Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Benefits of Discomfort

By AnQuavis Simpson

Irenzi Team from left to right: Christine, Cally, Emily,
Emmanuel, Simpson, and Christie (not pictured: Brenda).
As my plane landed at Entebbe International Airport, I felt a sudden rush of conflicting emotions: excitement for the upcoming journey yet already missing the familiar faces and places that I left behind. I felt confident to pursue this summer’s public health work but also felt fearful for the the potential obstacles and cultural barriers that I may encounter. Balancing these emotions, I remained calm and recalled my mother’s wise words, “At times comfort can be a hindrance rather than a blessing.” Applying my mother’s knowledge, I realized that in the absence of comfort there is more space for growth. One week into my internship with Uganda Village Project, there had already been moments where comfort was scarce. Driving to Irenzi in a crowded matatu, squished between two people I barely knew, and arriving to a new home which lacked running water, phone service, and reliable electricity—my feelings were far from comfortable. However, bonding with my teammates about previous traveling experiences, our educational backgrounds, and enjoying the scenery around us, I felt prepared to embrace the journey that lay ahead.

View of the compound of the interns' house
in the village.
 Day one in the village consisted of meeting the lead Village Health Team (VHT) member, Paul, and a walking tour of Irenzi. VHTs are government-appointed individuals assigned to specific villages in attempt to improve the health and well-being of their village. The VHTs are equipped with a comprehensive understanding of the village’s culture, events, and chair persons, so luckily for UVP interns, we work very closely with the VHTs. On the village tour, interns were introduced to members of the Lead Counsel and the teachers of two primary schools. As we sauntered through the village, we attracted the attention of a large crowd of children. At first, they gazed curiously and the braver children shouted “Jambo!” or waved cautiously from afar. We greeted them warmly and offered our hands for high-fives and fist-bumps and soon all of the kids were eager to interact. I became increasingly inspired as the villagers’ enthusiastic and generous welcomes reaffirmed my decision to spend the summer with UVP.  It also solidified my desire to work with the people of Irenzi and to improve their health and sanitation. My interests in human connection and relationships, as well as my desire to work on a diverse team to achieve a common greater good will carry me through the coming weeks.

The interns's house in Irenzi village does not have running water
or electricity in order to give interns a better understanding
of the context of the village.
To learn more about team Irenzi 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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