Thursday, December 8, 2011

Giving to the World for the Holidays

There's no better gift than the gift of happiness and health. That's what the holidays are really all about: being thankful for the happiness and health that we have been blessed with, and trying to share as much of it with others as we can. In the spirit of making the holidays meaningful and joyful, Uganda Village Project has once again created an online gift catalogue for holiday gifts called Give to the World.

The gifts available are:

Program areas that are most in need right now are in bold. Gifts in other amounts can be made if desired to any program. Recognition of your generous gift will be sent to the gift recipient at your request. Happy holidays!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tippy Taps for Africa - A Winning Idea!

A woman demonstrates hand washing with a tippy tap
Recently we got the exciting news that Ce Zhang, UVP alum and member of the board of trustees, teamed up with a classmate at Penn State University (Adam Mosa) and won the Johnson and Johnson Milking the Rhino 2011 award for Best Healthcare Solution.

Zhang and Mosa won the award using a program developed in partnership with Uganda Village Project called Tippy Taps for Africa. View the winning video here! Tippy Taps for Africa has been working with UVP ever since Ce Zhang served in our internship program in 2009. He was inspired by the tippy taps he saw and wanted to do more to study and promote the beneficial effects of this simple innovation made from local materials. With the help of UVP staff and board members, he assembled a team of Ugandan research assistants who helped him complete a research project showing that in a comparison of schools where tippy taps were installed versus control schools with just an education program about the importance of hand washing, schools with tippy taps showed significantly improved self reported number of hand washing episodes and a significantly decreased number of episodes of stomach pain. Also, 100% of students told their parents about the tippy taps and what they had learned.

To learn more about Tippy Taps for Africa, you can view an interview with Ce at this link where he explains his project as part of the Penn State Undergraduate Research Spotlight series.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dreams for Girls

by Beatrice Lamwaka

For young girls in Uganda, education is a health issue. Secondary school fees can burden families and children. Many girls turn to transactional sex in order to pay for their education. This puts them at risk for HIV/AIDS, young marriage and pregnancy. And perhaps most harmful of all: hopelessness.
Uganda Village Project’s scholarship program gives them more than financial support; it is a light to write by and learn by, to read by and to tell their stories in its glow. These are the stories of girls who one day will be strong and hopeful Ugandan women. Their dreams will nourish Uganda. Like Ruth Nakiwate, one of the many girls UVP supports, I dreamed of writing stories.
Many years ago when I was a little girl, in Alokolum Village, Gulu district, listening to my mother and father tell folktales, it never occurred to me that one day I would be writing my stories and share it with the world. I am now able reach an audience which my father and mother never attained. Something that was beyond my dream as a young girl but now it seems possible and I am enjoying the process of writing and the benefits. Getting on the shortlist for the Caine Prize for African Writing, the most prestigious prize in Africa has opened my door to the world. I hope and pray that I will be able to reach more people around the world with my writing and serve to inspire girls like Ruth to reach their potential. The United Kingdom was on my list of countries to visit and it came true as a result of my writing. I was able to read my work and have lunches with people that even in my dreams it could never happen.
After reading a number of books, some in Acholi, I dreamed of writing stories. My dream came true when I joined Uganda Women Writers Association (FEMRITE) in 1999, an organization that promotes and publishes women writers in Uganda. Most of the women are now my best friends, we share dreams, motivate each one to write, cry on each other shoulders, critique each other’s writing, have inspired me to go on with writing and they make it seem like it is possible to make our stories heard and that there was nothing in the world that we couldn’t get if we wanted. It is possible to make the voices of women and girls heard and it comes through active support and faith in each other. The girls who need that support now will someday be the ones providing the light.
I have been involved in a number of creative writing workshops organized by FEMRITE; with this I met established writers and those who shared my dreams. As I met other writers I realized that every writer was working hard in order to get where they were and I too needed to work hard so that I would achieve my dreams. The journey of writing has not been easy but the success made has erased every tear. In 2009, I was shortlisted for the South African PEN/Studzinski literary award, it made me realized that I was in the right direction with my life, but the 2011 Caine Prize shortlist has given me the confidence that I will be the writer that I want to be or the writer that I always dreamt of being.

