Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Stories Reveal the Truth About Health in Bulondo

by Sabrina Warwar and Nancy Fitzgerald

Bulondo team members walking in the village
to collect baseline surveys. From front to back:
Sabrina, Jeanne, Osborne, and VHT Alex

 Team Bulondo is comprised of two Ugandans, one Australian, one Swiss and two Americans living and breathing together in the same house. Like the other UVP teams we have been conducting baseline surveys over the past couple of weeks, and these surveys have become the forefront of learning about the Ugandan way of life. Being able to have a hybrid of culture and personalities has been crucial to our success here in Bulondo, and this has been reflected in our incredible community response during surveys. Surveys have become the windows into people’s lives, allowing us an opportunity to bond, laugh and understand the intricacies of Bulondo’s everyday issues.

Greeting everyone we see has become a way of life, and continually expanding our word bank of Lusoga has proven to be the international interns’ most valuable tool.  As told to us by a Ugandan himself, learning Lusoga and attempting to adapt to the way of life here is a small but powerful way of showing respect.

Sitting down with families, mothers, wives, husbands, and fathers to discuss some of the most pressing issues has opened up more conversations both within and outside of households. The surveys raise questions about HIV, malaria, family planning, obstetric fistula and WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene). We have also taken the time to ask about other issues people are facing which prevents them from being able to live the best life possible. The realities faced by so many in the Bulondo community has made us incredibly aware of the cycle that allows so many issues to persist. Misconceptions about family planning causes fear and families end up having more children than they can provide for. This financial burden makes it difficult to afford food, and much less an education to broaden the available opportunities. Poverty and lack of education has lead inadequate nutrition making people more susceptible to disease. The lack of job opportunity and job security means people constantly fear becoming sick as they will need to stop working in order to afford healthcare or to stay home. Lack of job opportunities exist even among the educated here in Bulondo, teachers are delayed payment and paid very little  giving little incentive for future generations to pursue an education over quick money making jobs. These are some of the issues that we have identified through our baseline surveys and discussions with community members from all over Bulondo.

It takes time to create a rapport with the community. Nancy
and Sabrina with two Bulondo VHTs listen to stories from
community members while collecting baseline surveys
 Many people in Bulondo are unaware of the safe water chain: keeping water safe from the source to the mouth. Some don’t know that water from the borehole is not safe to drink without treatment. When we interviewed one particular woman, we asked how she prevented her water from becoming contaminated. She said she had no idea! After the survey, she eagerly asked what she can do to keep her water safe. We had the opportunity to explain that boiling water kills the bacteria that can make her and her family sick. She was grateful to have this information, and we were excited to be working a with a woman who was looking forward to improving her health. Through her initiative and our knowledge, she was empowered to keep her family safe. It was amazing to provide practical knowledge to make an impact on this woman’s life by addressing common misconceptions about different issues.

Here in Bulondo we believe in the power of listening and having a notebook and pen to document and learn from the stories of each person we meet. It is in these stories that answers can be found for a healthier future. That future may not come today or tomorrow, but the first step toward equal opportunity and good health begins with each person’s story, just as we have written ours here in Bulondo. 

To learn more about team Bulondo and other interns in UVP's 2017 cohort, check out their bios or learn more about their work by liking us on Facebook.

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