Saturday, January 21, 2012

Butterflies and Kittens

I got to make a special delivery to my girls from my mom - butterfly glasses and kitty purses stuffed with goodies. The joy these presents brought has lasted and they take them everywhere. Big thanks and love to 'Momma Nancy'!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

American Holiday

Over the holiday season I was able to journey back to Maine for a three-ish week vacation to visit with family and friends. I loved my time at home catching up with friends and getting involved back into daily life with my family. I was even so lucky to arrive home to snow and then have it snow again on Christmas!

A highlight I had was visiting with the Kendalls one snowy afternoon. I love this family and before moving to Africa they were the only family I still babysat for - Kristian and McKayla are two wonderful kids that I cannot believe are growing so fast! While I was over Kristian put on his flirt and sharing hat all in good hopes that Santa would bring him extra presents. I taught him how to carry a basket on his head and by the end of the training he was a pro (thanks for the picture Christine). I did not get hardly any time with McKayla - she is a beautiful, smart and altruistic girl. Her birthday was this month and she has been on a year campaign to collect donations for her SmileTrain page. Please see her story and donate to McKayla's SmileTrain Fund - she is wise and thoughtful beyond her years for a 7 year old.

I also got to spend some valuable time with my closest girl friends. They are all amazing individuals who are beautiful, successful and driven. I'm so lucky to have them in my life.

I was so excited to see the Kings - they are an amazing family and I think of them as my second family. I even got to go into Kathryn's classroom to give a few presentations while I was home for the World Wise Schools program we do together. Plus, when I left for Africa Jeff (to my right) was not, I repeat not, taller than me - that was more of a culture shock then being in America was!

Most importantly I got to spend a lot of fun and quality time with my Mom, Dad and brother. It was the best holiday present to be able to hang with my Dad and watch the NBA games (Go Celts!), have long life discussion with my brother and spend time out at the movies with Mom or at the gym (she can run circles around me!). Coming back to Africa was surprisingly hard emotionally for me the second time around and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I feel so whole when I'm with my family. When I am away from them my heart is with them always, but you develop coping mechanisms to handle homesickness. When Dad took me to the airport all those feelings of loss and distance smacked me square in the face. I can whole heartedly say that coming back to Africa for the second time was one of the hardest things I have had to go through emotionally.

Mom and me after our last session at the gym together - she kicked me into shape from all the food that I ate :)

Despite my sadness, going back home to America also made me realize how special my friends and family are here in Uganda. It is an emotional sacrifice to be away from my family and closest friends, but I don't know what my life would look like if I wasn't able to have my family and friends here in Africa either. I love them both and I am very lucky to have two places I can call home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Appropriate Projects: Hand Washing Stations

Joshua and I recently applied and received money from an organization called Appropriate Projects to carry out a water and sanitation project in Kayunga District. I'm really excited about the project because it is to build 16 different hand washing stations in health centers around the District. Below is the basic write up that we submitted along with the grant money paper work - you can also find this write up on our page on the Appropriate Projects' website.

Kayunga District Hand Washing Station Project - Uganda

Location: Kayunga District, Uganda

Community Description

Kayunga District is a rural district located in Central Uganda along the River Nile. The residents of Kayunga District are very ethnically diverse: There are 52 different tribes that comprise Kayunga District.

The majority of the population belongs to the Buganda Tribe of central Uganda, Banyala Tribe, and refugee populations from other East and Central African countries fleeing hardship. Most of the population earns their living through farming a variety of crops, herding livestock, and fishing along the River Nile and in Lake Kyoga located in northern Kayunga District.

Kayunga District Youth Center was established in 2006 to build District capacity in identifying and providing HIV prevention, care and treatment services to the surrounding population of Kayunga District. The objective of the youth center is to build infrastructure, capacity, and systems of local public and private partners in central Uganda to ensure sustainable, quality, comprehensive HIV and other health-related services for the surrounding communities. The Youth Center Staffs daily go to rural health centers to service the populations for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment, TB assessment and referral, and malaria prevention.

The hand washing stations located at health centers throughout the District are lacking. Though hand washing is taught at health centers and stressed for clinical workers, it has become apparent that the means to keep a person’s hands clean is unavailable. Having unclean hands after using a latrine can lead to a variety of fecal to oral transmissible diseases such as cholera, typhoid, giardia and other gastro-intestinal problems which greatly affect people accessing health care who most likely already have a weakened immune system.

Project Description
This project is to build 16 handwashing stations in health centers around Kayunga District, Kayunga District Hospital, and Kayunga District Youth Center. The hand washing stations at Kayunga District Hospital will be located at each of the three latrines as well as located in all five wards.

