Malcolm Spence

As a trustee what’s your role?

Ensuring that the charity fulfils its legal obligations and complies with the charities purpose. I’m responsible, alongside our other trustees, for high-level strategic oversight – ensuring risks are well managed. I also sit on the financial sub-committee.

What do you do when you are not supporting On Call Africa?

I’m an Investment Director at the Global Innovation Fund. Responsible for identifying and supporting innovation which has the potential to improve development practices and lead to more cost-effective outcomes for those living in poverty.

As a founding member, what inspired you?

The chronic shortage of qualified medical and nursing staff is a huge issue in Zambia. Doctors are qualifying across the world and encouraged to diversify their experience by working in developing countries. It was an opportunity to make a difference. We were motivated by finding new lean models and utilising volunteer medical professionals. At the same time as continuing to strengthen the systems already in place in Zambia.

Why is On Call Africa important to you?

I’ve been involved in On Call Africa for more than ten years and am extremely proud of what has been achieved. On a personal level, it’s inspiring to see what can happen when a team of committed people put their mind to it and pull in the same direction. On Call Africa helps to keep me grounded on how difficult it is to affect change in tough contexts. I’m continually grateful for the privileges we enjoy which are not widely shared by billions of people. It keeps me motivated to ensure that On Call Africa can be effective in improving the lives of people affected by poverty.

Volunteers are integral to On Call Africa. Why should someone join your volunteer programme?

It’s both fulfilling and fun. Zambia is a beautiful country with wonderful welcoming people. On Call Africa offers the chance to make a real difference to people with access to virtually no other health services. As a small organisation with tight links to the local health authorities, there is scope for volunteers to be proactive and drive improvements on how things are done.

What is your proudest moment at On Call Africa?

How the organisation has responded to COVID-19. When other NGOs were repatriating international staff, our team stayed active on the ground. They’ve been working to support the Ministry of Health, developing community responses to the unique challenges posed by the pandemic. Our contribution led to improved messaging, better distribution of PPE and guidelines for how community health systems can best contribute to an effective response.On Call Africa rose to the challenge and proved itself to be an invaluable and reliable partner for the Ministry of Health, at a time of immense stress and urgent need.

It’s always important to keep looking forward. Does On Call Africa look different in another 10 years’ time?

Definitely! Part of our vision is to have an approach which can be easily replicated. Either by other teams within On Call Africa or by different partners all together. I hope that in ten years’ time the community health worker will still be core to our work. It’s such an effective approach. I hope that we have found new ways to support them to succeed in their role. This includes being more proactive at looking at the wider health system where community health workers operate. So that the enabling environment equips them with the tools, resources and systems they need, and that they are motivated and valued agents of change in their own communities. If we succeed, our job is done. We will look for new frontiers through which we can drive improvements in access to health services and health outcomes.

When was the last time you visited Zambia? What did you do during your time?

I last visited in 2015. I enjoyed spending time with our team of volunteers and hearing their views about On Call Africa. It was also the first time I had been to Zambia in the dry season, I’ve incredible memories of walking across the top of Victoria Falls.

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