5 Questions with Gastón Escotto García
Our monthly check-in with staff from around the world. Learn more about the people who work at CHAI.
Please tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to CHAI
For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in tackling pressing societal challenges and working towards a more equitable future for all. With the objective of addressing such issues with an interdisciplinary approach, I got a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies followed by a Master’s degree in Public Policy focused on Management and Public Affairs. Professionally, before CHAI, I had the opportunity of working in different development areas with and in government, UN bodies (Food and Agricultural Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development, and World Food Programme), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s health division.
What drove me to be a part of CHAI is the opportunity to be working in the field, supporting governments and other actors to strengthen health systems, with the goal of saving lives. Furthermore, I was looking to expand my work in Latin America and the Caribbean. I wanted to focus on the challenges in the region by being involved in the development of multiple projects that are mindful of the importance of strategy adaptability to different contexts. This regional position gave me exactly that.
1. What has been one of your proudest moments working at CHAI?
Fortunately, it is hard to choose just one. I have been mostly working on exciting projects in Panama, Ecuador, and Guyana focused on the response to COVID-19. It has been challenging to be a part of the COVID-19 program, especially since we are constantly learning new things about how to tackle this virus and its lasting effects. This, however, is also what is so stimulating and rewarding.
We are assisting Latin American and Caribbean communities in this fast-changing and uncertain environment through the training of health workers, antigen test donations, and the development of protocols and guidelines for COVID-19 testing and treatment, among others. Seeing the success of these activities and the impact they are having in the countries we are working in is what makes me the proudest.
2. What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing for me is knowing that our job has purpose and to be working with a team of result-driven experts that push each other to do more and better, knowing that we all share the same objectives of having a positive impact on the lives of people.
3. What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my position is balancing projects in different countries in constantly changing environments. This, however, is one of the most exciting parts of the job too, as I personally find it very stimulating to look for ways to adapt programmatic strategies and cater them to each project to achieve the best results possible.
4. What is your favorite quote of all time and why?
One of my favorite quotes is Maya Angelou’s: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I believe that no matter what context, personal or professional, you will always have better results if you lead with empathy and strive for genuine connection with people. At the end of the day, factual details and impressions get blurred, and emotions remain. I think this is key to having a healthy personal life and a positive impact on your work.
5. What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
A few years ago, I went on a hitchhiking trip with a very dear friend of mine. On this trip, we mostly relied on the kindness of strangers for the journey and the lodging, wanting to see what the experience would bring. After one month we visited four countries, hopped in more than thirty cars, stayed in twenty-something houses, and met some of the most interesting people we have ever encountered. Ten out of ten would recommend.