Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Tuesday, June 1st

Already, the other interns I’ve met are fabulous. They come from a variety of backgrounds, although mostly public health. Many are working on their masters and using this as an internship or practicum experience. There are also a few medical students who have finished their first or second years, some undergrads, and a couple going into law and policy making. I’d say amongst the international interns it’s about 75% female and 25% male, but amongst the Ugandan interns it’s flip-flopped. I love my team members, they are all pretty relaxed and down to earth and I think we’ll get along fine. Simon Peter, one of our Ugandan team members took us out into Uganda today where we were definitely the only white people and an obvious distraction from normal life. Our mission was to purchase phones so we could be in contact with family and friends back home, since internet access is less available. Kids would run up alongside us yelling “bye, bye” and then others would ask “how are you?” but not be able to continue a conversation after that. It was still pretty cute though. One of the international interns tried a “rolex,” which is like a wrap with egg and vegetables in the middle. We were only out for about an hour because the sun quickly set around 7pm.
UVP staff gave us an introduction to Lusoga, Ugandan history, culture and politics. We had an overview of the healthcare system by the DHO of Iganga and talked more about the role of the Healthy Villages Project. We also heard about other UVP programs providing sustainable development. We went over safety issues and I bought a helmet to wear on the boda bodas. Overall, we are definitely being prepared to succeed in living in rural Uganda with limited resources. I am starting to feel more prepared and confident in what we will be doing…although there really is a lot of flexibility in our work. Realistically, our goal is to assess our villages needs and then begin to hold sensitizations/educations surrounding those needs and set up a VHT that can then be a primary resource for village members regarding general health needs. Tomorrow, we will be talking more about the specific areas of development such as, malaria, HIV, obstetric fistula, nutrition, sanitation, safe water, eye disease, etc.
I definitely feel as though public health and development is an area of interest. I was taken in by the statistics and data showing how plagued the country is with disease and poverty. It is sad to me that the leading cause of death in the country is malaria, that the maternal mortality rate is so high, that children under the age of 5 commonly die due to malnutrition and diarrheal diseases. So much unnecessary death that could be prevented by clean water alone. I realize that there is a lot of global hype surrounding clean water, but there is an obvious disconnect between funds being raised and actually practically meeting the needs of rural life. It sounds like there are a lot of superstitions and myths about best health practices, even WaterGuard, the leading chlorination method for purifying water. It’s not as simple as providing the resource, the people must be educated and convinced of its benefit. I hope that our team can make a difference, that we can relate cross culturally to impress upon these people the importance of hygiene and good health practices. As in anything, there must be value and ownership placed on the ideals and methods, otherwise the information is meaningless and will be tossed aside. People have to want to change, have to be open to change, and I realize how difficult that is in many areas of life. We become used to life as we know it and are afraid to do something different, whose results/consequences we may not foresee. It is comfortable to continue along the same path. Hopefully, we will find some pioneers in our villages that are willing to try something new for the sake of their health.
There is a lack of freedom here in Uganda, especially for women and other minorities. Currently, they are voting to punish homosexuality with the death penalty. There are many taboo topics that are ignored and left in the dark, such as homosexuality and health issues like obstetric fistula. People live hidden lives or are ostracized because of their unique differences. This is so different to the diversity of America…the fact that our culture aggressively promotes diversity and giving power to the minorities. To be honest, I usually get sick of the emphasis and sometimes partial treatment and attention given to minorities in our culture back home, but when you see the other extreme, where people are not free to express themselves or questions themselves, be accepted because of their differences it makes me sad…I wouldn’t want to condone a culture like that. It makes me realize how radical Christ was in his view of people and salvation. How his kingdom was open to all…not just the religious elite who outwardly had it right, but to the gentiles, the outcasts, the tax collectors, the lepers, he came for everyone….the homosexuals, the women with fistula, the poor. Christ does not see these differences the way we do…he sees a person who was created to love him, to be in relationship with him and to experience the life the God created for him. I hope that I can take the eyes and heart of Christ and love the people I work with and meet in an incredible way.

1 comment:

savvy stitch said...

Wow! So much is happening in your life right now!


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