Forward Bound – update from our scholar Faith Atyang “My academic experience during my masters programme remains a transformational journey”

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 and two more started in September 2022. Faith Atyang is our fifth scholar who graduated in February 2022. We asked Faith to reflect on her experience since leaving Brighton.

Faith and Dr Lubanji feeding Giraffes in Nairobi, Kenya

Faith and Lubanji feeding Giraffes in Nairobi, Kenya

Faith, how have you been able to use your learning since you graduated, and what health promotion/public health areas have you been involved in?

My academic experience during my taught master’s programme remains a transformational journey that continues to inform my professional perspective. I am currently working as the Manager, Health and Nutrition, with Concern Worldwide in Kenya. Concern Worldwide is an Irish-based humanitarian International Organisation that seeks to end extreme poverty, whatever it takes. I am currently managing three Health and Nutrition projects that seek to deliver both lifesaving and life-changing interventions to the most vulnerable populations in one of the ASAL (Arid and Semi-Arid Lands) counties in my home country, Kenya.

My role is to ensure that these projects are strategically planned and implemented while offering technical support to the Ministry of Health and team staff, despite the challenging context attributed to insecurity, persistent climate shocks (drought) and complex emerging health crises. One of the projects involves holistic emergency activities like delivering integrated health and nutrition services, Water Sanitation and Hygiene, Food assistance and Cash Transfers to vulnerable households. The other development project seeks to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding by creating an enabling environment for mothers through establishing baby-friendly community initiatives. The third project is a research project that seeks to build on evidence-simplified approaches like Family MUAC for increasing the coverage and access to nutrition programs by caregivers.

From a health promotion perspective, my work involves creating enabling environments for Pregnant and Lactating women (PLW) to practice optimal Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN). Guided by the Health Promotion means of developing personal skills, creating, and reorienting the health services, these key roles have been beneficial in exposing me to different contexts of health promotion competencies including communication with a diverse audience, enabling change, planning, implementation, and research. Through my work, I have participated in the development of the Kenya Social Behaviour Change Communication strategy for improving nutrition outcomes.

Kenya, in the horn of Africa, is currently experiencing severe levels of food insecurity attributed to the ongoing drought. Through my work with Concern Worldwide, in one of the most hit counties (Marsabit County), I have witnessed first-hand consequences of climate change with communities (pastoralists) accounting for the ravaging effects of the ongoing drought. As a first-hand responder, I have been keen on highlighting the climatic shocks. This led me to a collaborative project with one of University of Brighton’s alumni; Alexi Lubomirski.  Alexi is a photographer, director and a philanthropist, who is a supporter of Concern Worldwide’s work of ending extreme poverty. We have worked with Alexi twice (2017 and 2022) to highlight the challenges of drought attributed to climate change. Additionally, I was honoured to write a story, highlighting the drought situation in the Irish Examiner.

Faith and Alexi in 2022 interviewing one of the community members on the effects of the ongoing drought in Northern Kenya.

Faith and Alexi in 2022 interviewing one of the community members on the effects of the ongoing drought in Northern Kenya.

Watch this video on the drought situation and how Concern Worldwide is responding.

Read the story published in the Irish Examiner.

Further to this, I have been able to meet my former colleagues (students) from the University of Brighton who visited me in Kenya from Zambia. Lubanji Lomboli Maseka, a passionate global health specialist, came over to Kenya to learn more about how my work is impacting the communities I work with in Kenya.

What are your perspectives of the work, culture and future after having taken a year away, and studied at Master’s level?

Currently, I am working with Concern Worldwide, managing 3 projects. This position is an upgrade from a technical role I held in the same organisation before my scholarship. As a result of the climate change, a lot has shifted and now we are focussing on addressing the impact of the ravaging drought in Kenya first. To complement that, we continue to build the resilience of the communities by working towards eliminating the persistent occurrence of acute malnutrition. The organisation has remained solid in working with the extreme poor to alleviate all forms of hunger, and true to that, we work with the extreme poor. But the climate crisis presents challenges daily.

How have you been able to use your experience of studying abroad?

Studying abroad was a complementary experience to my professional ambitions. I left England with enhanced power of critical thinking. Throughout my modules, guided by my course supervisor and the support from the School of Sport and Health Sciences, I was able to see challenges facing my country and beyond from a different spectrum. Health promotion continues to be my pillar even as I implement health and nutrition projects targeting communities, schools, and Ministry of Health Structures. After my exposure in England, I have been accorded greater responsibilities in my current organisation that have given me a sense of empowerment and enhancement of my career. However, after returning home, it has been less easy to leave that studying environment. I would have loved to continue with my studies to a much higher level.

Faith and Alexi in 2017 during his visit in the Northern part of Kenya

Faith and Alexi in 2017 during his visit in the Northern part of Kenya to highlight the ravaging drought and its effects on local communities.

What’s next for you?

Since the Master’s programme, I have been able to offer technical expertise in implementation of various Health and Nutrition projects in Kenya through my work with Concern Worldwide. I am still in touch with my academic supervisor, Carol Williams, the principal lecturer on my course. Through her, I continually offer contribution as a teacher and adviser to several modules on other courses, especially on Public Health Nutrition to both Postgraduate and Undergraduate students at the University of Brighton.

I am excited that I will be climbing the ladders regarding my professional career. I accepted an offer to join UN- IOM (International Organization for Migration) in Khartoum Sudan as a Public Health Specialist (Emergency Health). IOM delivers health projects that aim to address critical humanitarian needs through a multi-sectoral approach to provide integrated support to displaced and vulnerable crisis-affected populations, including IDPs, refugees and hosting communities. My role will involve supporting the coordination and implementation of IOM Sudan health and nutrition programme activities and projects. Alongside this, I hope to still work with my academic supervisor to publish my Master’s dissertation.

 

Thanks to Faith for this update.

Click here for more information on the Forward Bound scholarship.

An update from Faith via Concern Worldwide.

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