Whatever a Ugandan girl dreams, whatever her aspirations, educational support is the pathway to reaching her goal. For her health, her well-being, and her place in Uganda and indeed the world, every girl deserves the chance to realize the dream.
Everything starts with a little step as long as you always have your eyes on the prize, you will get there. Each day, I wake up and I know that I am a writer and I need to work hard so that I can tell more stories and in the end inspire young Ugandans to tell their own.

Beatrice Lamwaka was shortlisted for the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing for her story "Butterfly Dreams."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Feel Good About What You Do

Our Summer 2011 interns celebrated their hard work and a job well-done. You can feel this good too:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Inside the Villages: Four New Wells Commissioned

Earlier this month we formally commissioned four new wells. The first in Lubira is 27 feet deep and serves 200 households. Before the construction of this well, villagers in Lubira had been using a church well about 2km away. When that well broke, it had to be abandoned forcing people to walk even greater distances to fetch water wherever they could find it. Now Lubira has its own well. In Ibulanku there are two new wells: ‘A’ is 23 feet deep and ‘B’ is 11 feet deep, each serves 50 households. Villagers in Ibulanku are already remarking on a decrease in stomach issues there. The construction of the new well in Buyanga was the trickiest; it had to be dug twice. The ground there is sandy and the well walls collapsed. But hard core and piping strengthened the 11 ft. well and it now serves 70 households. At the commissioning UVP was presented with a bucket of mangoes and a rooster in gratitude.
Safe water is integral to overall health in the villages of Iganga District. A lack of municipal water infrastructure and dependence on contaminated water sources has resulted in severe illness and death in these communities. But by helping to construct village wells for nearly four years, UVP has helped more than 8,400 people gain access to safe water and live healthier lives.
Learn more:

Sujal Parikh Social Justice Fellow Cat Kirk in her own words

I am a master’s student from the University of Michigan School of Public Health where I am studying Health Behavior and Health Education. My area of interest is global health with an emphasis on HIV prevention, awareness, and stigma reduction. I became interested in global health as a WorldTeach volunteer in Namibia, where I saw firsthand the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS and have been actively involved in HIV/AIDS advocacy as a chairperson of the World AIDS Week Committee at the University of Michigan. The Sujal Parikh Social Justice Fellowship is an incredible, and necessary, opportunity to gain a better understanding of the health needs of elderly villagers and particularly their perceptions of the impact HIV/AIDS has on their lives. The elderly are a frequently overlooked population in the prevention of HIV/AIDS. And I am hopeful that through researching the needs of the elderly, Uganda Village Project will be better able to meet the health needs of elderly villagers and provide HIV/AIDS prevention programs that will be appropriate for this age group. I am honored to carry out this work with Uganda Village Project in the memory of Sujal Parikh, who was an inspiration in his dedication to global health and social justice.

Cat Kirk is the first person awarded the Sujal Parikh Social Justice Fellowship; she will begin her work involving HIV/AIDS and the elderly this summer. Sujal Parikh was a medical student, AIDS researcher, and tireless advocate for global health and social justice.
Learn more:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Inside the Villages: HIV testing in Buwolmera

Forty-five-year-old Monica lives in Buwolmera, one of our Healthy Villages. When her husband heard that UVP would be conducting HIV testing, he declared it a day for “knowing our status.” He said that Monica and her co-wife should ignore tending the garden for the afternoon and instead participate with him in UVP’s HIV and syphilis testing day in the village.
Monica was excited that her husband was supportive and that he had encouraged both of his wives to go for testing. Most of all, she was happy to have the opportunity to know her status. She says the importance of testing is critical especially in a marriage where a husband has multiple wives. That’s because there is an extremely high risk of infection in polygamous settings.
In Uganda, new HIV/AIDS infections are very high among married people. Polygamy has been cited by the Uganda AIDS Commission as the cause of a recent increase in HIV/AIDS rates. Multiple sexual relationships spread infection. Monogamous marriages with extra-marital sexual partners contribute 46% of the new infections.
--by Maureen Nakalinzi

Learn more:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Meet Stella

“Educate a girl and you educate a community” goes an African proverb. And if the girl is Stella Nangobi, perhaps you can educate a nation. Stella, 19, dreams of becoming president of Uganda someday – if not a lawyer or teacher. Thanks to her education, she is able to chose her own path. Stella is a senior six (12th grade) secondary school student whose favorite classes are history and divinity. She is the only girl from a family of six children. Because her mother remarried, Stella was shuttled between relatives, and left in their care; it is a Busoga custom that a woman cannot take the children from a previous marriage into her new marriage. When she’s not studying, Stella likes to swim, read, play volleyball, go out with friends, and follow Manchester United football club. Because of her academic accomplishments, she is able to go to school for free. Uganda Village Project provides the only secondary school scholarship for both girls and boys in Iganga District and enables hard-working students like Stella to succeed - for herself and for her community.

