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SCU Alum Promotes Healthy Living through Technology in Botswana

Photo: Charles Barry

Following a year spent playing professional basketball in Turkey after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2008, Yasemin Kimyacioglu is living and working in Botswana, promoting healthy living through technology. Partnering with the Botswana Ministry of Health, Kimyacioglu and three friends from Princeton, University of North Carolina, and Indiana University started the Botswana Association for Positive Living, a nonprofit organization. “We’re supporting youth with HIV/AIDS,” she said. “There is a big problem with drug regimen adherence here. The medication needs to be taken consistently within a ten-minute window or the body builds resistance. It is especially hard for young people to stay vigilant about taking their medication.” So, the team set about finding a way to help, starting a pilot study with 500 patients, with hopes of scaling up.

“Botswana has high cell phone density, so we help clinics communicate with patients, sending reminders about appointments or to take their meds,” she said. The group also helps the clinic system track patients.

“This has been a really cool learning experience,” said Kimyacioglu, of the study that ends in May. “It hasn’t been all smooth sailing; we didn’t get funded at first, but we believed in our project and stuck with it and eventually got funding from Project Concern International.” The team hopes to do other tech-based projects with orphans and vulnerable children. “We want to be the ‘go-to’ organization to help. This is a second-world country; the infrastructure is here and there is lots of potential for help through technology,” she said.

Selling ideas and working with different types of people comes easily to Kimyacioglu. “I got comfortable with this working on projects at SCU for senior design, Engineers Without Borders, Solar Decathlon, and from playing on the basketball team. I’ve learned to be patient and persistent, as well. Here in Botswana, you have to come to terms with a slower pace and different standards, but you just have to believe you’ll get what you need to get the job done.” In the next year or two, Kimyacioglu plans to apply to graduate school with the aim of studying international development and globalization. “I just like people and in general I see the best in them and care for their well-being,” she said. “People deserve a certain standard of living: water, food, health care, education. If I can impact the world to improve that standard, I would be very happy and fulfilled.”

More here: http://thebotswanaproject.blogspot.com/