Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It's been a great year in 2014!

Early in December, all of the UVP staff got together at our office in Iganga to reflect on the past year. The takeaway? Things have gone really well in 2014 – but there’s still lots more work to do for 2015. 

One of the most encouraging things was seeing the successes dwarf the challenges we listed. Staff talked about the great reputation that UVP has with the local government and in the villages. We have strong partnerships with government, schools, and NGOs: the district has started saving us HIV testing kits from their procurement cycles so we can test more people, health center nurses are collaborating to use our outreaches as opportunities to reach community members with other health messages, and we’ve expanded our reach on family planning thanks to partnerships with national NGOs like Marie Stopes.  We’ve loved watching entire families come test for HIV, every member of households learn how to correctly hang mosquito nets, and reaching exponentially larger numbers of women with fistula education through the Fistula Ambassadors program.

We hope to build on these successes in 2015, and address some of the things that make UVP’s work more difficult. These include some Village Health Teams that are less active than others, ensuring that men understand the need for family planning and support our work, and ensuring that all village leaders have sanitation facilities that can be used as examples for the rest of the community.

Working in the rural areas of Iganga has its challenges. Sometimes we go a full day without internet because power is out for the whole town. Staff members travel on rough roads to reach our rural villages, often working long hours to accommodate village farming schedules. It would be easy to get caught up in the things that make work difficult. It was exactly the opposite as we sat and reflected on what’s happened in 2014. Our review of 2014 showed that great things have been happening in Iganga over this past year.

After the meeting, staff members pooled funds to celebrate the year in true Ugandan style: with lots of matooke, meat, soda, and dancing. We invited all the family members, too, and they sat and listened while we gave each staff member a special message of thanks for their work throughout the year, and encouragement for what’s sure to be a great 2015!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Common Goal: Uncommon Roles

By: Orrin Tiberi, one of UVP's two Global Health Corps Fellows

When Global Health Corps (GHC) started the Common Goal, Uncommon Role campaign just in time for the 5th anniversary of GHC in November, I must admit I was a little confused. The Common Goal part of the equation was a simple one for me, and a belief that I hold deeply. Health access and social justice are two of the main reasons that I am here working at the Uganda Village Project (UVP), and are among the guiding principles of Global Health Corps. The staff here also holds these values in Iganga, and I see them act out their belief every day we are together. We recently had a mini staff retreat where each program was examined for both successes and challenges.

Julius and I, still newcomers in many aspects, were amazed to see the depth of understanding by the program managers of the individual people and politics that affected them. It was clear from their statements and discussions that the staff here is 100% invested in their projects and intimately knowledgeable of every aspect of the villages. My personal success was the ethical approval we received for the survey evaluation project that we will carry out in early 2015, as well as being almost done with many of the goals and objectives for each organizational area. Happily (and not surprisingly), the list of successes was longer than the challenges, a tribute to both the management and staff.

Uncommon Roles threw me for a loop. I asked myself what about monitoring and evaluation was uncommon? I didn’t see how my position at UVP fit into this mantra. I discussed this with the other GHC fellows that are also in M&E and started to understand how uncommon my presence here really was.  Many organizations, especially ones that focus on a single country or area, do not have the extra capacity or funding to have an M&E staff member. UVP fits this description well, and despite the fact that there has been a focus on M&E in the past few years, there has never been a person solely focused on that area. Many of the initiatives and ideas that started off strong within the office here in Iganga or the organizational board in the states slowly tapered off as time went on.  Understandably so, as everyone involved in the process has a job outside of monitoring and evaluation. By working here full time on M&E, Julius and I are supporting UVP in a way that would never have been possible without Global Health Corps. The work that Julius and I have done, and are doing, will impact how UVP works for years.

 Global Health is an expansive field, with the need for professionals from almost every background and with every interest. For those of you attracted to global health, applications are open for the next class of Global Health Corps fellows. You may not get as amazing as an organization as Julius and I (UVP UVP UVP!!!), but with over 70 placements in 5 countries you are sure to find something interesting.