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Published: August 6th 2017
Throughout our time in Uganda, we were thoughtful when deciding where, how and when to allocate the $9 000 we raised in Canada. It didn’t take long for us to build connections both in our community placements and back in Mbarara, and we soon became involved in numerous NGOs and projects and made plenty of contacts along the way. They took us under their wings and showed us the fantastic initiatives already in place in this beautiful country, and we all agreed that the money that we brought would be best spent in partnership with our new Ugandan friends.
Honey Creamer- Taylor
One of the projects we fell in love with was our friend Tina’s Change a Life Bwindi Project. Tina was one of the highlights of our time in Ruhija, and we credit her kindness as the factor that allotted us the privilege of integrating into the community. She looked out for us and did so out of the goodness of her heart. During our time with her, we could see what a driven, impactful and powerful woman she is. Her project is changing lives in Ruhija through her pads distribution, basket weaving group, mushroom and bamboo
farming and the reformed poacher honey project. We knew our fundraising money would be well spent supporting any of her initiatives.
She had mentioned casually one day at her restaurant that she was saving for a honey creamer to aid her beekeeping project. On our last day in Ruhija, we gave Tina enough money to purchase the honey creamer and spent the rest of our day collecting honey with the reformed poachers.
Last weekend when we returned to Ruhija, we were able to see the new honey creamer in action. We packed over 100 jars of honey in less than an hour with our little helper Immaculate, a task that before would take several days. Since Tina is now able to pack more honey to sell to tourists and lodges inside and outside of Ruhija, there is more revenue created for the reformed poachers, and they are less likely to use the forest for income.
Afripads Reusable Menstrual Pads- Tye
Philomena and I were placed in the same community clinical rotation at an elementary school during our final semester of nursing studies. When we found out we were accepted to the QES program we quickly began
to brainstorm possible community nursing projects with our instructor that we could carry out in Uganda. We knew that access to menstrual products is a challenge for many Ugandan girls. With this in mind we came up with the idea of “Girls Supporting Girls.” Phil and I worked with a group of grade 7 and 8 girls throughout our placement, called the YaYa’s, and we decided to merge our menstrual idea with this group of girls. We hosted a school wide bake wherein the YaYa Girls baked all of the baking to be sold. The sale was highly successful. Coupled with copious amounts of donations from our friends, family, and the staff and students at my former high school we raised a total of $2200.
Afripads is a Ugandan company that empowers girls and women through menstrual education and reusable products. The company solely hires Ugandan women to fabricate the pads providing opportunities for professional and financial growth. Each package of pads is comprised of 4 reusable pads with a lifespan of approximately 12 months. The pads have two flaps with snaps that clip onto underwear to remain in place.
With the $2200 we purchased 352 packages of
reusable pads. We also purchased as many “Girl Talk” books, which describes a 12-year-old girl experiencing and managing her period for the first time. Our experience in the country taught us that many young girls do not have underwear. The pads are useless without skivvies so we also purchased enough to outfit each girl with a pair of undies.
As a group, we felt it was important to distribute the pads to the schoolgirls ourselves along with providing education about sexual reproduction, menstruation, nutrition, and women empowerment. We also taught the girls how to use and launder the pads.
We visited 5 schools in rural Uganda to host pad education seminars. Our first visit was to Trinity Preparatory School in Rugazi, where Phil, Viv, Rene and myself were placed for out community rotation. We returned to the village with our whole crew and had a blast visiting our former friends and students. The girls were very excited.
Back in Mbarara we connected with a group of journalists who work for a local TV station. The journalists have formed an organization called Save Mama and have an initiative called “Pads for Education.” Over the course of two days
we visited four schools in rural communities outside of Mbarara. The students at three of the schools had never seen white people before and were extremely receptive to our education. At the final school we visited the staff invited mothers and grandmothers to attend our session. It was powerful to see three generations of women in the same room; Girls Supporting Girls.
What was once an idea in a small meeting room in Saskatoon became an empowerment mission impacting 352 girls. Our intent with this pad project is to support girls to pursue their education despite monthly menstruation. We told the girls that through this education they have now become leaders. It is their responsibility to educate the women in their lives; mothers, sisters, cousins, friends, grandmothers about menstruation and about how monthly bleeding should not stop you from pursuing your dreams or chasing after your desired future. Being a girl means you are powerful and being powerful means that you can change the world.
I am happy to say that we have recently purchased an additional 50 sets of pads for Save Mama to distribute to a sixth rural school. We are in the works of setting
up a partnership between the organization and Afripads and are excited for the boundless opportunities created when girls support girls.