Educated girls are less likely to get HIV/AIDS and marry young. They go on to earn higher incomes, plan their families, educate their children - and prove old proverbs to be true.

Learn more:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Overcoming Fistula and Isolation

By Dr. Brian Hancock
Specialist Fistula surgeon; Chairman and Founder Uganda Childbirth Injury Fund

Obstetric fistula is as old as the human race and it damages the bodies and lives of far too many women around the world. But fistula is treatable and preventable; alleviating the suffering and marginalization that comes with it is possible.

Better access to good obstetric care is fundamental in preventing this dreadful injury. Death or injury in labor is still all too common in countries where there is inadequate access to skilled obstetric care. In Uganda, 60% of women attempt to deliver at home. There, and in other resource-poor African countries, it is estimated that a woman has a 5% lifetime chance of dying in childbirth. Obstruction is a leading cause of death and disability. It requires an emergency Caesarean section and many women live far from the help they need or arrive too late for it.

Fistula patients are the survivors. They have usually labored for days and eventually delivered a still birth or may have been relieved too late by Caesarean. The prolonged pressure of the baby’s head in the pelvis wears a hole (fistula is Latin for “hole” or “hollow”) between the bladder and vagina. This vesico-vaginal fistula leads to life-long total incontinence of urine. In some cases, the rectum is damaged as well, leading to double incontinence.

The woman is left in a miserable state. Her chance of having more children is ruined - in 50% of obstetric fistula cases the injury occurs with the first delivery. Surgery is badly needed but it is rarely simple. The extent of damage varies enormously; in some, the hole is small and quite easy to close. But a few will have lost almost all their bladder tissue and sadly, are therefore incurable. The majority have intermediate damage that requires considerable surgical skill to repair.

Some women give up all hope of being cured; having been told that surgery was impossible in their government hospital and wary of the expense at a private hospital. Their marriages disintegrate. They end up in hiding, ashamed to go out. They become social outcasts, shunned and ridiculed because of the smell of leaking urine or faeces; they live a sad and isolated existence.

Dr. Hancock assists Dr. Matovu at Kamuli. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Brian Hancock)

I first encountered fistula in 1969 while working as a surgeon in Kamuli Mission Hospital. I was subsequently lucky enough to train at the world famous Addis Ababa fistula hospital. And since retiring from consultant practice in the UK in 2000, I spend three months a year devoted to fistula repairs in several African countries including Uganda where I am a regular visitor to my old hospital in Kamuli. Two or three times a year, I offer a fistula repair service and have been recently joined by Dr. Glyn Constantine, who will one day take over the work from me.

Obstetric fistula is as harmful to a woman’s health and well-being today as it was more than forty years ago. However, with appropriate skill about 80% of patients can be made completely continent again. Furthermore, many will have children again although they are strongly advised to have an elective Caesarean section. We can make great strides in healing these women but first we must find them.

For the last three years, Uganda Village Project has assisted us in finding women suffering from fistula by taking the initiative in searching for patients on a village-by-village basis and bringing them to Kamuli. We can operate in 20-25 cases per visits and have operated on over 500 in the last ten years. The treatment is free. This surgery encompasses the speciality of urology, gynaecology and colo-proctology and can only be learned by a long period of work in Africa with regular apprenticeship to another fistula surgeon. At Kamuli, we have a good theatre and usually two resident Ugandan doctors attending. We trained resident surgeon, Dr. Matovu, adding to his ceaseless workload where routine care and emergencies occupy most of his time. The fistula operations are done under spinal anaesthetic and require good post operative care for at least two weeks.

UVP drives our patients back to their homes diminishing the risk that they will re-open their fistula by walking long distances. Moreover, I am delighted that the UVP team follows-up with individual patients later and provides us with feedback on their progress, returning any who are not cured as some can be helped by a second operation.

