Meet Janet Choongo, International Volunteer
Janet Choongo was born in Chikankata, Zambia, but has lived in the United States for the past 16 years. Prior to joining CMMB as a Global Health Corps Fellow, Janet interned at the Miami Dade Department of Health, and also worked as an Outreach and Education Specialist for Broward Regional Health Planning Council’s TOUCH initiative in Hollywood, Florida. She worked towards reducing health disparities and improving health for the community.
Janet is a proud ambassador for the Cancer Support Network of Zambia, and in 2010, she founded Think Pink Africa, a breast cancer awareness campaign. In her free time, Janet enjoys traveling and supporting the Los Angeles Lakers and Zambia’s Chipolopolo boys. Find out more about her close encounter with death in an elevator.
Where is home? Little Rock, Arkansas
Education B.A. in Legal Studies from Mississippi University for Women, and Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention from Florida International University
If you were asked to sum yourself up in two words, which two would you choose? Optimistic and cheerful
Why CMMB? CMMB’s commitment to reduce preventable deaths by increasing access to healthcare services in the communities spurred my interest in working for the organization. The goal of CMMB is in alignment with my passion of prevention and treatment of illnesses as well as promotion of health equity among women and children. I feel that this would be a great platform to empower rural communities and under-served populations, to address public health issues, eliminate health disparities, and improve health outcomes.
What are you most proud of? I am proud of founding my Think Pink Africa Breast Cancer awareness campaign. A campaign whose purpose is to educate as many women as possible both in Rural and Urban Zambia about Breast Cancer.
Imagine you are stuck in an elevator. Who would you most like to be stuck with? And why? No imagination necessary. I have been stuck in an elevator twice. The last time I was stuck in an elevator I was with my close friends in undergrad. We were trying to get to the 5th floor of our dorm. We weren’t stuck for a long time, but it felt as though we were in there for hours. Even when I frantically pressed the alarm button, it seemed as though no one could hear the alarm or our pleas for help.
My friend kept screaming “We are dying!!!” so we fearfully said our confession prayers and hoped to make it to heaven if we died… Looking back, if I had a choice, I would choose to be stuck in an elevator with my mother because she is the most calm, optimistic person I know. She always seems to find a solution in the toughest moments, she speaks positively and doesn’t think its always the end of the world (like my friend Kristie). I am sure if I was with my mom, she would have told me to take a deep breath, calmly press the red alarm button, and think positively as I wait for security to come open the elevator. I like that she doesn’t always presume the worst outcome in bad situations.
You are featured in the NY Times or your national newspaper. What’s the headline? Janet Choongo’s Think Pink Africa’s Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign Helps Increase the Number of Women Going for Annual Mammograms and Early Detection Cases
What would be your theme song? Fight song – Rachel Platten
Imagine if you were an animal or instrument – which would you be and why? I would be a drum because anyone can beat on a drum without much experience and make a melody that is pleasing to his/her ear… Drums have so many uses such as communication, lowering stress, and exercising. They are great for the mind, body and soul.
What is your hope for your experience volunteering with CMMB? I hope that when I am done, the communities I am working within Mwandi will be open defecation free; each household will have a pit latrine; more men will be involved in health promotion. I hope I will have built strong networks with organizations that will work hand in hand with CMMB to create a healthier Mwandi and healthier lives worldwide!!!
Favorite quote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
What book should everyone read? Why? As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. It speaks to the power of the mind, positive thinking, and having a good attitude, instead of always blaming others. He explains how we can control our circumstances by our thoughts, and teaches that nothing good comes out of bad thinking.
Who would you like to play you in the movie of your life? I would like my younger sister, Luse, to play me in the movie of my life; not only because she mimics my voice, the way I walk, and my facial expressions, but I think she has lived with me long enough to the point that she can read my mind and predict my next move.
What is your hope for the future? My hope for the future is to see an open minded people. Not a people full of education, but a people full of knowledge and wisdom because I believe that “people perish for the lack of knowledge.”
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” – Hosea 4:6
Favorite Speech or TEDTalk? The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
If you could solve one world problem, what would it be? Lack of knowledge. I would want everyone to be educated so that they can make sound decisions in life concerning their mental, physical, and spiritual well being. I hope for people who aren’t fully dependent on others, people who can challenge themselves to think to their fullest capacity, fill empty spaces, be innovative, and mold objects out of formless clay.
What are the three things you are most grateful for? Family, good education, good health
Who is your biggest inspiration? Why? My mother is my biggest inspiration. She is a very strong woman; she perseveres; she sets goals and accomplishes them; she is never judgmental, she is very loving and kind, and a hard worker. She has taught me to value relationships, to hold on to my faith, think positively and never let other people’s negative view of me influence my decisions.