Thursday, June 27, 2013

Arise and Shine and bed bugs

I know it probably seems like I’m just messing around and being a tourist in Uganda, but I really am volunteering in between all of the fun! In the village the last few weeks I continued to work on Adult Literacy classes and HIV/ Family Planning. For the adult literacy classes I am basically working on teaching the women English. It’s an extremely slow process with a lot of barriers, but I really feel like I’ve made some progress. The women are very eager to learn English and some of them are rather serious about it and turn up to every class (on Africa time of course, but they turn up none the less). We have three regular women which I really am going to miss, Royi, who I’ve mentioned before, Lukia, and Harriet. Lukia is a single mom of seven children, and has more bravery then I can imagine. Harriet’s back story is a bit more of a mystery but she has two children and she is my age.
She also was the first person to remember my name and always hugs me so I grew fond of her quickly. A lot of the other women are on different levels, some can’t read or write English, some can just write, and others are much more advanced, like Harriet. That and the fact that we don’t really have a lot of materials or volunteers, creates a huge barrier. Last week I had two other volunteers helping out with the class so we were able to split everyone up based on their abilities and class went very smoothly and effectively. The HIV/ Family Planning classes also have several barriers. Most of the women have a decent general understanding of HIV and how it’s spread, but they simply do not have access to testing or treatment. The majority of the women also have a good knowledge base around why family planning is important and they want some form of contraceptives, but they don’t have access or their husbands are opposed. Overall it appears that Arise and Shine has done a lot of good but there is a need to expand the HIV/ Family planning project to provide services. Unfortunately, AASU is very short on funds and can barely support most of their current projects. They can really use all the help they can get, so if anyone wants to make a donation please visit The barrier of social norms surrounding gender inequality in the country is something else AASU is trying to combat through similar HIV/ Family Planning classes for men, but again it’s a very slow process.
Also, during my stay in Rwanda I got a bacterial infection and couldn’t keep food or water down for a few days, but the more interesting experience was going to the clinic  when I got back to Jinja. From the waiting room it appeared to be relatively modern  and organized, but upon further examination it is more what I expected from a medical center in Uganda. I took a blood test which consisted of this somewhat undertrained lab tech pricking my finger with a pen like device and sqeezing the blood out of my finger onto a blood slide (all without gloves). Then he put it into an oddly advanced machine, which seemed to be far ahead of the rest of the resources in the clinic. Then an hour or so later after tracking down the doctor, they told me I had a bacterial infection and proceeded to prescribe me 5 antibiotics including the Cipro I told him I already had. In the end, after a great deal of googling the meds, I just took the Cipro for five days and all was well. 

Then to top it off, I got bedbugs, which has been a huge pain to get rid of! I put all my clothes in plastic bags in the freezer but since the power has been on and off in the last week, it has been extremely ineffective and I’m scared to wear my clothes, but I have nothing left to wear! Other than those two mishaps and the fact that it is really frustrating when we don’t have electricity, I am completely in love with Uganda!
Overall, coming to Uganda was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made but ultimately it has made me feel even more lost in regards to where to go from here. In a sense I always thought going to Africa would somehow complete me, but it seems to have created a bigger hole in me, one that needs to be filled with more traveling. I’ve found myself questioning how effective and relevant my degree will be and if I will have a specific enough skill set to do any good in international development. I’m really hoping time will sort it all out, and hopefully in the next six months I have in Sydney, because my life is completely up in the air after that!

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