One of the global “side effects” of the COVID-19 pandemic is the realization of the power of the digitalization. For more than two years, most of Health[e]Foundations’ day-to-day activities took place online from our home offices; we are proud that all program activities, and more, could successfully continue while teaming up at a distance and transferring responsibilities to our local partners. However, face-to-face interaction is part of our blended learning approach for a reason: a greater sense of community, networking, and in-depth knowledge exchange in a collaborative setting, to name a few. For these reasons our team members Nadine Pakker and Daphne Elberse were excited to finally be able to travel to Uganda and Rwanda and catch up on the missed social interaction.
Our visit started in Kampala, Uganda where we, together with our country representative Hanipha Kakooza, visited local partners and stakeholders, including Straight Talk Foundation, TASO, Infectious Diseases Institute, Makerere University, and the Dutch Embassy. Over the past years we have collaborated via Zoom, e-mail, and WhatsApp. Face-to-face meetings formed a perfect opportunity to reflect on this online collaboration and brainstorm on our next combined steps.
We continued in Kigali, Rwanda, where we met with country representative Marie Michele Umulisa and local project manager D’Artagnan Habintwali. Marie Michele and D’Artagnan have been the driving force of our Health[e]Community Rwanda program for the past two years. After numerous weekly stand-ups via calls, updates on WhatsApp, and reporting via e-mail it was a pleasure to finally sit down with Rwandan coffee and have a face-to-face conversation. Together we visited our implementing partners and stakeholders, including Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Viamo, Bralirwa, FHI 360, and the Rwanda University, and looked at opportunities to build on Health[e]Community’s success.
We concluded our visit with attending the e-Learning Africa conference from 11 to 13 May, offering us plenty of the social interaction that we missed during two years of mainly working from home. We enjoyed the conference in all its facets: from plenaries to exhibitions, roundtables, and networking during the breaks. Who could have imagined that exchanging printed business cards with peers would be an energizer?
In our roundtable session ‘From Home-Made to Open-Source LMS: Serving Global Needs for e-Learning’ we presented our recent digital journey, transitioning from a tailormade learning system to an open-source learning system. Adopting an open-source LMS allows us to support the ownership of digital services of our partner organizations, so they can develop and host their own learning environment and independently provide e-learning courses to their target groups.
We are pleased that the pandemic catalyzed our journey towards this new level of independency and local ownership, and promise our partners that it will not take another two years before we meet face-to-face again!