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“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”~ Martin Luther King Jr.


Settling in

It was a hard decision to make on where I was to do my internship. I had received 4 internship opportunities; one in Africa and three in the United States. All the offers were amazing. Having worked in the field, my goal was to do an internship in an American setting. After much thought and advice, I chose to do my internship at the Earth Institute, Columbia University.

On 10 May, 2015, in the company of my host family Bill Wicker and his daughter Savanna, we drove to New York from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was a long drive, 9 hours to be precise. I had never been to New York before; the closest I had been was through watching this amazing city in the movies. We arrived in the afternoon under the scorching sun, it was summertime and the temperatures were at an all-time high. Having found a place to stay a few weeks before my departure, we moved my luggage to the house. This was going to be my home for the next three months. Unlike Chapel Hill, where streets are clean with few people, New York was the complete opposite. Some streets had litter strewn everywhere, people never followed traffic lights and everything was moving too fast. After spending time with my host family, I bid them goodbye and was now alone in this big city.

On 13th May, 2015, 9.30 am, I arrived at the Earth Institute Columbia University to start my internship. I was to work under the One Million Community Health Workers Campaign (1mCHW) project as an Implementation Intern, West Africa portfolio.


The Campaign

Before I introduce my main duties and roles I was involved in during my internship, let me give a brief background of 1mCHW campaign.

The main goal of 1mCHW Campaign is to help African governments to deploy an upgraded generation of community health workers (CHWs), trained, supervised, remunerated, and supported by the latest in community based health technology. The campaign is overseen by a steering committee at the Earth Institute and it runs through the United Nations Sustainable Development Solution Network that informs its Solutions Initiative.

The rationale behind the campaign was informed through experience which has shown that each CHW can cover around 100 households, visiting each every 60-90 days. With an average of five people per household in rural Africa, one million CHWs can cover – to a rough approximation – the 500 million or so population of rural sub-Saharan Africa. Some countries have already embarked on the modernization and scale up of their CHW work force. Most others have not, and rely on poorly trained and poorly supervised volunteers.

Research shows that CHWs play a critical role in primary health care delivery as they provide basic public health services and medical care to the communities they come from. They are involved in various activities such as information sharing, immunization and health education. There is no doubt that a CHW is an integral part of improving the healthcare system, especially in poor rural setting. There is a need to strengthen the existing CHW by equipping them with new technologies and trainings. The campaign therefore works with governments and aid agencies to finance, organize and train the health workers. 


My tasks

As an Implementation intern, I was tasked with supporting the Campaigns implementation planning efforts to prepare for a roll-out of a CHW pilot program in the Ashanti Region in Ghana. The pilot study was to aid in bringing about a national level scale-up of CHWs across all the ten regions of Ghana. This was being done in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service and Implementing partners.

My first assignment was conducting a literature review on the effectiveness of incentivizing a CHWs program and the effectiveness of the use of mHealth in CHW programs. It was an important task as the team was to incorporate this information on the DIV funding proposal they were poised to submit on June. I was also tasked with developing a concept note to be used in the proposal. Other assignments included devising a situational analysis that was used during a stakeholder engagement workshop to inform them on system planning. In addition, developing a sustainability plan for the pilot project, proposal writing and working in the operations room also fell under my purview.  I also attended all the internal meetings, webinars and wrote summary reports for my supervisor.


Take away points

Working at the Earth Institute helped me grow intellectually. I was able to learn how to manage project inputs while supplementing it with my previous experience of managing project outcomes. Since the main focus was on advising governments and working with governments to streamline its policies, this exposed me to how partnerships and collaborations work between agencies and governments. I was also able to learn more on how project financing is prepared and how this information is incorporated during proposal writing. The weekly meeting was also an eye opener for me on how decisions are made and targets set. They called it the team objectives and key results (OKR) that helped staff to make quarterly team and individual targets.


Rotary network


I was blessed to connect virtually and personally with other Peace Fellows working here in New York. Thanks to Susan, Amy and Mike Pfriem, the alumni relations coordinator at the Rotary Foundation. Our interactions were fruitful. I was able to learn how their programs were designed since most of them had gone to other peace centers like the University of Queensland, Bradford University, Chulalongkorn University and International Christian University. I was delighted to meet James Abraham, Larissa Bruun, Rose Foley and James Griffin in person. They were hospitable and made me feel at home professionally and to learn more about the operations of their organization.



Looking back, I would honestly say the Rotary Fellowship has been amazing. The fellowship has created a platform for networking with people from all corners of the world. Thanks to the Rotary database that has made that easier. The applied field experience (AFE) has also directly impacted my graduate studies positively. I have been able to learn more about partnerships, collaboration and resource mobilization; information related to my thesis work. I have also come to appreciate the importance of having a host family as they make life easier, especially being away from home. Lastly the unconditional support the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center offers during the AFE period is commendable.

