3. Cherno’s Vision: Transforming Lives in The Gambia through Biomedical and Community Initiatives

Cherno’s Vision: Transforming Lives in The Gambia through Biomedical and Community Initiatives

AAI Graduates 2024.05.08

Cherno is an Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI) Graduate working as a lab assistant at the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. “Having witnessed the excellence of the healthcare system in the UK, I am committed to learning from its successes and implementing them back in the Gambia to improve our healthcare system,” Cherno states.

Cherno’s personal journey is a testament to the transformative power of the Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI). Completing his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Manchester in the UK in 2021, Cherno reflects, “Joining the AAI was a turning point in my life. It opened doors to knowledge and experiences shaping my perspective and giving me a more positive outlook on the world. The connections I’ve formed are invaluable, helping me refine and pursue my dreams. Being surrounded by brilliant AAI Scholars has been a constant source of inspiration.”

Expecting a typical scholarship program, Cherno was pleasantly surprised by the transformative nature of the AAI leadership training. “I enjoyed participating in the study and preparation camps and our different professional development sessions,” he says. “The AAI pushed me to translate personal ambitions into SMART goals, sparking the initiation of a life-changing Ashinaga proposal. I decided it was time to start working on something life-changing, hopefully for me and others in my community.”

Cherno’s journey is driven by a deep commitment to his community. His initiative began with a poignant realization about the widespread use of charcoal for daily cooking and its detrimental effects on the environment and community health. Seeing an opportunity to address multiple issues at once, Cherno initiated a project to provide financial assistance to mothers, aiming to uplift their economic status so they could prioritize their children’s education over street vending. “This initiative is close to my heart because I grew up watching my mother struggle to make ends meet and send me to school.” Starting in 2016 and continuing into 2017, this initiative integrated a biomedical aspect, expanding its scope to address multifaceted challenges within the community.

However, as Cherno engaged in extensive research and gathered feedback, he realized the problem was more substantial than initially perceived. “The journey wasn’t without its challenges,” he says. “Extensive research, feedback loops, and interactions with the local community revealed the complexity of the problem.” Additionally, complications arose from government land ownership, leading to a pause in the project.

Despite challenges, Cherno was determined to create better working conditions for community members, leading him to start his initiative while still a student in the UK. “The challenge of leading the project from the UK underscored the importance of effective communication with the women involved and government officials,” he notes. “The goal remained clear: to initiate positive change now, not in the distant future.”

Parallel to the environmental community project, Cherno aspires to contribute to The Gambia’s biomedical field. “Not without its challenges, my journey also involved obstacles in pursuing a biomedical degree,” he explains. “The council of the biomedical field still needs to confirm the degree, requiring me to complete a portfolio and additional requirements.”

Graduating in 2021, Cherno secured a position in Cambridge, initially focused on COVID-19 tests. Later, he transitioned to a medical company, where he continued to contribute his skills and knowledge. Interested in doing more lab work, Cherno transitioned into a role as a medical lab assistant at the NHS, which eventually paved the way for a trainee role as a biomedical scientist. Inspired by his story and determination, Cherno’s manager provided him with extra support to get the necessary training and resources to gain experience in the lab and confirm his degree, leading him to take a step closer to making his dream come true.

Taking steps towards his life dream, Cherno is strategically leveraging his role at NHS to improve the biomedical sector in The Gambia. He said, “Through my current job at the NHS, I am making significant connections, meeting people from various parts of the world, and accumulating diverse experiences.” In addition, he set to start an online course in Advanced Biomedical Studies at London Metropolitan University in January to enhance his expertise further.

“I am actively initiating networking efforts with fellow Gambians to ensure a seamless transition upon my return,” Cherno adds. “The goal is to establish an association of Gambian Medical Scientists to promote biomedical studies for more Gambian high school students, closing the gap and lack of local expertise in the field.”

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