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.
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