Refugee Camp Donations- Philomena
We were fortunate to meet a member of Save Mama at the Canada Day BBQ. In addition to girl empowerment and reproductive health, the group collects items to distribute in refugee camps. Before leaving Mbarara we sorted through our belongings and put together a large duffel bag of clothes and a basin of miscellaneous items to be donated to the refugee camp 45 minutes outside of Mbarara.
The Goat Project- Kailee
As a nurse there are a number of different ways you can empower and strengthen the people you care for. While caring for sick patients on a hospital ward may be a more familiar setting for nursing in Canada, here in Uganda, one of our opportunities to care for people came in the form of purchasing and tended to goats. This opportunity arose for us when we came in contact with Dr. Claire Card, a veterinary professor at the University of Saskatchewan who has been highly involved with Vets without Borders in Uganda for the past 10 years. Each year Dr.
Card and her team of veterinary students work on what’s called The Goat Project. The Goat Project involves educating, training, and empowering people to become their own entrepreneurs, by a means of goat loaning. In a small community called Kaberebere, women apply to become beneficiaries of goats. The women granted goats are considered vulnerable and of high need. This population mostly includes widowed older women or grandmothers who are still caring for many children and the families affected by HIV. These women are targets for thieves, as they are helpless in preventing the crime from happening. Vets without Borders inspects the homes, assessing their living situation, ensuring the home is viable for goat raising. Another requirement is for the goats to be kept in a sturdy, locked fence, on the owner’s property, hindering the actions of thieves. Other individuals in the community take part in a week- long training course to become para-vets. These are the people who will help raise and care for the goats. They learn about goat nutrition, hygiene, vaccinating, and saving and budgeting money. At the end of week, they graduate as para-vets, with enough knowledge to become their own microfinanciers, and enough medical knowledge to
manage and maintain the health of the beneficiaries’ goats. Two goats are given out for each family, to help create and sustain financial independence. Knowing we could help with the purchasing of goats we held a fundraiser back home in Canada, where we were able to raise enough money through a cake auction, goat sale in Regina to purchase fifteen goats. As a perk for people to buy goats, individuals were able to give a name of choice to the goat they purchased. As seen in the photos, people were witty with their goat name. From the combined efforts of the vet students and us, we were able to purchase 55 goats for hand out. The final day of training for the beneficiaries allowed them to put their knowledge into practice and us the chance to get involved. All the goats purchased had to be vaccinated, dewormed, tagged, tick sprayed and physically inspection, ensuring the goats will not fall ill to preventable causes. It takes about three years for finances to balance out and a profit to be made. Goats will give birth to a singlet in the first year and twins each year following, expecting three offspring in two
year. Male goats are sold for money, feeding other community members and female goats go to other beneficiaries to continue the cycle of sustainability. Aside from the finances, goats milk is a good substitute for breast feeding mothers who are HIV positive and are no longer able to breast feed. Goat’s milk is more nutritious, less allergenic, and easier to digest compared to cows’ milk, making it the preferred alternative. We had a wild time wrangling the goats, giving them their vaccinations, lancing their abscesses, and piercing their ears, all in a hard days work with much learning and laugher. We were honoured and grateful to be a part of a community project so well managed and maintained, knowing it has changed so many peoples lives and given them the power to make a difference in their own lives.
Empower a Girl Child Bwindi- Sydney
Thanks to the generous donations of a few of my family members, we were able to purchase several months worth of disposable pads to a number of girls attending school in Ruhija. This is yet another one of our amazing friend Tina's projects--this one focusing on keeping young girls in school. The reason
the project uses disposable pads instead of reusable ones is because of the water insecurity in the community. People barely have enough water to cook and bathe with, meaning reusable pads that must be washed daily are not practical. Although the pads we purchased will run out eventually, Tina uses profits from some of her other projects to keep the pad project running.
Water Tanks in Ruhija- Rene
Water. It’s a substance that most Canadians take for granted. I won’t say all as currently we have over 150 First Nation communities that are on boil water advisories, and have been for many years. But the concept of waking up and drinking fresh water from our taps is thoughtless to us. We don’t think twice about it.
