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Giving back to our distinguished host: the American people

Group of Humphrey Fellows at MedShare Atlanta

Dr. Koffi Siliadin is a 2016-2017 Humphrey Fellow from Togo. He spent his year studying Public Health Policy and Management at Emory University. Below, he shares his experiences volunteering in Atlanta and interacting with his community.  

It is Saturday. I receive an email from the Disaster Action Team (DAT) captain at the American Red Cross. “Forecasts say that bad weather is expected in the upcoming week starting on Thursday.” So, I clear my schedule on Tuesday and spend the whole day at the American Red Cross Metro-Atlanta chapter checking trailers and shelter kits with other volunteers and employees. We allocate supplies and make sure that every box and trailer has the required material to allow an instant deployment of a team and the rapid setup of a shelter. This is just a normal day for my position as Disaster Frontline Supervisor. Volunteering with the Red Cross is just an amazing opportunity to give back the United States, which honored me with the Humphrey Fellowship. I am proud to contribute to saving lives during disasters.

I found volunteering [with the Red Cross] so rewarding that I also volunteered with Medshare Atlanta, sorting drugs and packaging boxes to be shipped to countries with low access to medicines. Habitat for Humanity was another outstanding volunteer opportunity during which I participated in building a house for an American family. This is not just about having fun. It is about empowering people, which is the kind of impact that Humphrey Fellows are directly making in America.

Another great aspect of the Humphrey Program has been presenting before various audience of Americans. In eight months, I have delivered four  major presentations on my country and my projects. It was an opportunity to engage with graduate and undergraduate students (from Emory University, University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia South Western University, the Galloway School) and with believers of Atlanta’s First Presbyterian Church. Many Emory Humphrey Fellows did many more presentations including outside Georgia. At the Galloway School, a Fellow and I spent the whole day talking to seven classes of over 70 pupils, sharing different cultures and encouraging them to strengthen their commitment to learning a second language. Our speech before each of those audiences opens a window on the world, a story told by someone who actually came from another place but who shares the same dreams of freedom and accomplishment as all Americans. Telling them about my country was not sufficient for me so I created an opportunity for five Emory students to come to Togo for their practicum in global health this summer. Humphrey Fellows are privileged to be hosted by the American people; but far from taking any resource away from them, we are actually bringing the world to them.

In the photo: Koffi Siliadin (far left) takes a photo with his Humphrey colleagues while they are volunteering at MedShare Atlanta