Loy conducts a fistula education session for UVP. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Brian Hancock)

As with all care, it is critical to recognize complications early. The first step in prevention is to encourage ante natal care and deliveries in a healthcare facility. UVP is doing some wonderful work in education about the cause and prevention of fistula through, for example, teaching with flip charts in the villages. And UVP has trained a former patient named Loy to do this as well. She is in an ideal position to explain the problem to her community. She proves that not only is successful maternal healthcare possible but she also shows that re-integration can be realized and that the isolation from fistula can be overcome. Our efforts to cure and prevent this tragic injury will continue for the sake of all women in need of those goals.

Assessing new patients. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Brian Hancock)

Dr. Hancock is the author of the book “Practical Obstetric Fistula Surgery,” available at or

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What's on in Fundraising Month

What do squashed bugs, rockclimbers, nurses and medical technicians have in common?

They’re all doing their bit to raise money for UVP during April 2011 - UVP Fundraising Month.

Each April, as our summer interns are busy fundraising for their trip to Uganda, we encourage alumni and supporters of Uganda Village Project to raise money for our programs and ensure we can make as great a difference as possible over the summer.

This month, UVP Board Members, Trustees and supporters have really stepped up to the plate, organizing a wide range of creative fundraisers to support UVP’s programs.

  • Throughout April, Brooklyn Boulders, together with the SUNY Downstate Global Health Club (and UVP Alumnus Cameron Gibson), is helping rockclimbing enthusiasts make a difference. Each Monday during April, climbers can ‘Climb for a Cause’ and Brooklyn Boulders will donate 30% of the proceeds to UVP. Check out the details at:
  • Trustee Archana Jayakumar is asking her friends to ‘squish the bug’ to raise money to pay for high quality subsidized mosquito nets to prevent malaria in our Healthy Villages Donors who contribute to a mosquito net will earn the right to write their name on an image of a squashed mosquito.
  • UVP Director Alison Hayward is sharing her skills to raise money for UVP. Alison will be running an ACLS course for nurses and medical technicians to teach them how to deal with patients in cardiac arrest. Profits from the course will go to UVP – assisted by a discount rate on equipment and space from the medical centre. So course participants will not only learn to save lives in the US, but will also help to save lives in Iganga.
  • Trustee Abhijeet Namjoshi is not only holding a fundraising dinner, but also setting up a stall in a shopping mall where shoppers can learn about UVP and make a donation to help our programs this summer.

Feeling inspired? Visit our Fundraising and Media Center for more ideas:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Digging it Forward

Sanitation may not be sexy to the rest of the world, but it is essential in keeping a community healthy. When UVP does a sanitation push in a community (mobilizing the community to dig trash pits and latrines, build plate stands to dry dishes, and make hand washing devices called tippy-taps) a community is equipped to improve its sanitation household by household.

Our “all hands on deck” approach to sanitation pushes can result in an interesting assortment of people digging and hammering in one of our 10 Healthy Villages. Beyond community members and staff, district officials, and even volunteers from other communities. In March, a Peace Corps Volunteer lent his energy to one of our pushes.

More than a welcome set of hands, Nick also took what he learned from UVP and has begun applying it in his own village. He shared a bit of experience with his family and friends:

Work has been going well; my Pit Latrine project has really taken off by itself. I started digging one pit latrine, (I learned from the Uganda Village Project in Iganga) then Julia came to my site and three pit latrines were built by people I have never met. Then I came back a week later and 20-30 people have built Pit Latrines. I was really proud of the villagers about taking over the project and really wanting to create change in their community. I am doing well with other projects. The school I teach at wants me to teach about sanitation and life skills every Wednesday. I really like the kids I teach, they have actually followed me home (which is about 30 yards from the school) and asked for more homework, something I don’t think that ever occurred to me to ask my teachers when I was their age. –Nick Duncan

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Weekly Reports from Iganga: March, Week 4

