In our latest blog series, we are checking in with some of our FIMRC alumni to learn how they first became interested in a career in global health and development and how their time with FIMRC has shaped their current career path. In our first post, we catch up with Greg Macdonald, our very first Field Operations Manager (FOM) in Nicaragua. Read on to find out what Greg is up to now!
My road to a career in global health and development has been a winding one. Soon after graduating with an anthropology degree in 2001, I was given the opportunity to work with at-risk youth and families in Pittsburgh, helping connect them to needed services. The work was arduous and rewarding but after several years, I felt I was missing out on a cultural exchange experience which is what had drawn me to anthropology during college.
I began looking for ways to work abroad and ultimately took a job teaching English in Mexico where I found a passion for both education and living abroad. Every day was filled with something new: a Spanish phrase I hadn’t heard before, a new classroom activity to try, or a new food. Yet while the experience fully satisfied my desire to engage in an immersive cultural experience, I missed the same level of fulfillment I gained from working with underserved populations back in the United States. I applied to the U.S. Peace Corps which, by design, is a perfect marriage between cultural exchange and service. I was accepted and served as a Youth Development Volunteer in El Salvador from 2006-2008. The experience taught me true patience and flexibility, highlighted for me the importance of human relationships, and exposed me to asset-based community development work. I worked on a range of projects from developing a vocational training program at the local high school, writing grants, and teaching music, English, health, and computer skills.
At the conclusion of my Peace Corps service, when everyone else in my group was eager to get back to the United States, I had found a career path and wanted to stay overseas to continue applying the lessons I had learned as a Peace Corps Volunteer. A mutual friend connected me to FIMRC’s current CEO, Meredith Mick, who had finished her Peace Corps service in El Salvador before me and had remained there as FIMRC’s Field Operations Manager. She knew of a vacancy with FIMRC to launch their newest program in Nicaragua. I applied and was offered the position.
Transitioning from Peace Corps, a federal agency, to a small non-governmental organization was liberating. The organizational culture of FIMRC was innovative, energetic, collegial, inspired, and focused on “KTR,” (an acronym FIMRC Founder Vik Bakhru included in every email) which stands for Kids Totally Rock. A reminder of why we were doing what we were doing seemed ever-present. And everyone I worked with at FIMRC made me want to do better. They were creative, driven, smart, and had great senses of humor.
During the year I worked as FIMRC’s Field Operations Manager in a small Nicaraguan village, I experienced the ups and downs of development work. I witnessed first-hand the barriers people living in these communities faced in order to access healthcare. I recall visiting a remote village with a doctor who had been called to the scene of an accident involving a man who had drowned at the bottom of a well. It took us three hours to get about 20 miles due to the rough terrain, an obvious obstacle for emergency services. The gravity of the health challenges faced by the community would often weigh on me, the staff, and our volunteers.
But the passion among our staff and volunteers made even the toughest days worthwhile. I was constantly inspired by motivated community members who willingly and enthusiastically participated in activities to better their community. We worked alongside each other to develop and implement a comprehensive response to address a lice epidemic at a local school. We conducted a survey of four communities to gather health data that would later inform FIMRC’s direction in Nicaragua and be a foundation for the development of a standalone FIMRC clinic. We led trash cleanup campaigns, delivered preventive health education, gave CPR classes, and provided healthcare to those most in need. And through it all, I saw the eyes of countless volunteers be further opened by the experiences they had in the village, some of whom who are now better healthcare professionals themselves as a result.
Since my time with FIMRC, I have earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration, worked as a Program Manager for Peace Corps in Nicaragua and as the Director of Programming and Training for Peace Corps in Belize. My experience with FIMRC has informed my journey every step of the way and I aim to bring a mission-driven, empowering, and human approach to everything I do. My development focus and passion will continue to be health, education and youth as I recognize the inextricable link between health and education, and youth as the best opportunity for change.
Interested in a career in global health and development? We have many ways to get involved with FIMRC from volunteer trips to fundraising efforts to helping us raise awareness through social media. Learn more and get involved today!