We were honoured this week to hear about the work Michael Tesfay is doing in Rwanda.  Michael is the Global Grant Scholar we sponsored for his master’s degree studies in Health Policy at the University of Edinburgh.
Michael moved to Kigali after completing his studies at Edinburgh.  He joined the Rotary club of Kigali Virgnua and is working to setup a Tele-mental health line for Rwandans. 
Rwanda has a strong universal heath system with 91% of the population covered by the system.  Use of mobile phones is common in Rwanda and setting up an mental health call in line is a logical extension of the current health system. 

He has proposed a pilot project to the Rwandan Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Unity.  The two ministries are positive about the project. 

The initial project would employ three psychologists to deal with calls.  However, there are significant barriers to overcome.  There are significant issues of stigma associated with discussing mental health issues.  One potential solution to dealing with the stigma issues is to embed the mental health workers in the local health units so that individuals seeking help could be seen to be seeking routing health matter by attending a local health unit facility.

Startup costs for the program are expected to be $11,000 with ongoing monthly costs of $4,000.
Michael is a Toronto native and received his bachelor’s degree at Western University.  He worked with the Rotary Club of London South on a project to provide school supplies, reusable menstrual equipment and running shoes to communities in Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania.