PARTNERING TOGETHER TO TREAT PEDIATRIC CANCER IN UGANDA


By Paul Ndiho

This is a fascinating story of a remarkable young man James Mooney who is already taking a leadership role in helping some of the worlds’ most vulnerable people young children diagnosed with Cancer and two hospitals partnering together for a social cause to address pediatric cancer in Mbarara Western Uganda. Mass Gen bites

The World Health Organization reports over 200,000 children worldwide receive a cancer diagnosis each year.  Four-fifths of these children could survive, if they received appropriate medical care.  Ninety per cent of deaths in children with cancer are in low-income countries where medical care is not available or adequate to treat their cancers.

Well, I have come here in Boston find out more about pediatric cancer and what this partnership between Massachusetts General Hospital and Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, the teaching hospital of Mbarara University of Science and Technology, in South Western Uganda is about.

 

It all started nearly three years ago when a young James Mooney was on a summer vacation with his parents visiting Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Mbarara Hospital, and a village home of a sick child. This eye-opening journey inspired James Mooney to return with a plan to raise awareness for children with cancer by recruiting students to run in a race, “Uganda Color Run for Pediatric Cancer,” and raise money through a GO FUND ME website for this cause.

“I do fundraising and work on projects in Uganda to raise awareness for pediatric cancer and build more facilities at Mbarara University of Science and technology to help them build better facilities and better equipment to combat pediatric cancer.”`

James Mooney comes from a generous family – their Mooney-Reed Charitable Foundation, has given away more than $13 million in charitable contributions in recent years. The Mooney family is based in Boston, Massachusetts.

They have many charitable interests. Through his parent’s interest in supporting Mbarara Hospital, James is developing his own interests in Uganda. He and his family are raising money to build a malnutrition clinic for children and an emergency medical fund for Mbarara hospital.

“Three years ago was my first trip to Uganda, I went with my family, and we went with Doctor David Bangsburge. He used to work at Mass General Hospital, and he used to be the heard of the Global Health Initiative. So he brought us to Uganda to show us around and show us the facilities, the country, and what his project was all about. And at the end of the trip, I decided that maybe this is something I want to get involved. So I decided, I went to David, and I was like “hey I want to do a project I want to help out. What does the hospital need?”  And he was like, “well they are trying to build a new pediatric cancer ward. And they need help with that. In general, in that region of Africa, they need help raising awareness for pediatric cancer.”

James Mooney and his family in collaboration with Mass General Hospital have since built strong ties with Mbarara University and Mbarara Hospital and promised to be a lifeline for those children diagnosed with Cancer. So far this young budding philanthropist has raised tens of thousands of dollars to support Mbarara Hospital, and some of the money has gone directly to the construction of this pediatric cancer ward.

“My big goal was to raise the money so that I can build the facilities so that they could treat pediatric cancer but also raise awareness, and that’s where the idea of the color run came in.

Mooney says early detection for pediatric Cancer is critical and a lot of people especially young children don’t know how, or they don’t have the means to detect it early.

I’ve always wanted to help others and improve the lives of people who are less fortunate or just improve the lives of anyone who needs help. And I guess just to be the best version of myself.

Massachusetts General Hospital, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, and Mbarara Hospital have had a Partnership that spans a couple of years. Dr. Howard Weinstein, Chief of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at Mass General Hospital for Children has made several trips to Uganda.  He says that Mass General clinicians and researchers are helping to improve health care and conduct pioneering research in Uganda.

“My goal is to be able to take what we’ve learned here, use it to all parts of the world, and we’ve been very excited to work with our colleagues and Mbarara Uganda. To help develop a Childhood Cancer program so that children in Uganda can have the same opportunity for a long and healthy life as do the children that we’ve seen in Boston Massachusetts.”

There are over a dozen types of childhood cancers and several sub-types. Dr. Weinstein says Pediatric cancer remains a leading cause of death in children in developing countries but is treatable.

“Our goal is to develop a program that involves on training doctors nurses pharmacist and pathologist how to diagnose and treat children with cancer I’m willing to help the team in Mbarara become very of the necessary careless involved in taking charge of a patient who has cancer.”

