The Women of CPAR
Meet Judith Dyck
, the vice chair of the CPAR board and one of the women we are featuring this week. Working with an organization involved in Africa was always one of her dreams, having grown up with a father who supported the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and hearing stories of his life-changing trip with the Bank to African projects he had supported for years.
With a background in strategic communications and social policy, Judith worked closely with Alberta’s healthcare system to develop health system plans and policy recommendations. She approaches communications the same way she approaches everything else; from a foundation of strong values, goals and a desire to get to a better place. Judith also served on the board of Accreditation Canada and is on the committee that accredits undergraduate medical education programs in Canada. This experience has given her a unique place from which to understand CPAR’s roots in healthcare, social policy, the importance of primary care and of the social determinants of health that govern every project that CPAR undertakes. Judith has been on the CPAR board for over four years.
Two years ago, Judith and her husband travelled with CPAR to Ethiopia. They were able to meet our local staff and visit the Fitche hospital to see first-hand the work that was being done. Regarding her trip, Judith said: “This trip for me was life affirming and made me even more committed to helping CPAR succeed.”
Judith’s vision for CPAR is to have it be a leader in health system strengthening, a catalyst that brings people and other organizations to work together in supporting lasting change and improvements in health services around the world.
“CPAR has changed so much over the years, adapting to the changing needs of sub-Saharan Africa. We were there for Africa during the famines of the 1980’s, the drive for clean water in the 90s, the agricultural improvements in the 2000s. We have the opportunity now to work with the Africa health system and its providers in ways that could bring lasting change.”
Meet Susan Williams
, the Treasurer of our board and one of the women we are featuring this week. She has been with CPAR for 2 ½ years, though says it “seems longer given the knowledge that I have learned and the changes that we have experienced in CPAR.”
Susan’s professional background is in finance and policy with the Albertan government. As a former Assistant Deputy Minister, she advised Ministers on policy, legislation and issues of the day. Susan worked for the department of health, where she worked on policies impacting primary health care, continuing care, some aspects of acute care, as well as being the Alberta representative on CADTH, the national drug approval organization. As she is not a health specialist, she instead worked to bring stakeholders together to get a consensus on health care reform. Susan’s been retired for 5 years now and decided she wanted to volunteer, which is how she found CPAR.
In her retirement, Susan enjoys skiing, cycling and walking, and she also enjoys traveling as much as she can. Having traveled to many third-world countries including Tanzania, Susan knows well the importance of the vital work that charities like CPAR do.
Susan’s vision for CPAR is that we make a difference in Africa and are recognized for our programs in making a difference in the lives of people. She fully supports CPAR’s new vision on health system strengthening and sustainability, as she knows it has to be about improving the healthcare that people receive. In most societies, healthcare is largely defined by emergency departments and hospitals, and while these systems are vital, Susan believes in the importance of robust systems of primary healthcare and support for the social determinants of health.
“Some of the new programs that we will be providing in Ethiopia will strengthen the link between these individuals and their care. As a woman, I also like the idea of supporting women’s health initiatives as these individuals are often the nucleus of families and the caregivers and educators of children.”
Meet Della Magnusson
, a nurse practitioner based in Saskatoon, and one of the women we are featuring this week (pictured here with Dr. Kirubel from the Fitche Hospital). Della was a volunteer with CPAR and spent a month in the Fitche hospital in Ethiopia, transferring knowledge to the staff there as part of a CPAR knowledge exchange project. She was part of the first group of nurses to volunteer at Fitche, alongside a member of our board, Sherry Poirier.
Della has been a registered nurse for almost 35 years and has been a Nurse Practitioner for 16 of them. She’s worked in many different places, such as the great north and has a lot of experience working with remote, northern communities. She’s also worked in Texas, Arkansas, the Virgin Islands and has even volunteered in a pediatric clinic in Cuzco, Peru. All of this experience is why she was recruited by CPAR to go to Ethiopia, as she was well prepared for the conditions of the Fitche hospital.
“Northern nurses are used to doing a lot with minimal resources, they develop good assessment and communication skills, think on their feet and have strong critical thinking. They are also adaptable and flexible. I believe all of these skills were used while volunteering in the Fitche ER.”
As Della spent five weeks in Fitchetown volunteering, she became a familiar face not only in the hospital, but in the local community as well. She took coffee breaks at the locally owned “buna” shop, bought fruit and food from local markets and spoke with many members of the community. Della also enjoyed visiting different parts of the hospital to get to know the staff as well as see if she could be of assistance anywhere else.
“I went to the NICU to meet the nurses and explore their unit. There were 3 incubators. One incubator had two small preemie babies in it. My first though, and what I said to the staff, was “Ahh twins!” The staff quickly informed me that no, these were not twins but two new preemie babies sharing one incubator because the other 2 didn’t work! My western assumption but Fitche hospital reality.”
