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Continue to Make Communications a Success!

In order to reach my objectives, I have decided to stop the comparisons between Rwanda and the U.S., and focus instead on the lessons that I can learn. I have decided to start motivating my colleagues to develop more stories from the field and finally, I have decided to continue to develop communication skills among the staff of the Access Project.

Initially when I arrived and discovered some weaknesses in the area of communications, I started to work with some of my colleagues on their writing skills. For the latter part of April and most of May, many of my colleagues were out of the office conducting trainings for the staff in the Access supported districts. In addition, several members of the staff moved onto new positions and the Access Project hired five new people.  The last communications training occurred over two years ago, when the last Pfizer fellow facilitated the training, and no subsequent new hires were oriented to the communications process. I decided to produce a communications manual for present and future Access colleagues, highlighting the importance of communications and the different methods and procedures for making it an integral part of each job function. The manual will orient new hires to the different communications channels and the purposes of each, as well as examples of success stories.

In addition, it has only been a few days into the “Write for Success” Contest and I have already received four entries! That is four more than I received in April or May, and I hope that it will continue for the entirety of the contest. The stories so far have been varied and compelling. A Peace Corps volunteer applied successfully for four grants that will provide four health centers with indoor sinks equipped with running water. Another DHA was elected president of his district’s joint action forum, a forum designed to standardize and monitor all NGO activity in the districts and finally two Global Health Corps fellows will chronicle their success over the last year as they have worked together to increase health care access in the Ngoma district. All of these stories have been uncovered, as I have worked to motivate my colleagues on the importance of writing success stories to highlight their achievements within their districts. I will also continue to develop stories about Access Project interventions such as the Pharmacy Management Information System developed by two Access specialists, which will help health centers to prevent drug-stock outs and eliminate erroneous entries.

I have also developed a schedule for stories from the field, so that the specialists and DHAs have enough lead-time to gather all of the pertinent details for the success stories. For example, each month will focus on a different specialist area and two or three districts. Rather than running around to all six districts looking for stories, I focused on pharmacy management training, in addition to the Gakenke, Bugesera and Ngoma districts in June.

New GHC Fellows joined the Access Project in late July; the four fellows will be working in Ngoma and Rwamagana respectively. I held a "Communications Orientation" for the fellows in which I introduced them to all of our communication tools and strategies as well as devised a communications schedule for success stories. In addition to the eight management domains that they will assist with in their respective districts, communications management is now a ninth domain for the fellows. They will be responsible for evaluating patient feedback on Access interventions by conducting interviews, writing success stories, and developing district newsletters.

By developing the manual, the contest and the schedule for communications, I hope that my colleagues will be motivated to develop success stories from the field as well as make the communications function easier to manage for the next person that will take over.

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