Cancer in differs considerably from cancer in people of all other ages and the cause of cancer in children is not known.

“We don’t know what causes childhood cancer, but despite that, we can successfully treat many, many children. We’re doing a lot of research to try and understand what causes childhood cancer.”

Mass General’s Web site says the Collaborations between Mbarara University Hospital and Mass General physicians and scientists began over a decade ago. Initially focused on the care and treatment of persons living with HIV, the collaboration has grown to include cutting-edge biomedical research, technology innovation, and economic barriers to improved health.

Cara Olivier is a nurse practitioner at the cancer center and with its global health program. She has been traveling back-and-forth to Mbarara Uganda for the last two years to work on the adult and pediatric oncology initiative. She says the partnership between the two hospitals could not have come at better time.

“What I found was a group of physicians and nurses and pharmacists who are all working incredibly hard, and all wanted to deepen their understanding of oncology care and the best way to help patients who are diagnosed with cancer and true to their illness.

“The challenges I hear most commonly, are that they know exactly what to do to help the patient get through this diagnosis. And they’re just trying to find the resources to make it happen it is an incredibly intelligent group, and bright group of physicians, and nurses who know what they need to make it better and who are just looking for ways to access that.”

The partnership has helped Mbarara Hospital start centers of excellence. For example, treating adult cancer and children’s cancer. Speaking about the collaboration between the two hospitals, D r. Celestine Barigye, Director of the Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, said with the help of Mass General Hospital – they’ve built a new ward for pediatric cancer and cancer patients, especially children, have been moved away from those with general illness.

“I appreciate Mass General Hospital from the United States. Who has given us the money that we used to construct and initiate this project and therefore as we progress, we’re going to handle diseases of the adults, cancers of children but also we’re working very closely with Uganda can institute which will be giving us medicines. ”

Meanwhile, Last year Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine used for treating cancer broke down beyond repair, and that left thousands unable to get potentially life-saving treatment. Sources say that the government has purchased a new machine. The project will support the Uganda Cancer Institute to deliver high-level Education, clinical training, and research and provide care for cancer management for Ugandans as well as the population of the region.

HERA HUB CO-WORKING SPACE FOR WOMEN


By Paul Ndiho

From a rather unknown idea a few years ago to a buzzword, the coworking movement is spreading rapidly around the world and changing people’s way of working and developing new businesses.  Well, here in the nation’s capital Hera Hub, is offering trendy co-working office space to women entrepreneurs. highres_456907488

Julia Westfall is the CEO Hera Hub DC, a Co-working space in the Washington DC metro area where she works to cultivate an ecosystem that supports budding women entrepreneurs as they launch small businesses, collaborate in a professional, productive, and spa-like environment. The platform provides our members with connections to other business experts, access to educational workshops, and visibility within the community and the support they need to be prosperous.

“I bought a franchise 3 years ago and started the business here we’re female Focus co-working space. We provide professional meeting and work space for women who primarily work from home and are looking for a professional place to meet their clients then to work and collaborate with other women.”
Here at Hera Hub, new businesses have been spurred, funding secured and lifelong friendships built. Ms. Westfall says her vision is to support more women in the launch and growth of their business.

We have a great variety of women, We have Lawyers who work out of our office here, we have people with marketing companies, we have writers, several bestselling authors, we have people that are have nonprofits, and support no profits, we have business coaches, and personal coaches, and parent coaches, so it’s a really large variety of all different types of businesses. Which is really great.

Julia Westfall has spent nearly 25 years working with small business helping them with their bookkeeping and cash flow Management says the Hub is not a one-size-fits-all coworking community.

There are several business benefiting from Hera Hub. For example, YAATRA Ventures, platform that is investing in infrastructure, energy and power to accelerate economic productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Rajakumari Jandhyala is the managing partner of Yaatra Ventures.

We recognize this is a problem of lack of infrastructure, and so we’re trying to link private Capital with public sector demand for infrastructure on the continent. Our focus is infrastructure around economic growth. Our investments in let’s say power, energy, and any infrastructure that supports a valued chain, that increases productivity. Weather its agricultural production, or adding value to the oil, that’s being discovered how to transform bad into products.

