Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Making plans for 2016

By Leslie Stroud-Romero, Executive Director

2015 felt like a great year for Uganda Village Project. You can read more about it in a previous post from our Managing Director, Kelly Child, but we got the chance to do a large survey to determine the effectiveness of our work, we received a record amount of grant funds, and we started dreaming of the future.  

The end of the year is always a good time for reflection, and with all the talk of resolutions, the beginning of the year seems like a great time to think about what’s ahead. We’ve done both over the past few months.

In October, our staff (with special guest Alison, in Uganda for the first time in six years!) met in Iganga to discuss programs, staffing, and other things we want to focus on in the next three years. In November, we did the same thing with the Board of Directors in Portland, Oregon.  As we held both of these meetings, we reviewed what donors and partners have helped us to achieve in the past few years. Every year we become a stronger, more effective organization. That set us up to talk about how we want to continue that growth for the next several years. By combining staff and board feedback, we agreed to focus our efforts on:
  • Increasing our income and diversifying our funding sources to be able to grow and reach even more people in the future
  • Systematizing our monitoring and evaluation processes so that we can build on project strengths and adjust areas that aren’t as effective
  • Getting UVP’s name out to new audiences to grow our donor and partner base
  • Continually improving the internship program, especially by offering more options for long-term engagement with intern alumni and adding components to keep our internship a competitive program
  • Reviewing our staff and office systems to make sure we have the support we need to run programs efficiently
  • Using the large-scale survey to look at where we need to make program improvements and implementing new program areas as needed to offer villages comprehensive support to improve health

These six areas may sound overly administrative and full of nonprofit buzzwords, but at the core of each focus area is the idea that we want to give each community in Iganga the best chance at improving their own health. Increasing our revenue means we can add programs or increase the number of villages we serve each year. Focusing on monitoring and evaluation means we’ll be able to easily share our impact and ensure that each project provides the best outcome for the money spent. Expanding our name recognition means we can partner with other proven organizations or donors to become even more effective. Setting up a well-staffed office in Iganga with strong administrative systems will give each of our programs the support we need to make a difference.

Over the next few months, we’ll be creating action steps for each of these focus areas and they will guide us in our work for the next three years. We’re all excited for what’s in store for UVP. We’re even more excited for the donors and partners who have walked alongside us to help us make a difference in the lives of families and villages in Iganga. It’s a wonderful feeling to receive donations from people who have been faithfully giving for years, as well as welcome new people into the UVP family.

We’re not looking to make drastic changes over the next few years; we’re proud of our work and grateful for the people who have helped us change lives. We simply want to be as effective as possible, and we think focusing on these six areas will help us do that. As we move into 2016, thank you for the support you’ve given to UVP, and we look forward to the year ahead!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2015 year in review: the launch pad

Kelly Child, UVP's Managing
Director, shares about what
we've done in 2015...and
what's next!
By Kelly Child, UVP's Managing Director

Squeezed in to our modest office in Iganga, every staff member of UVP along with Alison, our fearless leader and Board Chair, are sitting focused on Leslie, our Executive Director, while she guides us through the beginning of our strategic planning meeting. This was one of the few moments of quiet during our session. We visited our strengths, explored what was working with our programs, and envisioned our future. 

Although more formal than most, this was only one of many planning meetings that staff held this year. We are laying the framework to make some profound shifts in programming in the coming years with the goal of increasing our efficacy of each of our programs. But these pending adjustments doesn’t mean work doesn’t continue in the meantime. We've done a lot in 2015 -- and the year isn't quite done!

For our fistula program, our partnership with Uganda Childbirth Injuries Foundation is going strong and the Fistula Foundation awarded us a second grant to find, transport, and follow up with fistula patients from Eastern Uganda. This year we provided these services to 46 patients and plan to continue with another camp in February 2016. 

Orrin and Julius, our first cohort of Global Health Corps (GHC) Fellows finished their time with UVP by conducting a follow-up survey in coordination with Iganga District. This survey compared level of education, practice of behaviors, and other public health knowledge areas between intervention villages, ones that UVP had already worked with, and non-intervention villages, ones we have yet to work with. Overall, the level of education and practice of intervention villages was between 10% and 27% higher than non-intervention villages. Our second cohort of GHC Fellows, Ruth and Rachel, will be continuing to refine our monitoring and evaluation processes as well as define and implement communication processes and new elements to our summer internship program. 

Internship this year was very successful! We hosted 40 international and national interns to work in seven villages: 4 launch teams, 1 follow up team, and 2 project teams. One of our launch teams in Nabirere B identified an opportunity to empower young girls in the village by providing a forum to discuss challenges of being a girl in the village, ask questions about health topics, and receive positive support for their future dreams, or just give them permission to dream. Elements such as these are being considered in future programming to provide an even more holistic approach to our Healthy Villages model. 

UVP staff members were not the only ones reviewing and dreaming about the future of our organization. The Board met in Portland, Oregon to review previous versions and draft a new three year strategic plan. From this, we will evaluate the best ways to proceed forward in order to make our programs even more effective. 

All exciting things! 

You see, making changes doesn’t necessarily happen all at once, but then you look back and you see just how far you have gone. We wouldn’t be making the strides we are today without the support of donors like you. Thank you! 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Becoming part of a community

By Rachel Bridge, Global Health Corps Fellow

When we first met Kaudha Nola at a screening before fistula surgery, her eyes and voice told a story of pain and strength. Almost five months ago, Kaudha experienced one of the most painful and emotionally exhausting processes for pregnant women: prolonged labor followed by a stillborn delivery. Kaudha spent hours trying to deliver her third child, but the baby died and the long labor resulted in an obstetric fistula. The condition left Kaudha disempowered and depressed. She became isolated from her community, no longer able to attend church, host guests, or associate with others; Kaudha and her husband even began sleeping in separate beds. Days began to drag on for Kaudha, each one following the same routine of monotony and seclusion.

Kaudha (left) and Loy, UVP's Fistula Coordinator
At the fistula screening Kaudha had a somber strength about her. Over the course of the subsequent camp we witnessed that somberness bloom into hope and, eventually, joy. We visited with Kaudha and her husband, Kiirya Bashir, in the hours before she was taken into surgery. They wore matching shy smiles and seemed surprisingly relaxed. After talking with them it was clear that even before surgery, the camp had already begun to change their lives. This fistula camp gave Kaudha a community of women and caretakers that welcomed her and understood her situation. She and Kiirya spoke with excitement for their future, citing testimonials of successful fistula surgeries and Loy’s support as the sources of their hope. 

We returned to the camp a couple of weeks later to see how clients were recovering. Kaudha and Kiirya were full of warmth and gratitude after a successful surgery and easy recovery. They gushed about Loy’s incredible caretaking and the new life they were excited to begin after discharge.
A few weeks later we followed up with Kaudha at her home. When we reached her village, it took a moment to register that the young, animated woman laughing and waving at us was Kaudha. She was completely transformed: her somber, reserved demeanor replaced with a charismatic, youthful energy. The visit was powerful for so many reasons, but it can be best expressed through Kaudha’s own words.   

“I am so very happy.  I feel like every part of my body is okay now. In the past I would go to the banana plantation with a mat and sit there alone all day and then at night come home and sleep because I didn’t want to associate with people. I even had good clothes and wouldn’t wear them because I feared ruining them. I felt trapped. But even now I can sit anywhere and move around without fear of leaking or smelling or something happening. I go to church, I eat with my friends, I am part of the community again. I feel free.”