Brenda Brown Schoonover, Chair of IntraHealth’s Global Health Advisory Council
“People might wonder how the work IntraHealth does affects the United States,” says Ambassador Brenda Brown Schoonover, a retired career Foreign Service Officer. “We need to remember that it’s all interrelated: the healthier the world is the healthier we are, and keeping people healthy in all kinds of ways is part of keeping the world at peace.”
Brenda knows a thing or two about global issues. As one of the first Peace Corps volunteers, she served in the Philippines and on the Peace Corps staff in Tanzania and is considered a charter member of the organization. This year, the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, Brenda reflects on how joining impacted her life. “Having that opportunity to broaden my horizons at an early age is the luckiest thing that’s ever happened to me.” Her tours of duty in the Foreign Service and as the spouse of a Foreign Service Officer also took her all over the developing world: she has lived in Togo, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Nigeria. In addition to serving the developing countries indicated, she also had two tours in Belgium.
Now the chair of IntraHealth’s Global Health Advisory Council, Ambassador Schoonover brings her experience and knowledge to support the organization’s work. She first learned about IntraHealth while serving as Ambassador to Togo, West Africa in the late 1990s. There she met IntraHealth President and CEO Pape Gaye, who was then running IntraHealth’s regional office.
Brenda’s work made her acutely aware of public health issues and the importance of tackling them. “Most developing countries have a number of health challenges,” she says. “If you live in the country, you see how health affects some of the population, and I had an ongoing interest in health.”
As the US Ambassador to Togo, Brenda learned more about the specific health challenges facing the country through her work on “the Ambassador’s Initiative,” which provided a limited budget for community projects. The initiative supported some health causes, such as efforts to construct much-needed health clinics; health advocacy causes, such as prevention of female genital mutilation and the spread of HIV-AIDS; and construction of schools and bridges that enabled commerce between local towns and villages. In addition, through the Lion’s Club of Togo, Brenda was involved in a program that collected and distributed donated eyeglasses for residents who could not afford them.
Although retired from her Foreign Service career, Brenda’s interest in world issues has not waned. “I’m involved with several boards dealing with international affairs. All of them help me stay in touch with what’s going on globally, and it’s my hope that my background and experience will support their successes.”