Wednesday, August 28, 2013

[Kasambiika 1] A Musical Farewell

It has now been over a week since we left Kasambiika 1. Most of us have already reverted back to our home environments, but we all still hold warm memories of the village. We left with heavy hearts and full stomachs.  After hosting a dinner for the whole community, our VHTs threw us a surprise party, which happened to coincide with the request of another villager who wanted us to attend his house for a dinner party. The Kasaambiika 1 intern team was not afraid of challenges, especially challenges involving food—it's true, one time Raphael ate 5 bowls of porridge then ate a whole egg in one bite! Just kidding that was me—and we ate at all of them. 

Before we get into the lessons and our closing thoughts, we need to make a quick shout out to Mama, the woman who cooked and housed us. Miss ya mama!

Lessons learned
All of us learned a lot about working with different personalities, both within the group and our village stakeholders. We all put aside differences to work together towards our common goal: improving the health of Kasambiika 1 and empowering its residents to make healthy decisions.

One thing we all had to work together on was leaving Kasambiika Primary School with a new paint job. Most of us had left the village by the time this got finished, but Tina was still around and got this picture.

In Lusoga this says wash your hands every day. Before you eat, after you use the latrine, after you play.

Sometimes there are problems that you have to leave behind. Throughout our entire internship we could tell that there were underlying tensions between the health center and the village population. We could not do anything to fix these problems while we were in the village. We did not want to cause more harm than good, and we did not have the permanent presence to make sure everything was resolved. We hope that the UVP staff is better able to mediate between the two parties and work towards a more harmonious health system in K1.

Closing thoughts for the summer

This was our final project for the UVP staff. For everyone outside of UVP and Uganda village life, annotations follow.

0:00-0:59 to the song “Pretty Boy Swag” by Soulja Boi. This song is about our head VHT, Swaga. Swaga made a huge difference in our outreaches for the village. He was instrumental in mobilizing, planning, presenting, and pretty much everything else we did in the village. This is our tribute to him and the other VHTs.

1:00-1:45 to the song “Ignition (remix)” by R Kelly. This song is about promoting birth control in the village. A laysoo is the traditional Busoga waist covering worn by Josie in our video. Pills, depo, and IUDs are all birth control devices that we promote in our UVP work. We only provided the Depo shot once during the internship (Maureen brought it, as the song suggests), but more options are available at the health center. Also, other NGOs like Marie Stopes work to promote birth control in the villages.

2:00-2:39 to the song “Hot n Cold” by Katy Perry. This song (sung by my sister, thanks Naomi!) is a story of a child getting malaria. A baby child was the subject because children under five (and pregnant women) are more prone to getting malaria. Small children's immune systems are not developed, and for pregnant women's immune systems are weakened by the strain of pregnancy. Towards the end of the song we emphasize the importance of prevention and recommend two methods: sleeping under bed nets and clearing stagnant water. We mention misdiagnosis in the song. During baseline surveys we asked what the symptoms of malaria were and we often got answers that corresponded more with a common cold or virus than malaria. While you can still get these symptoms if you have malaria, sometimes when a child or adult is sick in the village it is just a bacterial or viral infection instead. People, especially children, should not take anti-malarials for illnesses that are not malaria.

2:40-3:25 to the song “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. This song is about our shallow well request forms. Kasambiika had two boreholes and one shallow well. Water access was a problem in our village, as in many of the other launch villages. We hope that if adequate shallow well sites are found that UVP can start digging soon.

3:25-6:18 to the song “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore. This song covers the lighter side of village life. The first verse is about getting vaccines to go to Uganda, and complaining about having to take Doxycycline as an anti-malarial every day. We were lucky to have prophylaxis, as the people in our village do not have access to the kind of malarial prevention that we could afford. There are a number of other jokes in this song, so comment on this post or send us a question if you want anything else explained.

Miss you Kasambiika! Warm regards from Kampala and America. 

The K1 team

Thursday, August 22, 2013

[Kasambiika 2] "Your work will not end with you. We will continue it"

Jambo again from Kasambiika 2!

The last two months has been a whirlwind! And we can’t believe the time has already come for us to leave our beautiful village!

It has been an amazing journey, filled with a lot of love, laughs and a few tears. We feel blessed to have worked with so many amazing people and to have made memories that will last a lifetime!

As part of our good-bye to the community, we threw a large farewell dinner to show our appreciation for their hard work. We were able to thank all our supporters and recognize those whom without we would not have succeeded. We stressed the need to continue implementing health measures and maintaining the dedication the community has shown during our time together. After the formalities were finished, our guests eagerly hit the dance floor! It was great to see so many of our new friends enjoying the rare treat of stereo music!

