Why I left my beloved Uganda to aid its development

Allan Were. Photo by: Abt Associates

I was born and raised in Uganda and started my career in the private sector in Kampala. In 2005, I was recruited to work on a regional malaria project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

This work, coupled with the experiences I had while pursuing my Master of Public Health Leadership, was life-changing. When I graduated, it was crystal clear that I belonged in a profession where I could make a difference in the developing world.

A natural choice for those of us with this passion is to join an organization that is united by a mission to improve the lives of people worldwide. I chose to work with Abt Associates, starting in my native land of Uganda in 2009 as the deputy chief of party for a USAID-funded program focused on indoor residual spraying.

Now, I work at Abt Associates’ U.S. home office.

As director of operations for the USAID/PMI-funded Africa Indoor Residual Spraying Project, my responsibilities include supporting our chiefs of party and in-country project teams who engage with host governments to plan and implement spray operations to reduce the burden of malaria. The program is being executed in 14 countries throughout Africa.

For those of us dedicated to improving life in the developing world, we know there is a big difference between working in the field (especially in one’s own country) and at a home office abroad.

Of course, moving abroad is not without its challenges and sacrifices. The biggest challenge has been relocating and trying to settle my family in at a time when program startup activities are at a peak.

In the United States, however, I am benefiting not only from the interaction with colleagues working on my IRS project, but also from others dedicated to projects in different countries and settings.

My colleagues come with very diverse experiences and backgrounds, and this has given me an opportunity to enhance my public health and program management skills and competencies in a way that would not have been possible at this time in Uganda. I also have had the opportunity to share best practices from the programs I worked with in Africa, thereby contributing to strategic and operational decisions beyond the IRS project on which I work.

Had I not moved to the United States, I would not have had the opportunity to work with, and be coached and mentored by, professionals who have had leadership and technical responsibilities across multiple countries on a global and regional scale. The level of responsibility I have here is much higher than what I had previously, and this is equipping me to make an even greater contribution to development work in Africa.

Africa is, and always will be, home, and moving away was difficult. I know that I will eventually return. But moving here has been a wonderful experience for me, my wife and two children. Additionally, the offer to expand my career horizons and join an international team abroad is right for me at this stage of my life. The education I am getting through living and working in the United States will expand my skills and foster new opportunities to help others back home in Uganda as well as in other countries across my continent.

About the author

  • Allan Were

    Allan Were serves as director of operations for Abt Associates Inc.'s Africa indoor residual spraying project. He joined Abt Associates in 2009 as deputy chief of party of an IRS project in his native Uganda. His career in international development began in 2005, when he was recruited to work for an USAID-funded Africa regional malaria program by what then was AED.