We have been in Quito, Ecuador for just over a week and it has been an surprising experience to say the least. A majority of our time has been spent in the city of Quito which is very large. We can find all the comforts of home in this large city, including Papa Johns. We have had some great experiences with Alicia; our host, president, and co-founder of Triple Salto. Her family and all if the people who have welcomed and helped us in Ecuador have made this experience unforgettable. The best part of our trip thus far has been our downtime at the worksite where we have been able to interact and exchange stories with the teachers and students. It is at this school where we have been painting our first mural, and building our first greenhouse and wormery. It is exciting seeing these tasks slowly being finished but it’s also a sad feeling because we all know as we start to finish everything our leave date is also approaching rapidly. Hopefully soon we will be able to show you all of the hard work we have done with all of the great people we have met. I have personally really enjoyed this experience thus far and cant imagine what the next five will entail.
Many of us had differing expectations for what our project might entail and how our plans would unfold.
HIV Testing and Counseling:
Initially we bought 500 HIV testing kits that would be administered to the locals two days per week. At first, we were not sure whether or not we would be the ones administering the tests, as none of us had ever tested for HIV before and did not know the proper procedure. However, we soon learned that hired lab technicians would be the ones conducting the tests.
We were astonished that after the first three or four weeks, we had already tested 500 people and were out of testing kits. This kind of turnout was not expected within the first half of the trip, nor was it planned for. However, we were excited that so many people travelled out of their way to be tested. Our expectation of testing 500 people for HIV was achieved within the first half of the trip, and we planned to purchase more testing kits, however our budget did not allow it. It was a great feeling knowing that we helped so many people and may have even saved their lives.
Personal Hygiene and Sanitation Education:
Before the trip, our plan was to educate the community in proper sanitation education and personal hygiene once per week. Our host informed us that our common knowledge would be enough. As a group, we thought that we would be trained in what we should be teaching the community during our orientation which was supposed to be held during the first full day that we were in Oyam. However, we did not have an elaborate orientation and were still unsure of exactly what we should be teaching.
On the first day of sanitation education, we conveyed to the community what we knew about sanitation practices and asked them questions regarding their everyday personal hygiene. We also used this chance as an opportunity to visit the sites in which we would be possibly building our five latrines. However, after this first day, we did not reserve a full day for sanitation and personal hygiene education but rather blended it in with our Friday task. This did not align with our expectations, but we knew some things would not go according to plan and that we would have to adjust.
Construction of the Pit Latrines:
Our expectations of the pit latrines were far different from what they actually were. In regards to the digging dimensions, I think most of us pictured a 5’ x 5’ hole, or something close to this size, about 10-15 feet deep in which more than one person could be digging simultaneously. However, on our first day of construction, we realized that the hole was to be about 7 feet in length and about 2 ½ feet wide, much smaller than we imagined. With these smaller dimensions, only one person could be digging at a time and it would take much longer to complete than we thought. We also didn’t realize how many steps were involved in finishing a pit latrine: digging, covering the hole, making bricks, building up the brick walls, roofing, and finally plastering and adding a door.
On our first day, we expected to work hard and finish the digging aspect. When we arrived, the community members were hesitant to let us do any of the work because they did not want us to hurt ourselves (blisters and soreness). However, after explaining to our host that we were more than willing to help, we took a more active role in the construction of the latrines, drying racks, and trash pits throughout the remainder of the trip. However, despite our hard work, we were unable to finish all five pit latrines.
Our schedule was not feasible and did not allow for adequate time to complete five pit latrines. The construction of a single latrine usually takes about 5-7 days, but we were only allotted 6 days total to complete five. After about the third or fourth week, we had to begin doing construction every day of the week, eliminating HIV testing, sanitation and hygiene education, and many of the home visits. This was not part of our expectations, and many of us were disappointed to discontinue the other aspects of the project. Aside from the schedule, our drivers and lab technicians were consistently 2-4 hours late, which really crippled our time in the field.
Although our expectation of finishing all five latrines was not met, we did finish all five drying racks and trash pits, and the community was extremely thankful for our hard work and support. By the end of the project, it was nice to be able to see one completely finished latrine and look back and compare how much progress we had made. Even though our expectation to finish the project was not fulfilled, we were all very happy with the work we put in and our accomplishments in the allotted time period.
