Olimpia Laswai | United Republic of Tanzania
Olimpia Joachim Laswai has more than 10 years of experience in the HIV/AIDS field. Olimpia is a program coordinator for HIV testing services at Ariel Glaser Pediatric AIDS Healthcare Initiative, where she focuses on implementing targeted HIV testing models to increase the identification of people living with HIV in Tanzania and getting them treatment. She volunteers as a rapporteur for the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa, which is held every two years, and is a volunteer in short-staffed health facilities. Olimpia is committed to supporting Tanzanian government and global efforts to end AIDS by 2030 through implementing interventions that ensure access to HIV services to all people regardless of geographic location, religion, race, or sexual orientation. She holds a bachelors degree in Nursing and a masters degree in Psychiatry and Mental Health. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Olimpia plans to use the acquired skills, networks, and confidence to expand her volunteering activities and to advocate for policies that ensure inclusion and diversity in the provision of HIV services.
What do you do in your home country and what do you hope to do upon completion of your Fellowship? In particular, with the integration of your experiences with Drexel University?
I mainly have experience in teaching, research and project implementation. I have about 10 years of experience in the HIV/AIDS field. Currently, I am a Program Coordinator for HIV Testing Services at Ariel Glaser Pediatric AIDS Healthcare initiative (AGPAHI), where I focus on implementing targeted HIV testing models to increase identification of people living with HIV in Tanzania and putting them on treatment. I also volunteer as a rapporteur for the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa which is held every after two years and I also, once in a while volunteer in Health Facilities with shortage of staff. I am committed to support the Tanzanian Government and the Global efforts to end AIDS by 2030 through implementing evidence-based interventions that ensure access to HIV services to all people regardless of age, sex, gender, geographical location, religion, race and sexual orientation.
During my fellowship, I will strive to be a part of the Drexel University community, participate and learn more about civic engagement initiatives of the Lindy Centre for Community Engagement. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, I plan to use the skills, networks, inspiration and confidence acquired from the Fellowship to expand my volunteering activities and to advocate for policies that ensure diversity and inclusion in the provision of HIV services.
What is your favorite thing about your home country? What are you most excited about learning about Philadelphia?
My favorite thing about my home country Tanzania, is the friendliness of it’s people. When you set foot on the Tanzanian soil, you will immediately feel the warmth and the friendliness of the people making you feel home away from home. I have never been to the United States and do not have many friends from the US. The Mandela Washington fellowship is an opportunity for me to get to know the United states and to interact/network with the Americans. I am excited to learn about Philadelphia’s historically significant locations especially the Liberty bell and the Reading Terminal Market.
Do you have any hobbies or an interesting fact you wish to share about yourself?
Well, I love travelling and hosting people from different backgrounds. With this fellowship, means I will meet many Americans and hence my home will be more open to Americans than it was before. Generally, I am open and interested to any form of cultural exchange. There are a lot of interesting facts about myself but the most interesting one is that, I think I am the most determined and resilient person, I know. If it wasn’t for my determination and resilience, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today. Our life paths are different. While for some are very clear and straight, mine was rocky, full of thorns and corners. Like the German philosopher who once said, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, I acknowledged my misfortunes and then took them as an opportunity/motivation to change the narratives for myself and others.
If I were to come to your home country, what is the first thing I should eat?
I grew up around Mount Kilimanjaro; The World’s highest free-standing mountain, Africa’s highest point & World heritage and wonder of Africa. Families around this mountain including my own, grow coffee and bananas. When it comes to food, “everything banana” is enjoyed and appreciated. So if you were to come to Tanzania, you should consider having “mtori” for breakfast, “Nyama choma & grilled banana” for lunch and “Ndizi nyama” for Dinner. Beverages you should try may include “Mbege”(A local brew made from banana) and coffee made from our freshly harvested coffee varieties.