Thursday, August 18, 2016

Intern Dispatch: Namufuma

Water, by Joseph, James, Zoe, Lee, and Ashy

It’s raining today. Water is falling from the clouds in thin sheets, parting languidly before a cool breeze carrying freshly wet dust, thrumming against our roof of corrugated sheet metal, echoing through our village house like a symphony. The rain pools, highlighting the imperfections in our dirt yard made by bare feet and bicycle tires, seeping through the mud before being greedily snatched away by the local flora. The occasional villager strolls by, rice sack raised overhead to protect themselves from water eager to soak them, but the majority of the community takes shelter during the storm.

Take a moment to consider all of your daily tasks that require water. My list includes bathing, drinking, cooking, laundry, washing dishes, washing floors, and washing hands. Imagine having to carry the water required for those basic activities for every member of your family. There are days when we use over 10 jerrycans full of water for 5 people (typically on laundry days). Water is a fundamental need for all people.

In the United States, water is a readily available resource. It’s a simple matter of turning a faucet and fresh, clean, safe water is piped directly where you need it. In the villages, collecting water is time-consuming daily workout routine. Twenty liter jerrycans must be carried to a borehole and pumped by hand. The freshly filled jerrycans are then carried back to the house. Some community members use bicycles, women will balance the cans on their head, and some simply walk. Even at this stage, the water isn’t safe to drink and has to be boiled or purified with Waterguard chlorine tablets. Water in the villages is a precious commodity. Namufuma is particularly limited in its options for safe water. They have only one public borehole in the village, which is nearly at the end of its usable lifespan and breaks down, leaving the community without a safe accessible water source. When UVP announced the construction of a new shallow well in Namufuma, excitement in the village began to build.

Celebrating the new community-constructed shallow well
The process of constructing the shallow well was a collaborative effort between the community and UVP. The community supplied the labor to dig the well and bricks to line the inside. UVP supplied the pumping equipment, mason, and engineer to finish and install the well. The actual construction of the well was a series of escalating processes, concluding with the borehole commissioning ceremony. Each step in the construction process attracted a larger audience than the last. People worked to dig the initial hole for the well. When the mason laid the bricks in the open well, people watched with interest. When the hardware was installed, children flocked to play in the water, splashing crazily in a game of king of the well. When the shallow well commissioning ceremony began, half the village appeared.

The shallow well commissioning ceremony was a celebration in the form of speeches, dance, food, and one unlucky chicken. We interns reviewed the safe water chain with the community. UVP staff began talking about the new water source before it began to rain. The newfound waterfall did not hinder the village celebrations, and the speeches concluded amidst shouts of AI-YI-YI-YI-YIII! We were all served large plates of local food, receiving more than a few laughs at our attempts to scoop rice with our fingers (mostly from our loving Ugandan intern team members). The community brought a set of drums and waves of song and dance broke out. The enthusiasm spread through all the interns. We all joined in the dancing and Joseph demonstrated his skill with a drum.

The construction of the shallow well marks our final large event with the community as interns. It is a very physical reminder of UVPs work in the village. We’re all saying our goodbyes this week; to our hardworking Village Health Teams (VHTs), our lovely and welcoming villages, our newfound friends and fellow interns, and all the awesome people at UVP who work tirelessly throughout the year to ensure this internship is a success. Thanks you guys!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Intern Dispatch: Bufutula B

Permagardening in Bufutula B, by Max, Jack, Isaac, Rose, Bailey, and Allison

As we rapidly approach the end of our stay here in Bufutula B, the days have only seemed to grow shorter and shorter. Faced with this impending departure, we have only become more motivated to make the most of our remaining time here.

With this mindset, we began to tackle the much-recognized problem of malnutrition within the village. To do this, we enlisted the help of a local Peace Corps volunteer, Becky White, who works on Agribusiness and sustainable farming. Like most of our experiences here in Bufutula B, contacting Becky was a process longer than expected. It took several weeks to reach her, but once we did things began to move quickly. For two days she traveled out to Bufutula B to teach a small and dedicated group of community members the ins and outs of a sustainable farming technique called Permagardening. 

Uganda, known as the Pearl of Africa, has historically been known for its incredibly fertile soil. The Eastern Region we occupy is no exception. The surrounding farmland is blessed with nutrient-rich earth that sustains many different agricultural products. Despite these circumstances, many villagers lack key nutrients in their diets, leading to diseases associated with malnutrition, especially amongst children. Part of what causes this is the distance from the garden to the home and the belief that planting one crop is more economically sustainable when it comes to selling. 

Permagardening seeks to break down some of these barriers by providing a solution that is cheap, accessible, and sustainable. Essentially, it is a small 4 m X 4 m, climate-proof garden, placed as close as possible to the kitchen, that can provide an entire family with fruits and vegetables all utilizing local, free materials. It doesn’t require continuous digging every season, and requires very little management, making it an easy solution that doesn’t sacrifice the land the villagers use to make cash crops. In addition, the method of digging renders the most stubborn earth fertile by treating the dirt with several key elements that nourish it.

The first day, Zaina, one of the members of our Village Health Team (VHT), let us interns, Becky, and a few other villagers into her home to lay the groundwork for the construction of a Permagarden. True to form, she was quiet yet determined: the first one with a hoe in her hand ready to dig, having already prepared many of the requisite materials prior to our coming. The rest of the VHTs followed her lead: David digging the water catchment areas, Inid helping prepare the fertilizer. Together, with the rest of the villagers we dug the small plot of land and finished one berm before the day’s end. Our clothes were sufficiently dirtied, but our hopes raised at the fervor with which the villagers took to this solution to malnutrition. 