In our beginning schedule, we planned to visit 10-20 homes once per week to check on mothers and their babies and also bring them a gift bag. Our expectation soon fell during the second week when we got a late start to the field because our driver was not on time. We were not able to meet our quota of 10 homes per week, but still visited as many homes as we were able to within the given time. After the second week, this is what seemed to happen quite frequently.
Once we decided to begin working on the construction of the latrines every day, we would work for 2-3 hours and then reserve 1 or 2 hours for home visits in which we could visit 4-6 mothers. Eventually, the mothers, not knowing the circumstances, began to complain that we were not visiting them like we had promised. Towards the end of the trip, we made it a point to conduct more home visits.
Even though we did not visit as many mothers and babies as we had wished to, it was an incredible, unforgettable experience that far surpassed our expectations. Each of us even had at least one baby named after us, which was very rewarding. It was an amazing experience to be able to hold the babies and deliver a gift that would greatly improve the health of the baby. It is something that I don’t think any of us will forget!
In our time spent in Oyam, we helped to give many people an enclosed bathroom that will last seven years, a life changing addition to their lives. With a bathroom, they now do not have to go out into the bush to go to the bathroom, where snakes and other wild animals could possibly injure them. This will also prevent most contamination of crops from their own feces. Also, we helped to build drying racks for dishes to encourage locals to wash their dishes and avoid build up of harmful bacteria, as well as trash pits to again avoid crop contamination.
However, I think the biggest impact that we made was in the lives of those who were tested for HIV. For those who were willing to get tested, this could be life changing. Since they can get medicines for HIV for free from their local health clinics, it is crucial for them to get tested to see if they are HIV positive. With this given service, the 13 people out of 500 who tested positive can now seek the help they need. We very well could have saved them from dying from AIDS.
Even though we did not complete every aspect of our project, we made a huge impact, and the community let us know it and thanked us immensely. During the last two days in Oyam, almost every sub-county that our project was based in performed skits, sang songs, and displayed cultural dances for us. It was incredible! The communities welcomed us in open arms and were incredibly nice and hope that we will return to visit with them soon. Our impact in the Oyam District will be unforgettable to those that we helped, and to us as well.
What Went Well With The Project:
We had a variety of work opportunities:
This project was great because we weren’t always doing the same thing. Each day would often be different from the day before. For example, some days we were physically constructing latrines, some days we were helping with HIV testing, and other days we were either doing education or making home visits to expecting or new mothers.
Progress was easy to see and measure:
With the latrines, we could easily see the fruits of our labor. It was very rewarding to see the roof go onto a latrine that we had spent several days building up from the ground. With HIV testing, we would know exactly how many people we tested and what the results were right away. We knew that we were making a difference in those people’s lives, because from our testing people could learn whether or not they were HIV positive, allowing them to get access to free medicines if necessary. We knew exactly how many home visits we performed as well.
Great opportunities for additional activities on the weekends:
Although the area we stayed in was very rural, we had a lot of fun traveling to nearby places on the weekends. Our host was very helpful in planning fun trips, such as going on safaris or hiking to waterfalls. We also participated in a 10K run put on by our host organization, GHN(U) to help raise awareness about child and maternal health. Aside from the project itself, we were able to have a very rewarding and worthwhile experience exploring other areas of Uganda.
We had a close relationship with GHN(U)’s director, Bob:
Bob was basically with us every step of the way, and there was always a very open line of communication between us. We would frequently talk about how the project was going, changes we needed to make, our upcoming plans, etc. He also did most of the traveling with us on the weekends, which allowed us to have an even closer relationship. We have kept in touch since returning from the project, and should be receiving updates on the continued progress.
Very close interaction with the community members/we were very welcomed by the community and project beneficiaries:
Everyone we met seemed to be very nice and accepting of the work that we were there to do. We never felt like someone disagreed with the project or wanted to go against what we were doing. We were constantly working alongside the community members to complete our projects, as well as doing things such as home visits where we could have a connection with the beneficiaries. The people really made us feel important and special, and working with them was a high point of the project.
