So. For you folks who have read my last blog – Explosion – you’ll be happy to know that the dust has settled, and as the song goes ”I can see clearly now.”

I realize  it is October already:  in Montreal, the weather is now  cooler. Here, in Dakar, it is actually getting hotter, until November…Oh wait:  maybe end of October..No, mid-December! No one seems to agree on when the ”fresh air” will finally arrive in Dakar.  When I think that today cannot be hotter than yesterday, well guess what? It absolutely can!

Everything is relative, and Adaptation is key.

As most of you know, I am working at PATH to develop a strategic portfolio for Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs):  the objective is to grow capacities and competencies that will bring better care for NCDs in Senegal.  Many studies have shown that Africa, while pursuing the fight against communicable and tropical diseases, will face the most important increase of mortality rates due to CV diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes. In Senegal, health authorities are putting every effort to help reduce the burden of chronic diseases. Yet sustainable implementation remains problematic due to lack of resources, decreasing financial support and conflicting priorities.

While the weather is indeed a universal topic of conversation and of comparison between regions or countries, one could make too quick of a judgement in simply comparing management of chronic disease between North America and Africa, for example. In Senegal, about 20% of the population lives in Dakar where 80% of healthcare services are centralized, leaving 80% of the country’s population in a weak spot. This upside down pyramid creates a huge constraint to equitable access to prevention, early diagnosis, appropriate and affordable treatment, and to patient education.

Did I mention that there is NO universal health coverage? Everything is out of pocket, if you do not have private insurance.

Comparison just does not hold.

But, boy, I am learning a lot, thanks to Adaptation:

  • I am getting better at finding comfort outside of my comfort zone:  while I need to flex and adapt to a different pace and environment, I am constantly challenging my mindset.  I push myself to leave behind all ”working at home” solutions, and explore new ideas and approaches.
  • I am better at reflecting, seeking insights to understand, and at looking for novel ways to engage stakeholders in the fight against NCDs.
  • And I am not too bad at juggling the need to accelerate the ”WHAT tactic is supposed to be implemented next” and the risk of not reflecting enough on the ”SO WHAT if we do it or not”.

But, most importantly, without Adaptation, I would not have lived the most overwhelming, privileged, emotional yet disturbing, personal experience of Tabaski (Aïd el Kebir) with my Senegalese family, outside of Dakar. I was fortunate and blessed at the same time to share every private moment – from dawn to dusk – with Djibi’s parents, wife and children and extended family.

Thanks to ADAPTATION, I seize the day.


  1. Perfect title! I love how you acknowledged how you are making the most of your experience and that it is the learning component that is aiding in your success. Being on the actual ground brings more clarity as to why we have to leave our ways of working “at home”. Stretching ourselves to find those novel ways of engaging and working with the stakeholders- adapting because we are in different cultures. I am finding this challenge more fun now that some time has passed and things feel more comfortable. Nice photos, thanks for sharing!

  2. While I am rarely at a loss for words, your impact can be described simply – YOU INSPIRE! Thank you for making a difference regionally and from afar!

  3. It sounds like you have immersed yourself in the culture of Africa and are learning many things, both professionally purpose. This is the objective of PULSE. We are very proud of the work that you are doing and I am excited for your return to hear about your experiences. Be well my friend.

  4. Great to see you stretching and adapting to your new environment, Helene. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to seeing more of your adventure!

  5. Great pictures! Also loved reading about how you are growing and learning. Fantastic!! Carpe diem, Hélène!!

  6. What an experience you are having, stretching your self in everyway possible and challenging yourself to think differently. I’m anxious to hear all about your experience on your return. Cheers to you!

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