The second day began in similar fashion. By then we knew the drill and began to work to dig the rest of the planting areas. By the time we had finished we were as dirty as the previous day, but before us lay a beautiful new garden ready for planting; the VHTs experienced enough to teach others this valuable gardening technique. 

As we look back at what we’ve done here in this village, what will happen to the villagers once we leave, and what we will leave behind, we can’t help but think of the garden at Zaina’s house and its humble attempt at beginning to combat malnutrition. It seems, in a way, a good representation of all our work here. The village needs more than just this, but the garden marks a first step at empowering our VHT’s to take ownership of their and their fellow villagers’ health; and we know that UVP’s work in Bufutula B for the next three years will build on what we’ve started. We have deeply enjoyed our time here and cannot express the level of respect we have for this community and the individuals with whom we have worked, lived, and learned. We hope that when it comes time to harvest, they will remember us as vividly as we will remember them.

Intern Dispatch: M&E, Purposes & Experiences

From Nabirere A & B (aka The Nab Nyabs), by Batya, Fiona, Lou, Anna, Dorothy, and Maria

As the only Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team working with UVP this year, it’s safe to say that we believe in the power of data! It has been a busy and fulfilling summer spent in the field conducting follow-up surveys and collecting important health data about the two communities that we are working in. Being welcomed into the homes of community members has not only allowed us to build strong relationships with them but also to gather essential information about the general health status of both Nabirere A and Nabirere B villages.

The team monitoring and evaluating some mangoes 
To add some context to our work, let’s start with a quick background of UVP’s implementation model. UVP’s programs are undertaken over a three-year period. Simply put, in the first year, Launch Teams have the hefty task of introducing all health initiatives associated with the Healthy Villages Program. In the second year it is our job, as the Monitoring and Evaluation Team, to follow this up by collecting and analyzing data in order to gain perspective on where things lie from the previous year’s activities.

Casual conversations have helped us to uncover gaps in knowledge levels and to learn what the community’s main health priorities are, especially since it’s not always possible to capture this valuable information from the surveys alone. So, while the numbers often reign supreme, in reality both the quantitative and qualitative data that we have collected have been invaluable to our understanding of whether UVP’s interventions are making a genuinely positive contribution to improving people’s health…which, after all, is why we are here! Having collected all of our data, we were in a great place to design and plan effective health education sensitizations that addressed the central health issues that persisted and to consolidate health knowledge and literacy amongst the villagers.

So, while to some people M&E may not always sound quite as fun or sexy as launching a whole new program into a village (even though it totally is!),  we should remember that this is a space that a lot of very important work is done. While implementing innovative and fresh programs is incredibly important (not to mention a tough job), an equal amount of the hard work is done when gaps need to be addressed, failures to be admitted and solutions to be made. After all, sustainable impact comes from continually assessing and refining what can be done better as well as by putting these systems into place while we are still here so that they will last long after we have left.

On a final note, going through the villages and collecting follow-up data is a whole bunch of fun! We have always felt so welcome and at home as we ‘jambo’ our way through the village. And if educating the community that you now call home about important health issues wasn’t incentive enough…there were also all those peanuts, mangoes, jackfruit and avocados that were gifted to us during our surveys that made the end of a long day sitting on our back step together just that much sweeter…literally!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Intern Dispatch: Nabirere


A day in the life of the UVP interns in Nabirere. by Louise, Batya, Anna, Fiona, Dorothy, and Maria

Batya & Fiona meet with women during an HIV outreach
As the sun rises and the roosters start to crow, the 6 of us interns in Nabirere begin to emerge from our mosquito net covered beds, and before we know it, the morning chores have begun. The floor is being swept and mopped, the compound cleaned, the dishes are being washed, the latrine smoked with dry banana leaves, and water is being fetched from the shallow well down the road. Once finished, we make our own breakfast with the fresh milk that is brought daily straight from the cow. We are then ready to start the day’s work for Uganda Village Project.

Beginning with a short planning session for the day, we kick off our weekly Global Health Leadership Curriculum meeting. Meanwhile hearing a bunch of little kids voices outside calling “HELLO” or “JAMBO” to us, and not stopping until they receive some reply. After we eat the delicious local Ugandan food for lunch, consisting of many starches and vegetables, we are ready to move onto sensitization planning. Focusing on our first malaria sensitization, we discussed the community needs, placing more emphasis on the basics of malaria. This was to ensure that there is effective communication about the causes and treatment, tucking in mosquito bed nets, going to the health centre when symptoms are observed, and the truth about myths surrounding malaria. After previous weeks work of data collection within the 121 community households, and conducting SWOT analyses, we were able to design an engaging education session, which also incorporated a Q&A sessions and a funny skit at the end.

Furthermore, with the help of the Village Health Team of Nabirere A, we were able to begin mobilizing for the sensitization session 2 days prior by placing posters around the community and bike-riding to visit different households. After all this preparation, it came time to set off down the dirt road and through the rows of growing fruits and vegetables to the meeting place. We were all prepared for a waiting crowd.

Nevertheless, once we got there we encountered the challenge of the village clock. This meant we spent 2 hours waiting for our audience to arrive, which definitely exercised our patience and flexibility. Once the sensitization finally got started, our morale was high and we were ready for anything. We continuously created rapport and engaged community members by answering all questions that arose, and welcomed all late comers. At conclusion of our session, we sold numerous long lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets and left the community space feeling rewarded and empowered as a team.