Our food was tasty!
We had an amazing helper in our home who was very sweet to us and always willing to help us out. She made amazing meals, which we always looked forward to after a long day of work!
We felt very safe and comfortable in our work and living environments:
There honestly was never a time when we felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Like I mentioned earlier, the people received us very well. We had two security guards at our home every night, which just added to the overall feeling of safeness. We always had a Ugandan traveling with us on the weekends, which really made things go smoothly.
What Didn’t Go Well With The Project:
We did not fully meet our project goals:
One of the main issues with this was that we did not completely finish all 5 of our latrines before it was time for us to leave. Towards the end of our trip, we stopped doing some of the other parts to the project, such as HIV testing and educating the community, so that we could devote more time to construction.
There were some issues with things being properly and accurately budgeted:
This was a pretty complicated and foggy subject, but overall, we had trouble staying on track with our budget and had several discussions about how we may be going over budget. A lot of responsibility was placed on us to keep track of things on our own, and we rarely had proper documentation (such as receipts) for things that were purchased with project money. There were some instances in which we were not entirely sure where some of the money was going. We spent quite a bit of time having to work out the math and figure things out related to the budget, and we had to reference our personal journals in order to have some sort of record of what community members needed to be paid and for how many days of work. In general, dealing with the budget added a layer of stress to the trip that may not have necessarily been there otherwise.
Things did not run according to schedule and we lost a lot of work time:
On an average workday, we would be told to be ready to go around 8:30 or 9:30 AM. The vehicle would usually show up somewhere between 10:30-1:30. This was a regular occurrence, resulting in a huge loss of valuable work time. I believe that this had a great deal to do with why we were unable to fully achieve our project goals. There were 3 days when we did not have a vehicle at all, and had to stay home, unable to make any progress towards the project.
We did not have running water at our house or electricity other than a gas-powered generator:
While this could be looked at as a negative aspect to the trip, I do believe that we adjusted to this lifestyle quite well and were pretty comfortable with the circumstances. We bathed about 1-2 times per week, using buckets of water. It was nice on the weekends, because we would often stay in a hotel, which would have running water, sometimes even warm water! We did not have constant electricity at the house, but we did have a gas-powered generator, which allowed us to have lights at night, charge the computers and even have television! We had Internet access as well which was important for keeping in contact with our families and keeping up with our weekly blog posts.
Lunch was not provided on a consistent basis:
We were under the impression that we would be able to buy lunch from the community while we were out at the work sites, but this turned out to not really be an option. We would pack some sort of lunch, usually leftovers from the night before, but it was usually very light and not too filling. We would also purchase snacks when we were away for the weekends, such as crackers or cookies, to pack throughout the week. But generally, our lunch was very light and not very filling.
Poor communication with the community members about our work schedule/time of arrival:
As I mentioned earlier, we never headed to work on time. This was an issue when the community members were told that we would arrive to perform HIV testing at 10 AM but did not actually show up until 1 PM. The community members would wait for us all of that time, and many would leave before we arrived. Towards the end of the trip when we cut out home visits in order to do more construction, some community members were upset that we never came to see them and they didn’t understand the reason why we hadn’t.
Sometimes our skills and willingness to work were not fully utilized:
There were some days when there were a lot of people all at one work site, and we could not all be involved, leaving us sitting around just watching. There were some other days when the task at hand was not something that we knew how to do ourselves. At first, the community members did not want us to participate too much in the hard work, such as digging the pit for the latrines, but eventually we were more vocal about our eagerness to help and we were able to take over a little more.
Tasks were not properly planned out and scheduled:
This was a very big issue when it came to the construction of the latrines. For example, the original schedule only allotted one day per week for construction (a total of 6 days of construction for our entire project). In reality, completing one latrine took between 5-7 days of construction, and we were supposed to completely finish 5 latrines during our stay (so we would need to allow approximately 25-35 days of construction, as opposed to the 6 that were in the schedule). So according to the original schedule, it would have been virtually impossible for us to fully achieve the project goals.