From the Safe Water Coordinator, Patrick Tulibagenyi

Safe Water
·         Patrick has done an AMAZING job juggling five wells (four for Rotary and the last ChooseANeed well). Despite difficulties with one village he has managed to complete one well and has three others in various stages of completion!
·         Ibulanku B (one of the four Rotary wells) broke ground this week, Titus carried out the pre assessment, and the slab was cast. The community was so active and at the same time work was going on at Ibulanku A (another of the Rotary wells)
·          Attempted to hold a community meeting at Butyabule in Buyanga Sub County, but it was postponed to 30th of March to try to attain better turnout. We went to Butyabule village to have the meeting but still the turn up was poor and from our observation after taking a walk around and asking some community members a few questions we realized that the community was not so demanding and not interested. Titus also went and had a meeting with the sub county officials concerning the shallow well project in their area and asked them to participate in the process.
·         We went for another meeting at Lubira village which was very good, the water and sanitation committee was also elected and the community was ready to get started the following day.
·         On the 31st of March 2011, the ground was broken at Lubira village.
·         We then went and met with the LC 1 of Buyanga C village in Buyanga Sub County and in the same meeting we scheduled a big community meeting for the 5th of April. Buyanga C village was selected by the LC3 chairperson of the Sub County after failing to have a successful meeting with Butyabule village.
·         Friday we had the Buwolomera well commissioning with a small turnout.
·         Patrick continues to monitor Lubira and Ibulanku A well construction process. One well is almost done and in the next week we will have done a great deal with the digging process.
·         Ine inputted some data of the shallow well database data but there is still a lot missing, especially with the older wells. Patrick will pull out his old paper files next week for her to go through and try to fill in some of the gaps. He is also working with the GPS because the initial readings for the well were incorrect.
·         Nawaningi Sub county offices are ever closed every time Patrick visits.

From our Program Manager, Linnea Ashley:
·         Loy followed-up on our last patient and found she was wet.
·         She found four new patients.
·         We discussed the need to slow down on finding new patients given that we only have a few spaces for the June camp. Next week we will map out the next few weeks of work for her and her budget (some changes may need to be made regarding her work schedule).
·         Followed up with Dr. Constantine about some of the challenges with the fistula program (including payment of patients, follow-up procedures, and consistency of names and other intake information). I provided him with some ideas for improvement that can be incorporated on UVP’s side, including providing a interpreter for the first three days of the camp, providing name tags for UVPs fistula patients, and standardizing who gets money and how. I wait to hear back from him on the initial ideas. We hope to be able to incorporate them by the June camp.

 Orphan Support
·         Patrick went to Busalamu Secondary School to pay UNEB (Uganda National Examination Board) fee for the orphans/vulnerable children benefiting from the program. He also bought a text book for Patrick O. of Iganga Parents Secondary School.
·         Charles, Dumba, Martha, Zauja/Suzan, and Deborah would like to attend technical schools and have brought in the required information. They have been instructed to bring their guardians on Monday to sign a contract that stipulates exactly what we will pay (tuition up to 400,000) and the requirements of the family regarding cost, and grounds for dismissal from the program. We will redo our finance estimates to amend scholarship program figures as they will be higher than anticipated this quarter as a result.
·         Josephine brought her UNEB results and would like to prepare for university. She will work with Maureen to apply to the appropriate schools. Currently money is not in the budget for her to take computer classes but I will look more closely to see if it can be arranged.
·         Moses Nangobi received his UNEB results and apparently did well. He believes he can get into Gulu University. I explained (again) that we could not promise university fees but that we would inquire about a sponsor for him. In the meantime he will fill out the appropriate paperwork to apply in case the money is found.

From our Healthy Villages Program Coordinator, Alanta Colley:
Village Health Teams (VHTs)
This week Ine and Vicki worked on the ID cards for the VHT; collating the information needed for each card. They met with the Walukuba VHT on Monday, as the last village to take their photos. Following requests from Nabitovu and Nabukone VHT about sensitising the village, Ine prepared posters and information to support the VHT in conducting the education outreach on Family Planning. They are currently in Nabitovu with the VHT conducting the education.  Ine also accompanied me on Mosquito net follow up in Namungalwe. 

Internship Program 
Developments in the intern program:
·         I assigned the Ugandan interns to their respective teams.
·         I edited the Team Leader Manual for dissemination to the international internst.
·         I wrote 3 of the Healthy Village Profiles, which Linnea is currently editing, and which will go on the website as well as to the interns.
·         I worked with Maureen to print and photocopy the about manuals, the waiver and emergency contact form for the Ugandan interns to fill at their meeting this weekend.
·         I edited the Orientation Schedule.
This week I conducted Mosquito Net follow up in Namungalwe with Ine. Unfortunately we only completed four houses before we were chased out of Namungalwe by a thunderstorm. We will go back to complete more follow up soon.
I have ordered 150 nets from Balton Company, which Titus will collect next week. Unfortunately this will only amount to 15 nets per village. I would love if we could continue to push the ChooseANeed nets campaign.
The Field Officers will begin to work with the Village Health Teams to run sensitisations on malaria in the coming weeks, with the hope of selling nets and emphasising that malaria exists year round. 

