Friday, May 18, 2018

The Terror of Training

by Maria Nampiima, VHT and Intern Program Coordinator

It all started with a phone call.

Ok, it was actually about a hundred phone calls. After all, coordinating 65 people across 13 villages takes more than just one phone call.

It was my first time coordinating the annual VHT training, and I was so nervous that no one would show up, that I would let my team down, and the villages would never be healthy. Now that I think about it, I may have made two hundred phone calls. With the help of other staff members, we curated the agenda, looking for opportunities to spice up the health information, a way to create excitement and motivation the VHTs could carry with them for the next year.

The day of training, we arrived at the venue early, and I remained hopeful and optimistic every step of the way. We swiftly readied ourselves for the training. The 9 am start time had arrived, and to my dismay, not a single person had arrived. I stood, unbelieving, at the front of the room, staring at the dusty benches, empty and mocking me. For 30 excruciating minutes I waited; I know our VHTs operate on village time (consider time in events rather than minutes), so I wanted to be flexible. I was cursing myself under my breath and racking my brain to figure out what I could have done differently when I reached my trembling hand into my pocket to retrieve my phone and make yet another phone call. Before I finished the first phone call, a group of VHTs had arrived and, after just a few more minutes, nearly all of our VHTs were occupying the dusty benches.

Seeing all the VHTs very excited and expectant gave me courage to spice up the training as much as I could. To ensure that they take ownership of the programs from the word go, I gave them a platform to take the lead during focus group discussions and encouraged them to present information to the group on the various program areas they lead in their villages. The zeal they showed indicated the participatory activities were well received and effective.

I want to thank our staff members in Iganga for helping to deliver such a successful training. I would also like to thank you, our supporters, for constantly encouraging our work by reading these stories, commenting on our Facebook posts, and contributing financially to the benefit of rural villages.

Thank you!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tailoring to Heal the Deep Scars of Fistula

by Edmond Okiboko, Managing Director

Sarah showing us her advanced sewing skills.
It’s only been a few months, but the fear of wetting her clothes is a faint memory.

“I had lost hope in life, I had no dreams, but that is all history. I’m ready to work on my big plans to change my situation. I’m on my journey for a new beginning,” Sarah declares.

We visited with Sarah a few months ago, and she shared her story of how she developed obstetric fistula and her journey to treatment. That was shortly after her return home from the reintegration camp. Now, she sits cheerful, even happier than when we met with her months ago.

Sarah moved back to her community and identified a location to start her tailoring business in a nearby trading center. To continue improving her skills, Sarah is working under an artisan mentor, Rebecca, who has been in the business for more than 30 years. Through this mentorship, Sarah is now able to make different products beyond what she learned during her reintegration program. Her emotions have changed from despair to optimism.

Proud, Sarah says, “I am now able to meet the basic needs of my four children from the tailoring business”.

Sarah is a beaming with hope, energy, and persistence. She is fully integrated within the community and no trace of fistula signs can be seen. Happiness is all she shows on her face with a bright future ahead.

Sarah and her mentor, Rebecca, sewing together in the trading center.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Musical Motorcar Mobilization

by Bailey Miller,  Alumni, 2016 Intern Cohort, Bufutula B Village

Bailey Pic 1
From the back of a moving pickup truck, dust kicking up behind us, my teammates and I can see the eyes of community 
members near and far light up as we shout details of the upcoming event through a megaphone. Drama group members joined us, playing drums and singing, making it impossible not to dance.

The HIV Outreach is the best event we do all summer because Uganda Village Project partners with the doctors and nurses from a government health center to provide testing for HIV and malaria, treatment for malaria, HIV counseling, deworming services, and vaccinations for children - all free of cost to community members! In addition to all of those amazing services, UVP also hires a Ugandan drama group to help mobilize for the event, perform songs related to HIV prevention and conduct entertaining skits. As interns, our role is to sensitize, or educate, the community about HIV transmission, signs and symptoms, prevention, treatment, and resistant medicines.

Motorcar MobilizationAs we returned to the site of the event, the children were chasing the truck and wanting the dancing to continue. Rose, one of my international teammates, and I continued dancing with the children. They were in pieces laughing so hard at Rose and I, and it proved very effective at attracting more people to the event. 