The six weeks in Uganda flew by so incredibly fast. However, it makes us all very happy knowing that we were able to accomplish many valuable, and sustainable things. We were able to get around 300+ people tested, and counseled about HIV. This is sustainable mainly because of the education that was provided along with the testing. Knowing your HIV status is also sustainable in that if someone is positive, they now know that they need to acquire medication from the free clinic and are able to live a longer, happier life.
We were able to successfully finish building and roofing all 5 latrines, however only one of them got plastered when we were there. I just talked to Bob, however and the rest should all be plastered very shortly (It had rained which made it impossible to plaster but the rain had just started to subside when I chatted with him a few days ago). These 5 latrines are sustainable because it means a higher standard of living for the people we built them for. It also gives them a sense of hope seeing 7 Americans travel all the way to their rural district of Oyam and engage in manual labor in an effort to help them. During one of the final days on the trip we visited one of the 4 communities we were working with for a goodbye celebratory get together. This was the most touching experience during the project for me because some of the community members were able to act out what they have learned through us being there and how our work there is sustainable. They acted out the reasons why it is imperative to try and deliver their children from the health clinic, as well as attend prenatal/postnatal check ups, and get their children immunized. They then spoke of the hope we have brought them and the realization that if 7 Americans can help out the people in Oyam, that the community needs to be able to band together and help themselves. That was one of the most important lessons I was hoping to teach them, aside from the health education, because helping your neighbor is one of the best ways to improve their standard of living.
This brings us to part of the next stage of GHN(U)’s project. A community fund of money is now being instated as a borrowing tool, where pregnant mothers may find themselves going into labor in the night unexpectedly and they don’t have any available money to get a motorbike to take them to the clinic for delivery. With the money everyone contributes each month, that person or family can borrow money and then pay it back as soon as they acquire the funds. I hope this will do more than just help them out financially. I hope that it will bring the community members together and show them how great helping one another out can truly be.
The last thing that we accomplished with the project, was education and making personal connections. We were able to heavily focus on pregnancy education, which included topics such as breastfeeding, prenatal/postnatal doctor visits, vaccinations, as well as malaria, hygiene and sanitation. It was great to see how fast some of our education spread to the other members in the community via the community leaders, and community health groups who were eager to share. Education is always sustainable, and by visiting expected mothers at their homes we were able to make personal connections and hopefully have the women and their husbands better understand the information and truly commit to making these changes for themselves, and their babies. I know it meant a lot to them too, having us as a guest at their home, because GHN(U) said that no other government official, or organization really does this. I hope that helps our information and purpose stick with them forever and that they may go on to live healthier and happier lives.
While we accomplished a lot in our 6 weeks abroad, there is still much more planned for GHN(U) and we hope to continue to be a part of the journey.
Since we have just been regurgitating our trip, we all thought that it might be a little more interesting to describe our struggles and everyday life. Before we arrived, our image of our new home was a shower with running cold water, a flushing toilet, trash cans present, and a room with a dresser. Kelly said that she thought that instead of throwing the toilet paper in the toilet, we would have to throw it in a trash can. We are able to throw our toilet paper in the toilet, although we do not flush the toilet every time because we have a limited supply of water. We have a big black barrel that holds 100 liters of water that we use to bathe and flush the toilet, however, it is rarely full. If we are lucky, we bathe around 1-2 times per week, and keep in mind we do not have running water. None of us really expected that we’d have to wash our own underwear and socks by hand. It’s a lot harder than it sounds!
Our typical work day:
Everyone usually wakes up around 8:30 or 9, has breakfast, and does their own routine to get ready. They tell us to be ready by 9 or 10, but we know that our ride will not show up until at least noon. Most of us journal, read, or sleep some more to pass the time because we don’t have electricity. We have a generator that supplies us with 2-3 hours, but we usually only turn it on at night to conserve gas. We have to pack our own lunch, which consists of leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. It is usually not enough, but we manage. When our ride finally arrives, we scurry around to finish getting ready. It usually takes another 15 minutes from this point to get on the road. The average duration of our road trip lasts about an hour and 20 minutes. The work sites are not that far away but the roads are absolutely awful and make for a very uncomfortable ride. We drive through small ponds and 3 ft deep potholes consistently.