Over dinner, when night fall came, we debriefed about our day around the lanterns, highlighting all the strengths and weaknesses of the process. Throughout the entire day we worked productively as a culturally diverse team, all bringing our different skills to the table. After we took our malaria prophylaxis and made a group trip to the latrine through star lit sky, we tucked ourselves back into our mosquito nets to conclude the day.

Intern Dispatch: Bufutula B


The Reframe Game.
by Max, Jack, Rose, Isaac, Bailey, and Allison
Bailey, Rose, and neighbor children
Before we made it to Bufutula B, while we were still relishing the novelty of Iganga in the relative haven of Nekoli’s Guest House, there was a saying that Rachel, our GHC Fellow, indoctrinated into our collective noggin. It became a mantra of ours, a way of keeping our wits in the most unexpected of circumstances and keeping heads high in the lowest of circumstances. The mantra was this: POSITIVITY, BRIGHT SPOTS, REFRAMING. By reframing, we mean reshaping the way we perceive the experience to notice what we have learned, shared, or gained from an otherwise disappointing moment. And if there is one thing Uganda and our wonderful village, Bufutula B, has taught us, it’s the value of this particular skill.
The first week we were welcomed into the village, we had our first slough of reframing moments. Everyone was extremely welcoming and kind, and we (the Internationals of our team) struggled to maintain propriety and greet in passible Lusoga. There were lots of laughs all around, and while there were many tongue-tied trials, we also managed to convince most people we were a friendly bunch and not afraid to laugh at ourselves.
The next week, we took our REFRAMING lessons a bit further. On Monday, one of our team leaders, Jack, tackled doing laundry for the first time in the village. Laundry here is no joke; it takes skill, patience, and a few buckets full of water (sometimes even a trip to the bore hole for more!). Jack tackles the task with the same dedication as he applies everywhere, with our other team leader, Max, looking on to advise as necessary. The clothes, two pairs of pants, are cleaned and triumphantly hung on the line outside the front of our house to dry -- a success all around for the Bufutula B team.
We have a wonderful home, situated across the street from Naisanga Primary School (P1-P7) and at the edge of the village trading center. There are always plenty of people coming and going, giving us plenty of practice at the whole greeting thing, and providing loads of entertainment, welcoming, and small crowds of children. That night in the village, there was something of a celebration, as some members of the community identified with a political party that had won a victory in a high profile court case. There were drums, yes, and even some drinking. We hunkered down in our common room, exhausted from a day well spent, and relishing the delicious food made for us by our sweet and sassy cook, Sarah. The pants, of course, were still out on the line in the hopes that the lingering waves of heat would wrestle the last bit of dampness from their folds. From the open doors of our common room in the darkening dusk, we could barely see the laundry line in the front, and we soon forgot about the pants. Big mistake.
Between the hours of 8 and 9 pm the pants went missing. Jack gracefully accepted this eventuality, even though it meant he was now in possession of only one pair of pants. His only inquiries as to their whereabouts were directed to us and to Sarah, the cook. And, because ours is a good village that looks after its visitors, it was only an hour later that the Chairman of the village called us, and our neighbors began expressing concerns. Before long, there was a criminal investigation on the Case of the Missing Pants, and our first village meeting was slightly derailed at the end by villagers expressing their intent to find the missing pants.
It would be easy to discuss how the tale of the Pants altered what we planned for our first week in the village. But, in truth, we agree as a team that the Pants Saga has helped us far more than it hurt us (except for perhaps Jack, poor pants-less lad). The reality is our village rallied behind us rapidly after the code of hospitality to visitors had been breached. We received far more offerings of duma (corn) and mangos than were necessary, and people came to our meetings just to apologize to us personally. Talk about a good mobilization technique!
Jack eventually found a new pair of pants, and the Pants Saga found a satisfying conclusion for the villagers. But this story isn’t about the pants. Not really. The truth was we learned how to work through the distraction of a village scandal. We learned more about the culture faster because of our rapid exposure. We worked to optimize the publicity as mobilization. And we ate loads of duma. That’s reframing.  
We’ve been here for 5 weeks now, or somewhere thereabouts. And we’ve certainly learned many skills since that first week. But the most used skill has to be Rachel’s omnipresent “REFRAMING”. From a teammate finishing our HIV sensitization while having malaria, rained out sensitizations, and even our cook’s disappearance due to malaria, we’ve kept rolling and reframing.

Intern Dispatch: Bufutula A


Great Expectations. 
   by Debbie, Jake, Kennedy, Bridget, Kirsi

There are a lot of things that we (mostly I) didn’t expect upon arriving in Bufutula A. Most are mundane: I didn’t expect the rooster that lives in our neighborhood to crow at literally any hour of the day (I thought they were trained?); to my surprise, I love wearing the maternity skirts that my grandmother bought me to wear in village, despite the fact that they are outrageous colors, clashing with every shirt I attempt to put on to make a cohesive outfit; the latrine is terrifying at night – many of us (again, mostly I) struggled to go to the bathroom between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. for the first solid week. (This fear has subsided in most team members I am happy to report.)

Members of the Bufutula A community.
One unexpected thing, however, has been essential to our work here in the village and our hopes for sustainable change: everyone in Bufutula A is so excited to have us here, especially our amazing Village Health Team (VHT). Their enthusiastic welcome and support throughout our weeks here has been the most unexpected (and freaking amazing) thing we have encountered during our time here.