In addition, hand washing cards will be laminated and placed at the hand washing stations to direct proper technique. The cards will be in written in the local language of Luganda as well as English, which is the national language.

Members of Kayunga District Youth Center will go to the health centers to set up the handwashing stations as well as give health talks on the proper way to wash hands. They will also train a health official at the centers on how to give the sanitation talks.

The hand washing stations will each be comprised of a 20-liter tank on top of a metal stand. The tank will have a nozzle for maintaining a stream of water while hands are being washed. There will also be a soap shelf located on the metal stand. The laminated card will be attached to the 20-liter tank at eye level.

The health centers all have a local source of water that will be used to keep the hand washing stations full. The health officials at the different centers will also be in charge of keeping the tanks full.

The project funds will be used to buy the materials to build the hand washing stations: 20 liter tanks, nozzles, metal frames as well as the lamination fee for the hand washing cards.

Project Impact
This project will benefit the following people on average:

  • Kayunga District Hospital: 350 people per week
  • Kayunga District Youth Center: 140 people per week
  • Health Center IV (2 Total): 280 people per week
  • Health Center III (3 Total): 545 people per week
  • Health Center II (2 Total): 270 people per week
This project will lead to the improvement of the hygiene of the patients and staff of the health centers as well as the children and youth using the facilities. It is designed for extremely high impact for the funds expended, and is being implemented to serve for many years to come.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Moses' Introduction

It has been about a month since my last post - sorry for the delay! Life here in Kayunga has been busy to say the least- plus I got to visit home for the holidays this year. At the beginning of November I able to attend my first Introduction Ceremony. The Introduction was for my friend and co-worker Moses. Moses is HIV Counseling and Testing Coordinator for Mukono and Kayunga Districts. Moses has been with his wife for over ten years and they have four beautiful children together. Typically a couple has their Introduction and wedding before having children, but Moses is apparently a non-traditional however much committed man.

We traveled to rural Masaka (west of Kampala) for his Introduction. Sixty staffs from Kayunga/Mukono all traveled together - setting off at 6 am. It was an early start to a very long and fun-filled day. Upon reaching Masaka Town we all stopped at a hotel to change into our traditional wear. Susan, who is my counterpart's fiance as well as a very close friend, helped me change into my gomez. We walked into a medium sized hotel room that was filled with woman all changing into various color and styles of dress. The room was abuzz with chatter and laughter - I was overwhelmed by the site. I was also amazed by the process of putting a gomez on - it was a process to say the least. Susan said I needed to put a kikoy on underneath my gomez to add some padding to my back side because she said it wasn't big enough - ha! When she was tying my kikoy right above my diaphragm so that it would hang down to my knees, she tied it so tight I could barely breathe. I think put on my gomez by buttoning the top two buttons and then Susan did the rest. There is a long piece of fabric that is left open when the gomez is initially put on. Susan folded the long part of cloth that hangs down from the left side of the dress upon itself like she was making a paper fan until the layered folds where against my body. She then took thin black string and tied it as tight as she could along my stomach - again making breathing difficult. This string kept the folded pieces together which ultimately I was thankful for because my whole dress would have fallen apart if it wasn't for the string. She then tied the traditional gomez belt on hiding the black string and I was all set. I told her how hard it was to breathe and her response was "beauty is pain" which made other women in the room laugh. Apparently the joke was on me, but I was dressed and ready to go.

The women lined up ready to enter the Introduction to represent Moses' family and friends

Mike (who is a British pre-medical student and completed a rotation in Kayunga) got to come too

The Introduction was full of formalities and was mostly spoken in Luganda. The guests belonging to the bride sat under one tent and the guests belonging to the groom sat under another tent. The first part of the Introduction is preparing the bride's family to hand over the bride to the groom. The women of the bride's family come out in different shifts to talk to the groom to decide whether or not he's ready to be a husband. Then the 'Aunties' come out to identify the groom that they know his face. Once he is identified that he is the groom the bride is allowed to come out.
The bride is in the middle in the blue gomez - her first of three outfits.

Bridal outfit number 2

After the ceremony of the bride's arrival there is some discussion about their love. Then the presents and dowry is presented to the family and the bride goes away to change her outfit and rest.

Joshua helping to bring in the 'presents'

The presents/dowry: lots of goodies for the price of a woman...

The rest of the Introduction is full of happy pronouncements of the couples love and eventually by the time the meal is served the bride and groom are allowed to be together and are culturally married.

The bride (outfit number 3) and the best man Henry passing out cake