SAN DIEGO, California — The U.S. State Department’s Alumni Rapid Response Fund is fostering leaders and effective COVID-19 responses abroad. Of the many important and beneficial programs and initiatives the U.S. State Department has funded, several of them are a result of the Alumni Rapid Response Fund. The fund’s mission is to provide financial support for programs carried out by U.S. government exchange alumni. These alumni assist numerous communities at home and abroad with a variety of needs, including education about COVID-19 relief and preventing misinformation. Much of the work this past year has been in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Department’s blog recently released an update on the successes of these alumni’s ventures thanks to the Alumni Rapid Response Fund.
Alfred Kankuzi, a former recipient of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, runs one of the alumni programs. Kankuzi is a software engineer, entrepreneur and graphic designer. He is also the founder and CEO of a nonprofit organization called Legal Wallet. Legal Wallet works to enhance participation and inclusion in government to make justice accessible for people of all backgrounds. Kankuzi commented on his experiences and his home country Malawi. He said, “We need to feel, relate, think and be in the shoes of our communities for the greater good and not personal gain.”
In Malawi, internet access can be very sparse. Having recognized this problem and the role it can play in the spread of COVID-19, he created an app called “COVID NEBA.” The app also goes by the name “Hey Neighbor.” Kankuzi created Covid Neba to use as little bandwidth as possible, making it more accessible. The app’s purpose is to help provide accurate COVID-19 information to the people of Malawi and minimize the barriers. The app is also offered in English, Tumbuka and Chichewa.
Other alumni with similar goals are making efforts elsewhere across the world, too. The Dr. Anamika Ray Memorial Trust (ARMT), named after an alumnus, put out a study that helped lead the creation of an Indian multimedia guide dubbed “COVID Katha.” The guide is aimed at debunking and preventing disinformation. ARMT took part in developing a guide that advocates for health rights and raises awareness against medical terrorism along with the work it does against COVID-19. The COVID Katha guide is available in English and Hindi. It includes sections covering dos and don’ts, falsifications and misconceptions. While covering the vital issues of false information, the guide has accurate information on how to stay safe from the virus as well.
Another place the Alumni Rapid Response Fund has made an impact is in Belize. In Belize, the fund helped support a popular talk show that publicized accurate and reliable information about the COVID-19 crisis. The show, launched by an alumnus of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, is called COVID-19 WATCH. It features various guests from experts to concerned citizens and business owners. Averaging nearly 40,000 viewers each day, approximately 10% of all Belizians tune in every day for information. Especially considering the show’s strong viewership, COVID-19 WATCH has played an important role in Belize’s efforts against coronavirus by dispelling misinformation and sharing accurate information about the pandemic.
Fostering More Leaders
During COVID-19, the initiatives that the Alumni Rapid Response Fund has enabled show the importance of U.S. foreign aid and the progress it can foster. They show that there are countless leaders who could use the fund’s continued help to further the progress in the world. While this article covered three initiatives, the fund supports numerous others around the world and at home. Not only has the fund fostered leaders around the globe but it has ultimately helped save and improve the lives of many around the globe.
– Sean Kenney