Another entrepreneur taking advantage of the co-working space is Lisa O’Donoghue-Lindy, Founder, of a social enterprise “She Inspires Her” an online and mobile media platform sharing stories about women entrepreneurs in emerging African markets.

“I basically interview women from all over sub-Saharan Africa, and I write their stories up about their businesses, and how they got started, the obstacles that they faced, the roadblocks, how they overcame them, and resources that they have used and then I post a story on my website.  I do a lot of social media promotion of the women, and their businesses, and the main goal is to offer inspiration to other especially younger women out there who maybe don’t realize the potential that lies within them. They see themselves in these stories.

Analysts say in emerging markets, although 8-10 million small and medium-sized enterprises are owned by a woman, at least 30% of women are self-employed in the informal sector. In sub-Saharan Africa, that figure is above 70%. Lindy’s mission is to support the growth of women-owned small and growing businesses in Africa and plans to open a Hera Hub franchise in Namibia.

FORMER REFUGEES IN SAN DIEGO GIVING BACK TO COMMUNITY


By  Paul Ndiho

The United States is the world’s top refugee resettlement country. More refugees have resettled in the western state of California more than any other state over the past seven years, according to the United Nation High Commission for Refugees data. Former African Refugees in San Diego, California are giving back to the community that once helped them. Refugee bites

The United States admits tens of thousands of refugees each year, fueled by successions of strife around the world — from Syria – Congo DRC – South Sudan – Burundi and from Somalia – Iraq. Despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s limited travel ban restricting travelers, refugees and immigrants the United States remains one of the top destination for refugee resettlement according to UNHCR, which works in close collaboration with U.S. governmental agencies and NGOs responsible for resettling refugees in the country.

El Cajon city in San Diego County, California has become a hub for such resettlement. There are many agencies and support groups for refugees, but one of the most important is the Alliance for African Assistance an NGO founded by Walter Lam over 20 years ago, to help refugees resettle in San Diego and adjust to American life and culture.

Walter Lam, arrived here in the United States from Uganda more than 30 years ago as a refugee. Today he is giving back to the community that once helped him. And So far he his organization has resettled refugees hundreds from over 20 different countries.

“One key thing that we know about refugees that are coming in here, all of them that are coming in here, if you talk about those that have children, they want their children to go to school. They want their children not to go through the suffering that they went through. That’s the primary reason why all refugees are coming in here and then becoming productive citizens of the United States.”

Resettling experts say 2017 is by far the worst year for refugees attempting to transition to the United States because of the restrictions imposed by President Trump.  These affect travelers and refugees to the U.S.  In June; President Trump applauded the decision by the US Supreme Court to allow part if his revised travel ban to take effect until it reviews the issue definitively in October.

The executive order prohibits granting new visas for travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days, and suspends the U.S. refugee program for 120 days.  For Walter Lam, this travel ban has created confusion.

“When I talk with our colleagues in Nairobi, we I talk with people that are processing refugees overseas, all they tell us is “nothing is known at the moment.” It is meaningless for them to give hope to the refugees and start processing, telling them they “may be coming.”

Despite these hurdles, Lam maintains a positive attitude and says this travel ban will pass and hope to continue with his mission of helping refugees.

“The future of refugees program, at the moment, is completely unknown. At the beginning of the year this year, the state department had authorized us to resettle 950 refugees. And remember, we have three months to go now, to end the fiscal year. Right now we have resettled 422.”

Another Refugee giving back to the community is Zainab Danso, who fled conflict in her native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, over 20 years ago. Zainab, along with other family members lived in a refugee camp in Uganda.  As luck would have it, in 2015, Zainab, along with the other family members were resettled in El Cajon, San Diego under the UNHCR resettlement program.

Zainab started working as a volunteer the Alliance for African assistance as a case manager. Her mission is to give back to the community and help newly arrived refugees find their footing.

