I was first introduced to Dr. Mubina Agboatwalla and HOPE in 1994 when I was working in the Community Health Science Department of the Aga Khan University. Dr. Sue Fisher Hoch from the Pathology Department introduced Dr. Mubina as “a real public health person.” As we spoke I became interested in the community based work she was involved in.
Soon after Dr. Mubina initiated HOPE. Paying a visit to the HOPE set-up, I was instantly impressed with the relationship the HOPE workers had with the community. Dr. Mubina explained that a key issue to community development was inter-relationship, as no lasting benefit could be achieved if resources were supplied only from the outside. One of the most visible problems in the community was large heaps of rubbish. HOPE convened community meetings where a shared solution was reached. The community committed to discarding their rubbish in designated containers provided by HOPE. Community members worked with HOPE to meet with local authorities to arrange for trash collection. Bravo! The system worked. Undeniably, teamwork can accomplish the impossible, not only trash collection but other goals that would improve the society.
I started working with HOPE on research projects in 1997. Our collaborative work explored the benefits to health that could be achieved through household water treatment and promotion of hand-washing with soap. Collaborating with HOPE opened avenues for further teamwork.
There were a number of aspects about working with HOPE that were outstanding. HOPE is primarily a community based NGO working to improve the lives of people. Unlike many NGOs that do not take rigorous data collection seriously, the HOPE team enthusiastically supports research agendas. Due to Dr. Mubina’s background in research, there was a familiarity with research methods and a willingness to design interventions specifically to address research queries. The strength of the HOPE platform for research focused on low income and high-need communities throughout the region. Dr. Mubina also insisted that the community gained something in the process of the research. Hence, a budget was formulated to give back some component to the community. Study sponsors from the Procter and Gamble Company were impressed at the outreach to these high need communities, and appreciated this participation in community development.
Leaving Agha Khan University in 1998, I returned to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Although I was finalizing a few projects in Pakistan, my primary work was in Guatemala. In 1999, while at work in Guatemala, I was contacted by the Procter & Gamble team informing me about the potential for follow-ups on some of the exciting results of our collaborative work with HOPE in Pakistan. Dr. Mubina’s response was enthusiastic, and in the years to follow we worked on several more projects together.