Chevening Alumna, Sherika Whitelocke-Ballingsingh has recently been nominated as a Global Finalist for the British Council Alumni Awards. Her research into the safety and the impact of pollutants in Jamaica, as well as on informal battery smelting and its damaging effects on children is something we can all learn from.
Alumni Spotlight: Nasser Hassane
Nasser Hassane, Class of 2020, has gone from his Chevening Scholarship to LEEP, an NGO working to eliminate lead paint across the globe, and now to the FCDO in Niger. Discover his work and journey.
My name is Nasser Hassane, Class of 2020. I was born and raised in Niamey, the capital of Niger.
I applied to Chevening after a period of looking for a program that would allow me to hone my leadership skills, networking skills and global outlook. It was only natural that I chose to apply for a Chevening Scholarship, one of the best, most competitive and highly respected programmes.
The year I spent in the UK as a Chevening Scholar allowed me to increase my knowledge in areas I am passionate about, in particular medical research and diabetes. This, along with my extracurricular visits to several iconic British sites (Old Trafford Stadium, Big Ben), means I can, without hesitation, say that Chevening has enabled this Sahelian student to realise one of his dreams.
But then the question arises, what to do next?
LEEP, which stands for Lead Exposure Elimination Project, is a project that works with local governments and stakeholders to eliminate human exposure to materials that may contain lead, a highly toxic substance.
An estimated 815 million children (one in three) around the globe have dangerous levels of lead in their bloodstream, levels high enough to cause irreversible brain damage and impose severe health, economic, and societal consequences. 96% of these children live in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Exposure to high lead levels result in reduced intelligence, lower educational attainment, behavioural disorders, anaemia, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, as well as violent crime and reduced lifetime earnings. Impacts of lead on cognitive development are estimated to cause nearly $1 trillion of income loss in LMICs annually. Adverse health effects related to lead poisoning account for 1% of the global disease burden, causing 1 million deaths annually and substantial disability.
LEEP’s mission is to eliminate childhood lead poisoning and improve the health, wellbeing, and potential of children worldwide. We currently focus on one important source: lead paint, which is widespread and unregulated in over 76 LMICs. In practical terms, we conduct paint studies to obtain country-specific data, support governments in implementing lead paint regulations, and then provide technical assistance to help paint manufacturers switch to lead-free alternatives.
I found myself working with LEEP by a simple coincidence. One of the directors, Dr Clare Donaldson, had asked an acquaintance of hers whom I followed on social media to tweet asking if anyone in her network knew of anyone who could help them to implement the project in Niger. With the volunteer spirit developed by Chevening, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. From there, I had a few discussions with Clare and a bond was quickly established.
Here in Niamey, I serve as LEEP’s focal point, contacting and organising meetings with departments of the relevant ministries. As well as this, I work heavily on the research side of the project, initiating trips to local markets to see what paints are available and generally used, then carrying out appropriate tests to ascertain the lead content. It is a hugely rewarding mission to work towards, making a real global impact.
I now also work at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) as Deputy Development Counselor in Niger, where I focus on health, development, education and humanitarian programmes. It is an exciting job which gives me huge opportunity to serve the UK but also to contribute to the development of my beloved country Niger.
As a Chevening Alumni, I look forward to assisting the UK Embassy in Niamey in promoting this life-changing opportunity, and getting involved in the alumni network as a whole.
Discover more about Nasser’s work with the Lead Exposure Elimination Project here.
John Shen is a Chevening Alumnus from the Class of 2017 and a prominent LGBT rights activist in China. Read all about his work and journey since he returned from his year of study in the UK.
We speak with Lundi-Anne to find out what her experience at Queen Mary, University of London was like, and where her career has taken her since she graduated in 2017.