Monicah Andefa: Successful projects are built on collaboration

Monicah Andefa: Successful projects are built on collaboration

Monicah Andefa has been at the centre of some of The Union’s largest projects since she joined the organisation in 2008. With the exception of one current Challenge TB site in India, her work has been in different African countries, “Since I’m African, I’m especially concerned with the health challenges in the region,” she says.

“When you look at the health figures in Africa, they are still very shocking. That is a huge challenge. Coming from Africa I know what the reality is for many people, including my own family. It’s what makes the job so meaningful and inspiring.”

Originally from Kenya, Monicah got into the health sector by chance. “It all started when I was in Kenya. I sort of fell into it and really enjoyed it. It’s so meaningful – health is a real challenge in Africa,” she says, “I feel this is the best use of my time and an important way for me to contribute.”

Her current work within The Union centres on project support for projects funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This support can be everything from looking at budgets to finding office space, registering organisations in a country and recruiting staff.

“I’m happy when I read the reports one year later and see the progress we have made. I think it’s a real success story. It really makes you realise that a successful project not only needs a good idea but a lot of logistics and groundwork to make it work.”

Her latest project is Challenge TB, the newest USAID programme aimed at advancing an integrated approach to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) control while involving local communities and halting the spread of drug-resistant forms of TB.

“USAID projects are unique because their projects are implemented by a consortium with nine other TB organisations,” she explains, “it’s a more efficient way to work in TB. Instead of competing against each other they support each other. It’s a very collaborative approach.”

 When working on a project, Monicah will spend time at the project’s office and always asks to visit one of the clinics or healthcare centres that The Union supports in the field. “It’s there that you actually begin to see what you are really doing. It’s not just numbers and reporting to the donor. You see all the items included in the budget and you begin to understand why they request the items they do.  For me it makes it all so much more meaningful. I also get to see the people affected by the work – these are our clients, the TB patients, and we have to serve them well,” she says.

Monicah also explains how visiting the clinics where Union programmes operate not only helps her to defend the items in the budget and understand the unique conditions of each country that contribute to their operational needs, but also how her knowledge of the conditions of the donor contract can be beneficial to the healthcare centres.

“Often there are improvements that the budget could cover, but the local staff are so used to working around those issues it doesn’t even occur to them to ask for certain things,” she explains.

 “For example, in one project there was room in the budget to install ventilation systems in the clinics. That is so simple but hugely important when you’re dealing with respiratory disease.”

When asked what the key to making a project work is, she says, “It’s all about having a collaborative approach, finding a way for all those involved to get what they need, while not stepping on anyone’s toes.”

“It’s not just about the numbers, the budget, the deadlines – it’s about the people.”