Thursday, June 28, 2007

Greetings from Mukono!

Finally! I am updating this blog! Needless to say, things have been pretty busy—and I’m also just getting over a bout of malaria. It has become very apparent how malaria can cause a profound impact on Africa’s economy; you literally cannot work. Reuben , the programs director here at Kyetume, tells me that he comes down with malaria about once a month. The kind I had was only a positive +1; so they saw one parasite for the small drop of blood they tested; most of the Ugandans here could still go to work with this—but with +2 or +3, then they’d be out.

Where to begin? Well my first day in Kampala was a bit of a rough initiation I suppose. Essentially, I had a bag stolen in an internet cafe (containing my digital camera, cell phone, digital voice recorder, glasses…). It was astonishingly quick! I placed my bag on the computer desk, turned to pay (while Vesall was watching all the bags, mind you), turn around and then it’s gone without a trace—neither of us even saw anyone! I then had a fun time of running around Kampala, filing a police report and such (of which they made me go across the street and make copies of since they ran out of forms-- which wasn’t too bad, though one officer kept suggesting that I should help “facilitate” their search, haha. I didn’t pay anything. I wasn’t really expecting to ever see my bag again at that point. The other crazy thing was the man who was helping me, from the internet café to navigate through Kampala, my one point of trust and guidance in all this, was suddenly ordered to, “Sit on the floor!”, “Take off your shoes!” “You are a suspect, you are a thief!” And sure enough they even had a warrant (with his picture) for stealing a laptop. Apparently though he had just borrowed it from his friend (who also happened to be a police officer), but had over-extended the agreed upon time, and was unable to be reached. So he had to leave with some officers to retrieve the laptop, but inexplicably gave me his bag to safeguard in the meantime. Strange indeed. Oh, and throughout all this, I was getting a rash and advancing swelling in my arms—apparently a bad allergic reaction to my malaria medicine. It all worked out though in the end.

I suppose I should start a couple weeks back though— I am interning at Kyetume Community Based Healthcare, in Mukono, Uganda. Their mission statement is that, “Kyetume CBHCP strives to improve the general health standards of underserved rural people within Mukono District and Uganda at large by influencing socio-economic behavior of rural communities using a community based involvement/participatory and human rights approach.” I’ve been very impressed with the range and depth of activities that they support. Some of the big ones include: HIV/AIDS Palliative Care Project—have over 1,000 registered HIV+ patients that they provide testing, home visits, and treatment for opportunistic infections; an orphans and vulnerable children support programme for over 4,000 orphans in Nakisunga Subcounty, including training in organic farming, heifer project, and microfinance scheme; water and sanitation projects including spring protection and pump repairs, vocational training and other income generating activities for OVCs, school dropouts and young mothers; health rights promotion for sexual and reproductive health among women’s groups, school gardens and other food security initiatives, and a virtual army of community health workers. How’s that for comprehensive healthcare?

My first day was a bit overwhelming—since they were expecting three interns (with Jaymin and Adrian), their anticipated workload for me was bit large as well. We’ve talked about things though, and I think I’ll be able to handle it, plus a few additional things that have popped up. One of the main things I’ve been working on is expanding their microfinance scheme. It was initiated in 2006 through 3 of the 8 parish-level orphan support groups that Kyetume works with. After receiving a government grant, each parish was allocated Shs 420,000 (USD $255). So one of the things that Reuben has suggested is investing AGRADU’s $500 into the microfinance scheme, a funding increase of 65% overall. I’ve been able to talk with a lot of the different parish leaders about the operational aspects of the program, as well as the limitations, and their goals for it.
Some of the other things include a proposal for equipping the new HIV/AIDS center they have built, as well as one for expanding their Information Communication Technology resource center to offer distance learning courses and IT certification. This would necessitate internet access for one, which is ridiculously expensive here--- $6,000 in initial set-up (equipment, installation, configuration, etc.), and then $350 per month for 256 Kbps speed internet. So if anyone knows of any companies/grants that support internet or technology-access in developing countries… that would be very helpful… In the same technology-is-more-expensive here vein, cell phone calls are 30cents a minute!

For more run-of-the-mill details… the weather has been a bit unexpected here. The last 2 weeks have been cold and rainy, and today there were 2 earthquakes while I was at work!

The atmosphere at Kyetume has been great though—a lot of new people in and out all the time. The first week I was here they were doing massive training of community health workers in the center—so a lot of singing and clapping was happening. The center also has a room of sewing machines, so young mothers come to work, as a means of income generating. They also bring their babies with them. So it is a pretty ideal place for free-ranging babies, and chickens, both of which are quite prone to wandering under and around my desk on a daily basis. Who could ask for more?

I hope everyone is doing well—
Weraba (farewell),
-Danika

1 comment:

Leif said...

Hi, Danika. I'm a friend of Vesall's. It sounds like a great experience! I haven't read this but it is about affordable wireless internet options for developing countries: http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.24.html