The first member of the VHT we met as a team was Hadija (the VHT specializing in the Family Planning and Obstetric Fistula areas of the Healthy Villages Initiative). We met her so informally I didn’t realize she was one of the people we would be working so closely with during the next eight weeks. She approached us while we unloaded all of the things we would need to live in the village for the next eight weeks. I was hot and sweaty – I’d only been in Uganda for three days. She approached each of us and gave us an extended hug and greeting, which none of us besides Kennedy and Debbie (Lusoga speakers) could understand. She was all dressed up - for what, I still don’t know. This woman could have been (should have been, really) a model. I almost didn’t recognize her the next day when she came back in her work skirt to help us dig our compost pit, carrying two hoes and wearing a determined look. We would not have been able to dig it without her – she was a machine, making the work look absolutely effortless. When I hopped down in the pit to continue the work she had started, I must have looked like a child trying to get the hang of using utensils for the first time. Hadija was patient, directing me when necessary, jumping back in and helping when directions just weren’t cutting it. My overall sweatiness and exhausted expression and posture after this project perfectly contrasted hers. She stood at the edge of the freshly dug pit, looking regal, not a single speck of dirt on her skirt. My green-gray-pink-purple striped maternity skirt was definitely going to need a wash. Over the weeks I have seen her hardworking spirit in everything she has done – during baseline surveys, in meetings, raising her children – all the while maintaining enough energy to express her words in large arm and hand motions. She’s a central community member, and is respected by people in the village (I being among them), but she has certain things she is uncertain about. She only shows one side of her teeth while she smiles, and I get the feeling that she is thinking a lot more than she says behind her eyes.

The next VHT we met was Faziri. He’s the only male in the group, and also the oldest, his shoulders bowed with years of hard work, hair thinning in a way that makes it seem like he is bald. His wisdom shows in the cadence of his speech. He talks slowly and steadily, listening with kind and gentle eyes that seem to twinkle all the time. The first thing we noticed about him was his memory and attention to detail. He can (and frequently does) recall and repeat entire conversations that occurred while someone was absent or not paying attention, even if the conversation was a half an hour long. Where Hadija has an energy for life, Faziri has an energy for health. During our first meeting he told us, “Oh, I wish I wasn’t so unfortunate as to live in Bufutula A,” while informing us of all of the health problems the villagers encountered. I didn’t believe him for one second – his is so crazy passionate about his village, it wouldn’t be off the mark to say that he considers himself the physical embodiment of Bufutula A. His thoughts about village health, his plans for the future, and his commitment to and pride in his work have made him the well-respected village man to the community and an absolutely invaluable VHT.

The specialist in the HIV area of UVP’s programming is a woman named Brenda. Her jovial and carefree demeanor belies her quiet power as a strategist and mobilizer who can adeptly juggle demands from all sides. This became clear to us on our HIV Day last Tuesday. Brenda was the glue that held the event together and kept everyone organized and energized—she helped cook lunch, directed people to seats, directed our team to the wonderful lunch she made, and pushed mosquito nets on every person that milled around the testing area waiting for results, all the while being 6+ months pregnant. The laid-back, calm woman who always keeps us laughing during planning meetings disappeared for the day as Brenda transformed into our expert in all things HIV. It’s clear that her gift for setting people at ease and making them feel like a part of her personal community is an indispensable asset to the work of the VHT, and her joy will continue to be a motivating force for many in the months to come.

Last, but most certainly not least, we have Betty, our head VHT, and quite honestly our Beyoncé. The first time we saw her, she was biking as fast as I’ve ever seen anyone bike on our dirt paths in a beautifully colored satin dress. I had no idea where she was going, who she was, or why everyone got so excited to see this impeccably dressed stranger blazing by us. When she approached us from the direction she had just raced off to dressed in a VHT shirt, I understood. As the head of the VHT, she is decisive and outspoken. As a mother and a village member, she is also a leader – all of her children went through school, her home is amazingly hygienic, and she can “show up late to a party long after food is done and a plate will be waiting for her.” (This fact particularly impressed Debbie, our Ugandan team leader.) When she listens, her brow furrows just the tiniest bit to indicate respectful concentration. This same brow furrow occurs when she speaks, except instead of indication concentration, it tells the gravity of her words even though I have no idea what she is saying most of the time. This expression is the secret to her leadership and gravitas. It makes everyone, even those not VHT members, jump to action and do whatever she is saying.

HIV Day activities in Bufutula A.
Last Tuesday, each one of these amazing individuals worked for so hard and so long to make our HIV Day a success. There had been some bumps along the way – the drama group scheduled showed up late due to a truck breakdown, pushing back lunch and throwing the entire day’s schedule into chaos. At the end of the day when the drama group brought out their drums for one last song, every single one of them got on the dance floor and shook it like no one was watching – Hadija forgot to be self-conscious about the other half of her teeth and smiled a full smile; Faziri looked 15 years younger; Betty lost her iconic brow furrow and allowed herself to be sucked into the beat; and Brenda, pregnant and all, completely stole the show with her moves. I stood on the outside of the circle, partly because my dancing might be generously considered sub-par, but mostly because I wanted to capture the moment of the dance circle. I felt so blessed to be watching them. That day we tested 180 people for HIV and Malaria, and it never would have happened if it wasn’t for the four wonderful people dancing like there was no tomorrow. Every day, but especially in that moment, our VHT inspire me to work harder, make more of an effort to be an agent of change like they are. If I become half of the pioneer that they are, I will feel as though I have succeeded.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Intern Dispatch: Namunsaala


Hello, Jambo, and Moi Moi from Namunsaala!
   by Bena, Carly, Ivan, Mark, and Laura

These first couple weeks have been a whirlwind full of baseline surveys, mango, and mosquitoes! While we have been having lots of fun with the children, intern cohort, and our team, our role as community health educators has already allowed us to serve as resources to answer pressing health questions, including those that were deemed too difficult to ask, too time consuming to ask, and, our favorite, too embarrassing to ask. While we are able to teach and facilitate community education, likewise, the community is teaching us more than we could ever imagine. This exchange of information has made our first couple weeks incredibly valuable and makes us appreciate Namunsaala more every day.