Hygiene and Sanitation 
Namungulwe Sanitation Push
The Namungalwe Sanitation Push was concluded on Monday, however the Village Health Team is very keen to continue the push without UVP involvement.
Sanitation Follow Up
Today (Friday) Titus, Maureen and I met to have a discussion about how to conduct sanitation follow up. We decided to pilot a sanitation follow up in Nabitovu. I am currently designing the follow up form. We decided the follow up program should begin with an initial consultation with the VHT, to get feedback on how sanitation has(or hasn’t) progressed since the sanitation push, and outline that the Follow Up will focus on encouraging villagers to make sanitation improvements, but not implementing the measures for them, as this will only increase the culture of dependency and lack of ownership. We intend to check tippy taps and instruct people to fill them, bring soap, and undertake repairs while we are there. We will carry some basic tools to assist this, but not all the materials like a sanitation campaign.

Family Planning
Family Planning outreaches took place this week in Bunio, Namungalwe and Bulumwaki and Butongole. The recent arrival of the rain has limited the numbers turning up to Family planning events as people are hurredly planting. Bulumwaki’s turn out dropped dramatically to 4, as it had been hampered by a clash with an event being run by NAADs (The National Agricultural Advisory Service), so we will run a repeat event on Monday. Family planning continues next week.

Eye Care
The complete list of children who have been screened for glasses by Gregory of Namungalwe has now been submitted to Sight Savers, so we are waiting to see what their program will be for delivering the glasses to the children.
Maureen will be checking with Dr Onyango Esther (the local opthalmologist working with Sight Savers) on Monday about upcoming dates for eye camps. 

HIV/STI outreach in Bugabula.
This week I called Sula from St Mary’s to book his organisation’s services for April 12th for Bugabula B. We are focussing on completing these outreaches so that the intern follow up teams will not have to travel to the Luuka district as often during their time here. Titus is in charge next week of mobilising the Bulumwaki Drama Group and the Bugabula VHT to be prepared for the event. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Being A Woman is Risky Business in Rural Uganda

by Ine Collins

Myth, stigma, and taboo shroud family planning efforts in many villages. At Buwaiswa, one of Uganda Village Project's targeted Healthy Villages communities, the shroud was particularly opaque. As a field officer, I was assisting with family planning workshops, bringing nurses and contraceptives to women in remote villages that otherwise would have limited access to such services. Women gathered around outside the empty room where we sat with nurses, wanting the information and contraception, but scared of who might see them, especially their husbands. We’ve found that most husbands are against contraception, yet in most cases it is not acceptable for the wife to refuse sex. So, we position ourselves near wells so that women can pretend to fetch water, or make whatever excuse they need to make to leave the house. Others simply sneak out when the sun goes down. This issue is one of the major challenges that Uganda Village Project faces in its family planning program, and we are currently working on an awareness-raising program for men using respected village leaders to speak out on how family planning has helped them.

A tall, handsome young woman with high cheekbones, big eyes, even inky skin, and a cropped afro came into the room. Her youngest child, less than a year old, was wrapped to her back with a kitengi cloth. She was my age, with four children. Despite the women outside gossiping about whoever was trying to get birth control, the woman was one of four others in four hours who ventured in to see us. After weighing her options, she opted for Depo Provera, like most women, because of its inconspicuous nature. The nurse handed her a pregnancy test. Positive. She didn’t miss a beat, smiled gracefully, and left. I was floored by the composure with which she took the news. The average woman my age who has even experienced a false alarm for an unplanned pregnancy sees her life flashing before her eyes.

At Nabitovu, there was no room for us. We held the workshop under a tree, as we commonly must do when working in these remote areas. The village was more receptive to family planning, so everyone was enjoying their neighbors’ company, giggling at the condom demonstration. As things began to wind down, an 18 year old mustered up the courage to walk over. Most of the women who come to us are in their 20s/30s, and married with multiple children.

