East Africa – School of Nursing and Midwifery

Countries in East Africa suffer from a drastic shortage of healthcare providers, especially in the rural regions. For example, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda currently have desperately few nurses and midwives to serve their populations. In many communities in developing countries, nurses do what doctors would do if they were available: treat wounds and illnesses, prescribe medications, set bones, bandage sprains, and deliver babies. But there are far too few nurses available to serve these countries’ populations.

Aga Khan University (AKU) School of Nursing and Midwifery was created to upgrade the qualifications of working nurses from the designation Enrolled Nurse to that of Registered Nurse and from Registered Nurse to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing level. The skills taught in these university programs are desperately needed to meet the health needs of the region.

Enhancing the Student Experience – Nursing and Midwifery

In 2012, AWB undertook a project to enhance the quality of nursing education at the AKU School of Nursing and Midwifery, East Africa, through a faculty-development program that promotes student engagement in the learning process.

The volunteers assisted faculty members in several ways:

  • Increasing their use of student-centred education, discipline, and evaluation mechanisms
  • Lesson planning, in-class observation, and co-teaching
  • Launching a comprehensive faculty-development plan
  • Developing a new curriculum, research planning and design, and student feedback and faculty-evaluation mechanisms

Thanks to the success of the first phase of this project, AKU asked the volunteers, Marilyn Chapman and Pammla Petrucka, to return, extending the project to the summer of 2015.

Upgrading Faculty Research Skills – Nursing and Midwifery

Marilyn Chapman returned to AKU in Nairobi for two subsequent working visits in 2013 and 2014, focusing primarily on helping faculty members use learner-centred and interactive teaching strategies. The project also involved overseeing the development of the curriculum for an innovative, inter-professional undergraduate program – a collaborative project between the nursing and medical nursing studies programs. Marilyn also continued her work with AKU faculty in helping them write articles based on research projects undertaken in 2012.

Pammla Petrucka also continued her role as a faculty mentor, focusing on expanding the research capacity of AKU faculty members. In November 2013, she made a working visit to AKU in Dar es Salaam, and in May 2014 she returned to work on each of AKU’s three East African campuses. In addition to continuing her work mentoring faculty members, she worked with the faculty’s senior leadership on the faculty development plan and the expansion of the nursing program.

Date: 2012-2018


  • Pammla Petrucka, Associate Professor, the College of Nursing, University of Saskatchewan, Regina, Saskatchewan
  • Marilyn Chapman,, Retired Professor, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia
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Colombia – Strengthening university health research collaborations with Indigenous health organizations

In Colombia, researchers and Indigenous communities lay the foundation for ethical data sharing and collaboration

Indigenous communities, who have long struggled to protect their land, knowledge and culture from exploitation, are now staking a claim to their health data as a necessary step on the path to better healthcare.

Many Indigenous health organizations are hindered by a lack of data collection and management capacity, which limits their ability to develop relevant programs, measure their success and secure much-needed funding.

It’s a cycle that AWB volunteer Javier Mignone of the University of Manitoba is helping to break. In 2019, AWB supported a project at the Universidad de Antioquia (U de A), in Medellin, Colombia, to create a framework for ethical collaboration between researchers and Indigenous organizations as they build their health information systems.

In Colombia, Indigenous peoples make up 2.5% of the population. Poverty and marginalization, already heavy burdens on their health and well-being, are exacerbated by climate change and conflicts over land. Children in particular suffer from preventable diseases and chronic malnutrition.

In some parts of the country, Indigenous healthcare organizations provide a safety net. Nevertheless, even the most successful organizations have trouble finding funding in Colombia’s highly privatized health sector, especially for research and evaluation.

Javier and his counterparts at the U de A’s faculty of public health organized two week-long workshops that included faculty, students and representatives of Indigenous health authorities.

people sitting around a large table in a classroom

Dean and instructors of the Facultad Nacional de Salud Publica, Universidad de Antioquia, meeting with workshop participants from Toribio

Specifically, the Indigenous-run municipality of Toribio, which serves the Nasa people, was seeking support from U de A to create a data repository and a Health Situation Room–a data visualization platform.

