Not so beautiful feet
Since I haven’t had the chance to use the internet and write in my blog for a while, I’m just going to clump everything into this post. I’ve been writing most of this in my journal, and I’ll just sum up some thoughts.
One thing that has surprised me about my internship is how much walking we have to do. A few weeks ago, Julius Mbabani and I went to Busembatia Health Center to pick up deworming pills for the children in our village. Since then, we’ve been walking around the villages (by zone), offering the deworming pills to everyone under 12 years of age. Although it seems like a simple process, it’s a reminder of how access to basic healthcare is scanty, despite the presence of otherwise easily accessible medicine. We successfully dewormed about 470 children in our village.
For the last few weeks, our work also focused on HIV. We had a HIV drama group and testing day, where we collaborated with St. Mary’s to provide free testing for HIV. We had a turnout of 160 villagers and fortunately, no one tested positive. As part of our work, we also collaborated with Nakimini and Bunio to do an outreach at Agape, focusing on HIV sensitization. This time, Vish went and represented Butongole and the rest of stayed behind to work in the villages.
While we were waiting for the HIV testing, we had an interesting debate about planners versus searchers (going back to the whole Easterly and Sachs debate). Katie brought up an interesting metaphor she learned in one of her classes — imagine people falling off a bridge and floating downstream a river. A lot of NGO interventions work at rescuing those that float down the river, but forget to address the problem, the bridge that broke in the first place. It was an interesting way to look at the work we were doing.
Under the mango tree…
So far, our intern team in Butongole has successfully completed two outreaches at primary schools nearby our village. Our entire team worked on an outreach at Namalemba Primary School on access to clean water and prevention of malaria. We went over the UNICEF principles on Health and Hygiene, emphasizing how children could improve access to clean water and protect their health better from water-borne diseases. The headmaster at the school also wanted us to address malaria, so we went over basic methods to prevent malaria and also demonstrated the proper use of malaria nets.
A few weeks ago, I also collaborated with the interns in Bunyo for our outreach to Agape Primary school. Originally, it was going to be two interns from Bunyo and two from Butongole (since many children in both our villages go to Agape), but our team was short-handed for the week, so we decided on only one Butongole representative.
Once we arrived, the headmistress instructed all the students to gather under the mango tree, where we held our outreach. The children were very engaged, and we gave out hand-made medallions that said “Hygiene Champ” or “Clean Water Champ” when they volunteered for our demonstrations or answered our questions correctly. It was a very rewarding experience, as the children responded very well to our presentation and demonstrations—we also taught them a hand-washing song to the tune of Frere Jacques and had them split into two groups and sing each verse with an echo from the other side (like a ‘call and response’ song).
One of the head teachers also approached me at the end of our outreach and emphasized how important our presentation was, as it was one of the topics they had planned to teach, but wasn’t able to implement (since they were so pressed for time on academic topics). His appreciation for our presence made our outreach even more rewarding.
Life in Butongole
As they say in Uganda, mwasuze mutya banyabo ni basebo! (Good morning, ladies and gentlemen)!
It’s midway through July and my internship with Uganda Village Project has been amazing so far. I’ve been living and working in Butongole, a rural village in the district of Iganga.
My internship has been focusing on sustainable public-health
interventions in the village of Butongole where there is an inadequate access
to clean drinking water, lack of knowledge of prevalent health problems
(HIV/AIDS and Malaria) as well as limited access to basic health care. In Butongole, villagers experience a high death toll of malaria and water-borne illnesses, which claims the lives of many villagers, especially children, and moreover impacts their ability to exit the cycle of poverty.
Given the impact and consequences of health inequalities in Butongole, my internship aims at providing a “basic health care package” as a way to alleviate the toll that poverty has taken on the health of villagers in Butongole. By focusing on health, the most important aspect of life, my internship addresses a variety of global health problems in poverty that aligns with the mission and vision of the Show Me Campaign.
To give you a glimpse of my life in the village, here are some details: four international and two Ugandan interns living in a house in Butongole… We have no running water or electricity—in order to access water for our daily use, we have to pump our water from a shallow well and bike it back to our house. In the evenings when the sun goes down, we have a small kerosene lamp that lights the room, but it’s not bright enough so we often sleep early or pass our time with conversations on life.
It’s been greatly beneficial for us to be immersed within the community we work in. Since June, we’ve become very close with our neighbors who we share a compound with. The children (Jon, Amina, Barbara and Somaine) have warmed up to us, and villagers have been becoming accustomed to our presence in the village.
As one of the major components of our internship, we’ve been collaborating with the government in electing the Village Health Team members, who have been playing a critical part in our work here—Grace, an official who works with the Ministry of Health came to facilitate the elections and we proceeded to elect one member from each of the six zones in Butongole. It was exciting to see the UVP-government partnership in action and to be part of this entire process. Sadi was re-elected as the VHT chairman, and the other members include Faizal, Monica (our neighbor we share a compound with), Daniel, Fatina and Samuel. Faizal is actually still a secondary school student (17 years old), but he was the only person present from his zone (which is further away from our meeting place) and was thus the only candidate. I’m personally really excited to see a youth on this team, as it demonstrates another generation of awareness and sustainability for the Village Health Team.
In Butongole, we have started focusing on access to clean water and malaria. The new VHT members have been incredibly supportive and have been actively helping us in mobilizing for our meetings and sensitizations. Sometimes, this can be a discouraging aspect of our work—we spend our entire week mobilizing, and not everyone shows up. Fortunately, at our last clean water and malaria outreach, we had about 45 villagers show up, and those who came were very engaged in our presentation and seemed to enjoy the discussion aspects of our work the most.
Aside from the work, weekends have also been awesome. A few weekends ago, the other interns and I went backpacking around Jinja—we visited Bujagali Falls and the Source of the Nile. During the Fourth of July weekend, we went hiking in Sipi Falls, and this upcoming weekend, I’ll be going white-water rafting in the Nile!