Namunsaala transport.
Our learning and teaching began before we officially moved into the village. Instead, it began when team leaders headed out to visit their respective villages during orientation to scope out our future homes. We (Bena and Carly) were both nervous and excited as we headed to the village riding on boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis). Once we reached the village, we were warmly welcomed by crowds of cheering children shouting “muzungu bye!!!!” The green vegetation and fresh air made Namunsaala different than any place we’d been before. We were welcomed by our loving Village Health Team (VHT) members who took us for a stroll around our new home. We moved around the village, building rapport with the VHT and adapting to our new environment. After a delicious home-cooked meal, countless community introductions, and endless exploring, we called a boda and prepared to return to Iganga town. 

As we waited for our transportation to arrive, we decided to make ourselves comfortable under a large tree and were watching the little children carrying jerry cans full of water home from the borehole — a skill that Carly has yet to master. While we sat enjoying the shade, a woman from the community came up, introduced herself, and quietly asked us to explain “the female system.” This question was clearly one that had been on her mind for some time, and it was great to see that our presence had already created an open learning environment. Therefore, we took a second… looked at each other… then jumped into action, drawing a diagram of the female reproductive system, complete with labels and culturally relevant explanations for each section. As we explained, this young woman’s face lit up, as she finally understood her own body and pregnancy as well. This simple encounter was ultimately our favorite moment of the day and made us even more excited for our experience in the village to begin.

While the following weeks have been filled with additional community education, including HIV outreaches and malaria sensitizations, it is important to remember the things we are learning as well, both from each other and the community. We have had a number of educational and thoughtful discussions among our team facilitated by the Global Health Leadership Curriculum, all of which have challenged and shaped our views on sensitive and important public health issues. It was really insightful to talk about the current refugee crisis as a team, especially because, as a team, we represent three different continents.

Additionally, we have learned new skills and ideas from our community. These have ranged from discovering insightful community perceptions of health, adapting resourceful ways to utilize the environment, and lots of new recipes and cleaning tips. Namunsaala team parents, just wait until you try our chippatti and watch us do our own laundry!

Can’t wait to share more over the coming weeks!
Tubonagane (see you later)!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Investing in Teenage Girls #WPD2016

July 11, 2016, marks the 27th annual observance of World Population Day, a day designed by the UN to highlight global population issues. The goal is spread awareness of population-related issues such as family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights. This year’s theme is ‘Investing in Teenage Girls.’  


How does #WPD2016 apply to Uganda?


The Pearl of Africa may triple its population by 2050. It has one of the world’s youngest and most rapidly growing populations, with 78% of the population being younger than 30 years of age and nearly half being younger than 15. Ugandan women have fertility rates of, on average, 6 children each throughout their reproductive periods. On average, 3 out of 10 women have unmet family planning needs -- and the prevalence of these needs are much greater in rural areas. [State of Uganda Population Report, 2014]. Girls and young women (15-24 years old) are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, at rates twice that of men in the same age bracket. Only two-fifths of young adults correctly identify the ways to prevent sexual transmission of HIV.





What can you do?



Friday, July 8, 2016

Intern Dispatch: Namufuma


Jambo jambo from Namufuma!
   by Zo-eh, Jamessssy, Ree, Josephu and Ashy

A tippy tap in action. 
Jambo jambo (hello hello)! Our first two weeks in the village have been full of excitement, challenges, and new experiences. After surviving orientation and our first bargaining in the markets of Iganga, we moved into our villages Friday, June 17th.  Upon arriving in Namufuma, we were immediately welcomed by our VHTs (Village Health Team members) and neighbors and have continued to feel welcomed ever since. Our VHTs have even gone so far as to help us with building our trash pit and tippy tap, sparking jealousy from our neighbor intern team in Namunsala who spent a week constructing everything themselves. While it’s taken the internationals a little time to adjust to a completely new way of living (shout out to Joseph and Ashy for being such strong sources of support for the international interns), our newly donned “LIT HOUSE” (because of our single, solar powered light bulb in the common area) is feeling very much like home. The most memorable part of moving in was definitely our unwise decision to wait to hang our mosquito nets until after sunset…which resulted in a comical, hour-long battle with concrete walls, weak nails, an almost broken bed, and duct tape to hang our five mosquito nets, all by the light of a headlamp.  

Speaking of mosquito nets, one of our wonderful VHTs, Sister Teddy, partnered with the local Namunsala health center to get us brand new nets that we are extremely grateful for. This is just one representation of the generosity and concern that all of our VHTs have shown for us and our work with UVP. Whether it is Wakabe dropping by our house with jackfruit, Mama Esther and Jaja Flourence visiting us for tea every night to offer their support, or Peter helping us with our baseline surveys even after teaching kindergarten all day, their dedication is inspiring. They have a way of tracking us down no matter where we are or where we’ve told them we’ll be. We can be trekking through a cornfield on our way to a house near the edge of the village, and one of our VHTs will appear out of thin air. We joke that they’ve put mizungu trackers because they keep such good tabs on where we are.  