24 Responses to “Osborn Kwena – AFE Blog – The Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA”

  1. Mike The Dj Kenya

    Great initiative Osborne..God Bless

  2. Dominic

    Way to go. I thought you would come back to Africa but having read the amazing experience you are going through I believe New York is still a good option. When you are done come back and make a change

  3. Grace Makana

    Congratulations Osborn! I am very happy to read about all the amazing experiences you had before and during your AFE period. Kudos to the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center, and your host family’s support for making this possible not just for you, but for many young people.
    All the best in your future plans!

  4. lydiah ngugi

    Great progress dear and enthusiasm noted throughout.
    keep up with the same spirit and look forward to achieve more for yourself,host organization and your motherland.
    Its a great opportunity and i wish i would be as lucky as you are.

  5. Denis Nyakach

    Helo Osborn,

    Great article this is. Am so interested in the incentivization of the CHWs (I hear they are now called CHVs – Community health volunteers here in Kenya), since it opens a whole new can of funding dynamics and budgeting. As you know, we are working in a community where we have to make use of them, and keeping them in a budget monthly for all the work they do for us NGO fellows, is quite a lot. And expensive too, many of the NGOs would therefore rather don’t work/engage with them. This is a great effort, and I hope the study will give the whole health world a good conclusion on it.

    Keep it up!
    Miss you here in +254 🙂

  6. Dan

    Happy for you bro; now use the knowledge gained to make Africa, and the world a better place to live in…

  7. Doreen

    nice one Ozzy. my aunt works as a CHW in Kenya

  8. florence samba

    very talented and inspiring
    keep passing the good message of hope

  9. Teresa Omeddo

    This is a great blog Osborn. You have clearly potrayed the growth and knowledge that you have acquired through this experience and I hope at the end of your internship you will be able to effectively utilize it in the public health sector.

  10. isaac

    Good and intresting blog keep it up

  11. isaac

    Good n intresting blog

  12. Caroline mboya

    Great work the future is promising , The difference between people and extra ordinary people is the extra word that you’re doing Kudos and keep the focus.

  13. S.E. Mbulo Odindo

    This is so amazing, Felicitations Ozzy Ozibo, You stay focused as you’ve always been! An idea is not worth until a man is found who has the energy and the ability to make it work. YOU ARE THAT MAN… Keep plugging along and shape the World! I got your back brother.

  14. S.E. Mbulo Odindo

    This is great! Felicitations Ozzy Ozibo… Stay focused as you’ve always been! An idea is not worth much until a man is found who has the energy and the ability to make it work… “You’re that man”… Keep plugging along and you will shape the World… Big up

  15. John Paul Obongita

    My dear friend and brother i feel good reading this from you. Since i saw you go abroad for further studys and you know been with you all along to see you attain all this. From your introduction it explains everything. Your presence will be felt where you come from and anywhere you will be going. Wonderful Osborn for the hard work.

  16. phoebe

    Good work and that kind of knowledge will take you places

  17. Suleiman Asman

    We talked about the CHWs sometime back good to hear that you are still pursuing this. it would be great to link up and speak more about the mHealth

  18. Annette Tindi Muchimuti

    wow! Osborn this is commendable.
    thanks for the detailed insight into proposal writing and general logistics into the NGO funding and related information.
    I sincerely hope you will be in a position to apply what you have learnt to our societies…remember change begins with you.
    all the best and God bless your efforts.

  19. Julie Lugulu

    I must commend the Rotary Fellowship for granting you this opportunity. The ball is now in your court, l am positive that the knowledge and experience gained will immensely benefit the health sector,improve the quality of lives and gear Kenya towards attaining and reaffirming it’s Vision 2030 goals.Bravo!

  20. barasa godfrey hesbon

    very inspiring and it marks a giant leap in your quest to achieve your dreams you deserve it Ozibo, I feel delighted it’s great experience when you explore great ideologies from great brains

  21. Silas Bwire

    Wow Osborn! what a wonderful experience. That is the right way to go man. I belive you have been at the right place for your internship. This is a very good Experience that will assist you to develop your future career. All the best.

  22. Silas Bwire

    Wow Osborn! What a great experience. I believe it has been very important to you. This experience will propel you in your career growth. CHWs play an important role in community based health care. Man you chose the right thing to work. Proud of you.

  23. Sarah Ndegwa

    This article has fueled my interest in the mhealth and CHW interaction .Considering that some counties in Kenya are already recognizing and appreciating them(Siaya) with mobile technology incorporation i think grass root healthcare will soon take a new face.Superb work,now get down to writing a grant winning proposal and lets develop Kenya’s health sector .

  24. faith

    Great work keep it up..

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