Due to her wonderful experience at Fitche and with CPAR, Della is still involved in the CPAR Steering Committee that oversees the volunteer program and that is in the process of developing more education and tools for the staff there. She hopes to go back soon.
“In Fitche I saw my first cases of measles, malaria, typhoid and severe malnutrition. Coming from Canada, these are often diseases we just learn about in a book. It is amazing how well hospital staff provide care and cope with such little resources; no running water, lack of basic medical equipment, oxygen, etc.”
Meet Dr. Tsebaot Leul,
a medical doctor who works at the Fitche hospital and one of the women we are featuring this week. She has worked for over a year as a clinician in the Outpatient department at the Fitche hospital and is currently working in the Emergency Room. She has worked side by side with some of the CPAR volunteers who are sent to the Fitche hospital to help train the staff in additional emergency procedures to better the care they are able to give their patients.
Dr. Leul’s motivation for becoming a doctor comes from her childhood. She was often sick as a child and would spend a lot of time in hospitals, surrounded by doctors and nurses. They helped her get better which motivated her to study to be able to do the same for others. Her passion for medicine also stems from her natural affinity to solve problems and face challenges head-on.
“Most of the time, patients come into the hospital stressed and in pain, so it’s encouraging to see a person get well after receiving care from me. I’m always motivated to come to work since I enjoy seeing patients feeling better and looking well.”
Meet Sister Bethel Desalegn
, a nurse who’s been working at the Fitche hospital for over nine years and one of the women we are featuring this week. She served as a clinical nurse for eight years, was an emergency room nurse for a year and was recently promoted to the head nurse of the Emergency department of the Fitche hospital. She has worked beside some of our Canadian volunteers who have gone to Fitche through CPAR’s volunteer program and has learned many new techniques thanks to them.
Sister Bethel always knew she wanted to be a nurse because she genuinely loves helping people and has been helping others within her community in any way she can since her childhood. She thoroughly enjoys her new position in the emergency room, as it allows her to help those most in need and apply her nursing skills in different situations everyday. Thanks to our volunteers and to the training put on by CPAR, she is even better equipped to handle any case that comes through their doors.
“It makes me very happy to see people regain their health after I’ve helped them. I like and enjoy my job, which makes coming to work very easy.”
Meet Sandra Abeje
, the Senior Program Officer in our CPAR office in Ethiopia, and one of the women we are featuring this week. Having worked for over five years in various positions within the Ethiopian health system, she is the perfect person to be responsible for CPAR’s projects with the Fitche hospital, including our volunteer program.
Sandra worked as a project officer and a clinician in different levels of the health system in Ethiopia, so she knows better than anyone where they need the most help. She joined CPAR over a year ago because she deeply believed in its new mission to build strong health systems and to build the capacity of healthcare workers and smaller health centers. Her favourite aspect of her job is mentoring and supervising the on-site facilities and workers, either at the Fitche hospital or in the health centers that CPAR supports.
She also works with our Canadian volunteers to help them get settled in to the Fitche hospital once they arrive in Ethiopia; she is their contact person. Sandra sees firsthand the impact that CPAR has had on the Fitche hospital, especially the impact of non-monetary donations such as medical equipment and supplies. She says that, when the doctors and nurses have the proper equipment, they are encouraged, are able to deliver better healthcare to their patients and are able to apply their skills and knowledge to the fullest, all thanks to CPAR and its donors.
“Being part of this project is such an inspiration and has a big influence on improving medical emergency services being delivered in the health facilities. I aspire to have this kind of project expanded to other parts of the country, and to other hospitals and health centers.”
Meet Mastewal Mekonnen
, the Senior SRHR (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) officer working in our CPAR Ethiopian office, and one of the women we are featuring this week. She is the expert at CPAR Ethiopia regarding the sexual and health rights of women and championing them as much as possible during our projects, which is why we’re lucky to have her.
Her main drive in joining CPAR as well as this line of work is to change the attitude of women towards themselves, their attitudes towards each other and change how the community sees them. Mastewal previously worked as a nurse and counselor for people living with HIV/AIDS, where she witnessed the depth of women’s need for economic empowerment, especially in rural Ethiopia. Empowerment at all levels, including economic, social and encouraging women to become leaders, is what she is working to achieve through CPAR’s projects. She has witnessed what empowerment does for women in these rural communities, and wants to share this story with you:
“This is a story from a previous project I was involved in. There was a woman who was married and had two young boys; her husband was tough and didn’t want her to be seen by the neighbours doing what he thought was men’s work (farming and plowing). Her and her husband were recruited to be members of a community conversation group that was formed to help the community build more positive gender norms, and, during these sessions, she was amazed by the confidence that some of the women within the group developed. Her and her husband got into a fight and he left her at the beginning of the harvest season, assuming that she would starve and beg him to return.
