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Published: June 30th 2016
Sunday June 12th
– Saturday June 18th,
Welcome to my first blog entry ever, folks! Now, bear in mind with me as I try to sum up a week spent on top of a breath-taking mountain, surrounded by equally stunning other mountains, on the edge of the mysterious Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. It’s now the 3rd
week into our community placement with other Ugandan students, and one still has to give themselves constant reality checks in order to stop and appreciate that view. What view, you ask?
“Welcome to the end of the world” – Gad Ruzaaza, June 14th
The beginning of our week started out with a bang – Richele Berzolla’s 24th
birthday! Although this was the 2nd
birthday we’ve celebrated in Ruhija in the past 2 weeks (alongside mine, 10 days earlier), the Canadian boys sure knew how to make a girl feel special on her birthday! James prepared an amazing birthday breakfast for the entire crew comprised of homemade biscuits, pineapple, and boiled eggs. – No one will ever understand how special this breakfast was, as it didn’t consist
of the 5 rotating food items in our daily diet for every given meal. Plus fruit and protein…. It was going to be a great day.
My contribution to the big day was my last ever mini box of Smarties from my stash of goods, as well as going out to buy the group beers (for those who drank) and pop (for those who didn’t) for the evening celebration. Our power went out for the first time that day, making us aware that we have to be more conscious with our solar light usage. This would prelude us into the next few nights where power would go out by the time it was dark (7ish) or would not even recharge if it rained the next day. Early bedtimes for everyone! Regardless, we had a fire in the dark that night, toasted some drinks, and played a good ol’ game of mafia to wrap up the day. For those of you who don’t know what mafia is, it is pretty much a role-play game when you are given roles at random and have to discuss as a group who killed/tried to kill another group
member. Lots of rules, but very hilarious as you see people get creative with their accusations and defences!
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday we spent at the Health Center. Although we had our challenges trying to ensure we had someone in to prescribe medications (either Julian or Lynn, depending who was staying back to cook), as well as a Health Center employee to translate and assist our work. Keeping busy is also another task, as the Health Center was currently awaiting a shipment of new medications, meaning there was only a very select few left, meaning that Silas and his herd of Pharmacy assistants (James + Ian) were only able to dispense the occasional medication to any given patient. This also reflected in the amount of patients even bothering to turn up to the Health Center, aware there was no medications being able to be given out to those in need. It is a sad system, watching people in need of medications being told they would have to buy them, and fully knowing there weren’t many families able to afford those costs.
On a different note, we spent the rest of Monday preparing for
Gad Ruzaaza’s arrival the following day. Our group had gone over 2 weeks preparing for our community intervention, as well as back up interventions because we were unsure of what we were able to accomplish. HPV vaccinations were our focus, with the back-up of IPT2 treatment for pregnant women (including iron, folic acid, and antimalarials), and a possible back-up of peptic ulcer disease or worms. We awaited Mr. Ruzaaza’s arrival so we could finally get some guidance on our project, so we could move towards implementation!
Gad arrived at the Health Center to greet us with Lynn and Clement, who had planned to stay behind and cook, as well as his supervisor assistant, Alex. We had met Alex during our orientation week at MUST, and he had just finished his nursing degree and was helping facilitate the community placement. As an added bonus, he had also done his community placement in Ruhija with Gad as his supervisor, so he had a lot of information to share with us.
Gad began the meeting outside the Health Center and provided us with an overview of his and Alex’s thoughts and expectations on the work we had
already accomplished. Of course, his message was hidden between numerous analogies and metaphors. I am always astonished at that man’s charisma and ability to never stray from his intended point through his long, philosophical speeches. He is definitely a wise man, with a lot to say. With that in mind, we knew he had good intentions and genuinely wanted us to do a good job on our project.
Long story short, we finally had a focus! Gad and Alex provided us with bread and tea as gifts before they departed, and we were able to finally get down to business. We shifted our focus from HPV vaccinations to cervical cancer as a broader focus, with vaccination as a potentially smaller part of the implementation phase. We decided that sensitization (educating the public to raise awareness) would be more of a priority for us, and we would hope to finally begin the implementation late next week.
On a separate note, Tuesday was also the day that we found out our water tanks were almost empty. There are 3 large tanks that collect rainfall that we use for cooking, bathing, etc. All of them were practically empty. Although us students have adapted to being without internet, hiking up a mountain to charge our electronics, and the inconsistency of our solar lighting within the house; water is definitely something we cannot do without. We took it in stride, and were provided some extra jerry cans by our site supervisor for the water tank halfway up the hill we go to charge our electronics. Although it didn’t rain since we had arrived in Ruhija, the next 2 nights rained, filling our water tanks enough to get us through the rest of the week. We would survive!
Another issue us Canadian students dealt with this week was the possibility of staying in Ruhija another week or two if we so decided, as the other Canadian students were given the opportunity and a few were deciding to stay an extra 2 weeks. We toyed with the idea a lot, but eventually decided to try and keep to our original agreement, except try to get two weeks’ worth of work done in that very last week in Ruhija. We were all on the same page on this so it wasn’t too difficult to decide, as none of us wanted to miss the implementation part of our project but we still felt like we would be able to get the work done in one week.
The end of the week was much of a lazy one, although we got some work done, I was very sick/nauseous on Saturday and spent the day in bed, Richele read most of the day, James kept busy cooking or playing games and Ian was the social butterfly as always and was always on the go somewhere (such as playing football with a young local team that was working towards sponsorship for secondary school education). Although this week felt like a busy week, we are all looking forward to the next upcoming week as we would try to accomplish double what we would normally accomplish so that we can help our Ugandan friends move along and implement our community intervention, and then still be able to make it back to Mbarara to meet the rest of our Canadian friends! No promises on whether this will be achieved, but stay tuned for Richele’s update!
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