Friday, July 22, 2016

Intern Dispatch: Namunsaala

Hello, Jambo, and Moi Moi from Namunsaala!
   by Bena, Carly, Ivan, Mark, and Laura

These first couple weeks have been a whirlwind full of baseline surveys, mango, and mosquitoes! While we have been having lots of fun with the children, intern cohort, and our team, our role as community health educators has already allowed us to serve as resources to answer pressing health questions, including those that were deemed too difficult to ask, too time consuming to ask, and, our favorite, too embarrassing to ask. While we are able to teach and facilitate community education, likewise, the community is teaching us more than we could ever imagine. This exchange of information has made our first couple weeks incredibly valuable and makes us appreciate Namunsaala more every day.

Namunsaala transport.
Our learning and teaching began before we officially moved into the village. Instead, it began when team leaders headed out to visit their respective villages during orientation to scope out our future homes. We (Bena and Carly) were both nervous and excited as we headed to the village riding on boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis). Once we reached the village, we were warmly welcomed by crowds of cheering children shouting “muzungu bye!!!!” The green vegetation and fresh air made Namunsaala different than any place we’d been before. We were welcomed by our loving Village Health Team (VHT) members who took us for a stroll around our new home. We moved around the village, building rapport with the VHT and adapting to our new environment. After a delicious home-cooked meal, countless community introductions, and endless exploring, we called a boda and prepared to return to Iganga town. 

As we waited for our transportation to arrive, we decided to make ourselves comfortable under a large tree and were watching the little children carrying jerry cans full of water home from the borehole — a skill that Carly has yet to master. While we sat enjoying the shade, a woman from the community came up, introduced herself, and quietly asked us to explain “the female system.” This question was clearly one that had been on her mind for some time, and it was great to see that our presence had already created an open learning environment. Therefore, we took a second… looked at each other… then jumped into action, drawing a diagram of the female reproductive system, complete with labels and culturally relevant explanations for each section. As we explained, this young woman’s face lit up, as she finally understood her own body and pregnancy as well. This simple encounter was ultimately our favorite moment of the day and made us even more excited for our experience in the village to begin.

While the following weeks have been filled with additional community education, including HIV outreaches and malaria sensitizations, it is important to remember the things we are learning as well, both from each other and the community. We have had a number of educational and thoughtful discussions among our team facilitated by the Global Health Leadership Curriculum, all of which have challenged and shaped our views on sensitive and important public health issues. It was really insightful to talk about the current refugee crisis as a team, especially because, as a team, we represent three different continents.

Additionally, we have learned new skills and ideas from our community. These have ranged from discovering insightful community perceptions of health, adapting resourceful ways to utilize the environment, and lots of new recipes and cleaning tips. Namunsaala team parents, just wait until you try our chippatti and watch us do our own laundry!

Can’t wait to share more over the coming weeks!
Tubonagane (see you later)!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Investing in Teenage Girls #WPD2016

July 11, 2016, marks the 27th annual observance of World Population Day, a day designed by the UN to highlight global population issues. The goal is spread awareness of population-related issues such as family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights. This year’s theme is ‘Investing in Teenage Girls.’  

How does #WPD2016 apply to Uganda?

The Pearl of Africa may triple its population by 2050. It has one of the world’s youngest and most rapidly growing populations, with 78% of the population being younger than 30 years of age and nearly half being younger than 15. Ugandan women have fertility rates of, on average, 6 children each throughout their reproductive periods. On average, 3 out of 10 women have unmet family planning needs -- and the prevalence of these needs are much greater in rural areas. [State of Uganda Population Report, 2014]. Girls and young women (15-24 years old) are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, at rates twice that of men in the same age bracket. Only two-fifths of young adults correctly identify the ways to prevent sexual transmission of HIV.

What can you do?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Intern Dispatch: Namufuma

Jambo jambo from Namufuma!
   by Zo-eh, Jamessssy, Ree, Josephu and Ashy

A tippy tap in action. 
Jambo jambo (hello hello)! Our first two weeks in the village have been full of excitement, challenges, and new experiences. After surviving orientation and our first bargaining in the markets of Iganga, we moved into our villages Friday, June 17th.  Upon arriving in Namufuma, we were immediately welcomed by our VHTs (Village Health Team members) and neighbors and have continued to feel welcomed ever since. Our VHTs have even gone so far as to help us with building our trash pit and tippy tap, sparking jealousy from our neighbor intern team in Namunsala who spent a week constructing everything themselves. While it’s taken the internationals a little time to adjust to a completely new way of living (shout out to Joseph and Ashy for being such strong sources of support for the international interns), our newly donned “LIT HOUSE” (because of our single, solar powered light bulb in the common area) is feeling very much like home. The most memorable part of moving in was definitely our unwise decision to wait to hang our mosquito nets until after sunset…which resulted in a comical, hour-long battle with concrete walls, weak nails, an almost broken bed, and duct tape to hang our five mosquito nets, all by the light of a headlamp.  

Speaking of mosquito nets, one of our wonderful VHTs, Sister Teddy, partnered with the local Namunsala health center to get us brand new nets that we are extremely grateful for. This is just one representation of the generosity and concern that all of our VHTs have shown for us and our work with UVP. Whether it is Wakabe dropping by our house with jackfruit, Mama Esther and Jaja Flourence visiting us for tea every night to offer their support, or Peter helping us with our baseline surveys even after teaching kindergarten all day, their dedication is inspiring. They have a way of tracking us down no matter where we are or where we’ve told them we’ll be. We can be trekking through a cornfield on our way to a house near the edge of the village, and one of our VHTs will appear out of thin air. We joke that they’ve put mizungu trackers because they keep such good tabs on where we are.  

A gathering of members of the
Namufuma community.
One of our team expectations is that we’ll empower and involve our VHTs whenever possible. Luckily, they’re already so passionate about improving the health of their community that they’ve made it easy for us. While their incredible commitment puts extra pressure on us to do a good job with our work, it also makes us confident that when our two months here are done, the VHTs will continue to act as effective resources in Namufuma to ensure that our work with UVP is sustainable. The community is already interested in and appreciative of UVP’s work here, as we are constantly greeted with “webale emirimu” (thank you for your work). It is our hope that this interest will translate into high attendance at our sensitizations and extend into the future.

     At the end of our second week, we had the honor of visiting the mayor of Iganga District, (who is originally from Namufuma) at his office in town. We met with him and several local councilmen who expressed a shared passion for improving the health of the villages surrounding Iganga. As the first UVP intern team to meet with the mayor, we hope our meeting will be the first of many and will foster an even stronger partnership between UVP and the local government where each provides support to the other in their initiatives for greater sustainable development.

That’s all from Zo-Eh, Jamessssy, Ree, Josephu, and Ashy of Namufuma, muzungu bai!