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Country director with passion

30.04.2021

Benatus Sambili started as country director in Ifakara, Tanzania, last April. He is the first local country coordinator in a SolidarMed programme country. The public health expert and family man wants to further strengthen teamwork and SolidarMed's work in Tanzania.

Benatus Sambili is particularly proud of the good cooperation in his team.

Tanzania Benatus Sambili (42) is very pleased to now actively use and expand his expert knowledge as country director in improving health care in Tanzania. In the interview, the trained dentist also talks about how you end up in the right field of work sooner or later if you follow your passion.

SolidarMed:

You are originally a dentist. What did you intend to do with this training and how come you are now working as SolidarMed's country director?

Benatus Sambili:

I started as a dentist, but I always dreamed of becoming a researcher and academic. We all have our dreams. After my Master's in Public Health, I then worked as a lecturer at the university.
But at a certain point in our career, we should ask ourselves if our dreams match our passion. I realised that academia was not fulfilling me after all. When I started working in the international NGO sector as a maternal health improvement project manager in 2012, I realised: this is my passion!

SolidarMed:

Benatus Sambili, how were your first months at SolidarMed?

Benatus Sambili:

My start as Country director in April was exciting. I was very excited to start working for an organisation,
whose goal is to strengthen health systems, as this is exactly my field of expertise.

SolidarMed:

How did SolidarMed's partners react to the change?

Benatus Sambili:

It was a strange experience. Part of my induction programme was to meet with SolidarMed's various partners. These include people from the university and hospitals or government representatives.
It came as a surprise to them that SolidarMed's new country coordinator was a local. They asked whether SolidarMed would dissolve or whether I would take over the post on a transitional basis during the pandemic. In the meantime, however, they are beginning to appreciate me very much. They see that the projects are continuing and SolidarMed is also acquiring new projects. Our partners
now understand that it is not a transitional solution and now take me seriously.

SolidarMed:

Where do you see the advantages and disadvantages of a local country coordinator?

Benatus Sambili:

As an international NGO, one wants to promote a transfer of knowledge from the North to the South and back, and at the same time bring about sustainability.
and at the same time bring about sustainability. With a local expert, you promote both. It is probably easier for an expatriate to make decisions than a local. The latter may be more concerned about how his own community will see and judge him.

SolidarMed:

Have you already made changes to the way your team works together? If so, which ones?

Benatus Sambili:

In the beginning, everyone worked on different projects in their areas. In order to promote cohesion in the team
I asked for a weekly team meeting. During this virtual team meeting, we update each other on what is happening in our country programme. The project team in the districts of Malinyi, Ulanga and Mbulu meet once a month to discuss the implementation of the projects. There is also a quarterly meeting of the national programme team.
During two days we discuss what we have implemented, what we have learned and what we are planning next.
The aim is to promote exchange within the team and to increase knowledge about our projects.

SolidarMed:

What do you need to do to improve the quality of medical care in Tanzania?

Benatus Sambili:

In a good cooperation, things have to be done coherently, especially when working with other organisations and to ensure service delivery. Everyone can benefit from good coordination.

SolidarMed:

In your opinion, what distinguishes the work of SolidarMed?

Benatus Sambili:

All employees at SolidarMed are part of a service provision system. For example, our project manager Peter Hellmold is the head and doctor in Malinyi, but sometimes he also does a job in the technical area of the hospital. This is not necessarily the case in other organisations. Staff often come to the project areas only briefly to gather information and then go back. SolidarMed works differently and thus strengthens the local health systems in the long term.

SolidarMed:

hat are you particularly proud of in your team?

Benatus Sambili:

For good cooperation, it is important that everyone in the team understands what each other does and how to support each individual. For example, a programme officer needs to know what a clerk is doing and vice versa. I am pleased with the eagerness to learn in my team, and proud of the good cooperation in the team.