an international NGO that works to help refugees in my country. Within the health department, I prepared health awareness messages remotely to enhance health of this vulnerable population. I also worked for a local NGO that execute development projects under the auspice of Ministry of Social Solidarity. I worked as a public health trainer. I was consulted to adjust and adapt public health topics and train Nursery workers on that topic. This was part of a big project that works to reform nurseries and child centres in remote and rural areas through developing the infrastructures and building capacities of the employees. I trained people on maintaining healthy nutrition and ensuring food safety. I have also utilised my gained writing skills from my Master in writing reports, after completion of the project. I am also working as a humanitarian writer for an international non-profit organization advocating for the human rights of displaced individuals around the world through research and publishing articles to aware people of their struggles, stories, and stand against injustice happening to them every day. My Master has provided me with good research skills that I used to participate in collaborative research group. I am currently part of the Egyptian Mental Health Research Network, in which we are conducting research that assess the sexual health knowledge attitudes and beliefs amongst Egyptian university students.
I am currently working in the public sector, in a specialised infectious disease hospital, the place I used to work in before my travels. The hospital converted to an isolation hospital to serve mainly Covid-19 patients. I am working in the Covid-19 vaccination department, overseeing the vaccination daily campaign, and offering advice about the vaccine to people considering having it. I am still working to introduce the health promotion and health education areas within the hospital, as it is neglected and not working effectively currently.
After my master year, I have immensely realised the importance of bottom-up approach. I am seeing the hospital could be a good start for promoting health of the public sector. I am working to advocate for the adopting patient-centred approach within the hospital as part of the hospital quality standards. I managed to consult with some officials in the hospital about the initial steps that could be taken to start or re-establish a health awareness department. I found positive response from some officials but it is still in the early stages.
My living abroad has widened my perspective, connecting with different people from different backgrounds visiting different places. I became more able to accept others and became more self-dependent. I think this has helped me in my personal and professional life. Being open to others has allowed me to communicate with different people without judgement. I have faced hard moments since I returned back, but my experience within the UK has helped me to become more resilient and overcome different challenges, whilst being self-dependent and keen to try new things.
The community placement module has shaped my personal and professional aspirations. I found myself in love with the area of working with people and for people, raising awareness, empowering communities, and supporting change for better health. I tried to make every conversation with people I meet count, opening discussion about healthy lifestyle, healthy approaches, and healthy pathways. On a personal level, I tried to take good things I experienced in the UK to home. I tried to change my lifestyle as well as my family and adopt a healthy one and to be active as much as possible.
I have tried to translate my dissertation project to in real life trial, but timing is not easy since Covid-19 still rampant. I have started working in some health promotion fields but still seeking more. I am looking to make steps to introduce the health promotion/health education to people as down-up approach and am advocating to uptake a health promotion policy in the up-down approach. I also look forward to continuing to work in the community NGOs that are keen about public health issues.
I have also written this article recently – https://actfordisplaced.org/2021/02/19/how-does-the-migration-of-south-asian-workers-to-gulf-countries-affect-their-health-and-what-can-be-done/