Pioneer Dalai Lama Fellow Introducing Population, Health and Environment Concept in Schools

By Joseph Byonanebye
June 28, 2012

In June 2012, Joseph Byonanebye, a 2009 MPH graduate from St. George’s University, completed a Dalai Lama Fellowship (DLF) in California (US). He is among the pioneer DLF fellows who have been trained in California and implemented projects in different countries. Joseph chose to work in his home country Uganda, under his umbrella organization, where he has been enriched with knowledge about project development, management and implementation. The fellowship also focused on learning about mindfulness and practicing compassion, coalition building, systems thinking and ethical leadership.

As a fellow, he targeted primary school children around in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, designed and implemented a project that increased awareness about Population, Health and Environment (PHE) issues. Joseph has worked for Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), a 501(c)3 charity registered in the US and grassroots non-government organization in Uganda. Joseph adopted a CTPH’s PHE model which reaches couples and to add value to CTPH, he opted to introduce PHE among young children with messages that reach young children of ages 6 to 14 years. Topics included: family planning, sanitation and hygiene, environmental health promotion, nutrition and wildlife conservation. The messages also include sexual reproductive health and good behaviors such as prevention of alcoholism. A former area leader commented, “Reaching children and telling them about family planning is of value than just reaching couples. Personally, I do have many children and I feel that it is late to teach me except if you want me to teach others”

The project was able to reach more than 900 teachers in nine primary schools; these have learnt how to teach children about PHE using a PHE flip chart and instructors guide. More than 1080 children have been sensitized about sexual reproductive health, family planning, health habits and environmental/ wildlife conservation. The project started with upper primary classes and hopes that teachers will be able to teach the other lower classes. The Population Health and Environment (PHE) flip chart which was designed to reach primary young people simplifies messages, for easy understanding and helps them relate to their own environment. The flip chart is interactive and easy to use. A PHE instructors’ guide was developed so as to enable the user interpret the pages of the flip chart to the learners.

In his view, Joseph feels that African children have a great potential, they need someone to enable them exploit it for the global benefit. They need someone to mentor them, to show them that they can do it. About education; whereas subjects in science and social studies are taught separate of each other, teaching PHE in schools at any level will make students understand the linkages. A lot has been done in the fellowship, a lot more has to be done. Joseph dedicates the fellowship award to CTPH, Dalai Lama Fellows and to my home Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the great offshore US Caribbean, St. George’s University.

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