She had an older boyfriend in town. She had no idea whether they used condoms or not. “I never look,” she explained.

I was horrified for her. My first experience trying to get birth control in America is etched in the stone of my memory.The doctor stared expectantly over his spectacles, ready to record the personal details of my sex life. Sitting in a cold room smelling of rubbing alcohol, I squirmed in my examination gown, mortified. I managed one-word answers. I’d sooner suffer in silence than relive that experience while a group of my mother’s friends and neighbors sat nearby, watching, listening, and judging.

A woman at another village in her early thirties with nine children came to us seeking birth control. Pregnancy test = positive. Her face betrayed her devastation. She grew desperate. “I can’t have another child. I have to stop this pregnancy. Please help me stop it.“ Abortion is illegal in Uganda. Post-abortion care is widely, and legally publicized through clinics, yet clandestine abortion contributes to approximately one-third of Uganda’s maternal mortality. I wondered - with her limited options, what would this woman do?

Looking at that woman, I thought of my grandmother who gave birth to nine children in Nigeria. Though she is a devout Catholic who once studied to be a nun, I wondered if she had ever wanted contraceptives or if she actually intended to spend over 5 years of her life pregnant.

The week before I arrived, a woman in labor arrived at a hospital where she ended up waiting for hours, only to be referred to a different hospital. Before reaching the next hospital, she was hemorrhaging, as someone encouraged her to push while riding the boda boda, a motorcycle taxi. At the hospital, the fetal heartbeat was gone. Nevertheless, she had to deliver the baby. After seeing her dead child, she fainted and died shortly thereafter. And to think she was one of the few women who could actually afford to pay for the 2,000 shillings (~1 dollar) taxi to the hospital so that she didn’t have to deliver at home on a bare floor.

I often joke half-seriously that being a woman is the worst decision I’ve ever made. Not only is there the ubiquitous cultural and institutional discrimination, but also sex, the source of life, is disproportionately risky for women, and childbirth carries a very real risk of death, with a lifetime risk of maternal mortality of 1 in 25. What’s more is that nothing I’ve said is really specific to Uganda. The stories would largely be the same, if not worse, if I were in rural Brazil, Nigeria, the Philippines, India, Afghanistan. Until access to healthcare improves across the world, it will remain dangerous to be a woman in these places.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sujal Parikh Memorial Symposium on Health & Social Justice: Mar 26th

Dear Friends, Family, Colleagues and Admirers of our friend, Sujal Parikh,

We are pleased to announce the inaugural Sujal Parikh Memorial Symposium on Health and Social Justice. Sujal, a University of Michigan medical student, passed away in October 2010 after a road accident in Uganda where he was conducting AIDS research as an NIH-Fogarty Clinical Research Scholar.  Sujal was an inspiring global health and social justice advocate and had held leadership positions in AMSA, UAEM, PHR, Uganda Village Project, and U-M Center for Global Health.  Read more about him here ( and here ( 

The goal of this event is to honor the life of Sujal Parikh and to carry on his vision by bringing together a community to advance health and social justice. This year’s theme is: The Social (Justice) Network.  See the below call for proposals for further details on presentations and content.

March 26th, 2011
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
The deadline for registration, which is free, is March 12, 2011.

For interested presenters:
We are currently soliciting presenters to discuss innovative ideas pertaining to one of the following themes that were important to Sujal: 

1) Curricula as an agent of social change: Education shapes future leaders’ views, values, and goals. In this way, curriculum can be a powerful tool for driving social change. Do you have an example of an innovative and effective curriculum related to health or social justice?
2) Defining health equity: A rigorous, vetted definition of this buzzword is critical for the next generation of leaders to advance meaningful change in global health.  How do we, as the millennial generation, define “health equity”? How can this definition guide practices and programs?
3) Innovations in global engagement: Global engagement is rife with controversy and ethical concerns, but these tensions can be negotiated with meaningful results. Are you pioneering a progressive global partnership? How can students and social justice advocates be sensitive to a community’s unique social context?

We hope to have a wide variety of speakers, from experts in their fields to students to community workers. Everyone is welcome to submit proposals!
-   Presentations should be no longer than 20 min. Please see for the style of talks we envision.
-   The deadline for presentation proposal submission is February 18th, 2011.
-   If you are unsure you can attend the symposium, please let us know if you would be interested in submitting a remote presentation! The logistics for this are currently being arranged.

