This post was submitted by Mark Rebstock, Vice President of External Relations in Meridian’s Professional Exchanges Division.
As cases of COVID-19 began to emerge in Cote d’Ivoire in March 2020, non-governmental organizations began to mobilize to meet community needs. For NGO AGIS, headed by IVLP Alumnus, Dr. Aboubakar Sylla, this meant setting up informational sessions about the importance of hand-washing and other precautions, collecting and distributing PPE and other supplies, and a special operation to disinfect the bus stations in Cocody, Cote d’Ivoire.
Dr. Sylla registered AGIS in 2012 to prevent pneumonia in children and to reduce the mortality rate of the disease and other childhood diseases in Cote d’Ivoire. But when COVID arrived, he repurposed programs and shifted gears to education and prevention efforts. His ability to shift gears, he says, was influenced by his participation on an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on NGO Management in 2019.
Before coming on the IVLP, Dr. Sylla says, his organization “identified needs and sought to put in place the means for achieving tangible objectives.” He wrote that his “vision was rather linear and direct.” Participation in the IVLP put him “into contact with different American structures and foundations, which were all experiencing similar problems to those that we encounter every day. I even discovered that our American counterparts face the same challenges as we do. The IVLP program helped me acquire a much more interdisciplinary vision of my strategy to better address these challenges. In other words, I now favor a professional approach that is much more united (synergy between partners), innovative and concrete. In sum, I would say that this month-long training is equivalent to 5 years of experience.”
Of particular value was a workshop at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in Greensboro, North Carolina, arranged through Global Ties U.S. member NC Global Leadership. Of the experience, he said CCL is “where things ‘clicked’ for me, regarding my work and philosophy on life. The group workshop arranged in Greensboro had a major impact on my training. This experience made me understand that it is important to favor teamwork, time for reflection, and humility. This was both an amazing collective and individual experience.”
As a result of their work in responding to Coronavirus, AGIS has distributed over 5,000 masks, 50 handwashing stations, and led efforts to disinfect over 100 markets, bus stations, public toilets, and schools.
Dr. Sylla offers his deep gratitude to those he met in Washington, DC; Greensboro, NC; Jackson, MS; Salt Lake City, UT, and New York, NY. Of the program, he writes “This experience had an impact on my professional life in a lasting way; it wasn’t immediate since it took time to digest all the acquired information during this marathon of a month.”
Dr. Sylla and his work were featured in our 2020 Meridian Summit focused on the RIse of Global Health Diplomacy: