Friday, August 31, 2018

The Spirit of Naluko

by Derrick Agaba and Kevin Preciado, Interns, Naluko Village

The village of Naluko is a place that you can call home. Our team has called it home for the past five weeks while working with Uganda Village Project. Although it has not been home for long, it has succeeded in opening our hearts to the wonderful diversity of the human spirit.  Triumph and tragedy intertwines itself onto the human condition and creates powerful narratives. One poignant narrative we have encountered is Sara, an incredible village elder, who’s childbearing journey provides a moving backdrop to life in Naluko.

UVP interns Gloria and Lexie conduct an education session in Naluko. 

Sara is arguably the most vibrant woman and community mobilizer within Naluko. With a glowing smile and dedicated vision for her village, she is at the heart of the community. She serves as a representative on the council for women at the sub-county level, fighting for women’s reproductive rights and educating young and middle aged women on family planning and obstetric fistula. Most recently, she has been working with UVP to sensitize and mobilize the community on HIV, malaria, and reproductive health. She has given herself entirely to her community in order to serve others, evoking passion from tragedy.

Team Naluko from left to right: Derrick, Gloria,
Lexie, Gertrude, Kevin, and Amanda.
Pain and suffering highlight Sara’s experience with pregnancy and childbirth. Her first child arrived when Sara was 19 years old, and although Sara gave birth to 14 children in total, only three lived past age five. Sara felt every death tremendously, and today she wants to spare other women in the village from that pain and suffering. Her efforts in family planning, education, and social encouragement have empowered countless women in the village to take control of their reproductive health and have safely planned pregnancies.

Sara’s intimate understanding of motherhood and dedication to her community has made her the ideal representative for women in Naluko. She is on a mission to make the health in her community thrive, while simultaneously spreading joy and happiness to whomever she encounters. We are touched by the triumphant essence of Naluko, particularly Sara’s resilient spirit.

Learning to Love the Village Clock

by The Kinu Village Intern Team: Margret, Trevor, Shannon, Alex, Christine, and Sarah
Children of Kinu Village waiting for the entertainment to begin!
Picture this – it’s the day of our HIV/Malaria sensitization in Kinu village, which was scheduled to begin at 2 pm. It’s now 3:30 pm, and only a handful of community members, maybe around 15 people total, are waiting patiently in the shade of a mango tree. And these people aren’t just anyone – they’re our neighbors and friends. We’re excited to see them, but it also sort of feels like putting on a concert with your band and having only your parents show up.

The minutes tick by and we start to feel worried – did our mobilizing efforts fail? Was anyone else going to come? We spent the days leading up to the sensitization hanging posters and going door-to-door around the village, speaking to each household about our sensitization. Now, we felt like our efforts were in vain.

A government health worker tests a community
member for HIV in Kinu village. (Photo by
Ben Blankenship)
Just when we started to lose hope, people began arriving – mothers trickled in with babies on their backs, a group of men gathered at the base of the tree, and hoards of kids sat at the very front, eager to watch our skits. By the end of the sensitization, more than 100 people were there to improve their understanding of HIV and Malaria.

Overcoming our own assumptions about how things should be, rather than how they are, has been one of our team’s greatest challenges. As a group of students, our days at school are often defined by a strict adherence to the numbers on the clock – lecture start times and assignment deadlines are strictly enforced, end of story.

In our village, however, time is perceived differently – instead of thinking in terms of numbers on a clock, people think in terms of sequences of events. Once one event ends, the next can begin, and not before. We call this the “Village Clock”, and to our limited understanding of time, it was initially a cause of worry, fear, and frustration.

Community members register for services in
Kinu village. (Photo by: Ben Blankenship)
As the weeks went by, our need for precise punctuality diminished, and with it our worries. The “Village Clock” no longer frustrated us like it once did. Instead, the extra time that it provided before sensitizations became one of favorite ways to spend time with the community, playing games with the kids, chatting with neighbors, and having impromptu dance parties.

Learning to love the “Village Clock” is just one example of the many ways we, as a team, have come to understand the importance of being flexible, humble and open to different lifestyles; doing so only opens up new possibilities for building connections, having fun, and ultimately working towards a healthier community.