The fact that I’ve helped people become self-sufficient makes me happy. It is part of me to help another person, and another person to be self-sufficient in America.  I am glad to hear that young lady, helped me do such and such a thing. She helped me find a job; she helped me find my first job in America, which is the very most important thing right now. I mean touching people’s lives.

UNHCR says once a refugee has resettled in the U.S., they are assigned a “sponsor” when a case is approved, and the resettlement agency assures their case. For Zainab, she says helping refugees is not without its challenges especially if they don’t speak English.

Try to put some little English classes for the refugees so that when they come here their life is a little bit easier. They can study some English from the camp, not to start English from here. I mean, back in the camps they don’t do anything. Apart from going to their appointments UNHCR, IOM, they can have little English classes before they come to the US.”

El Cajon is home to an estimated 60,000 recent immigrants from Iraq and parts of Africa alone. The police department is actively trying to engage the immigrant and refugee population. El Cajon police has stared community outreach — where police officers are working directly with newly arrived immigrants, for them to feel like they are part of the community.  My colleague, Solomon Serwanjja from our partner TV station NBS, asked Chief Davis about community policing.

“The refugee populations, regardless of what country they come over from, Middle Eastern country, Iraq, Syria, Uganda. First of all, the people we see coming over, they are very appreciative to be here. They want to assimilate, and they want to learn and as far as behavior. There are no problems. It is incumbent upon us, I feel, as the police department, to reach out to the refugee community and ask them what their needs are. To educate them on what law enforcement can provide—the services.”

But the city has also had its share of racial turbulence, especially in the wake of the fatal shooting in September 2016 of Alfred Olango, an unarmed Ugandan refugee, by an El Cajon police officer.  Despite this setback, Chief Davis, is optimistic about immigrants and refugees settling in the United States.

A State department website says the U.S. refugee resettlement program reflects the United States’ highest values and aspirations to compassion, generosity, and leadership. Since 1975, Americans have welcomed over 3 million refugees from all over the world. Refugees have built new lives, homes, and communities in towns and cities in all 50 states.

IMPACT HUB DC CATALYST FOR SOCIAL CHANGE


By Paul Ndiho

Impact Hub has been getting a lot of attention lately in the tech world, and for a good reason. The Hub has co-working space in more than 100 cities worldwide it is changing the way members, and social change entrepreneurs interested in solving everyday problems come to see their start-ups kick off. unnamed1

Located in the heart of Washington DC, Impact Hub is a membership community of entrepreneurs, activists, creatives, and professionals taking action to drive positive social, economic and environmental change. Jan Baker runs the hub here in the DC Metro area.

“Impact Hub DC is the only one in DC. We’re a collective of social innovators and entrepreneurs. On a daily basis, we focus on mission-driven organization, and this could be anything from mass incarceration, some clean water issues, sexual violence, globalization, or anything that has to do with making the world a better place.”

Unlike a tech incubator or accelerator Impact Hub does not take equity in members, but provides work space, business advice, workshops and networking opportunities for the local and global community of change agents.

Hundreds of participants meet here regularly with investors, to discuss opportunities and challenges. Having worked at other tech firms, Baker appreciates the built-in community at the Impact Hub and says it keeps her on her motivated.

“I’m not going to lie I do work 14 hours a day. If you love what you do, is not work. Every day I get to work with very excellent people who are fulfilling their dreams, and I get to see that on a daily basis.”

For all the work required to launch a business, building a network and fostering relationships in the tech community is equally important. Jan Baker says Impact Hub DC strengthens their resolve to achieve higher social standards and empowers others in their community to do the same.

“We work with people who share our values and have integrity. We wouldn’t invite somebody here who’s working on hate crime; we wouldn’t collaborate with organizations or anybody who is working on racist issues or anything that exclude people, and want to make sure that we have the right individuals in this space.”

Analyst say what started, in 2005, as a gathering place for impact pioneers in London has grown to a community of more than 15,000 professional members more than 100 physical spaces worldwide. But despite the success, the hub in DC is not without its challenges.

