Meet John, a Project Officer in East Africa

This week, we welcome you to meet John Mochama, one of our Project Officers in East Africa.

John’s friends would likely describe him as a calm, focussed, caring, industrious and inspirational person that sees opportunities in the midst of challenging situations and always willing to go an extra mile.

“There is an old Irish saying that resonates with me; ‘If you want a year’s prosperity plant rice, if you want ten years of prosperity plant trees, and if you want a hundred years of prosperity plant people’” shares John.

The third born out of seven siblings, John was raised in (now) Kisii County. After attending local Primary and Secondary Schools, he went to Nairobi for advanced level education, however dropped out due to the lack of school fees. He then briefly joined the Department of Income Tax, under the Ministry of Finance, thereafter leaving for the USA where he completed his B.Sc in Business Management and his Masters in Public Administration. Returning back to Kenya to make his contribution to ‘nation building’, he has since worked for various organisations before joining North Star Alliance in mid-2010.

In June 2010, John attended a local stakeholders meeting held by North Star Alliance and World Food Programme about an upcoming Roadside Wellness Centre (RWC) in Salgaa, where he says he “was impressed by what I heard. An organisation that is keen on offering health care services to the most at risk populations.” He applied for, and was successful in, a contract as the Site Co-ordinator for Salgaa RWC, and then promoted to Project Officer in 2012.

As part of supporting the RWCs to efficiently achieve their objectives, John works closely with the Clinical Officers, HIV Testing and Counselling Providers, Peer Educators and Balozis (a Swahili word meaning ‘ambassador’ – a peer educator for truckers).

“This team of hardworking and caring professionals have much of their background training not on management but treatments. Besides it, the case loads, the range of health/medical services, and reports handled by the said staff requires support therein. In my position, I come in to complement the team with managerial skills to ensure that the centres ran efficiently.”

He manages projects assigned to him, ensuring successful completion, monitoring, evaluation, and timely reporting, and prepares regular reports from the RWCs, documenting best practices and lessons learnt, for our regional office in Nairobi.

John also conducts feasibility studies geared towards enhancing programming, and establishment of new RWCs within the East African region, and represents the organisation in meetings with stakeholders including the District Health Management Teams.

“This is vital, because we work closely with the Ministry of Health that supports and supervises the activities of our facilities. Attending their meetings keeps us abreast of any new developments and helps us to stay compliant with their requirements.” adds John.

During his time at North Star, John has been involved with many exciting and innovative projects. From a road safety campaign, to a mapping exercise stretching from Mombasa to Malaba, to the development of a laboratory in Salgaa, through to being involved with the filming of BBC2’s documentary with Simon Reeve on “The Tea Trail” which features our Salgaa team, it’s a dynamic environment.

While travelling might be challenging at times as it keeps him away from his family, John makes up for this outside of work, as in addition to pursuing further education at the local University in his spare time, you would find him spending time with his family.

When asked what it is that keeps him motivated when challenges arise, John shares, “Nothing is tougher than what Christ went through. … The idea that my contribution may mean saving a life out there that would have been lost is an impetus to keep me going when the going gets tough.”

Saving lives is day to day at North Star. Many times a client whose testing reveals a HIV+ result may give up – but the health sessions offered at North Star provide a different perspective. John says, “[The client] comes back weeks or months later, looking healthy, glowing and having hope knowing that… being HIV+ is not a death sentence, but an opportunity… to make sound choices moment by moment on a daily basis.”

If he could tell the world one thing about North Star, it is that we are “an Idea whose time has come”. As an organisation, we come to “bring integrated health care services to the hard to reach populations and the corridor communities. Ignoring this segment of the population will continue to burden health systems across the continent into the rural areas in extension.” John goes on to remind our clients that “..the Blue Box is your companion in health. …Just walk in, we are there for you.”

Quick Quiz: which of North Star’s PIQuE core values (People, Integrity, Quality, Entrepreneurial Spirit) does John most identify with, and why?

“I truly cherish every one of our core values. Because it is what we are. …it is obvious that I identify more with People. In the four years now working with the organisation, I have seen people both staff and clients alike treated with respect and dignity. This has seen our centres burdened (impressive) with an overwhelming influx of clientele. We are constantly visiting partners to build strong relationships in the form of linkages, because we believe that in the health care field we align ourselves to complement each other and not to compete against each other. North Star has confidence in each and every member of our peers and colleagues. That each one [of us] with [our] diverse backgrounds has something unique to bring to the table to make North Star what it is today. That whenever the organisation meets during its annual staff get together, you can smell, sense and feel these very attributes.”

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