So we’re sitting on the porch at Dr. Waiswa’s (vice chairman of UDHA) beautiful Nile-side home in Jinja and rejoicing in the fast internet on his laptop! He has invited everyone to celebrate the work we’ve done as our stay here is coming to an end.
This week has been a busy, but incredibly rewarding one! We now have community health workers. Their training began bright and early Monday morning and wrapped up Thursday. The training went above and beyond our wildest expectations. We were so impressed by the dedication displayed by the elected CHW volunteers and the trainers. We were worried that the 4 day, 9-6, commitment would be too much for the volunteers — farmers and mothers without much “spare” time. But each day we arrived to find them in their best clothes and eager to get to work — sitting at their desks and rereading their notes from the day before. They took their responsibilities seriously and we have no doubt they’ll continue to make UDHA, GlobeMed and us proud. It was great to see these older, respected community members so happy to be in a classroom and enthusiastically vying to answer questions. While the days were long, they were spirited debates with the trainers and lots of laughter — especially when Robert (the chosen “Energizer” of the group) would break up a session with a silly song or anecdote.
As for us, we passed the time attempting to follow the lesson (the topics ranged from exclusive breastfeeding to balanced diets to growth monitoring) and oohing and ahhing over Nangobi — the 4 month old daughter of one CHW who we volunteered to watch whenever possible. She was probably the most attentively looked after baby in Naigobya with the 4 of us (Marcia and Julie included) vying to hold her and rock her. The training ended with us begging her mother to bring her over to the house some time next week because we’ll miss her when we don’t have the day-long training sessions!
The last day was spent doing “practicals” – in the morning the volunteers were trained in how to prepare nutritious baby food – porridge with ground fish added in, or sweet potatoes boiled in milk. They broke into groups and a fierce competition ensued as each team attempted to put their newly acquired knowledge to use and create the best-tasting food. After, we all went to the recently cleared model garden to plant carrots, spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, and chard so it can serve as an example backyard garden for the rest of the community. The training ended with some wonderful thank-you speeches (Ugandans give speeches at any possible occasions) and the community health workers serenading our group with a song they had composed in our honor! The CHWs were happy to complete the training and are excited for their graduation Sunday morning.
We rested Friday and spent time with Marcia and Julie playing Phase 10 (a card game Erin brought) and watching episodes of Privileged, Season 1. The Ugandans in our group have grown very fond of Phase 10 and some of our best nights have been spent playing cards. Betty jokingly tells us she will scoop out our eyeballs when we skip her. Something that makes the act even more enjoyable. Needless to say we’re all very competitive. After a lazy morning we finally got around to our task for the day. We were determined to climb Mount Mawembe, a steep, rocky mountain in the middle of the Naigobyan plains, and decided our climb would celebrate the end of our training. We set off with Ivan, Betty, Marcia and Julie by boda boda to the house of Dr Waiswa and Betty’s aunt. She proudly told us that she owns part of the mountain and her daughter, Mary, agreed to take us to the top. Our three boda drivers and a horde of local children joined us in the adventure. The mountain that had seemed so harmless from below, soon proved to be quite the challenge. Micaela has enjoyed recounting our climb to all who ask — showing how we marched to the top, while Marcia and Julie sluggishly drug their feet and complained about the incline. It’s mostly true, and the Ugandans have a good laugh at her impressions. The terrain was rocky, and we found ourselves sliding and having to really watch our footing- while meanwhile the neighborhood kids scampered by barefoot and cows peacefully munched grass along narrow plateaus. The view from the top was spectacular- all of Naigobya and the surrounding communities were spread out beneath us. Micaela was dragged into a cave at the summit with a bunch of local kids- she got stuck about halfway in but still spent enough time inside to be sufficiently freaked out- the walls were covered with writing and designs and were apparently the subject of many local myths- it definitely felt like some evil spirits were lurking in there. Many of the children repeatedly asked us “What is Mt. Elgon?” – we later realized they were trying to trick us into saying “Mt. Elgon is taller than this mountain”- apparently local lore claims that if you compare Mawembe to another mountain you won’t return from your climb.
But fortunately, we all did- and Betty’s cousin had chairs and a meal waiting for us before we set back off home.
So plans for next week-
Tomorrow- GRADUATION DAY! (Micaela expects to be crying through the ceremony, Erin expects to be cuddling Nangobi). The entire community has been invited to the ceremony after which the community health workers will give a brief talk and demonstrate their newfound skills – like taking MUAC and weight measurements.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: We’ll be wrapping up loose project ends, meeting with the nurse, and observing a few of the community health workers perform their first home visits. We’re not looking forward to saying our goodbyes in Naigobya- we’ve come to really love the community!
Thursday – Sunday: We’ll be in Iganga, doing project reports, finalizing the workplan and budget and holding meetings to discuss the project activities in the upcoming year.
We leave from Entebbe on Sunday at 2 pm and we’ll be in the good old USA on August 2!