Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stories from the Field: Week 2 in Namunkesu Village

By Stephanie Ullrich

Hello everyone! My name is Stephanie and I am a student at the University of California, Berkeley studying Peace and Conflict Studies, Media Studies, and Global Poverty and Practice (GPP) as my minor. I am here as an intern in the Namunkesu village for my practice experience for my GPP minor.

My first few weeks in Uganda have flown by and so I wanted to take the time to reflect on this time so far.  After so many months of planning and prepping to come here, it is hard to believe that it is happening right now. And even before last semester, the time I have spent over the past 5 years dreaming about visiting Uganda could fill many, many days. As Peace and Conflict major, I dedicated many papers and research hours to the conflict in northern Uganda and this country’s development history. So to finally be in a country that has captivated my attention and imagination for so long feels like one of the greatest privileges of all.

I know the work here in our village will challenge me in unexpected ways, as it already certainly has these first couple week. I look forward to these challenges and even welcome them with open arms. I think throwing myself way out of my comfort zone like this is one of the best ways to grow. And at a basic level, I want to give something back to this community that is hosting us that will be sustainable and will improve their lives, if only ever so slightly. We are not the first volunteers to attempt a project like this, nor will we be the last. Poverty alleviation and public health education in rural areas is not a simple task, but I am prepared to engage in this work and at a minimum, be able to think critically about it.

I feel grateful for the people who encouraged me in the past to come here and try something new, and for the solid teammates I have here for support. When I got sick last week, my team was quick to care for me with some rehydration salts, Pepto, and check-ins on me. The sickness past quickly and by the end of the day I was back in business.  I think it says a lot that I am very excited when I wake up in the morning (with the exception of my sick morning) to work with my team and with this kind of work.

This week we walked the 20 minutes to the women’s group that meets on Friday mornings to do our first sensitization on the topic of Malaria. In this education session we pre-planned 5 statements to say regarding Malaria signs and symptoms, prevention, and net purchasing. The statements were either true or false and we had women raise their hands if they agreed with the statement. My statement was “Malaria nets can only be purchased from the market”, which was false because they can also be purchased from us/UVP when we are gone, as well as from their Village Health Team member net distributer once we get the VHT system in place in this village.

After the agree/disagree statements, we brought them through the 5 preventative methods that we had drawn on a rice bag: using an insecticide-treated Malaria net, clearing stagnant water from their household yards, using smoke to clear mosquitos, putting a little bit of oil where they know that water gathers regularly (like the village borehole), and using a mosquito repellent or wearing long sleeves in the evening. After this we sold the nets that UVP had supplied to us to people who were interested. And apparently news spread very fast in this village because throughout the day we ended up selling 19 nets in total today. It’s gratifying to know that this is a tangible success for our team, and that people in this village will now be increasing their chances of Malaria prevention because of our work.

Webale inho Uganda for welcoming me as a guest here during this wonderful summer!

Kiviri, Andre, Nabulime, Hally, Stephanie, and Theresa are all Healthy Village interns in Namunkesu village this summer.

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