For many students, having an opportunity to intern abroad in African countries like Uganda and Ghana is the experience of a lifetime. For Queen Elizabeth scholars Sahar Khajeali and Kevin Capuno, it was just the beginning.
Khajeali and Capuno both spent the summer interning abroad as part of the prestigious Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship program (QES). Khajeali focused on maternal and neo-natal health during her internship at Aga Khan University in Uganda, while Capuno focused on improving the lives of those with disabilities in Ghana through urban planning and community development. Their experiences abroad as part of the QES program provided them with new opportunities they never would have imagined.
The objective of the QES program is to activate a dynamic community of young global leaders across the Commonwealth countries to create lasting impact — both locally and globally — through cross-cultural exchanges. The QES program is managed through a unique partnership of Universities Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada and Canadian universities. It’s made possible with financial support from the Government of Canada, provincial governments and the private sector.
Capuno, who describes his QES internship abroad as “the most rewarding experience of his undergrad,” recently returned home from a trip to Ottawa as a special nominee of “Homecoming 2016,” an event attended by several of Canada’s university presidents and top young researchers meant to welcome parliamentarians back to Ottawa after their summer break. While there, he had the opportunity to meet with three other QES scholars from across Canada, attended sessions with Health Canada and University Affairs magazine, and had the opportunity to network with university presidents and MP’s.
“Meeting other young people who had big ideas and had put them into action was really motivating and inspiring for me,” says Capuno.
The QES program ignited other great opportunities for Khajeali as well – she will attend two important world conferences on philanthropy and community in the United Kingdom and South Africa after being selected from QES scholars across Canada to participate.
The Bilateral Canada-UK Community Foundation Dialogue in London will focus on bringing together foundations and partners from both geographies to discuss topics such as bilateral collaboration and the sustainable development goals. The 2016 Global Summit in Johannesburg is a decennial conference that will focus on the individual’s role in humanitarian work.
“It’s such an incredible opportunity,” says Khajeali. “It still blows my mind.”
Khajeali recently gave a presentation to students, faculty and staff with fellow QES intern Zeeyaan Somani about their experience during their nursing internship in Uganda. Their supervisor and mentor Shahirose Premji, associate professor, Faculty of Nursing, introduced the students, spoke on the importance of the QES program, and acknowledged the support of Graham McCaffrey, associate dean, Faculty of Nursing. Janaka Ruwanpura, vice-provost (international), was also in attendance to welcome the students and congratulate them on a successful completion of the program.
“Having this experience enables you to understand global challenges, gives you a better education, and helps you to become a more well-rounded citizen,” says Ruwanpura. “The Queen Elizabeth scholarship program really helps to give students these experiences.”
Somani and Khajeali discussed their work in Uganda and what they learned while there. They both noted how inspired they were by the Ugandan nurses’ ability to give compassionate care despite the obstacles they faced with lack of supplies and resources.
“Aga Khan University has a long history of providing international interns an exceptional experience pivotal to their learning about global health and the social determinants of health,” says Premji. “The community engagement focus enables students to personally experience the potential impact they can have in making a difference in the lives of people from a local to global perspective.”