On May 26, Alphonso Geelue Mouwon graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from the Adventist University of West Africa in Monrovia, Liberia. Named the most disciplined graduate, he had accomplished his lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. “I am happy. I am overjoyed, and this is a dream come true,” says Alphonso. “My dream has come true.” With a smile on his face and his degree in hand, he expressed his desire to return to the community and save lives.
Alphonso began his professional journey as a teacher, but following the 2003 civil war in Liberia, he was trained as a nurse aide at the Martha Tubman Memorial Hospital in Grand Gedeh County. Due to a massive health worker shortage, community members were in desperate need. Working as a bedside nurse aide in the hospital’s tuberculosis ward, Alphonso met Last Mile Health co-founder Dr. Raj Panjabi, who was working in the hospital’s HIV/AIDS program. Raj shared his vision of extending care from the hospital to the community–something Alphonso deeply believed in. On March 7, 2007, Alphonso became Last Mile Health’s first accompanier. Accompaniers followed up on the hospital’s HIV/AIDS patients on a regular basis, given there were not yet any trained community health workers in the region.
Alphonso was a dedicated member of Last Mile Health’s team for ten years, working as an accompanier and training officer in Rivercess County to share lessons learned from the implementation of community health worker programming in Grand Gedeh. But he never forgot his dream to further his education and become a nurse. Raj encouraged Alphonso to return to school, saying that such a decision would benefit him and the health system in the long run. In 2017, Alphonso became the first recipient of a scholarship fund to assist Last Mile Health employees who wanted to pursue a nursing or public health degree. The scholarship was able to cover his entire four-year tuition, including his dorm fees.
Alphonso believes he received the scholarship because of his dedication and contributions to Last Mile Health, which had grown from grassroots to an international organization–and because of Raj’s passion for empowering people to reach their full potential.
Alphonso expresses his gratitude for Last Mile Health’s support. “I am very grateful for the numerous financial contributions you have made in support of my education through the scholarship,” he says. “Without your help, I may never have been able to complete my studies. Your generosity and help have been an inspiration to me. If the human heart was a transparent bottle, you could see the happiness in my heart and the heart of my family.”
He describes Raj as a gift to him and the Liberian people. “Thank you so much, Last Mile Health, and Dr. Panjabi.”
Following the creation of this scholarship, Last Mile Health established the Teachers and Learners fund to assist all employees, regardless of role, office, or level of seniority, in developing their career and capacity–following in Alphonso’s footsteps.