In total we had 270 people get tested for HIV in the village of about 300 households. Amazing turnout! The leadership skills of our Village Health Team members (VHTs) shined so brightly that day as they conducted the sensitization. This was a huge success for us as interns because one of our goals is to empower our VHTs to carry on this work when we leave and until the next cohort of UVP interns arrives.

UVP creates breath-taking moments by providing life-saving services through partnerships and empowering VHTs and their communities to advocate for their health. Just in a single HIV outreach day, so many lives were changed for the better. 

Are you interested in joining our intern cohort? Check out our website or contact to learn more details of how you can implement health programming at the grassroots level.

If you would like to join us in providing life-saving health education in rural villages, you can contribute here and specify the health program of your choice.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mystery Can Mean Misunderstanding

By Edmund Okiboko, Managing Director

UVP intern Augustine engages with community members at an
HIV outreach in Kamira.
When a woman suddenly died, the mystery sent the community abuzz. The consensus was that she was infected with HIV. Ngobi, the husband she left behind, was distraught and confused, and began to believe their speculations and assumed he was also HIV positive.

Months later, during UVP’s biannual HIV outreach in the village, Nurse Nalwogo learned of this man’s situation and, as a long-time partner with UVP, new she needed to attempt to speak to him. She walked the short distance to his home, less than a 3 minute walk, and said, “kodi” (knock, knock, anyone home?). Ngobi welcomed Nurse Nalwoga hesitantly. After traditional greetings and inquiries of the health of family members and livestock, Nurse Nalwoga gently directed the conversation to the event, visible from Ngobi’s house. With a little more encouragement, Ngobi agreed to go with Nurse Nalwoga to take an HIV test.

To Ngobi’s surprise, he tested negative for HIV. He was not convinced of his status by this one test, so he pursued another one the following week at his local health center. It, too, was negative! Ngobi was so happy that he visited Nurse Nalwoga at her regular health center in Namungalwe to share the news. The two rejoiced.
Fast forward six months: UVP is conducting the second HIV outreach in the village for the year. Ngobi arrives to the event and immediately seeks out Nurse Nalwoga; her brief visit and encouragement to test has changed his life. The extra 10 minutes she spent seeking him out, patiently explaining the benefits of confirming his status, and educating him on ways to prevent new infections of HIV is how UVP strives to be different. Health is a journey and there are many influences in each person’s story.

“When UVP started working closely with our health center, we have also been able to reach out to villages and interact with the people we serve,” Nurse Nalwoga reflects. By building relationships with nurses at nearby health centers, UVP breaks down obstacles keeping rural communities from accessing health services.
Nurse Nalwoga appreciates UVP’s partnership approach noting that “Uganda Village Project effectively engages VHTs in all its programming and empowers them to refer patients to the health center from an informed point of view.”
She adds, “This has also greatly improved on the knowledge base of community members because they now know where to get health care services hence, making a difference.”

Ngobi’s story has been used with his permission, though his name has been changed to protect his privacy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Safina’s Journey and Victory

By Maria Gorret Nampiima, Alumni, 2016/2017 Intern Cohort, Nabirere and Kamira

An energetic and confident woman, Safiina sits, smiling, during the education portion of our recent family planning outreach in Bufutula. Pursuing family planning services has not been an easy journey for Safiina: she has struggled with complications from contraceptives, battled stigma from her neighbors, and resistance from her own children.

As opposed to other health interventions, family planning causes the most debate among policy makers, religious leaders, and neighbors. Despite the negative perceptions people have towards adopting family planning methods, the prevailing circumstances in most of the developing countries have left many with no other option: in Uganda there has been an upward curve of contraception use of nearly 20% (Andi, Wamala, Ocaya, and Kabagenyi, 2014). But this increase does not come to those who lack strength.

Safiina, a mother of eight children and one of our clients in Bufutula village, shared her story about why she started using contraceptives. Similar to most women in rural villages prior to the implementation of UVP health programming, she did not want to use family planning services. She had been told falsely that contraceptives cause conditions like hemorrhage and infertility because it destroys the ovaries. Since her family depended on subsistence farming as the only source of income, she and her husband lacked enough capacity to provide basic needs to their children; clothing, education, and medical treatment all seemed out of reach. As a result of having very limited resources, she lost a child. After attending a community sensitization held by UVP and considering her personal situation, Safiina began taking contraceptives.

