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Spotlight: Shamya Merali (Summer Research Fellow)

Shamya Merali, 23 years old, Summer Research Fellow at Mission: Restore since May 2018.

I come from Mwanza, an increasingly busy and beautiful town/city on the shores of Lake Victoria in the north of Tanzania. I am of Indian heritage and I was raised in Mwanza on a British curriculum, so spelling the American way has been my biggest challenge at Mission: Restore!

I went to university in the UK and I recently graduated with an MA in Development and Human Rights. I previously studied International Relations, so I’ve always been deeply passionate about issues of global politics and social justice; this has recently expanded to issues of sustainability and, in the context of most African countries specifically, active decolonization.

I left my country (for uni) five years ago with a desperate desire to get out, and I returned recently with a far stronger desire to grow with and be a part of the development effort in the country and region that gave me everything that I am. (Besides, who doesn’t want to live where the Serengeti is a two-hour road trip away?!) It is extremely important to me that development efforts across Africa are truly rooted in the needs of indigenous people, and that these efforts engage the culture, expertise and labour of those who live there. That is, development that is contextually conscious and appropriate.

That’s why I connected strongly with the Mission: Restore model – training the trainer. The focus on a specific need and the emphasis on giving educational tools to established and prospective East African surgeons (rather than purely financial aid or equipment), and the conscious effort to include women in this demographic is something I find admirable. Also, building a platform for East African surgeons and nurses to be the trainers and gain a broader network is another wonderful aspect of the sustainable Mission: Restore approach. So, I’m extremely lucky to have been a part of the effort to make the EART 2018 happen. I’m extremely lucky to have learnt so much about public health, about behind-the-scenes logistics, and about making it happen. And, I’m extremely lucky to have been able to experience it all in such a short time alongside the incredible people I have had the privilege to learn from while being a fellow at Mission: Restore.

I’m happy I got to begin as I intend to carry on! By working with people who I respect and look up to and working for an organisation I truly believe in. I’m excited to carry on this way – learning, growing, working hard and hopefully, even if only for one person or in a minor way, making a positive impact.

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