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The Phoenix Project: “Together we can achieve such a lot.”

22 November 2016

Judith Hall OBE (MD 2002) is Professor of Anaesthetics, Intensive Care and Pain Medicine at the Cardiff University School of Medicine, and Phoenix Project Lead. Here, she discusses her work and that of the University in Namibia, and how Cardiff students are changing lives for the better in Africa.

Once upon a time, feels like a long time ago, I was asked what we, Cardiff University, could do to meaningfully support International Development.

Feels like a long time ago, but it’s actually only 36 months of operation.  In that time, from a standing start, with friends and colleagues in Cardiff University, we have made a major project happen.

This is the Phoenix Project, a programme of work involving very many people and specialities and designed to impact on the lives of real people. Those people are in Namibia, in sub-Saharan Africa, but they are also in Wales. There is no doubt that this sort of work transforms the lives of those who contribute, both personally and professionally.  We have evidence for this powerful transformative effect in the project’s reflective diaries.

The Phoenix Project partners with the University of Namibia, an organisation like our own, with similar energy and vision.  We are partners with common goals and direction of travel. It is born from our communal desire to make a difference to people’s lives.  In response to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals every single thing we do intends to either reduce poverty or promote health.  Together we can achieve such a lot. It takes your breath away.

For me, the experience has been both been intense and inspirational. There are too many impacts to mention, but a few special highlights for me are:

  • the development of anaesthesia as a speciality;
  • creating an independent software community in Namibia;
  • sharing best practice with senior nurses and midwives, and watching these skills disseminate out;
  • making scientists through supporting maths education;
  • using our own multi-lingual roots to assist communication and cultural understanding;
  • finally, it’s very important to me that we have involved all of our Colleges and Professional Services.

I realise, however, there is still such a lot to do. You can’t partner with a developing country in sub-Saharan Africa and expect to walk away in as little as three years.

As Cardiff University moves forward, there is no doubt that our international identity is very important. The Phoenix Project is just one example of our global participation, and a successful one.  Staff and students across the whole of Cardiff University, and their University of Namibia partners, want to carry on, to ever increasingly make a difference.