Thursday, May 26th:
Thursday was an action packed day. We started in the office for breakfast, then rode with James to the Subcounty Chairman inauguration for his older brother, Sam. He’s basically the mayor of this section of Uganda, so he’s kind of a big deal. It was so interesting to attend a community event like this one to see the interactions between all of the people.
James brought us snacks and sodas because it lasted much longer than expected, which is apparently very common in Uganda. The concept of time is taken much more loosely than in the U.S, which is perfect for perpetually late college students (aka me). We definitely felt more like James’ children than his guests, especially when he scolded Abbey for buying an ice cream that could have made her sick (she survived).
We went back to Sam’s house, which doubles as a school and orphanage for about 100 kids. The government has recently passed legislation to decrease the number of orphanages and instead have kids live with extended families. This helps kids stay connected with their communities and traditions. This also means that Sam’s is one of the few orphanages left, and provides a home and safe place for many kids who really have nowhere else to go. Seeing them run around laughing and playing, it’s clear how resilient kids are and how wonderful of a community Sam and his staff have created there. Some of the women who work at MOH also work at the orphanage, so I’m sure we’ll be back to visit and play.
Friday- Sunday // May 27-29
There are some big differences between health clinics in the US and Uganda, but after picking up a few illnesses this week, and spending a good chunk of time at one near our house, we found out some of the best.
Before I had to get a blood test, a nurse plopped a baby in my arms and walked away. A little confusing, but a perfect distraction from not feeling great. Afterwards, we couldn’t find the nurse so Julia played the stand-in-mom for a few hours. James explained to us that in these types of situations you just nod and say “T.I.A.” (This Is Africa).
The geckos are another great addition to the clinic aesthetic. The little guys are crawling around everywhere and really lighten the mood. Overall, the physicians and nurses took great care of us and our immune systems that weren’t quite prepared for the Ugandan cuisine and we’re all feeling so much better now.
Because we were feeling a little better, Julia and I made it to training Saturday to help with pad-making (P.S. Saturday was also International Menstrual Hygiene Day!!!!) . The group of around 40 was so quick to learn and eager to teach others. During each training, we ask participants what they expect from us and what they expect after the training. Many express their desire to teach others the skill of making pads, start producing and selling their own, and making menstruation management much more acceptable in their communities. We hope that when we check back in on the communities they have been able to do each of these things.
Monday, May 30th – Tuesday, May 31st
We went back to the community where we distributed water filters and documented children for sponsorship last week, so we got to see lots of familiar faces. It was fun to feel more a part of the community and talk to a few of the friends we had made before.
Training went SO smoothly in comparison to others, especially because people were immediately excited to get to work. James noted that the community coordinator is very well liked among the people in the area, so when she says there will be an event, EVERYONE comes. As a result we had around 65 individuals each day. Many were willing to contribute, and per usual we heard some interesting myths surrounding menstruation.
Some told us that if a girl on her period climbed a fruit tree, that fruit would go dry. If she jumped over the rope of a cow, she would give birth prematurely later in life.
It usually takes us a long time to sift out fact from fiction and it’s hard to know if we really convince anyone. In reality, this same phenomenon occurs around the world. Because we shy away talking about menstruation and many other “taboo” topics, many individuals are misinformed and isolated.
One woman told us that in 3rd grade a girl in her class got her period for the first time and was shocked. All of the boys laughed at her, and as a result she never returned to school. Talking to the whole community about what periods are, and how girls can get access to pads make them feel so much more comfortable in their classrooms, sports, and other activities. In the US too.
On a completely unrelated note… Need some inspiration for your hump day? James’ wife Lillian is an incredible singer and apparently performer. We discovered her YouTube fame and will officially be starring in her next video. See the link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fRCnP1jTjg4