Instead, she remembered what the women in the community conversation group had said. So one morning, she called her sons to the field and told them what to do and the three of them got to work. Even though the neighbors mocked her, she didn’t pay any attention to them and kept working. She and her sons collected the entire harvest by themselves and she was able to sell some of the harvest and buy some chickens. This led to her being able to sell the eggs and make an income for herself.
Once her husband was told about all that she had done, he went to her and begged her to take him back. She forgave him, and now they work in the field together.”
Meet Abaynesh Ayele
, the Financial Officer in our Ethiopian office and one of the women we are featuring this week. Having started with CPAR as a cashier for the Lay Gaiynt project in northern Ethiopia back in 1992, she’s been working with us for almost 27 years and has made her way up through the ranks to become our financial advisor in Ethiopia.
One of Abaynesh’s favourite aspects of her job is the opportunity to go on field visits to different project areas. As she is responsible for our finances, she oversees how the donations we receive are being used, and ensure they are spent with the utmost care. This also allows her to witness our donors’ dollars at work firsthand, and how that money is changing people’s lives.
When she started working for CPAR during the Lay Gaiynt project, she noticed that the community was not eating nutritiously, nor were they diversifying their diets, which led to cases of malnutrition. Thanks to the project she was working for, the community was trained on how to grow different kinds of vegetables in their gardens, leading to a complete change of the diet within the community. Abaynesh especially liked that the main beneficiaries of this project were the children who would grow up eating healthy food.
“CPAR is a humanitarian organization and working for this type of organization gives you a lot of satisfaction when you see that the work you are doing is helping others.”
Meet Olivia Kachuma
, a Program Manager in our CPAR office in Malawi, and one of the women we are featuring this week. With a background in environment and development, she loves working where she can make a difference in the lives of rural communities in Malawi. She mainly has two roles with CPAR; to motivate rural communities to actively participate in the CPAR projects that are being implemented to ensure that as many people benefit from the projects as possible, and to supervise the staff implementing the projects.
A project that Olivia is most proud of is a sanitation and hygiene project implemented by CPAR and funded by UNICEF Malawi in the Traditional Authority of Chilowamatambe back in 2018. She helped organize the project activities in 108 villages to sensitize the population about the importance of sanitation and hygiene; specifically, using the latrines and hand washing facilities that were constructed by each household but facilitated by CPAR. Within a year, all villages were declared ODF (Open Defecation Free), leading to the Ministry of Health and Population Services to declare the entire Traditional Authority area ODF. Thanks to this, not only are the communities cleaner, they are also healthier as proper sanitation helps prevent disease outbreaks like cholera.
“Seeing people’s livelihoods being uplifted in rural Malawi where CPAR works gives me so much joy! It is double the joy when the staff I supervise and mentor develop their capacities to execute and deliver the project outcomes, as it means we get to meet our goals.”
Meet Grace Phiri Ndindi
, a Project Officer in our Nkhata Bay office in Malawi, and one of the women we are featuring this week. She is currently working on our Stop Malaria in its Tracks project and works with the communities living in Nkhata Bay to promote malaria prevention methods as well as good practices, such as encouraging pregnant women to take two rounds of anti-malaria medication to help ensure that they don’t contract the disease while pregnant.
An extrovert by nature, Grace loves being in the community and interacting with people. This is what drew her to applying for a Project Officer position with CPAR, as she gets to do what she loves as well as have a positive impact on the communities she works in, which is why we’re lucky to have her. As the team leader of the Nkhata Bay office, she is responsible for mentoring and supervising the other field officers and ensuring that all interactions with the communities we work in are respectful and kind.
To close out our International Women’s Week celebration, we are pleased to introduce our new Executive Director: Kathrina Loeffler
. Kathrina’s interest in international development started at a young age, when she lived in Papua New Guinea and then in Lesotho. Those experiences sparked in her a passion to learn about other cultures and a drive to contribute to ending poverty.
After graduating from high school in Papua New Guinea, Kathrina returned to Canada where she obtained a degree in cultural anthropology from Western University. She then worked in international development for many years while pursuing her Bachelor of Education and Masters of Education in Organizational Studies from the University of Ottawa. Those studies honed her expertise in program evaluation and knowledge transfer that she put to good use as an adult educator and professional facilitator. Her specific areas of expertise include cross-cultural communication, health systems strengthening, continuous quality improvement and leadership effectiveness.
Throughout her career, Kathrina has had a particular focus on understanding and improving health systems. To that end, she became a Certified Health Executive with the Canadian College of Health Leaders in 2018.
Kathrina is looking forward to using her unique combination of skills and expertise to advance CPAR’s vital work in Africa. She will be supporting the board of directors, overseeing staff operations in Canada and Africa, and spreading the word about CPAR’s achievements in all she does. Please welcome her to the CPAR team!