With 47% of people receiving their information primarily by word of mouth (Population and Housing Census, 2014), it’s no wonder rural women in Uganda do not utilize contraceptives more; nearly half of the information they receive is tainted with bias and subjectivity, which allows misconception to run rampant. UVP addresses this gap with a unique, relationship-based approach. But this takes time. And communities need people like Safiina.

Realizing her influence on her children, Safiina urged her eldest daughter to pursue contraceptive methods. At a tender age of 17, Safiina’s first born dropped out of school and is now a mother to a one-year old boy. Safiina now sees that her children’s lives could be different if she had been in a position to space her children. She wants a better life for her grandchildren.

After trying multiple methods to find the most compatible option for her body, Safiina has settled with a quarterly injection of Depo. Having taken on the initiative to utilize the family planning services, she is not worried about having pregnancies she has not planned for. Additionally, she feels energetic enough to work for her children. Although she has benefited from the program, she claims her husband is not supportive, which can make her contraceptive use challenging to continue. Despite this challenge, Safiina acts as an ambassador for the UVP family planning program.

Community members like Safiina greatly appreciate our partners and stakeholders who work hand-in-hand with us to ensure that we increase access of health interventions to people in rural communities of Iganga. On this note, we call upon all social change agents to come on board to support our programs morally and financially to continue to strengthen UVP’s capacity in addressing social inequities and injustices through facilitating health and well-being of rural communities in Uganda through access, prevention, and education.

Want to help us continue to support Safiina and other women in Bufutula? Make a contribution and specify the family planning program. And follow us on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook to see your UVP family in action in the villages. Safiina's story has been used with her permission.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

She Can Be Both: Farmer and “Musawo”

By Tulibagenyi Patrick, Program Manager, WASH

Her hands are dirty, but not because she hasn’t washed them recently. She’s been working in her garden all morning, like she does almost every day, weeding, pruning, and caring for her small crop. Catherine Namatende from Muira village is a sustenance farmer; she grows food for her family to eat and a little more to sell to cover life’s typical expenses such as health care and school fees. Staying healthy is important to Catherine; if she is too sick to work or if she has to take a child to the health center, her crop can falter and her family can go hungry. There’s a lot at stake.

Catherine also acts as a Village Health Team member (VHT), one of five people in her community dedicated to spreading positive and accurate health messages to prevent illness. UVP works directly with VHTs like Catherine to ensure they maintain updated knowledge and provide support for the work they carry out in the villages. These are the first contact persons in the village and they contribute greatly in disseminating information about health related programs in the villages.

For the past four months, Catherine and her colleagues have been moving around the village talking with neighbors about the need for good hygiene and sanitation, and have helped community members to install hand washing facilities (also known as tippy taps), dig rubbish pits, put up plate stands, and, above all, improving or constructing latrines. In fact, Catherine reported to UVP staff recently that since June, 30 tippy taps have been constructed. More importantly, she notes that she has strengthened her relationships with her community members.

Despite the fact that VHT work is voluntary, Catherine is proud of the respect that comes with her title, and enjoys her new nickname, “Musawo”, or person with health knowledge. She is constantly consulted on health-related problems and she has been in the position to guide community members and also refer them to the health center for further assistance. Catherine is proud to work with UVP; through the training provided, she has acquired more skills and knowledge related to the health problems in her home and she shares her experience with her neighbors.  

Want to help us continue to support Catherine and other VHTs in Muira? Make a contribution and specify the WASH program. And follow us on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook to see your UVP family in action in the villages. Catherine's story has been used with her permission.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Condom Demonstrations Attract Attention

by AnQuavis Simpson, Cally Braun, Wagaba Brenda, Arinaitwe Emmanuel, Emily Leibo, Christie Tzelios, and Bamwoze Christine

Irenzi interns demonstrating the proper use of a
female condom.
This was a big day for the interns in Irenzi. A few days before the family planning day, Irenzi interns started mobilizing by placing posters throughout the village and verbally inviting people to attend the event at the local trading center.

The day began with mobilization by biking through the village. While mobilizing, Emmanuel met a group of around 10 men in the trading center. These men had eager questions about family planning, so Emmanuel tried to answer some and promised to answer others when they come for the sensitization.

Around 40 women attended the event and the intern team presented their skit which included information about family planning methods and sexually transmitted diseases in addition to discussions with Loy and the Nurse David who answered questions and taught the women about obstetric fistula and cervical cancer.