“Being a woman of color, I do go up against a lot of sometimes, when I’m looking for funding sources, you know there’s like the old boys club. A lot of times people fund the people who they know, and who look like them.  On a lot of occasions, I’m fighting to get funding for Impact Hub DC.”

From San Francisco to Singapore, Johannesburg to Madrid, and dozens of other cities across the globe, this growing community utilizes the power of entrepreneurship, collaboration, and network effects to generate and advance innovative approaches to global social challenges.

 

DELIVERING TECH SOLUTIONS IN EDUCATION TO RURAL AREAS IN GHANA


By Paul Ndiho

Education remains the fundamental tool to alleviate poverty in most African communities. In Ghana, TechAide – A technology social enterprise, has come up with a different solution to deliver educational content to rural schools using new technology.

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Having access to a library in most parts of Africa can be a challenge but in Ghana – it just got easier, thanks to TechAide a technology social enterprise that has developed E-solutions to tackle some of the country’s continuing education challenges. Kafui Prebbie is one of the brains behind TechAide.

“We have developed products specifically for education. And we’ve been in the space for close to ten years delivering technology solutions in education and supporting rural development. And two of our core products that we’ve developed over the period is EduLab, which is an education computing solution for schools and the latest one which is Asanka, which is our content delivery system.” As the country becomes more connected to the internet, educators and publishers are finding new ways to reach young audiences and their developing minds. Many students have never experienced the world through reading because they don’t have a library. But TechAide is changing this reality, and they’re doing it is through digital libraries called EduLab. “My passion has always been to bridge the digital divide – to bring technology into schools. Because I’m a trained educationist and I have the passion for technology. So the idea is how we bridge the gap, technologies that exist in the major cities, and rural areas do not have access too.” TechAide has built over 70 EduLabs in rural areas where funding, teachers, and resources are scarce. The technology is not free to schools, but TechAide has partnered with IBM Corporate Service Corps, Ghana’s Ministry of Education and several banks to provide funding. “We partnered with international nonprofits to have accurate low-voltage technology solutions, and so the computer labs that we do set up are specifically low-voltage and consume about the one-tenth of the power of a standard computing solution.” Kafui Prebbie says through their programs, students can access approved educational content, including audio, video, and interactive games and with IBM’S global pro-bono consulting program they’ve been able to take this initiative to the next level. “What that did to us was, it helped us to be able to change even the trajectory of how we were going to provide those technology solutions into the schools. With this, we have developed the architecture in such a way that it’s even more relevant to the needs of our communities.” Gina Tesla, Director Corporate Citizenship, and corporate affairs says Ghana has long been a launch pad for innovative collaboration, making it logical for IBM to partner with TechAide in Ghana. “What we want to do is help provide the highest skills possible, to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.” To date, IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, and TechAide are working very closely together to support girl’s education under the “Let Girls Learn initiative” launched by former U.S President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama in 2015. “The whole premise is to help support greater access to education for adolescent girls. There are at least sixty-two million young girls worldwide who are not receiving an education.” Kafui Prebbie says TechAide’s solution to deliver educational content in rural schools has potential to be replicated in many African countries. TechAide has its sights set on another innovative idea called ASANKA which means ‘community bowl’ — it’s a collection of important content for everyone to access.

USING VIRTUAL REALITY TO MANAGE PAIN


By Paul Ndiho

The virtual reality industry is still in its infancy, with one-million headsets expected to be sold this year. But one company, Applied VR, says this cutting-edge technology could potentially offer patients a highly enjoyable escape from scary and painful experiences in healthcare.

You’ve probably never heard of Awah Teh, the Cameroonian tech-mogul, who has made a name for himself in Los Angeles for building cutting edge software and mobile applications that compete with some of the biggest names in the industry.

For example, one of the companies he worked for CinemaNow, a digital rights management (DRM) cashed big when it was sold to Rovi Entertainment Networks at 720 million dollars.

“That platform that we built basically, I think was what gave birth to a lot of the different platforms we have today. You know whether it’s Netflix, whether it’s Hulu, or to an extent some of the things that are happening with iTunes. They all use DRM today. And the valuation of cinema now went from this exciting startup with a potential solution to a problem to a seven hundred twenty million dollar company in the space of seven years.”