A gathering of members of the
Namufuma community.
One of our team expectations is that we’ll empower and involve our VHTs whenever possible. Luckily, they’re already so passionate about improving the health of their community that they’ve made it easy for us. While their incredible commitment puts extra pressure on us to do a good job with our work, it also makes us confident that when our two months here are done, the VHTs will continue to act as effective resources in Namufuma to ensure that our work with UVP is sustainable. The community is already interested in and appreciative of UVP’s work here, as we are constantly greeted with “webale emirimu” (thank you for your work). It is our hope that this interest will translate into high attendance at our sensitizations and extend into the future.

     At the end of our second week, we had the honor of visiting the mayor of Iganga District, (who is originally from Namufuma) at his office in town. We met with him and several local councilmen who expressed a shared passion for improving the health of the villages surrounding Iganga. As the first UVP intern team to meet with the mayor, we hope our meeting will be the first of many and will foster an even stronger partnership between UVP and the local government where each provides support to the other in their initiatives for greater sustainable development.


That’s all from Zo-Eh, Jamessssy, Ree, Josephu, and Ashy of Namufuma, muzungu bai!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Welcome to our 2016 summer interns!

Summer is an exciting time for Uganda Village Project. New villages join the Healthy Villages program and continuing villages get a boost of excitement from international and Ugandan intern teams. We're thrilled to have such an experienced group of interns joining us this summer.

Akong Deborah
Deborah is in her final year pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health Science at Makerere University’s School of Public Health. She volunteered with UVP in 2015 and it was a life-changing experience. As an intern she is happy to educate and empower communities to adopt preventive measures for a healthy life. In the future she hopes to specialize in infectious disease. Deborah loves playing with kids, dancing, playing board games, cheerleading, travelling and meeting new people.

Atim Fiona 
Fiona's passion has always been to make a difference in the health care system of her country, especially in the rural areas. Witnessing health challenges has pushed her to achieve her dream of becoming a good and professional health care manager / practitioner and to use her skills to help put an end to the issues that are challenging health care today. Fiona is 23 years old, currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Health Care Management at International Health Sciences University. She comes from a family of six and loves being around people and is a happy person. When she is not reading or working, she loves to sing. Fiona would love to see Uganda achieve its MDGs and see improvements in health care. 

Louise Beddoe
Louise Beddoe is from Melbourne, Australia. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Health Science at Monash University, focusing on public health and community development. After completing her degree, she aspires to work with developing communities either within Australia or overseas, as she is extremely passionate about equality and improving the quality of life for all. Louise has had lots of travel experience, including the 4 months she spent in African in 2015. This summer she is looking forward to receiving hands on experience with how a non-profit organisation runs, and she cannot wait to engage with the Iganga community members and experience their culture with other interns along the way.

Sheridan Bowers

Sheridan Bowers is a junior at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and is studying International Development, Spanish, and Public Health. Sheridan's love for traveling and development began in high school and she has spent every summer since volunteering and working throughout Latin America. Through serving on the board of Flying Samaritans at UCLA, an organization that runs medical clinics in Mexico, she has become more interested in the fields of public health and development. In her future she hopes to pursue an international career in development and global health and looks forward to exploring many more regions of the world. This summer, Sheridan can't wait to experience a new culture in a region she has yet to discover, and looks forward to all of the people she will meet along the way.

Jacob Casale
Jake Casale is a native of Redmond, WA and is currently a rising senior at Dartmouth College where he is studying psychology and geography with a focus in global health and healthcare systems. He loves to explore new cultures and learn how different communities approach health challenges, and is especially excited to return to Uganda to engage in community public health efforts after a visit two years ago that ignited his passion for international development work. Jake has also studied, volunteered, and interned in France, Germany, and South Africa (respectively!) and is planning to pursue either an MBA/MPH or PhD in clinical psychology after graduation. At Dartmouth, he has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Dartmouth Apologia, Co-President of Christian Union, Treasurer of the International Development Forum, and has participated in multiple global health-focused activities. He can't wait to be in Uganda again and to build relationships with the community in Bufutula!

Megan Clevenger
Megan is from Chicago, IL. Currently, she is studying Urban Planning and Regional Development, with a minor in Real Estate Development at Ball State University. Through her classes she has gained insight to think critically and theoretically about community formation, sustainable development, fiscal feasibility, and structure revitalization. All of this, coupled with volunteer work, has led her to pursue interests in international development and public health in underdeveloped areas. Prior to this internship, she participated in a faith-based mission trip to the Dominican Republic, studied abroad in Germany and Denmark, led a group of students to endorse environmental conservation in rural villages of Panama, and promoted safe sanitation and organized educational approaches independently in Ghana. She is most interested in advocating for quality of life improvements abroad and wants to ensure that communities are organized and mobilized so that goals can be achieved. She is interning with Uganda Village Project because she believes that it is instrumental to provide resources and assistance to rural communities in order to build on current public health and community development initiatives. After graduation, Megan is looking to either join the Peace Corp/USAID or attend law school, while focusing on cities and land use. In her free time, she loves to play tennis, hike, and paint.

James Davis

James Davis is originally from Gainesville, Florida and recently graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. He is interested in public health, medicine, and health policy and eventually plans to attend medical school. He is excited to get involved in working with public health at a community level and believes in the importance of being community informed in attempting to enact sustainable change. Above all, he is humbled to have this opportunity to work with the village of Namufuma.



