Todd and I became involved with Global Strategies over 5 years ago. I had just gone through a tough pregnancy which required our twin boys to be hospitalized. We were incredibly grateful for the medical help we received, knowing that without it, at least one of the boys would not have made it. A few days after our twins were born, we received literature in the mail about Global Strategies (GS). On the cover was a picture of an African woman holding twins that had been born safely because of GS. At that moment, I felt a bond with this woman thousands of miles away and I knew that we needed to support this organization.
When we first became involved with Global Strategies, we thought their role was to provide healthcare to women and children in the poorest areas of the world. Since then, we have learned so much more about what this organization does. Besides providing healthcare, GS also trains and educates the local people so that they can help those in their community.
We have had the honor of meeting Dr. Josh Bress, President of Global Strategies. In a recent interview, we asked him a few questions about his trips to Africa:
HOW MANY TIMES A YEAR DO YOU TRAVEL TO AFRICA? I lived in the eastern Congo for over a year between 2011-12. That year was one of the great educational experiences of my life. One of the many lessons I learned is that local healthcare professionals were best positioned to make lasting change. Rather than delivering the care ourselves, we needed to partner with local organizations. Today our programs are run entirely by African teams of doctors and nurses, and with the help of technology, we get real-time data about our work. We now visit Africa about 4 times per year and those visits are almost entirely about planning for the future.
ON AVERAGE, HOW LONG ARE YOU THERE? When we go to Africa it is usually for 2-3 weeks. The trips are quite packed.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU IN AFRICA? On a typical day on a trip to the eastern Congo, we will meet for coffee with our Program Manager, Dr. Givano Kashemwa and then head out together to visit our partners. The coffee is a must since we'll be speaking French all day. When I see our partners in person, I usually have three goals. First, I want to thank them for their incredible work. These are heroic individuals making incredible personal sacrifices to better their communities and they get zero recognition. Second, I want to hear about problems that don't get transmitted with the electronic data. Third, I want to ask them about partnerships. Who do they think we should be working with? Dr. Kashemwa is invaluable with these conversations--he works all year to establish the trust that makes these frank discussions possible. We will then eat dinner with our team. The food in eastern Congo is delicious and a great opportunity to reflect on the day. As our local team departs, our families in the United States are just waking up, so it is a good chance to call home.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT? Creating two neonatal units for the care of sick and preterm babies in the eastern Congo. These programs are saving lives every day.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE? When you work in places like eastern Congo, challenges come with the territory. How do you deal with those challenges while not letting them limit your horizon? That's a daily tension.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH JET LAG? I think my team would agree that I don't have much jet lag. Probably the combination of working call nights at the hospital for years and having a 2 year old has given me some degree of immunity.