When we arrive at our work site, anything can happen. Half of the time we get there and the site is ready for work. However, lately, more than half of the time, we have arrived at our work site and it is not ready for construction. Since we can not work at this site, we have to drive another 40 min-1 hour to go to another site to work. Our work varies from day to day. Currently, all of the holes for the pit latrines are dug and we are working on building up the brick walls of the latrine. We can only do 3-4 layers the first day and then must let the walls dry for 3 days. Then the second time we go back, we can usually do 2-3 layers of brick. Each latrine needs to be about 8 layers high. Depending on how much work we have, we usually leave the work site anywhere between 3 and 5. Due to the need to catch up with construction, lately we have been staying later. Once we leave the site, it takes another hour and 20 minutes to return to our house (assuming we don’t make random stops, which we do quite frequently).
Once we get back, we unpack our stuff, and basically do what we do in the morning (journal, read, and sleep) until it gets dark. Around 8, we turn on the generator and watch a little TV and get on the computer. Our favorite shows (Girls) are What Not to Wear, Say Yes to the Dress, The Weakest Link, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (UK style), Chopped, and Mr. Bean. We usually eat dinner around 9. Dinner usually consists of a meat (maybe goat, chicken, or pork), beans, rice, chapati (basically pita bread), cabbage, and potatoes. After dinner, we watch more TV and go to bed around 10 or 11. This is what our typical work day consists of.
During our stay in Uganda, we’ve learned that money is a major motivator. When we’re done for the day, we have had to pay the community members to finish digging our holes for the pit latrines because it’s very difficult to find free labor; volunteers are rare. The sub-counties we work with are used to receiving handouts from organizations without being asked what they can contribute in return. In contrast, during last year’s project in Peru, the community put in sweat equity and helped build the healthcare center during their spare time because it was expected of everyone. It is a struggle for us because members of the community are paid to complete a certain number of bricks, or finish digging the latrine where it is too narrow for us to dig, but they don’t always finish what needs to be done, even though there is, what we believe to be, an adequate amount of time. With all of the day-to-day responsibilities that the community must focus on, it is difficult to make time for building bricks or other parts of our project that need to be done in a certain order to be most efficient.
As mentioned above, it throws our schedule off and a lot of patience is required of our team. Another instance occurred when we were getting ready to leave for HIV testing. It was 1 PM and we were just now leaving because we had to wait for the lab technicians. Since we were only going to be working for half a day, we told the lab technicians that we were only going to pay them for a half a day. They did not like this and refused to go, even though we were offering fair wages. This angered us because the people that wanted to be tested were told that we would arrive there at 9 or 10, so they would be waiting from 9-until whenever we arrived. By the time we got there around 2, most of them had left. Compensation has proved to be an unexpected hurtle for the organization but we hope to have a more concrete schedule for the next few weeks!
This past weekend our host, Bob Marley Achura, organized a half marathon in Lira to raise funds to support the health of women and children. Ben ran the full half marathon (21k) and the rest of us ran the 10k. It was a lot of fun and a great experience. The winner of the 21k finished with a time of 65 minutes and the winner of the 10k finished with a time of 27 and a half minutes. Crazy! Last year, the winners of the half marathon and 10k received cash prizes, but this year these were not promised. They were still expecting cash due to misinformation from the local radio stations, which caused some controversy. Bob was very stressed because he had to pay, out of his own pocket, the winners a good amount of money. Overall, the marathon was a valuable experience for us all and we had the chance to run past parts of Lira we hadn’t yet seen – fields of sunflowers! Several hundred people came out to run or support their friends running and it was really great to see the community support GHNU’s cause and contribute to better healthcare in the district.
Friday evening, after a hard work day at a construction site, we enjoyed a Mexican themed dinner. Stephen, from the Peace Corps, killed a couple chickens for us and we each helped prepare a part of the meal. We had chicken and refried bean burritos, veggies, fruit, and chocolate cake. Everything homemade! And the technology used to prepare everything was very old fashioned. We don’t have an oven so Kelly used a Dutch Oven to bake the cake. It was so great to finally have a dessert in Africa, as we have not really come across one yet. It was a great end to a productive week.