Once again Teh has created buzz in Los Angeles, he is one of the key players involved in innovative technology called Applied VR or Virtual Reality that is revolutionizing the way people interact with technology.  He says that applied VR’s platform is intended to increase patient comfort and support providers in managing anxiety and pain in a clinical setting before, during and after procedures.

“What we’re doing there is we are creating virtual reality platforms for healthcare. We’re doing things like pain management. So ultimately the long term goal there is to be able to make pain reduction as an alternative to chemical control of pain reduction.”

He also says his company has conducted clinical research to demonstrate how their products may decrease patient anxiety, reduce pain, minimize the need for sedation, lessen the risk of drug complications and shorten postoperative stays.

“We’re the leader in that space right now? We’re in eight of the top ten hospitals in the United States. And news organizations are. So it’s a fancy way of saying: instead of taking pain medication, you can use virtual reality to manage some of your pain.”  Reaching out to us to write articles. It excites me because in many ways we are changing the world.”

The tech executive has also developed several other internationally recognized web and mobile applications — including a global communication platform that allows people to communicate with each other through an interface similar to Facebook.

“The platforms called pen pals. That’s us. We own that trademark, and the pen pals platform is designed to allow people to reach out to folks that they’ve never met and spark new and exciting conversations with different cultures around the world.”

Tech analysts say that the concept of Pen Pals is not new, but what Awah Teh has created makes the world a little smaller and a lot friendlier for people from all walks of life.

As the tech mogul expands his business enterprise, he says his eyes are set on other innovative and cutting edge solutions, especially in the rapidly growing eMedical healthcare field.

UGANDAN CHESS CHAMPION’S STORY BROUGHT TO LIFE IN A DISNEY MOVIE


By Paul Ndiho

Phiona Mutesi is a Ugandan girl, who until recently was relatively unknown at home.  Now, her life’s story is being told in an inspirational film by Walt Disney called “Queen of Katwe.”  The movie chronicles her outstanding ability to play chess and her rise to become a world chess champion, without any formal education.

“Queen of Katwe” starring Hollywood Superstars Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo is about Phiona Mutesi a Ugandan girl who hails from one of Uganda’s biggest slums, “Katwe.”  The uplifting drama had its world premiere last weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The film follows Mutesi who is living with her mother played by Lupita Nyong’o and siblings in poverty, in the Katwe slum, until she stumbles across a chess class run by charity worker, Robert Katende, played by David Oyelowo.

“It’s a life-affirming African story and as someone of African descent, we don’t see enough of that I believe in cinema, in the press as well so I’m very proud to see a story like this made by Disney as well.”

Despite repeated hardships, Phiona’s ability to play chees is amazing– and her journey to international stardom is amazing. Her big break appears to have happened when Tim Crothers, a renowned author and former writer for the magazine, Sports Illustrated, wrote a book titled “The Queen of Katwe” describing Phiona’s life. Lupita Nyong’o plays Phiona’s fiercely protective mother Nakku and at the premiere she explained how she felt the pressures of motherhood for the first time.

“I learned a lot about motherhood. I’m not a mother and yet I had to play a mother and I learned what it takes…. a bit about what it takes to provide for your family and to be concerned about so many people’s well-being. It’s almost like your heart is dislocated and running around and just feeling the fear, inhabiting the fear of a mother letting her chicks out every day to survive.”

Vanity Fair’s Mira Nair directed the film and brought her own knowledge of Katwe to the production.

“When I heard the story of Phiona and met her, it’s pretty inspiring and I thought of used it to use the locations I loved, the music, seeing the country from within, feeling the dignity and the complete joy even during the best of struggles and it was to make a story without sentiment but with truth and truth is very funny and stylish and sassy in Katwe,”

Mutesi has travelled the world to play chess and she’s met her hero, chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov. And she feels that being featured in a Disney inspirational movie is incredible. Now children from across Uganda are taking up chess like never before.  Voice of America was one first international media organizations to bring Phiona Mutesi’s story to light nearly four years ago.

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