Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Buwoira: A Successful Summer in Many Ways

As the summer comes to an end, the one and only Buwoira Launch Team prepares to leave Uganda.
We knew from the start that to be the only team in a completely new village to UVP would be a challenge – but as soon as we arrived we rolled up our sleeves and started working as hard as we could.

During these seven weeks, there were moments of self doubt and many challenges, but as we look back we are proud of how much work we were able to accomplish in this small village. As a group we grew closer and closer together as we visited schools, churches, houses and boreholes to mobilize the community for our outreaches, walked miles and miles to survey every single house in the community, stayed up late (that’s around 9 pm in village time!) to plan education sessions and mobilization strategies, learned how to use market rice bags as educational posters, built tippy taps and sanitation facilities for community members who couldn’t do it themselves (the elderly, the disabled and single women), organized workshops to teach building skills to those who could, and practiced our Lusoga greetings to perfection.

When we reflected on success stories from the summer, we couldn’t decide exactly what we wanted to share. Our experience in this village taught us so much, and was so rich in every way that to choose one event seemed difficult.  We could talk about our education sessions on important health topics (HIV, family planning, sanitation) - many of these moments were very important to the community as it was sometimes the only contact they had with the health care system (in the case of HIV and malaria testing days and contraceptive distribution) or with a reliable information source about conditions that were so common in the village. Or maybe mention that we were the only village to implement the Sanitation Push initiative, a UVP program that has as main objectives promoting education on good sanitation practices and also facilitating and organizing the community to make sure all households have the basic sanitation facilities (latrine, tippy tap, plate stand, washroom and trash pit), by subsidizing basic materials and providing support to those who need it. Or the fact that our baseline survey was able to cover almost all households in the village and provide UVP and the government with essential data on the sanitation status and malaria net usage in Buwoira.  

But somehow we wanted to say something else. This village gave us much more than we had hoped for. Our success stories are many, although they are not always conventional. For Manon, success was teaching the kids in the primary school how to build tippy taps and wash their hands. For Michael, it was seeing his beautifully drawn posters (aka rice bags) used as essential parts of our education sessions, complimented by both UVP staff and the community members. Said can’t think of success without mentioning when we visited all the Village Health Team households and built each one of them tippy taps and plate stands – chopping down the wood, hammering nails and working together as a team. Kenny says one of his biggest accomplishments was having community members tell him that they had complete trust in what he said during meetings. Kimberly will never forget the beautiful children she met and the easy and innocent way they demonstrated their affection (sometimes following her and holding her hands for miles!) For Leticia it was easy – hearing people she had never met before call her name (‘’Latisha’’) affectionately and invite our group into their homes for tea or a plate of jackfruit to thank the work we’ve done.

In these weeks, our vision as a team was clear – to have a deep and lasting impact in Buwoira. In every way, we feel we accomplished what we came here to do. But somehow we could not have predicted that Buwoira would also have a deep and lasting impact in all of us.

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