Early Saturday morning, we left Oyam for Kidepo Valley National Park. It was a 6 hour ride to the park and it was definitely the bumpiest ride we’ve experienced in Uganda! The potholes and muddy, rough roads are aweful! That’s the one thing every Ugandan complains about. As we got closer to the park, we were surrounded by gorgeous mountains from all sides. We finally arrived at the park and saw tons of baboons crossing the road not too far from our car. We also passed countless buffalo and waterbacks (a big deer-like animal). We unpacked our things in our bandas, a hut with 2 beds and mosquito nets, with a communal outdoor bathroom. A family of warthogs roamed freely on our property. We headed over the hotel next door to make dinner reservations, but it turned out the plane didn’t come to deliver the food. Phillip, our park guide, used his connections and assured us we’d have dinner. Then we hit the road again with Phillip and just a few minutes into the ride we passed many zebras. Phillip then lead us down a side road and our Land Cruiser got stuck in mud! After about 45 minutes of trying to get the car out a million different ways, we finally pushed it out (with plenty of muddy clothes and shoes to wear for the rest of the evening). Phillip got a call from a fellow guide to come to a certain spot in the park. We drove up to a rocky ledge and there were a couple majestic lions lying on top overlooking the landscape. Most of us climbed on top of the Land Cruiser to get a better view. We all agree that standing just a few hundred feet from lions was one of the most amazing moments we’ve experienced. That evening, we enjoyed dinner under the stars which made us feel like we were in a planetarium.
On Sunday, we decided to spend a few more hours in the park in the hopes of seeing a few more animals. Elephants were spotted in the distance, so we searched for a side road to take us closer. The side road we took brought us a few hundred feet from a huge group of elephants as they walked across the savannah. That was a great last sighting before we left the park. On the ride home we picked up our cook (Olivia) in Lira, which is a little less than an hour from where we are staying. She had just picked up our groceries for the week, which were loaded in the land cruiser. To our surprise, there were 6 chickens tied under the seats of the land cruiser! Ania was terrified to go near them so we all became really close on the ride home, practically sitting on top of one another. It made for quite a hilarious ride home.
Last Thursday we started out the day with homemade peanut butter made by our awesome cook, Olivia. It is SO good! This was our first day of construction. Our nourish members split into two groups (Kelly, Ania, Katie, Shane) and (Melissa, Ben, Olivia). We each went to different sites and began digging of latrines (2 feet wide, 8 feet long, and 15 feet deep.) Melissa’s group ran into a huge mass of bedrock 3 feet down and after using a pick ax to dig down another foot we had to stop and pay community members to finish digging because it was taking too much of our time. The other group’s site got 10 feet deep to great help from the community and good soil and finished constructing a drying rack as well as trash pit. Each group was welcomed with a warm lunch and tea once our day was complete. Later this night we were invited to attend the Sr. Sargent of Police’s promotional party.
Friday was our first day of home visits in the community. We visited ten homes that day of expecting/ new mothers. The gifts we gave were a couple bars of soap, sugar, salt, and jelly for the baby. The main focus was to encourage the mothers to go to the health centers for checking up on themselves and their babies. Unfortunately, many of the mothers didn’t give birth in the health centers because they didn’t have access to transportation or health center staff. A touching part of this day was that a lot of babies were named after members of our group After work, we drove immediately to Lira Town to go to a corporate dance, but the team was exhausted so we settled for an end of the week recap meeting with our director Bob at our hotel.
When we awoke on Saturday, we were pleasantly surprised by a shower with running, hot water. We drove about two hours to Murchison National Park, which had an entrance fee of only $35. Some of the wildlife included baboons, gazelle, warthogs, elephants (from a distance), giraffes, water buffalo, and a few others. For dinner, we stopped at a really nice hotel that charged $250 per night, but had a swim-up bar overlooking the Nile. Following dinner, we returned to the hotel and retired for the night.
