Forging a path to healthier communities

(Edmonton) Anne-Marie Jamin hadn’t spent more than four hours at a time on a bike, but the University of Alberta grad didn’t let that stop her from “walking the talk” for charity, or in this case, “cycling the talk”—all 5,600 kilometres’ worth.

After working in Central America raising funds for Primeros Pasos, a not-for-profit clinic that provides health services for women and children in rural Guatemala, Jamin and three peers—friends who met at the U of A’s Augustana Campus—decided to spend three months cycling for the cause, forming the charity Pedal 4 Pasos.

They rode through hills, heat, thunder and lightning, suffering mechanical breakdowns and heatstroke along the way. But the foursome also saw the best in people, from roadside rescues and donations to sharing of food and friendship en route to raising $30,000.

“It was great to experience the kindness and generosity of people, who always seemed to come through,” says Jamin, who received her master’s in public health with a specialization in global health from the School of Public Health. “And, I learned if you put your mind to it, you can actually do anything—even when you think you have nothing left in you.”

Jamin’s path to a career in global health and her passion for ensuring access to health care in the developing world is even lengthier than that transcontinental trek. A native of Valemount, B.C., she once imagined a career as a French teacher. She did end up studying French at Augustana but also co-majored in international development. She was inspired by a course taught by Dittmar Mundel, travelling to Mexico through the rural development exchange program.

“With knowledge comes responsibility. The more I learned, the more I felt I wanted to make a greater impact on the world around me,” she says.

Jamin heard about the U of A’s global health program through a friend and became impressed with the faculty and the different learning and career opportunities to promote health in communities, she says. One of the highlights was a four-month practicum in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, where she evaluated the local immunization program, looking at challenges with data management and service delivery.

Thinking globally

In addition to co-founding Pedal 4 Pasos, Jamin also served on the board of Change for Children Association, a charity that supports health and development efforts in 18 countries. She is also a published author on the subject, co-writing a chapter on global health for Millennials Speak: Essays on the 21st Century.

At the end of May, Jamin moved to western Kenya, where she now works for the United Nations’ International Labour Organization, analyzing the impact of entrepreneurial and development grant programs for women and youth. It’s another leg in a journey that did not start or end at the U of A, but her experiences as a student certainly put her on the right path.

“I’ve had some great experiences and opportunities through the University of Alberta and the School of Public Health, and with the entire community in Edmonton. I feel very, very lucky and fortunate.”