Daygan Eager

Programme Manager, RHAP

Daygan Eager’s career in non-profit organisations has not made him as wealthy as he might have been had he followed his original choice and done a BComm, but he is content about that. “It is so rewarding to engage critically with issues that are meaningful. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do anything else.”

The 32-year-old from the West Rand studied psychology at what is now the University of Johannesburg and moved on to do an honours in social anthropology at Rhodes University, followed some years later by a diploma in health economics from the University of Cape Town.

After completing his honours, he was offered a job in Grahamstown with an organisation called Public Service Accountability. “I was really interested in pursuing a career where you could help people.” He took on the role of health researcher and found he had an affinity for the field of health.

Eager went on to work with Section 27, and finally moved into a sister organisation, Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP). He has developed an unusual skill for understanding what is often an orphan area in health: budgeting and finance.

He is proud of “really contributing to bringing that into the social justice and activist arena”. Budgets are often key indicators of government priorities. Understanding financing and budgets is, he says, a “powerful tool that is important in engaging with social justice issues”.

Eager finds working with activists in marginal communities rewarding, and he has a remarkable facility for developing publications and materials that speak to them and make technical issues relevant and understandable.

But the work he does has a profound effect on him, he acknowledges: “You don’t realise the impact of going out
into a deep rural setting, where there is no healthcare at all.” Burn-out is not uncommon, he says; fortunately his partner is a research psychologist and thus a good listener.
But he can’t see himself leaving the quest for social justice behind him; the desire to make a difference runs too deep. — Mandi Smallhorne