Thankfully we were actually able to sleep in on Sunday. After breakfast we took a tour of Lira given by the hotel staff. We saw several schools and banks and were able to walk through the local market. The vendors in the market sold everything from clothing to dishes to fresh fruits and vegetables. We ate lunch at Prince restaurant which featured African, Indian, and Chinese cuisine. The food was delicious but unfortunately we had to wait over an hour to get it. Ben had to wait the longest, an hour and a half. Luckily, while we were waiting we were able to watch Monsters Inc. on the restaurant TV, which made it more bearable. We then left Lira to come back to Oyam where we watched Italy lose the EuroCup Finals before going to bed.
Monday began our second round of HIV testing in Oyam. We split into two groups so some of us went to Adyegi and others to Adigo. We taught the community members about danger signs to look for during pregnancy, when to have prenatal check-ups, danger signs in newborns, breastfeeding information, and how to prevent malaria. When it was time for testing to begin, we helped copy patient names and test results into the record book. Both groups tested roughly 90 people in total that day. We got home with fresh mandazi (fried bread) and homemade peanut butter on the kitchen table. Stephen, a Peace Corps volunteer staying in Oyam, came over and we chatted about his 1.5 years in Uganda and about his work here. For dinner we had cabbage and chapati (flatbread) and ended the night with a few rounds of some card games.
On Tuesday, we visited Aber and Atura, two other villages in the Oyam district, to conduct another round of HIV testing. Over 140 people were seen and about three tested positive. The group from Aber went to the youth training center, where young women were learning how to sew and young men were learning computer skills, to promote getting tested. Ben, Melissa and Olivia had luck catching a fish and gave it to our driver’s family. We ate roasted corn on the cob from a vendor on the way home then went for a quick run.
The next day was spent building a drying rack for one of the villages and about half of a latrine. One of the latrines was already dug so we built the surrounding wall halfway up. The team and the community members all pitched in to help lay the bricks. On the way home, we stopped at the Oyam market, picked up peanuts for peanut butter and each of us had a stick of sugar cane. They’re a lot of work to eat! We celebrated July 4th with our friends from the Peace Corps, complete with burgers and a movie.
Today, Thursday, we planned on starting to dig another latrine, but we didn’t have the tools with us to get it started. Instead, we went to homes with expecting mothers or mothers who just gave birth. We encouraged them to go to the health center for prenatal visits and for check-ups after giving birth to check on the mother’s and baby’s health. We visited 8 homes and gave each home a gift of soap, sugar, salt, and jelly.
It’s been a very busy week and a half! We are finally getting into the routine of our work week and the above workdays will be a part of our normal schedule.
We’ll go more into depth about our struggles and the adjustments we’ve been makin
Our first 2 days were spent in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. Last Sunday we went to the source of the Nile River and paid 21,500 Ugandan Shillings (less than $10) to go on an hour long boat ride. We saw lots of types of birds, but no crocs or hippos! Sunday night, we traveled about 4 hours to the Oyam District, getting stuck in a traffic jam for about an hour. We arrived at the guest house, our home for the next 6 weeks, around 2:30 AM. Dinner was prepared for us upon our arrival (rice, potatoes, avocado, beans and goat meat). We ate dinner at 4 AM!
Tuesday we started with our project. We split into two groups and went to two small, rural communities (Adigo & Adyegi). We were greeted with a really warm welcome from the women of the community as they sang a song for us and played instruments, as well as being greeted by hundreds of children that were excited to see us! We prepared and presented health information to the community members on Tuesday, covering the topics of Malaria, breastfeeding and pre-natal care. The health care workers administered HIV/AIDS tests to anyone who wanted to participate, and they received their results that same day. About 200 tests were administered.
Yesterday we visited 12 homes, teaching sanitation and hygiene practices, as well as evaluating their conditions. Today, we are going back to 2 homes to begin the construction of latrines. Tomorrow we will be doing home visits to people who are either expecting or have recently had a baby and delivering gifts to them as well as seeing how they are doing and visiting.
We have been welcomed into the community very warmly and have received several invitations to parties and gatherings. Our work was mentioned on the local radio station and we have been introduced to many important people, such as the Chairman of the District, the head of police, and the head of security.
Overall, everything has been going really well and we are learning a lot!