Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Stories from the Field: Understanding Village Needs

By Michelle Parks

Uganda is truly a beautiful country. Our house is surrounded by crops of maize and Irish potatoes, mango trees, jackfruit trees, and other green vegetation. Because we live in a house on the Kidaago Primary School compound, there are always welcoming children around, excited to see the “muzungus.” The villagers have been very kind and hospitable to us as well. Although they usually giggle, they appreciate our attempted Lusoga greetings.

This is my second week in Kidaago B. I am slowly learning more Lusoga and adapting to living in the village. I am getting used to wearing my long skirts out in the field, hand washing my clothes, taking bucket showers, using the latrine :-P, and learning to tolerate lots of bugs! Big bugs! But as Jake says… “Beautiful bugs!”

On Wednesday a group of children came to the house in the evening. They offered us maize and began to perform and sing while we watched on the front porch. The singing attracted other village children, and some began drumming on empty jerry cans. One of the girls (she was probably 8 or 9) was an amazing dancer! I need lessons. Alicia and Julius even joined in on the dancing for a little bit.

On Tuesday, we had our second community meeting with Zone 2 of Kidaago B. I was able to successfully introduce myself to the audience in Lusoga! Many of the village needs brought up in the Zone 2 meeting were similar to the issues that were brought up at the Zone 1 meeting. Several villagers addressed that there is only one source of water in Zone 2, so villagers who live on the far side of the village must travel several kilometers to fill their jerry cans each day. As a result, children retrieving water for their families often miss part of school because their journey to the borehole is so far. People also expressed concern about the prevalence of HIV/ STI’s in the village. Others raised questions about UVP’s Eye Care and Family Planning programs. After the meeting was over, a woman approached us and gave us the contact information for a fistula case. It was obvious after a short meeting with this group of villagers that there is a need for all of UVP’s programs here.

Later in the week, the team mobilized for the upcoming HIV sensitization. At several households, we met villagers that complained a member of the household was sick. When we advised the family that the sick individual should go to the health center, they had complaints about the health center and were reluctant to go and get treatment. “There are no available drugs,” “I wont be attended to,” and “the health center is far” were common complaints. At one home, a man had been feeling sick for six years and had never visited a health center!

We had a good turnout for our HIV/STI sensitization on Friday. The villagers were pleased that there was an upcoming HIV/syphilis testing day; they reported that there were many people in the village who had never been tested for HIV. They also requested a female condom demonstration, most people in the audience had most likely not used one before.

Next week we will begin doing our baseline surveys in the village and have the St. Marys HIV/syphilis testing day. Each day in Kidaago B, I learn more about the culture, interact with new smiling children, and take part in activities that will eventually benefit the community.  I am excited for my upcoming adventures in Kidaago B. 

Michelle Parks is a Master's student studying Tropical Medicine at Tulane University. She is from Spokane, Washington.

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