Friday, November 5, 2010

Peace Corps Training: A long 10 weeks in Africa (9.8.10 – 16.10.10 )

During Peace Corps Training all 45 volunteers were working from 8 am to 5 pm at RACO conference center learning many different areas of Ugandan culture, having intensive sessions of language training, hours of technical training and field trips that focused on issues we might and will see out in our communities. Throughout this whole process we lived with home stay families to not only feel like we have a family here in Uganda other then the PCV community, but to also learn more about Ugandan family dynamics and culture.

My home stay family was quite nice and worked very hard to get where they were in life. My father’s name is John and he is a truck driver in Kampala. He thinks its very important for him to work as much as he can while he is young so his family can live the life he wants them too: he wants his family to have nice things, maintain their electricity, he children to go to good schools and to save as much money as possible so when he gets old he can relax and not work. My mother’s name is Josephene. She works incredibly hard through owning a shop that sells clothes as well as being a seamstress. She also runs the house and takes care of the children while she was also taking care of me! I have a few home stay siblings as well: Simon who is in senior school, Jarred who is in secondary school and then Winnie who is four years old. I spent a lot of time with Winnie due to the fact that she was always home when I was. She loves to color and play with my Aquadoodle. They also had a cat, which was still very young when I came to stay with them. They waited to name it until I came to live with them which after seeing the sandy color of the cat I nerdily named it Dune.

During training we were split into two different groups depending on our volunteer titles. There are community health volunteers, economic development volunteers and education volunteers here in Uganda. Our training class was comprised of community health and economic development volunteers. I am a community health volunteer with the specific title of a public health general volunteer. The purpose of the Community Health Project in Uganda is to help Ugandans living in rural areas foster healthy behaviors and improve their health status. One goal of my project’s framework is that further transmission of HIV/AIDS will be reduced and the impact of the epidemic in the general population will be mitigated. The second goal is that the capacity of communities and service providers, including VHTs (Village Health Teams) and health committees will be strengthened, and linkages and health services improved. The third goal is that communities will adopt key health and disease prevention behaviors and practices affecting maternal and child health, morbidity and mortality. Now these are all very lofty goals that come with a slew of objectives, indicators and tasks. Not every health volunteer focuses on each goal, but at some point in the two years here they will run across not just one of these goals to try and help meet.

During training to help meet these goals we had a variety of sessions to strengthen our skills as volunteers. We all had to learn a local language, which I learned, and I am still trying to learn Luganda. We learned about medical issues here in Uganda from the Peace Corps Medical Staff while they gave us eight weeks of immunizations. We learned about SWOT analysis, needs assessments, community mapping, daily/weekly schedules for the communities we are in and other more administrative skills. For health skills we focused on a variety of issues such as HIV/AIDS education and prevention, child and maternal health, malaria education and prevention, safe water and sanitation, reproductive health, micro finance and financial management as well as many more.

During training we also got to go on what Peace Corps calls “Immersion Week”. This is when we go to stay with a current PCV to see what they do at their work, where they live and everything that comes with living in rural Africa as a PCV. I went to stay with a lovely lady named Laura who lives in Kakabara (on the way to Fort Portal). I went with another boy from my training class named Bryan. We both stayed at Laura’s for a week and went with her to the orphanage she works at. The orphanage is for refugee children from the surrounding countries and most of them spoke Kiswahili. It was an amazing experience and it was wonderful to see the work that Laura was doing. She is a volunteer who class just COS’d (close of service) last month and she decided to stay in Uganda for another year. Talk about dedication!

Though training was a lot of hard work there was definitely fun to be had. Whenever we found a free moment between classes, studying, laundry and spending time with our host families we were always together. I have made some amazing friends so far along this journey and hopefully the friendships will continue to blossom and grow!

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