Interview with EPN Scholarship Recipient - Putting a Face to the Ecumenical Scholarship Program
Bread for the World is the force behind the Ecumenical Scholarship Programme (ESP) housed within EPN’s second programme on Pharmaceutical Services Capacity Development. The overall goal is to maximize health outcomes through effective pharmaceutical systems and services. The objective of ESP is to fill the human resource capacity gap in church hospitals/healthcare facilities in selected EPN Network countries of Sub-Saharan Africa through up-skilling and upgrading of existing pharmacy staff. The selected candidates are enrolled in a 2-3 year training in Pharmacy or Pharmaceutical Technology in accredited colleges in their countries of origin.
The scholarship programme supports 40 students and has so far seen 6 beneficiaries from Cameroon graduate in August 2015, 5 from Zambia graduated in March 2016, 1 from Tanzania graduated in July 2016 and 1 from Uganda graduated in February 2017. The other students expect to graduate between 2017 and the 1st quarter 2018.
Quietly sitting and waiting in the reception area, Beatrice Chebet (BC), a recipient of the EPN Scholarship Program, watched EPN employees hurry around past her. When eyes where met, ‘hellos’ were softly mouthed. Beatrice wore a broad confident smile with all the pleasantries. Finally, she was called in to see Mirfin Mpundu, Executive Director at EPN. After about 15 minutes, she emerged from the office with an evenbigger smile. Directed into the EPN board room, Beatrice proceeded to givean update on her journey to becoming a pharmacist in Kericho Country in South Rift Valley, Western Kenya. This 27- year –old mother of two, will this year, graduate from Eldoret Polytechnic with a Diploma in Pharmacy. Kareen Shawa (KSD), EPN Communications Officer writes an account of how the partnership between EPN and Bread for The Worldcontinues to harness a hopeful future for everyday people. Also present was Mercy Naitore (MN), EPN Scholarship Program Lead.
KSD: So Beatrice where are you from?
BC: I am from Kericho County. That’s where I grew up.
KSD: Tell me how you became part of the EPN Scholarship Program?
BC:I was approached by my supervisor where I worked in the pharmacy at Africa Inland Church (AIC)Litein Hospital in Kericho. I was a Pharmacy Assistant there.
KSD: How did you become a Pharmacy Assistant?
BC: When I completed high school in 2006, I knew I wanted to work in the medical field. However, my family did not have the financial means to send me to university. So after high school, I simply went to the hospital and asked around if they were hiring. I was directed to the hospital pharmacy. The pharmacy was looking for people to stock and help organize the pharmacy. I was hired. Over time, I was given on-the-job-training on common medications, their use and dosages. Later, I was given more responsibilities and eventually started dispensing medication.
KSD: When did you start the program?
BC: I started the program in 2014 began the course that year at theEldoret Polytechnic College. I felt so happy when I started the program because finally I could get the formal education I had dreamt off. I will graduate this year and receive my diploma in Pharmacy. (a look of pride sweeps across her face)
KSD:How has this experience changed your life?
BC: My career now has direction. My ambition to work in the medical field is becoming a reality. I now have the knowledge and experience to be a pharmacist. I have more confidence because I know l have the real knowledge of how medicines are produced, how they work in the body and how they react with each other. I can now speak like a pharmacist! (her posture becomes straighter in a matter-of-fact way).
KSD: What is the one message you would like give the people who initiated this program?
BC: I would like to thank them deeply. I am grateful for the support and the blessing they have given me.
MN: What do you do during your school holidays?
BC: I still go back to work at theAIC Litein Hospital in Kericho. It also gives me a chance to see my colleagues but I still spend time with my husband and 2 children. My boy is 7 and my girl is 7.
MN: It is so encouraging to see a mother pursue her dream. What advice would you give us on how to improve the program?
BC: It would be nice for all the students to meet at some point. Some students in the program go to the same school so they knoweachother. I am alone and it would be nice to see and meet the others, even from different countries. However, the Whatsapp group that Mercy set-up keeps us all connected.
KSD: What is the way forward for Beatrice?
BC: I want to take this knowledge and bring it back to my community. I want to encourage people to seek medical advice before taking medication. To go to the hospital and to take the blood tests before taking treatment because it is important. I will not stop with this diploma.I want to continue my studies until masters level. They even know this at the Hospital in Kericho. I told them that they will have me for a short while after this diploma and then I go back to school. (she bursts into an excited infectious laugh)
KSD: Finally, one word to describe your future before and after the scholarship?
BC: (She takes her time. Thinking.) Before my future was not clear but now it is in focus. (She clearly needed more words).