Ben Margetts

What’s your role?

Director of On Call Africa. I work closely with our trustees to drive the strategy of the charity. I make sure that those who work with us are safe and happy.

What’s your vision for the charity?

On Call Africa works with the Ministry of Health to strengthen the health system.

Together we’re improving access to health care, and building a healthier future for Zambians. I want our approach to be sustainable and easy to replicate, so that the Ministry of Health and ‘partners at scale’ can readily adopt it. It’s really important that our work is effective, as well as achievable, within each context. This maximises the impact we can have.

What’s been your biggest achievement at On Call Africa so far?

The speed with which we responded to the Covid-19 pandemic in Zambia. We suspended our usual activity to support the vital national response to this virus. Calling on the expertise of our volunteers allowed us to support the Ministry of Health to develop national protocols. These allowed Community Health Workers to safely continue to deliver their services.

What made you decide to work for On Call Africa?

I’ve worked in International Development for ten years now, in different contexts. We keep seeing issues such as:

  • poor access to health care,
  • poor health literacy, and
  • poor access to the amenities that promote health.

I’ve seen how devastating these can be to rural communities, and to their ability to progress. Health care is a basic human right, and a necessity for development. On Call Africa is strengthening rural health care, bringing about long-term change. I was excited by the potential. I’m so glad I applied, even happier that I got the role!

Why should someone give up their time to volunteer for On Call Africa?

We offer our volunteers a chance to support the health system’s long-term benefit. It’s a unique experience, and contributes to the delivery of essential services. Working so closely with the Ministry of Health means we get to influence national policies, guidelines, and programmes. Doctors who work for On Call Africa, gain new experiences in patient consultation and policy development, that help them to grow. Not to mention that Zambia is a beautiful place to be!

What’s your biggest challenge for the year ahead?

In a word – Covid. Virtual support isn’t possible in rural communities, so it’s difficult to visit safely. We have to constantly adapt, so that we meet the most pressing needs of the health system. Our need to respond to a changing environment, makes fundraising a challenge.

You’ve been living in Zambia for almost a year. What’s your greatest memory so far?

Tricky question! It’s been a challenging but great year for On Call Africa.

I was only going to come over for a few months, then return to the UK. But Covid-19, as well as On Call Africa’s expansion, gave me the chance to stay on. I’ve had some great experiences:

  • on the Zambezi River,
  • at Lake Kariba, and
  • in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

Zambia is an amazing country.

Have you got any tips on Zambia for future volunteers?

The beautiful Victoria Falls and Zambezi River are both on our doorstep in Livingstone. You can hop over the border to Chobe in Botswana, or take a four-hour drive into Kafue National Park in Zambia. If you’ve got time, you should definitely take a trip to the Lower Zambezi National Park. It’s a great spot and you’ll see lots of wildlife. Make sure you allow a good eight to nine hours from Livingstone.

Tell me something about you that no one else knows…

I spent the night in a police cell in Tanzania. I started Swahili lessons the next day…. 

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