Knowing the gap, closing the gap

Hanan Yousuf is a trailblazer.

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She’s the first of her five brothers to graduate college. At age 21, she became one of the youngest midwives to serve at Jugla Hospital in the remote Harari region of Ethiopia, about an eight-hour drive from the capital city of Addis Ababa, her hometown.

During her years in the delivery ward, Yousuf attended the births of 200 rural mothers, and discovered her life’s calling.

“I originally wanted to be a medical doctor, but when I started working with mothers, it opened my eyes,” said Yousuf. “Maternal and child health are so important. It affects everything to come.”

Yousuf, 31, joined the Achieve Escambia team in February 2018 as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). Over the past year, she has brought a global perspective to her work as a researcher for Achieve Escambia.

Before embarking on the 8,000-mile journey from Ethiopia to Pensacola, Yousuf worked for the Population Council while completing her master’s degree in public health. The agency formed in 1993 to assist vulnerable adolescent girls and young women—urban and rural—and the men and boys in their lives. At the council, Yousuf conducted population-based surveys to generate reliable data about the lives of young people in Ethiopia, particularly those with HIV.

The work was challenging, upsetting—but essential.

“I made home visits, checking on the safety and security of domestic workers. I went to clubs to interview sex workers. I went to hotels to speak with waiters. I talked to pimps so they could connect me with street workers. I tried to understand the triggers that lead young people to these lives.”

Looking at data, understanding triggers, and lifting up the voices of others - that same skill-set has made Yousuf an indispensable member of the Achieve Escambia partnership.

“Everything Achieve does - if every community did it, coming together for students, without giving up, imagine what would be possible. Achieve touches every aspect of the education system,” said Yousuf, who plans to stay engaged with Achieve Escambia after her year of service is complete. ‘I learn more every day. I learn more about data, about students. Now if anyone asks me about the education system in America, I know what to tell them.”

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