Rugazi: Round One

Published: June 9th 2019
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Village visitsVillage visitsVillage visits

Getting to know the villagers (such as those pictured above) was valuable, informative, and eye-opening. Can't wait to come back in a week! :)
Hey hey, and sorry for the delay! Agandi (how are you)?

Plans shifted a lot since my last post--so if you're confused by the progression of events I am about to recount, don't worry, I'm just as confused as you. instead of going through training all this week, we did a one day orientation on Sunday. Although we were a bit apprehensive of the orientation since we only found out about it the night before, it ended up being incredibly engaging and helpful. Together with some of the local university students, we discussed and participated in several activities about what "development" means to us, our core values, barriers to communication in cross-cultural work, and how to acknowledge our privilege and blind spots. It was a little embarrassing to go through a variety of case studies taken from real life scenarios of previous Canadian students (often case studies of what NOT to do), and it was humbling to realize how much there is for us to learn these next couple of months, especially if we don't want to repeat some of the same mistakes!

The day before the orientation we spent the whole day at Igongo Cultural Centre for Lydia
Nutrition nerdsNutrition nerdsNutrition nerds

Nutrition students in action: we're on a mission to battle malnutrition!
and Samuel's wedding, which was a beautiful, extravagant, and BIG occasion. It still blows my mind that they would be so welcoming as to invite seven extra people that they barely even know to their special day. We were truly honoured to be able to celebrate with them and experience a Ugandan wedding as group. The outdoor ceremony was reminiscent of what I am accustomed to as a "western-style Christian wedding" which was followed by the reception that involved speeches, delicious traditional Ugandan food, presentation of gifts, traditional dancers and drummers, and a heartwarming journey down "memory lane" in a video celebrating the newlyweds' relationship.

Monday we confirmed our plans for the rest of June: go to Rugazi for a week (June 4-9), return to Mbarara for a full leadership training week with the Ugandan students (June 10-14), and then back to Rugazi to start and implement our community projects in conjunction with the Ugandan students for the remainder of the month. So instead of being split into two groups (one to Rugazi and one to Ruhijia) we are now all going to be in Rugazi but be split into two project groups. On Tuesday we departed to Rugazi
Teamwork makes the dream workTeamwork makes the dream workTeamwork makes the dream work

Basically a lady and the tramp re-enactment, sugar cane edition. <3
as a team, eager to get to know the community and get started in the health centre. Jennifer and Brianna, a couple of second year medical students from the U of S, came with us, along with Kenneth and Resty, two Ugandan "junior facilitators" who volunteered (or were volun-told) to come give us a community research crash course and show us the ropes/keep us in line.

Since Tuesday, this week has blurred by in a whirlwind of clinical rounds, village visits, and both academic and cultural learning opportunities. Mornings have consisted of hodge-podge workouts and scenic runs, followed by rounds around the different areas of the health centre. So far, I have been able to participate in the antenatal clinic, HIV clinic, male/female medical wards, pediatric ward, and even observe the successful c-section delivery of a healthy and beautiful baby boy! In the pediatric ward there was a moderate malnutrition case, so us nutrition students had the opportunity to apply some nutrition knowledge and learn/geek out about the local clinical guidelines. 😊 The doctors, nurses, and midwives have all been amazing for taking us mzungus under their wings and answering our many pestering questions. Though it can feel frustrating
White coat wannabesWhite coat wannabesWhite coat wannabes

Look out, Rugazi! These almost-professionals are ready to make their rounds in a healthcare facility near you.
to not be able to do more as a foreign student in a highly specialized field of study and working in a facility with very limited resources, I have deeply appreciated the knowledge and experience I have been able to gain in just a few short days alongside fellow students and health care workers.

Afternoons in Rugazi have been guided by the local Village Health Team (VHT) leader, Devina, who has connected us with key gatekeepers in the community such as elders, politicians, and the local Buhera Central Tukwatanise (BCT) group. Discussing with these people--with the help of Devina and Kenneth's translating--we were able to get a general sense of the community strengths, needs, desires, and attitudes towards health care and education. We were especially amazed by the resourcefulness of the BCT group, a grassroots "peasant" group taking the initiative on various income-generating activities such as beekeeping, handicrafts, and pumpkin/potato farming. Since a lot of produce would be wasted when kept fresh, they have come up with ideas to make and market products with longer shelf lives such as pumpkin seeds, potato flour, and honey. For a girl who can barely keep a succulent alive and struggles with the
See you later, craterSee you later, craterSee you later, crater

There are 56 crater lakes around the Rugazi area and we don't know any of them by name...but we do know that they keep us motivated on the uphill parts for our runs along this route!
simplest of stitches, it is amazing to see a group of people come together so cohesively and grow sustainable local businesses from the works of their hands.

In addition to being filled with newly-gleaned knowledge, we are also being filled with amazing food--since we have arrived, we have been thoroughly spoiled with delicious buffet-style Ugandan meals when we had been expecting the simplest of fare. Though the power and water can be spotty at times, we had been prepared for the worst-case scenario of staying here for a month without running water, so our expectations for the living situation have certainly been exceeded! Our team keeps getting bigger and bigger, and I honestly couldn't ask for a better (and quirkier) Africa family as I get settled in to my home away from home.

Hopefully I'll post on time next week, but no guarantees--stay tuned, though, and oraregye (good night). Whatever time of day you find yourself reading this, I hope this post finds you doing awesomely!

Lots of love,



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