For details and the online application, please visit:

We look forward to seeing you soon and sharing ideas about advancing health and social justice on March 26th!  

- Uganda Village Project

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Announcing the Sujal Parikh Social Justice Fellowship

The Sujal Parikh Social Justice Fellowship was founded to honor the memory of our friend, a tireless advocate for global health and social justice. Although his life was prematurely cut short in an accident on the Kampala roads in 2010, his memory lives on through the inspiration he provided to his friends and colleagues in the field of global health.

The chosen fellow will be expected to conduct a specific project in the area of social justice during the summer internships program at Uganda Village Project.

This fellowship will be provided to one candidate who best personifies the ideals that Sujal worked towards:

- a boundless motivation and energy for social justice education and advocacy

- commitment towards voluntary service and healthcare access for the poor

- interest in research to develop evidence based practice in global health

Qualities sought in fellows include:

- excellent written and verbal communication skills

- demonstrated talent in global health work

- research experience

- cross-cultural communications skills

- experience working in resource-limited settings

The Parikh fellow must also submit an application to the Uganda Village Project summer internship program, and will be expected to participate in the internship program along with the other interns, aside from the time necessary to complete the social justice project. Uganda Village Project will provide support to the fellow in completing the project.

The fellowship recipient will not be required to pay the program fee for participation in the internship program ($1700), as part of the fellowship, but will be responsible for the cost of travel to Uganda and any costs incurred outside internship program activities. All project costs will be covered by Uganda Village Project.

How to Apply:

- Submit regular application for Uganda Village Project summer internship program via e-mail to

- Even if not applying for team leader position, please have a letter of recommendation submitted via e-mail to that address.

- In addition to the listed questions on the application, please include an essay detailing your choice of one of the following issues and providing details about how you would create a project to address this issue:

1. Patients in rural Uganda face many barriers to accessing healthcare, including not being able to obtain care without first paying for the care or purchasing the medical supplies needed to care for them. How can we increase accessibility to our rural health centers for indigent rural patients from our Healthy Villages communities?

2. HIV/AIDS continues to take a toll on the rural communities in our Healthy Villages program. Currently, we partner with a local NGO to increase accessibility to testing and refer HIV positive patients to healthcare services. How could we improve our HIV/AIDS focused programming to reach the most vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly?

Applicants will not necessarily be required to implement the project they propose in the application, but essays will be graded based on the applicant’s understanding of global health and social justice principles, and the quality of the proposal. The project should be designed keeping in mind that the fellowship recipient could help launch the project during the summer, and UVP staff could continue work on it thereafter. The project should have a data gathering or research component aimed towards a practical application. To get an idea of our projects and budget, you may peruse our website for more details, or ask us if you need any further information to complete your proposal.

Fellowship recipients will be expected to remain involved with Uganda Village Project activities for one year after selection, participating in the organization’s online social networking, awareness raising, and fundraising activities until the following year’s fellow has been selected, as part of their commitment. Fellowship recipients will additionally be expected to submit research done to a major national or international conference, to share knowledge with the global health community.

Application deadline for fellowship applicants is midnight EST, February 7th, 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Apply today for UVP's Summer Internship Program!

Would you like to spend the summer making a lasting impact on community health and development in rural villages in sub-Saharan Africa? Have you always wanted to experience and learn about the culture of East Africa? If so, please consider applying to Uganda Village Project's summer program.

Uganda Village Project is now accepting applications for our 2011 Summer Internship Program.

Our Mission: Uganda Village Project is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that collaborates with diverse partners on the design of sustainable rural health and development solutions through networking, advocacy and project innovation in the Iganga District, a rural area in eastern Uganda.

Interns will spend 8 weeks living and working in a village in rural Iganga District, Uganda, gaining experience in community education and public health while organizing education programs in the villages, assisting in planning and implementing health care and development oriented programs, and working in partnership with local NGOs and community groups which focus on issues such as sanitation, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, orphan and widow support, and reproductive health.

Applications are due January 31, 2011.

Visit the UVP website to learn more about our programs:

Uganda Village Project accepts adults ages 18 and over with an interest in medicine, public health, global health or international development. Applicants with previous experience in these areas, with previous experience working in the developing world, or with a demonstrated talent for languages, will be given special consideration.

For more information, please contact