Everyday with the WHO

I don’t usually write too much about my everyday work with the Peace Corps, but as I’ve started working more closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) here in Mongolia over the past few months I’ve found myself in some great situations which really deserve some reflection.

For instance, just yesterday I got a chance to sit down with one of my colleagues and look over several of her projects on non-communicable diseases and health promotion. Two years ago, and even one year ago, I would have felt very overwhelmed by the amount and type of projects she was sharing with me. However, now that I’ve worked with Peace Corps for two years in the field, written my fair share of grants and collaborated on many projects, I was able to keep up as we discussed the projects in both Mongolian and English throughout the day.

A lot of what the WHO does revolves around granting funds, monitoring and evaluating other organizations who are working in the health field. Some projects might target improving road safety or educating children on healthy habits, others work with young adults suffering through alcoholism, and others on improving rehabilitation opportunities for recovering patients. The projects span the entire field of health and by this method of funding governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other actors in the community, a WHO Country Team of little over a dozen people can then monitor and evaluate hundreds of projects every year. They do this in partnership with local agencies like Mongolia’s Ministry of Health which my colleague says, “Watches every single penny in a project and wants to know where it went.”

It’s certainly not simple or easy to develop successful projects, two years in Mongolia has taught me that, but it is valuable work that makes a difference in people’s lives. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around all the organizations involved in health here in Mongolia (there are the Ministry of Health, Department of Health, Public Health Institute, World Health Organization, EPOS, and Millenium Challenge Account to name a few), but I’m also trying to keep my mind focused on the people that I know – the people that I met, worked with, helped and loved my first two years in Mongolia. They are the reason I’m not overwhelmed by all of this; I remember the doctors and nurses I know, some of the hardest working and kindest people I have ever met, and I think about what these projects would mean in their hands. These funds and resources, in the hands of the right people and for the right purposes, do tremendous good for real communities of people. Part of my work will include meeting these organizations, understanding more about what they do and learning from them as they try to help all people attain the highest possible levels of health in Mongolia. It’s been an honor to learn and continue to serve alongside such great people in the Peace Corps and the World Health Organization and I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity.

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