Although the women were engaging in the sensitization, the men had not shown up, so the interns decided to collect them from the nearby shops and places that they normally gather to spend their leisure time playing games. As these interns were mobilizing, they realized that the men were still resistant and because they thought family planning sessions were only for women. 

If the men wouldn’t come to the sensitization, how could the interns bring the information directly to them in their game-playing environment? The interns quickly brainstormed and decided to request to have the sensitization between two tables of Ludo. Most of men accepted and a few refused but they decided to follow majority vote.

Similar to the sensitization provided for the women, the interns talked about sexually transmitted infections, contraceptive options, and demonstrated condom use. The men were more interested in seeing how a female condom is correctly used, so the interns started with that. Slowly, the demonstrations attracted more men from the trading center. They also educated why men should be involved in family planning and later men appreciated the interns’ efforts.

Interns conducting a soccer match to engage adolescents in a discussion about reproductive health. 

After all the educational sessions, participants were invited to see Nurse David for contraceptive services and cervical cancer screening. As women went for the above services, some interns were giving out free condoms. It was a successful day that the Irenzi team is proud to remember.

To learn more about how we implement reproductive health programming in our communities, visit our website.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Tapping into the Lives of Kamira

By: Jasmine Zhang, Josev Aquino, Maria Gorret

Kamira Intern Team poses with a tippy tap (from left to right):
Josev, Doreen, Kai, Catherine, Maria, and Jasmine
Imagine this: you've just come from the toilet or latrine, your hands are soiled, and there is no running water nor a simple bowl of water for you to rinse off your hands. For those of us that live in countries where running water is ubiquitous, this situation would never cross our minds; however, the case is different for the local primary school where, not only is running water unavailable, but where the local borehole is a significant forty-minute walk away (heavy 20 liter jerry cans not included). And for those who do live close to the borehole, a majority of them have limited knowledge regarding water access and sanitation, such as the simple fact that washing your hands after coming into contact with feces prevents major, life-threatening diseases such as cholera or dysentery. 

Enter the tippy tap. It is small, cost-effective hand washing device constructed from wooden poles, a five liter jerry can previously used to hold milk or cooking oil, a few nails, wire, and string. The jerry can is suspended by wire to the top pole and can be tipped by a piece of wire or string attached to the lid. The string/wire is attached to a piece of wood on the ground, which tips when one stands on it. Thus, when tipped, the can dispenses a small amount of water enough to wash hands. Typically, a piece of soap or a container of ash is tied next to the jerry can. In Kamira, villagers can purchase a tippy tap for 1000 shillings (approximately USD $0.28). 

When we were touring the schools during our second week, we noticed that none of the three schools in the Kamira village had tippy taps. After we conducted our first WASH sensitization at the Kamira Seventh Day Adventist school, where we taught the children the importance of hand washing, treating water, and keeping it clean, we recognized how futile it is to stress the importance of hand washing when they did not even have a tippy tap. So, a week after, we built two for free and consequently, brought a facet of reality to our lesson.  

Our education session, in collaboration with the school, not only served as a motivating catalyst for us to encourage other schools to purchase tippy taps but also provided the schoolchildren with valuable and sustainable knowledge to take home. Up to date, we have built a total of eight tippy taps at the local schools inKamira. Although this seems like a meager amount, we know we've made a difference, albeit small: the kids always sing the "naaba mungalo" (hand washing) song--even when we're not at the schools--and regularly use the tippy taps. Sure, this may seem like only a drop in the bucket (pun intended), but Uganda Village Project has almost three years left to educate Kamira Village, and we've only been here for two months. We've planted the seeds. We're confident that they'll grow.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Profound, Little Conversations

by Yesigomwe Kennedy 

Interns Jessi and Kennedy act out a skit at a family planning
outreach in Muira. Here they are demonstrating just one way
having many children can strain a family.
Sometimes, the most profound moments of a baseline survey are not the ones scripted and choreographed by the data collection tool, but the ones that happen in the little conversations. One day, as I set off with Langa to conduct baseline surveys, we met Hassan, a young man of 28 years from Muira village with seven children between 1 - 8 years. He said, “I don’t want my wife to use family planning because I still want more children.”

Like Hassan, many people mistake family planning to mean that a family simply stops having children. On the contrary, with family planning you can have the number of children you want and gives you the ability to provide for your family based on your specific available resources, ensuring that your child grows healthy, with all the necessities like food, good education, love, and medical care, just to mention a few. Child spacing also considers the health of the mother by spacing births far enough apart to allow a woman to heal properly.