Laura Färm
Laura is currently studying International Studies in Leiden University in the Netherlands, her main focus being African studies and Swahili language. She grew up in Helsinki, Finland but after graduating from high school moved to London, UK and from there to the Hague, the Netherlands. Travelling and exploring new cultures has always been a passion of hers, as well as sports and fitness. This summer she is excited about all the new people with amazing stories and stories that they have to tell, and can't wait to expand her world view and hope that after this experience she will see things in a new light, and will grow as a person. This opportunity to work with UVP is amazing and she can't express how grateful she is to be given this great chance.

Jack Fukushima
Jack Fukushima is a Public Health Major and Global Poverty and Practice Minor at UC Berkeley in Berkeley, California. Throughout his time at Berkeley, he’s worked as an undergraduate student instructor for a global health class, and served on the executive board of two student groups: Partners In Health Engage at Berkeley and the California Public Interest Research Group. Last year, he spent the summer in India learning about their healthcare system and observing physicians. He enjoys reading (A LOT) and playing guitar in his free time. Having studied the many different effects NGOs can have on resource-poor communities, this summer he’s most excited about learning first-hand the role of NGOs in global health and their net impact on the health of the communities they serve. 

Carly Herbert
Carly Herbert is a rising senior at Washington University in St. Louis studying Anthropology, with a deep interest in women’s health and infectious disease. Outside of class, Carly educates students about sexual health, HIV prevention and sexual violence both on the Washington University campus and in the St. Louis community. Additionally, Carly assists with the DOLF Project at Washington University School of Medicine, working to develop more effective testing devices for lymphatic filariasis. Further, last summer, Carly spent four weeks in rural South Africa conducting qualitative research on the impact of religion on health-seeking behaviors. After college, Carly plans to pursue an MD/MPH and envisions a career addressing global health issues and health disparities through the study of epidemiology.

Isaac Kakaire
Isaac is aged 23 pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Social Administration at Kyambogo University. He is in his final year, graduating in 2017. He loves making friends, chatting, travelling and discovering new things. He is flexible, hardworking, reliable, self monitored and goal-driven which makes him believe that Uganda Village Project is the right place for his career development.



Kasaija Joseph
Joseph is 23 and currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree of science in Public Health at Nkumba University in Entebbe, Uganda. He is in his final year graduating this October 2016. Joseph's hobbies include watching soccer, movies, travelling and meeting new people from different places. He is a simple, fun-loving guy who loves to make new friends. Choosing UVP is one of the great steps in his path of professional success. The organization is public health oriented and willing to serve the under served people in Eastern Uganda through their interventions. Serving the community is one of his greatest aspirations and that is why he chose to study public health.

Dorothy Lee
Dorothy Lee is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Health at Boston University School of Public Health with a focus toward M&E and infectious epidemiology in a global context. She received her BS in Biology from Purdue University in 2015. While at school, she worked on consulting projects with a health agency based in western Kenya. With UVP, she is most excited about getting involved in a rural community and learning about the logistics of implementing health programs. She also looks forward to experience the Ugandan culture and the challenges of living and working in a low-resource setting.

Batya Lepar
Batya has just completed a Masters in International Public Health from the University of Sydney, School of Public Health with a focus on HIV/AIDS and Health System Strengthening. As part of her course she also completed an internship with the Fred Hollows Foundation, doing research into the potential for community health workers to contribute to eye health initiatives. Outside of class she volunteers with the Sydney’s Sudanese community as well as with the Indigenous community as a tutor to high school kids. Although she grew up in Zimbabwe, Batya is excited to be back in Africa, to learn about the Ugandan health system, and to gain hands on experience in all things global health. After UVP, she hopes to find further opportunities working in global health and at some point in the future return to school to do research.

Luyiga Anna Mary
Anna is a student at Makerere University in the School of Public Health pursuing a bachelor’s degree of Environmental Health Science and will be graduating in January 2017. She loves playing badminton and making new friends. She is 23 years old. She decided to work with UVP because she is interested in helping people improve their health. Anna aspires to improve people’s health and will continue to find a way of doing that, either through an organization or a personal innovation. She hopes to one day pursue her masters in Public Health in New Zealand.

Carmen Lyon
Carmen Lyon is originally from a small town in the foothills of Northern California. She is currently an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, where she is a Global Health major and Astrophysics minor. She is interested in women's rights abroad and how they relate to international reproductive health and family planning. Outside of her classes, Carmen plays on the club lacrosse team, is involved in the Kappa Delta sorority, and is a member of the Model United Nations team. Additionally, she is working on clinical trials for the biomedical company Epharmix. Carmen is very excited to be immersed in another culture, and she hopes to learn as much as she teaches. 

Bailey Miller
Bailey Miller is from Burke, Virginia. She is a rising junior, studying International Health at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. She loves meeting people and new experiences that come with traveling. In her free time she loves playing volleyball, singing in choir and spending time outdoors.She is looking forward to gaining some global health experience firsthand and meeting some awesome people along the way!   



Mulindwa Brenda
Brenda is a a 20 year old, second year student from Makerere University pursuing a bachelors degree in the Environmental Health Science from the School of Public Health. Her hobbies are badminton, swimming and watching movies. She is so excited to be among the chosen group for the 2016 UVP Summer Internship. She chose UVP because of the opportunity it gives for learning, especially through team work. She is excited to work with communities to solve their health related problems as we aspire to make the world a better place.

