Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kasambika - Diving into a Community VHT Event

            No more than 48 hours after settling in to our new home in the quiet agricultural village of Kasambika, we were heading off to a community event with one of our VHTs (Village Health Trainers), and new friend, Swagga. It was just our 2nd morning in the village. We enjoyed a peaceful jaunt past homes accompanied by the smiling faces of local children yelling “Muzungu muzungu!”, the colloquial term for “English-speaking person” in the native language of Lusoga.

            Upon arrival to the “meeting”, we were led into a large tent where beautiful tapestries blew gently in the wind while children ran around in every direction in the background. The attendees were either standing in their place clapping or dancing in the tent’s center where a group of women danced in traditional Ugandan garb. There was so much to look at! We sat in on this meeting where health and development project donations were being collected and celebrated, while various groups began to explain the focus of their different community development projects. After introducing ourselves with all the Lusoga we could muster, we were treated with more dancing and amiable greetings from what seemed like the whole village. Then, the dancing women insisted on us dancing with them, wrapping shawls around our waists, excited to see what the foreigners could do. Despite some less than impressive “swaying” from our group, the entire audience loved our dancing and we received wild, jubilant ululations.

            Shortly after, we were led on a tour throughout the host family’s property, on a inspection of their household’s health and sanitation facilities: tippy tap, trash pit, latrine, plate stand, and kitchen. It was very nice to see the various facilities we had been learning so much about in a real setting. Other group members on the tour were to inspect, rate, and then award an overall score out of 100%. A good score meant the household would receive monetary gifts, which they did with a score of 81%. We came to learn that this group was set up with the aims of fighting poverty, ignorance, and diseases. The monetary gift exchange is done periodically of which every member gets a chance to benefit. The money is meant to help the members to invest in developmental projects intended to improve their livelihoods.

            Agreeing that the family had a good grasp on each facility’s requirements, we were cordially invited into the home for a small afternoon meal. Despite a late lunch less than an hour before, we accepted the kind invitation and were presented with a delicious plate of beef, rice, and matooke, to be enjoyed with nothing more than our own two hands, something we all seem to enjoy perhaps a little too much.

            After the meal, we took a photo with all of the event officials, said our goodbyes, thanked everyone for the invitation and hospitality, and were on our way. Needless to say, an ambiguous “local village event” turned out to be the perfect way to begin our trip with UVP in Kasambika.

            Though it is still early in our trip,it is going to be strange when we return to the States and don’t hear a chorus of “Muzungu” following us everywhere we go. Right now, though, none of us want to think about leaving this amazing place. Although we were all a long way from home, we already appeared to be at home in this unique village.

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