Tommie Hamaluba: Health Enabler
Credit: Indigo Flores
The Daring Dozen Q&A
How do you use the Web in your work?
My students post their work at www.iearn.org and Environment Online, a global virtual school from the Department of Education of the city of Joensuu, Finland, Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, and www.myhero.com. These are platforms where my students share content and interact with others around the world on specific projects.
Which resources have inspired you and informed your work?
- MY HERO honors heroes working for peace
- The Globe Program
- Environment Online is a global virtual school for sustainable development and environmental awareness
- Google Earth
Who are your role models?
Ed Gragert, executive director of iEARN-USA, and Nelson Mandela
What advice would you give those who consider you a role model?
Devote your work to things that serve humanity and try to join efforts in saving life at all costs.
What fundamental beliefs have guided your work?
Hope! We should all hope things will get better and get motivated to do good work. No giving up! We all need to work as hard as possible as we put humanity in the center. Patience is also a virtue; I meet hurdles every day in my work, not everyone appreciates my efforts, but this does not put me off. I soldier on and things just open up for me with time.
What is your mantra in the face of adversity?
I am a Christian, and in times like these I turn to my God and say, "Give me more life to make a difference in the world."
Like so many leaders whose personal hardships drive them to create change in their communities, Tommie Hamaluba's inspiration came from pain. In 1996, the young teacher watched his father die from malaria. Over the course of several years, he witnessed more deaths in his community in Botswana, many of them pregnant women and children. These losses left him with a persistent question: Why could doctors do so little to prevent or cure a sickness that to Hamaluba seemed should be treatable, given advances in modern science?
In 2003, he fused this passion for public health with a second passion, teaching, and launched the Eradication of Malaria Project in partnership with the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN). His goal: to save children's lives in sub-Saharan and West Africa by raising awareness of malaria-prevention methods and eliminating cultural taboos and ignorance that contribute to the spread of the sickness. Hamaluba's agents of change would be his students.
Through the project, Hamaluba's pupils at Gaborone Senior Secondary School use the Internet to research the causes, effects, and prevention of malaria, and they compare those findings online with research done by students in other countries. Armed with this knowledge, the youths go into their community to teach residents to sleep under treated mosquito nets and close their windows before sunset. Lately, the teens have gone into the countryside around Gaborone, Botswana's capital, to extend the education.
Hamaluba recounts with pride how his students have delivered their message of prevention three times on Botswana radio stations and that several have told him they want to become doctors. The teens saw the reach of their work when a teacher in the Democratic Republic of Congo printed out their materials and gave them to students who had no Internet access. They have broadened their research and outreach to cover tuberculosis and HIV, which, along with malaria, make up a trio of diseases Hamaluba calls "inseparable" in Botswana.
The team struggles to get enough bed nets from aid organizations to serve the community, but Hamaluba, who earned a bachelor's degree in business administration and is pursuing a master's degree in e-learning online with Denver University, sticks to his philosophy: Never give up. "There are times when support is nowhere to be seen, but it pays to stay focused on your individual vision," he writes by email. "I believe in the power that lies in knowledge sharing -- and in hope."
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