This is a whole different story in Ruhija and many parts of Uganda. Unless you are fortunate enough to afford bottled water you quickly finding yourself boiling it to be safe. But, water is life right? Rather fetching water can risk your life. Women and children are almost always the ones fetching water. Fetching water on a good day means walking to one of the four cement rain water tanks in
the community. Which is a 10 to 15-minute walk. But on the bad days, meaning when the tanks are dry or locked off, the women and children must trek down to the base of the mountain to fetch one jerry can of water at a time. This walk takes approximately 3 hours each way. This 6 hour walk places the already vulnerable woman and children at risk, at risk to the hard realities of rape, assault, injury, or robbery.
The answer seems easy right? Build more tanks so that the community would not face such dangers. Or as most Canadians might suggest, put in a water system. But building a tank might happen once a year, given that your community is chosen for a government built tank, amongst all the other communities who either have no tanks or are equally in need. And the other, where the community is so far up the mountain that constructing a water system is just impossible. Ruhija is nestled in the Impenetrable Forest within Bwindin National Park making water installation permits a near impossible task as well.
As we prepared for Uganda our advisor, the late Dr. Adil Nazarali, told us that
water security and sustainability is a challenge. He suggested that we fundraise as a way impact water security. Despite our stressful school schedules, we gladly took on this challenge. We reached out to family, friends, and home communities to help us fundraise. Our biggest fundraiser was the bingo we had on Cowessess First Nation, generating approximately 3400.00 Canadian dollars. This money along with the many familial donations helped us do what late Dr. Adil suggested, “change lives”.
Less than 3 weeks ago the construction of two ten thousand litre tanks began. Made of cement by local hands the 2 tanks would lay at the health centre and the centre of the community. This past weekend we made the trek up to Rujiha to see the tanks and do an official passing off of the water tanks.
This experience was the most rewarding, humbling, and impactful for me. Being able to meet the community and beneficiaries of the water tanks was heart warming. Their thankfulness was felt by their hugs and smiles. Their solidarity seen as they did not forget to mention how fortunate they were, but also the sad reality that the neighbouring communities too are suffering. Their
organization and appreciation noted by the delegation of a committee to upkeep and maintain the tanks for the years to come; ultimately making it a sustainable project. Lastly seen was the impactful celebration as the women sang and men (I must say some were elderly) danced until the ground shook. They danced with joy, thankfulness, and pure happiness; it was most touching.
While in their community placement in Ruhija the girls met, Tina, an inspiring Ugandan woman. She shared with us just how important these tanks will be for years to come. Sharing how the tanks being present, in more abundant numbers than before, may allow women and children to not have to fetch water so far away; given that the weather co-operates and keeps the tanks full. The 2 additional community water tanks means that women and children will have to walk to fetch water less often. This allows them more time to complete homework, home duties, basket weaving, work and simple leisure. Basically, these two tanks don’t seem like a lot to us, but for this small village it means safety, improved water security and access to this vital life resource.
For myself, it was important
to show how this little indigenous girl from Cowessess (along with support of the other QES scholars, their families and friends, and the bingo supporters) have been able to support indigenous people over in Uganda Africa. “Indigenous people helping Indigenous people”
Hospice Africa (Uganda)- Alexis
Hospice During our time in Mbarara we have been working with the hospice. Our supervisor Dr. Fowler connected us with the organization and we went with her for a meeting in early July. Since then each day of the week usually two people from our group go to the hospice to do either home visits or hospital visits. Every Tuesday there is a meeting to discuss the situations of current patients. The healthcare professionals at the hospice use a holistic way of treating the patients by not only treating the medical state but also considering factors such as cultural, psychological, and social.
Even though I am a pharmacy student I have enjoyed my time getting familiar with other healthcare disciplines. Within the hospice there are nurses, pharmacists, social workers, doctors, and psychologists. On the multiple home visits I have attended usually a couple of nurses and a psychologist would be present. It
was an enriching experience to get to observe the work of other healthcare professionals. I thought it was so helpful that the hospice workers also look after the family of the palliative care patients. For example they will provide psychological care and pharmaceuticals for the family members as well. Not only are the patients taken into consideration but so are the family members. This allows for the family to better care for the patient because their needs have been met as well. The holistic care provided by these workers is astounding.
On our last day in Mbarara we made a donation using some of our money we fundraised in Canada. We also gave them the extra medical supplies we had left over from our trip that we had brought to Uganda. The work these healthcare professionals provide is amazing and they set an example for many other healthcare systems in the world.
In closing, we would like to thank YOU; our family, friends and communities. Without your generosity it would not have been possible for us to affect so many people, organizations and communities. We are grateful for you financial support but even more so for the emotional
support you provided along the way. Thank you for taking interest in our projects, our communities and in the people we met along the way.
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