I was pleasantly surprised to see all the great work NRSP has been involved with, as well the ongoing initiatives across its different sectors. I came to Islamabad interested in a variety of sectors, ranging from gender empowerment, health, infectious disease, sanitation, and education. I ended up choosing to work on the Malaria Prevention and Control Program funded by the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM), but I was unaware of their work and their means of collecting and reporting data. When I met with Dr. Shahid Ujjan, who heads the project, I was amazed by the organization and data collection methods of NRSP. They have compiled thorough data sets for the past 5 years, along with yearly project completion reports for the Global Fund. NRSP is really involved with top-notch rural development work and is doing an excellent job with the implementation, data collection, and assessments of these projects.
Working with the Malaria Prevention and Control Program, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit and explore something very foreign to me – the rural setting of Sindh. I previously had no experience whatsoever with interior Sindh. But, I can proudly say that it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I was so impressed by Sindhi culture and the next level hospitality of Sindhi people. Having experience with the Kutchi language, I was better able to communicate and connect with the people. Taking the opportunity to visit the Thatta and Sujawal districts was truly a humbling experience. The people of Sindh really made me feel at home, even with the insane amount of load shedding. Dr. Akash, who headed the malaria program in Thatta, really treated us like we were his own family, and even invited us for dinner.
Thatta had elements of an urban slum environment, while Sujawal was completely rural. So, even through my field visits, I was able to see and gain exposure and experiences in a both an urban and a completely rural setting. It was a pleasure to oversee and participate in a few Behavior Change Communication (BCC) community awareness sessions, where NRSP works to increase overall public awareness of malaria and the availability and accessibility of these health facilities for free screening and treatment. I am grateful to have gained exposure to the healthcare situation at the village level.
In addition, we were given the opportunity to visit an afterschool English education program in Thatta. This program was aimed towards engaging with students from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds. It was a sincere pleasure to see these students and their drive to learn and excel in life. They seemed to be impressed by us, but in my eyes, they were the ones that were shining. Even with their life situation, they have an inner drive and motivation to achieve something in their lives. It’s that spark that I saw in their eyes and in the atmosphere their that I will always remember. It’s truly been a privilege working with NRSP and I can’t wait to see how these next 4 weeks in Pakistan will progress.
Molecular and Cell Biology – Neurobiology and South Asian Studies graduate from University of California, Berkeley
Placement: Malaria Prevention and Control Program
Akber accumulated a wide array of research, laboratory, clinical, and public health experiences during his undergraduate career. He has a personal connection to the larger Indian subcontinent and is deeply invested in rural and youth empowerment, human rights, education, social justice, cultural issues, and health education.