Saturday, May 24, 2014

Health fair celebrates three years in Bulamagi Village

In 2011, Uganda Village Project brought on three Healthy Villages. Last week, after three years of programming, it was time to celebrate their accomplishments, recognize the Village Health Team (VHT) members for their hard work, and empower these three communities to continue improving health on their own. We do this at a community health fair: a busy day in the village where we invite multiple partner organizations, offer health services and education, and share the results from the three years of work. During the last fair in Bulamagi Village, hundreds of people came for health services, drawn in by the mobilization earlier that week and the blaring music from the speakers that morning. 

St. Mary's and health center staff test people for HIV and malaria
Health center staff test for HIV and malaria
Men, women, and children were tested for malaria and HIV by health center staff and St. Mary’s—our local community-based organization partner. While they waited for their results, UVP’s Fistula Coordinator gathered small groups of women together to teach them about fistula. Young adults were tested by for HIV and STIs by Marie Stopes, an international organization. The testing kits and staff brought from Marie Stopes dramatically increased the number of people we were able to test and educate during the fairs, because in the past we’ve been limited by supplies and staff capacity. Marie Stopes also offered family planning services to women of all ages, and left everyone with a free hotline number to call for any health questions. A partner organization promoted a water filter to give families a new option to keep their drinking water safe. Health center staff vaccinated mothers and babies for their regular immunizations and gave deworming and Vitamin A pills to children.
Attendees listen to HIV counseling by Marie Stopes
HIV counseling by Marie Stopes

The kids had their own kind of mobilization throughout the village. After getting their deworming pills, the health center staff drew big X’s on the kids’ hands in red marker. Troops of kids left the fair with their hands proudly marked, and would arrive back later with a larger group of friends who made their way over to stand in line, chew their pills, and have their hands marked too. A few kids stopped in horror near the table, assuming they were getting a vaccination, but once they saw their friends walk away with a mouthful of sweetened pills, they quickly lined up for their chance.
Promoting healthy messages
Promoting healthy messages

Throughout the fair, a health center employee made announcements about what kinds of services are available at the local health center and UVP and Marie Stopes staff members talked about healthy living. Having health center staff provide the services during the fair helps get community members accustomed to them, and instead of feeling intimidated, next time they need to access services at the health center, they’ll be more likely to go.

A drama group engages the audience
A drama group engages the audience
In the afternoon, a drama group performed a skit about household hygiene. While this may not sound very entertaining, the audience loved it, and the actors hammed it up while presenting an important message about keeping your family safe from disease by taking preventative measures.

When the play ended, we had speeches from UVP staff, a representative from the VHTs, and local district officials. We gave certificates and soap to the VHTs, thanked the community for their efforts, and encouraged continued progress.
Dancing in celebration
Dancing in celebration

The celebration turned into a dance party, with VHTs leading the way and soon an entire throng of women and kids jumped to the beat in the center of the fair. We pulled the last of the tents down just as it started to pour rain, hiding under the eaves of a house with VHTs and several other villagers who stayed too late to get home before the rain.

Even though this health fair officially marked the end of our work in Bulamagi Village, we will still maintain relationships with community members. The women have decided to pay to continue bringing the family planning nurse to Bulamagi every three months to provide contraceptives. UVP staff members frequently get stopped in town or receive phone calls from former Healthy Village community members asking questions or wanting advice. The well we built with the community’s help will continue to provide safe water for families, and health center services will seem less intimidating and more accessible. We’re proud of the work the community put into the past three years, and we look forward to updates as they maintain these improvements on their own.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Meet Titus

Our latest “meet the staff” features Titus Obbo, UVP Program Coodinator.

Titus started working for Uganda Village Project (UVP) in 2008 as part of the team that conducted a baseline survey in all 70 of our current and future Healthy Villages. Afterwards, he stayed behind to continue working with UVP on a safe water project. Over time, Titus had more tasks added to his role as he helped with hygiene and sanitation and eventually HIV and malaria within the Healthy Villages Program.

“What I like best about my job is that it’s challenging; it makes me think and try to create solutions to a number of challenges that arise. It lets me be creative,” Titus said when asked about his work. He also likes that the entire staff team works together and steps in for one another, which he says isn’t common around Uganda. Titus’s background is not in public health—he was monitoring the universal primary school program in Uganda before coming to UVP—but in his six years with UVP he’s learned practical experience in public health and it has given him an appreciation for issues Ugandans deal with on a daily basis.

When not at work, Titus spends time with his family. He’s married with three kids ages 7, 4, and 1 ½, and his extended family is in Iganga District, so he often spends time in the village with them. He also enjoys reading motivational books, including Banker to the Poor, about pioneering microfinance leader Muhammad Yunus. We’re glad to have Titus and his steady presence in our office!