Based on his comment, I recognized an opportunity for one-on-one education. I took Hassan to the side and had a little talk with him about family planning, briefly discussing its advantages and how child spacing supported the health of the mother and the family as a whole. By the end of our talk, he was very interested in learning more about family planning and intended to attend our sensitization the following week.

On another baseline survey day, Langa and I found a group of ladies belonging to a savings group
Team Muira from left to right: Kennedy, Alex, VHT, Jessi,
Langa, Keiko, and Emily
and sparked a discussion about family size with them. It was so amazing to see these ladies energetically discussing the advantages of family planning and sharing scenarios about smaller families compared to bigger families. They were grateful to us for starting this conversation and looked forward to attending the upcoming education sessions.

These little discussions with our neighbors in the village provide a platform for us to create deeper relationships and allow us to better convey how we care about their health. UVP’s approach is more about building relationships and health knowledge which creates a more profound impact and we are happy to be a part of it.

To learn more about team Muira and other interns in UVP's 2017 cohort, check out their bios or learn more about their work by liking us on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Stories Reveal the Truth About Health in Bulondo

by Sabrina Warwar and Nancy Fitzgerald

Bulondo team members walking in the village
to collect baseline surveys. From front to back:
Sabrina, Jeanne, Osborne, and VHT Alex

 Team Bulondo is comprised of two Ugandans, one Australian, one Swiss and two Americans living and breathing together in the same house. Like the other UVP teams we have been conducting baseline surveys over the past couple of weeks, and these surveys have become the forefront of learning about the Ugandan way of life. Being able to have a hybrid of culture and personalities has been crucial to our success here in Bulondo, and this has been reflected in our incredible community response during surveys. Surveys have become the windows into people’s lives, allowing us an opportunity to bond, laugh and understand the intricacies of Bulondo’s everyday issues.

Greeting everyone we see has become a way of life, and continually expanding our word bank of Lusoga has proven to be the international interns’ most valuable tool.  As told to us by a Ugandan himself, learning Lusoga and attempting to adapt to the way of life here is a small but powerful way of showing respect.

Sitting down with families, mothers, wives, husbands, and fathers to discuss some of the most pressing issues has opened up more conversations both within and outside of households. The surveys raise questions about HIV, malaria, family planning, obstetric fistula and WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene). We have also taken the time to ask about other issues people are facing which prevents them from being able to live the best life possible. The realities faced by so many in the Bulondo community has made us incredibly aware of the cycle that allows so many issues to persist. Misconceptions about family planning causes fear and families end up having more children than they can provide for. This financial burden makes it difficult to afford food, and much less an education to broaden the available opportunities. Poverty and lack of education has lead inadequate nutrition making people more susceptible to disease. The lack of job opportunity and job security means people constantly fear becoming sick as they will need to stop working in order to afford healthcare or to stay home. Lack of job opportunities exist even among the educated here in Bulondo, teachers are delayed payment and paid very little  giving little incentive for future generations to pursue an education over quick money making jobs. These are some of the issues that we have identified through our baseline surveys and discussions with community members from all over Bulondo.

It takes time to create a rapport with the community. Nancy
and Sabrina with two Bulondo VHTs listen to stories from
community members while collecting baseline surveys
 Many people in Bulondo are unaware of the safe water chain: keeping water safe from the source to the mouth. Some don’t know that water from the borehole is not safe to drink without treatment. When we interviewed one particular woman, we asked how she prevented her water from becoming contaminated. She said she had no idea! After the survey, she eagerly asked what she can do to keep her water safe. We had the opportunity to explain that boiling water kills the bacteria that can make her and her family sick. She was grateful to have this information, and we were excited to be working a with a woman who was looking forward to improving her health. Through her initiative and our knowledge, she was empowered to keep her family safe. It was amazing to provide practical knowledge to make an impact on this woman’s life by addressing common misconceptions about different issues.

Here in Bulondo we believe in the power of listening and having a notebook and pen to document and learn from the stories of each person we meet. It is in these stories that answers can be found for a healthier future. That future may not come today or tomorrow, but the first step toward equal opportunity and good health begins with each person’s story, just as we have written ours here in Bulondo. 

To learn more about team Bulondo and other interns in UVP's 2017 cohort, check out their bios or learn more about their work by liking us on Facebook.