Based on the success of the first workshop, the second one welcomed members of Anas Wayuu, a large not-for-profit health insurance company that covers the northern region of La Guajira, home to the Wayuu.

The company, which already provides access to a wide variety of services, was exploring the creation of a data repository to strengthen its capacity to produce evidence to guide programs.

groups of people looking up at the camera from below

Workshop participants during closing event of the May 2019 workshop

Participants established guidelines to govern U de A’s research collaborations with Indigenous organizations and developed ethical data sharing agreements and data management plans between U de A, University of Manitoba and the municipality of Toribio. Participants also adapted First Nations’ ownership, control, access and possession (OCAP) principles to their own context.

The workshops were an important step towards the creation of new health information systems for organizations that serve the Nasa and Wayuu peoples. “Considering that for our organization it is important to have exact information, (the workshop) helped me to have a much clearer notion about the issues,” said one participant.

In the meantime, Universidad de Antioquia is in a position to work with Indigenous health organizations on an equal footing.

Thanks to the new collaboration framework, future research partnerships with Indigenous organizations will be built on trust and a shared goal: the realization of the right to health for Colombia’s Indigenous peoples.

Date: 2019

Volunteer: Javier Mignone, PhD, professor, Department of Community Health Sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

Thank you to the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation for making this project possible.

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Ghana – Building the capacity to educate social workers and supporting people with disabilities

In 2006, the Government of Ghana passed the Persons with Disability Act to better include those with disabilities in the life of their communities. Over the years since then, without enough professionally-trained social workers, the legislation has failed to advance the inclusion of persons with disabilities in many of the institutions of Ghanaian society. The need to increase and provide access to community-based health and social service programs necessary to foster their inclusion is great. In particular, Ghana needs more social workers trained to work with children, youth, and adults with physical and mental disabilities.

Dr. Michael Baffoe (on the right in the photo) and Prof. Don Fuchs (back right in photo), both at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba, spent 3 weeks as volunteers at the University of Ghana. In collaboration with local partners, they conducted seminars and workshops with faculty, students, and practitioners, met with agencies providing services for persons with disabilities – most of which were consumer-based, self-help NGOs in the field of disability – and met with government officials.

“The Academics Without Borders project enabled us to strengthen the field instruction program at University of Ghana’s Department of Social Work and to develop new innovative field placement opportunities for the students of the department.


We were continually impressed by the willingness and openness of community disability service organizations to improve and extend their capacity to serve their service users. We found the commitment by service organizations to improving the lives of persons with disabilities to be awe inspiring as often persons with disability are the poorest of the poor and most oppressed members of Ghanaian society. Many of the service providers were persons with disabilities.


It was an inspiring experience to work along with highly committed Ghanaian service providers to help increase their knowledge and build their capacity to provide programs and services.”

– Don Fuchs, AWB volunteer

Don and Michael were able to increase the capacity of the faculty members to use innovative approaches for field education practice – an important step in enhancing the training of those without formal professional social work training currently working in the field.

They succeeded in helping to restore and strengthen the Department of Social Work’s contacts with partner agencies for field education practice and establishing a positive working relationship and future collaboration with the Minister and Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection on work in the area of disabilities.

Michael and Don reflected that many lessons were learned on the need to bring people together for work in the area of disabilities especially the university community and civil society. They identified the potential and the need for building collaborative working relationships between and among NGOs that provide services to persons with disabilities through the effective use of student field placements to allow the agencies to expand their existing programs and services.

In identifying and working with the Department of Social Work on expanding its role to serve as a catalyst for change and in developing new innovative ways of responding to the needs of persons with disabilities, it is clear that the hundreds of children and adults who are clients of the disability organizations will benefit in the immediate and near future.

Date: 2018

Michael Baffoe, PhD, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
Don Fuchs, PhD, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba

Thank you to the R. Howard Webster Foundation for making this project possible.

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