In all seriousness, our farewell dinner was symbolic of our last two months: fun, happy, a little stressful but surrounded by love and support! It was the perfect way to end our time here!

Our friends in Kasambiika 2 warmly shared some kind words that have resonated strongly with all of us. While words fail to define the experiences and memories we are taking home with us, these come pretty darn close!

“Your work will not end with you. We will continue it.”

“There is a saying that states ‘out of sight, out of mind’. That is not true for us!”

“You come from such great distances to be with us… that is a sign of true love!”

Muzungu, BYE-EEEEE!!!! (for now!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

[Bukaigo] Farewell surprises

After 8 weeks in Bukaigo, it is hard to believe that we are leaving.  These past few weeks have certainly flown by.  It seems like just a short time ago we were still unpacking our suitcases and learning how to tie jerry cans to the bikes (although, granted, 8 weeks later, we are still trying to learn the latter).

We had successful sensitizations involving malaria, where we sold out of our mosquito nets, and HIV/AIDS and STIs, where we went to the secondary school in the village just south of our village and spoke in front of more than 200 students.  They were extremely rambunctious, but it was understandable: it was the end of the day, and they had been studying for quite some time for exams.  Nevertheless, they asked great questions, and they seemed very interested in learning how to prevent illnesses.

We made a very funny video about our summer here in Bukaigo.  It was a huge hit at final debrief.  We had a reputation for being a quiet group, so other interns (as well as UVP staff) were delightfully surprised to see our quirky side.  It was really fun to have interns come up to us and say “I really liked this part!” or “that part was hilarious!”

We said our goodbyes to our village with a song, and then we said goodbye to our VHTs and other leaders with a very nice dinner.  We had over 30 people attend.  Then, on our final night, our village surprised US with a goodbye dinner!  People from all over the village came.  We ate a ton of our favorite foods – katogo, rice, g-nut sauce, pineapple, cabbage – and danced the night away.  Then, our VHTs presented us with beautiful bouquets of flowers.  It truly was an amazing send-off.  It showed that our village truly did respect our work, and that they are already excited about next summer’s interns.

It is certainly going to be difficult to say goodbye to everyone.  After all, living in a tiny three-room house with five complete strangers, you get to know each other pretty well. Although we are all off to different locations in the morning, we know that we will not be saying goodbye for good (hello, Facebook!).  Our paths will certainly cross again, and we’re all looking forward to the day that it does.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

[Kazigo A] Hello, can we see your toilet?

Osiibye Otya to all of our friends and family keeping tabs on us all in Kazigo A!  We all feel incredibly busy, but are learning a lot in our short time here.  We find ourselves often wishing for more time to complete everything we have planned. 

As the follow-up team, we have spent most of our time checking up on UVP’s projects implemented last year.  What this means for us is a LOT of house-to-house surveys and mini-sensitizations based on individual need.  Picture this: we come to your house, say hello, and then ask to see your toilet.  Lucky for us, the villagers here are much more welcoming than anyone back in the States! This work requires many long hours walking in the sun, but we find ourselves spending time learning from and building relationships with the Village Health Teams in our four villages.

Along with the sanitation and hygiene follow-up surveys, we have been working on a hand-washing project at the local primary school.  This project has been a pretty cool experience for our team; its objective is to stop the spread of disease by placing children and youth at the forefront of behavioral change.  We were able to hold educational sessions with both the teachers and kids, spend time to help build tippy-tap hand-washing stations by the latrines, and observe their use.  Our team, along with Kazigo B, also started painting a mural on the wall of the school.  Our challenge now is to find an innovative way to create a sustainable supply of soap for the school, as well as ensuring that the hand-washing message actually gets through to the students and that the tippy taps are well maintained. This is something we are still struggling with, and hope to find the best option for Toka Primary School.

Last week, our team held its first sensitization on Family Planning in the village.  We love Kazigo A, and feel pretty lucky to have been given a village that is so interested in Family Planning.  Both the men and women seem well educated on the programs and methods. We held two different sensitizations- one for the women and another for the men. Although it would have been ideal to combine them, this is what made sense culturally and logistically in our village. Most of the women in attendance received the appropriate method after getting a checkup from the nurse who came out to help us. It was great to see so many women who have been attending the quarterly Family Planning sensitizations return for more methods. Holding a sensitization for the men was also a big success, since one of UVP’s goals is to have men play a larger role in Family Planning through gaining a deeper understanding of its importance and the methods.

In the coming weeks, we will be trying to complete as many follow-up surveys as possible, along with retraining our VHTs and holding sensitizations in the villages on the different programs. Another great success has been having such wonderful VHTs to work with, who are so enthusiastic to gain more skills and have made our work in the villages possible. Sending lots of love from Kazigo A and hope that you stay tuned for our next post!