MEET ELVIS NDANSI
VISIONARY, HEALTHCARE CHAMPION, AND FATHER
In early 2007, while working as a nurse in Cameroon, Elvis Ndansi met a distressed mother who came to the health center where he worked to get help for the sick baby she had been carrying on her back for more than five hours. Upon helping the mother untie the baby from her back, Elvis realized the baby had died. “I pretended as if all was okay and rushed the baby to the emergency ward,” Elvis recounted. “I imagine that if I had given her the news immediately, she would have crashed. How could she get such news after walking so far to save the life of her sick child?” The baby had died of malaria, a curable disease if treated promptly.
Cameroon is among the 20 countries in the world with the highest child mortality rates for children under the age of five, much of which can be prevented with increased access to healthcare.
Overwhelmed by this experience, Elvis committed himself to increase access to healthcare for the most underserved communities in Cameroon. He left his job, relocated to a remote village with no local access to health services, and ran a one-room health clinic that he launched with $700 of his savings. In late 2007, Elvis created Unite for Health Foundation (UHF) to provide healthcare services to underserved communities.
For the next decade, Elvis persistently applied for funding to various organizations but was constantly faced with rejection. The demands for his services were only increasing, so he continued to invest in UHF out of his own pocket to support the healthcare needs of remote Cameroonian communities.
“Lack of direct investment and trust in locally-led change limits growth and individual agency and feeds an existing cynicism that leads to developing countries’ reliance on aid. This is the vicious cycle in which many African countries find themselves in.” — Elvis Ndansi, World Connect Project Leader
In 2018, after 11 years of receiving no external funding, UHF opened its third clinic in Eloumden, Cameroon. Women here never had access to maternal health services. Many women during labor would ride motorbikes to distant hospitals or would unsafely deliver at home. However, in April 2018, Elvis learned about World Connect and its mission to support locally-led projects. Hoping this time he might receive funding, he applied for a $3,673 grant to establish and equip a maternity ward at the Eloumden clinic. In just two months, World Connect would invest in his vision, being the first organization to believe in and catalyze Unite for Health Foundation’s efforts.
In August 2018, Elvis was named an inaugural Obama Foundation Scholar. He spent the 2018–2019 academic year at Columbia University studying sustainability, social impact campaigns, and global health and diplomacy. Elvis also worked with the Columbia World Project on maternal health.
In December 2018, World Connect awarded Elvis a second investment of $8,000 to modernize the clinic’s maternity ward equipment, adding an ultrasound machine. In the first year of operation with the upgrades at the Eloumden clinic:
- 110 babies were safely delivered, 50 of whom would have been delivered at home due to inability to access distant health facilities
- 176 mothers received prenatal care and 75 women had an ultrasound, improving the chances of healthy pregnancies
- Families paid 50% less for care compared to other health facilities, saving them money to send their children to school and buy more nutritious food to combat malnutrition
World Connect is proud to have been the first organization to invest in Elvis’ vision for change in his community and country. At World Connect, we discover hidden potential. 70% of the project leaders we invest in are receiving funding for the first time.
“What is remarkable about the grant was the fact that it came from people I did not know and had never met, but who were willing to take a risk and believe in my abilities to provide a solution to relieve my community’s suffering.” — Elvis Ndansi, World Connect Project Leader