Friday, July 22, 2016

Intern Dispatch: Namunsaala

Hello, Jambo, and Moi Moi from Namunsaala!
   by Bena, Carly, Ivan, Mark, and Laura

These first couple weeks have been a whirlwind full of baseline surveys, mango, and mosquitoes! While we have been having lots of fun with the children, intern cohort, and our team, our role as community health educators has already allowed us to serve as resources to answer pressing health questions, including those that were deemed too difficult to ask, too time consuming to ask, and, our favorite, too embarrassing to ask. While we are able to teach and facilitate community education, likewise, the community is teaching us more than we could ever imagine. This exchange of information has made our first couple weeks incredibly valuable and makes us appreciate Namunsaala more every day.

Namunsaala transport.
Our learning and teaching began before we officially moved into the village. Instead, it began when team leaders headed out to visit their respective villages during orientation to scope out our future homes. We (Bena and Carly) were both nervous and excited as we headed to the village riding on boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis). Once we reached the village, we were warmly welcomed by crowds of cheering children shouting “muzungu bye!!!!” The green vegetation and fresh air made Namunsaala different than any place we’d been before. We were welcomed by our loving Village Health Team (VHT) members who took us for a stroll around our new home. We moved around the village, building rapport with the VHT and adapting to our new environment. After a delicious home-cooked meal, countless community introductions, and endless exploring, we called a boda and prepared to return to Iganga town. 

As we waited for our transportation to arrive, we decided to make ourselves comfortable under a large tree and were watching the little children carrying jerry cans full of water home from the borehole — a skill that Carly has yet to master. While we sat enjoying the shade, a woman from the community came up, introduced herself, and quietly asked us to explain “the female system.” This question was clearly one that had been on her mind for some time, and it was great to see that our presence had already created an open learning environment. Therefore, we took a second… looked at each other… then jumped into action, drawing a diagram of the female reproductive system, complete with labels and culturally relevant explanations for each section. As we explained, this young woman’s face lit up, as she finally understood her own body and pregnancy as well. This simple encounter was ultimately our favorite moment of the day and made us even more excited for our experience in the village to begin.

While the following weeks have been filled with additional community education, including HIV outreaches and malaria sensitizations, it is important to remember the things we are learning as well, both from each other and the community. We have had a number of educational and thoughtful discussions among our team facilitated by the Global Health Leadership Curriculum, all of which have challenged and shaped our views on sensitive and important public health issues. It was really insightful to talk about the current refugee crisis as a team, especially because, as a team, we represent three different continents.

Additionally, we have learned new skills and ideas from our community. These have ranged from discovering insightful community perceptions of health, adapting resourceful ways to utilize the environment, and lots of new recipes and cleaning tips. Namunsaala team parents, just wait until you try our chippatti and watch us do our own laundry!

Can’t wait to share more over the coming weeks!
Tubonagane (see you later)!

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