Mutawulira Ivan
Ivan is 23 years old. He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree of Environmental Health Science at Makerere University School of Public Health and will be completing his studies this coming year.  Ivan is passionate about public health and empowering communities to have all the tools they need to take control of their health issues. He interned with UVP last summer and it was an amazing experience. His hobbies are travelling, singing rap/hip hop music, making friends and hiking.  In the future he hopes to go to medical school.

Nabiryo Maxencia
Maxencia is 20 years old and a second year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health Science at Makerere University.  Her hobbies include reading, making friends, sharing experiences, and learning new languages.






Nagudi Benaville
Bena is a student of Makerere University School of Public Health pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health Sciences. She loves singing, dancing, travelling and making new friends. Bena is excited about the opportunity to learn more about community health sensitization and community engagement as we aim to improve the health of the people of Iganga. She is humbled to work hand in hand with her team as we work together to improve people’s health. Her career aspiration is to become a researcher because she loves solving problems and being resourceful. Bena also loves ministry and serving God. She is so humbled to be part of this program and can’t wait for the summer to begin. 

Namajja Solome
Solome is a 20 year old female student at Makerere University School of Public Health Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health Science.  She has a passion for research, epidemiology, and community health.  She aspires to one day be an Environmental Health Officer of a Research Fellow.  







Nampiima Maria Gorret
Gorret is a 22 year old student of Makerere University currently pursuing a bachelors degree in Social Work and Social Administration. She feels very privileged to work with UVP because, as a social worker, she is interested in promoting social justice, society equity and social functioning of the people who are disadvantaged in terms of adequate social services. Working with UVP will give her an opportunity to participate or contribute towards the improvement of the well-being of people in Iganga District. She thanks UVP management for keeping the spirit of empowering communities to live more satisfying lives.

Nanyonjo Namatovu Sophie
Sophie is 21 years old and a second year student at Makerere University School of Public Health pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health Science. She is born again and loves people. Sophie loves working with people in the communities, improving the health status of people and being a solution to people’s challenges. She loves sports, singing, and dancing. She loves children and preaching the word of God.  She is interested in working with UVP because she loves community work, identifying different health related problems in the community and being a part of the solution. Her motivation is her love for people and the desire to be part of improving life for them in terms of health.

Rose Paneno
Rose’s passion for health has been greatly expanded by her experience at UC Berkeley. While she has always been interested in the health field, research in public health, nutrition and child development as well as volunteer work in a hospital emergency room, draws her towards understanding health on a community level. As a soon-to-be senior in university, she hopes to attend gain more public health experience and attend medical school after graduation. Raised in rural Sonoma County, California, she has participated in the SMART research program at UC Berkeley, researching the effects of the mass extinction in Lake Victoria on child development and nutrition. As a part of this research program, she has been certified in UNICEF Infant and Young Child Feeding Programing. In her spare time, between studying for classes in her Social Work and Biology double major, Rose enjoys playing music or hiking, fishing, and backpacking. Rose is thrilled to learn more about community public health through the Uganda Village Project. She looks forward to learning more from the communities and individuals she will be working with. By contributing to the project, Rose hopes to incorporate the skills she has learned in her classes. But most importantly, she knows she will carry the lessons of this summer's internship with her far into her future. 

Mark Paske
Mark Paske is a junior at the University of Florida who is majoring in environmental engineering. He grew up in the Tampa Bay area of Florida and plans on attending medical school. A passion for public health and a keen interest in international development led him to the Uganda Village Project. He has never been to Africa and is excited for the opportunity to gain knowledge through this rewarding experience. Born with an adventurous spirit, he enjoys skydiving, the outdoors, and fishing.

Lee Siegle
Lee Siegle is a rising fourth year at the University of Virginia. She loves traveling, eating, helping others/kids, basketball, soccer, Christmas sweaters, and spending time outdoors. She discovered her passion for public health after a spring break trip to Nicaragua, which has led her to major in Global Public Health and minor in Spanish. Last fall Lee studied abroad with Semester at Sea, and had the opportunity to learn about malaria research and prevention strategies while she was in Senegal with her epidemiology class - she's hopeful that this experience will be useful while in Uganda.  While at UVa, Lee is involved with her sorority and multiple volunteer organizations. This summer, she's most excited about experiencing an unfamiliar culture for an extended period of time in order to understand more fully the public health issues that are present in everyday life in a lower-resource area, and work to help resolve them through a "first-hand" approach.  

Bridget Whaley
Bridget Whaley recently graduated from Washington University in St Louis, where she studied psychology and global health. In the coming years, she plans to pursue a masters in social work and a masters in public health, with a specific focus on maternal and child health. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Bridget has always had a passion for exploring and helping others, which has led her to places like Ecuador, Jamaica, Ghana, and now… Uganda! She looks forward to both teaching and learning with the community. She is especially excited to meet the children of Bufutula, whom she expects to fall in love with on day one!

Yesigomwe Kennedy
Kennedy is 24 years old and a second year student at Makerere University School of Public Health, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health Science. He chose to study student public health because of the zeal he has to help communities solve their health problems. He feels satisfied when he solves a problem for a group of people. Outside of class, Kennedy plays basketball for leisure and fitness and also does stand-up comedy.  He loves singing and dancing, and making new friends.





Not yet pictured: Kirsi Anselmi-Stith, Jacob Casale, Bailey Miller, Sami Strutner, Zoe Starkey, Allison Verbyla