Sunday, July 24, 2011
I wanted to let ya'll know about some new pics I put up on facebook. Click here! I've been working for the last month or so on a secondary project of a drama club with some kiddos from a nearby primary school. (Loads of fun!) Anyhow, this week we were invited to their end of term program and asked to take pictures. As I say in the album, I think they're pretty much the cutest kids in Africa! :-) Enjoy,
Thursday, July 21, 2011
The last week has been a little bit of a change of pace for us. We thought that since we had taught for a good two straight weeks it was time for something different. ;-) So after classes on Monday we headed off to Mbarara for a training - Malaria Prevention and Control. The training was a result of Obama’s PMI (Presidential Malaria Initative), an effort to eradicate malaria in the countries being hit hardest by the disease. It was held at possibly the nicest hotel in this region of the country, Lakeview Resort Hotel (yes apparently it is both resort and hotel, one of those names didn’t suffice). We were joined at the training by our Director of Studies, Smith, who it turns out was already really interested in Malaria prevention. Most Peace Corps trainings will include your Ugandan community counterpart so that the impact of the training will outlast you, in theory. The training, as well as being interesting, was also a great chance to meet some more of the CHED (Community Health and Economic Development) volunteers primarily from the group that started sixth months before us.
The majority of the week was spent learning more about the Malaria parasite, and the complexities of how it transmits through mosquitoes. We also learned some statistics about the extent of the malaria disease in Uganda, and around the world. Malaria annually affects 300 million people, and during that period results in about 1 to 3 million deaths. Most of the deaths occur among children under the age of 5 and pregnant mothers. Pregnant mothers are more likely to contract malaria because they have an increased body heat during pregnancy which attracts more mosquitoes. In Uganda, 25% of people going to hospitals are because of malaria. Finally, 20% of childhood deaths in Ugandan hospitals are due to malaria. The most surprising thing about malaria in Uganda, and maybe around the world, is that it is not a huge concern to the vast majority of the population. Because the people that it affects most fatally are those who don’t really have a voice in society, primarily children under 5.
We also got the opportunity to go into the community around Mbarara to see how malaria plays out on a local level. The first place we visited was the Mbarara regional referral hospital. So any cases from the southwest region of Uganda which can not be dealt with at the local level are brought there, and it is also the local community hospital. We split up into four groups and we each visited a different area of the hospital. So I visited the records department (so exciting!) and Emily visited the OB-GYN section of the hospital (I don’t remember what the Ugandans call this section). Malaria can have many negative effects to pregnant women, including miscarriages (which Emily had the unfortunate opportunity to witness in the hallway).
Being at the hospital was eye opening for many reasons. It was good to know about the quality of health care in Uganda, and the care our colleagues/students would receive if they needed it. It is interesting because public health care in Uganda is free to anyone who would use it, even just tourists passing through. But availability seems to also equal lack of quality. While we were there the aftermath from a Boda-Boda (motorcycles) accident came in, and it was insane to see the treatment of the people. One of the men was really rough and did not look alive but he had been wheeled around on a metal gurney for a good twenty minutes before anyone even checked his vital signs, to know that he was dead (and in the end it was the doctor touring us who checked this, and he didn’t even work there).
The next day we got to visit a member of the Village Health Team. These are volunteers who work in the community to spread health messages from the local government. It was interesting hearing about the work that she does, even though we lost a bit in translation. So over all it was good to hear the facts and figures of malaria, and then go out to see it in the community.
Finally, on the last day of the conference we made an action plan with our counterparts about how we will bring the knowledge back to our places of work. So we hope to be doing various things to educate the students at our PTC, and also to work on eliminating mosquito breeding grounds on the campus. The hardest thing about malaria prevention is that almost every Ugandan already knows how to prevent malaria, but prevention requires effort and money while the treatment once you get it is free. Another stumbling block is that the primary means of prevention, being mosquito nets, are hard to find affordable. But hopefully as the malaria initiative integrates into Uganda there will be a large influx of nets. Overall, the malaria workshop was very informative for many reasons, and hopefully we will have the knowledge to work on prevention at our school.
The conference was also the longest we have been away from wonderful House 11 at Bushenyi PTC, and it was nice to be home again. We found out the day after we got home that the Boda drivers at the stop in front of our house are convinced that we had or got a kid while we were gone, and that was what was in our big green duffle bag. We found this out through our friend Jean, who was told by her co-worker (no secrets in Uganda!). So apparently everyone there is waiting in anticipation for when we reveal the child. The funny/scary thing was that this was the consensus of the group of about twenty people, and that having a child in a bag was plausible!
Well that is all of our crazy adventures from the past week! Hope you are all doing well.
Ryan (and Emily)
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Then, yesterday we participated in an all day interhouse (dormitory) track and field competition. We had been helping the students with their practices the last couple of weeks and yesterday was the big competition day. Ryan and I worked at the "technical table" determining points and making sure records were kept of all the events. It was a lot of fun and the kids did great.
Here's a link to my facebook album of the event, and we're also working on getting a new "vlog" out to you soon!
Thursday, July 7, 2011
It has been about a week and a half since we last wrote, but lots has happened! I wanted to blog to catch you all up. Brace yourself for a long post! :-)
First of all, happy late 4th of July! It might have been our most patriotic 4th of July ever! We celebrated by making dinner and fresh mozzarella cheese with our PCV neighbor Jean. We had cake decked out with an American flag and patriotic window clings on our windows (Thanks Mom and Dad for the package!!) During dinner we got into some great conversations about why we love America! Absence really does make the heart grow fonder I guess. So...Happy belated Independence Day you good ol' US of A, and know that I mean it when I say "We miss you!"
And...some wonderful news - THE STUDENTS RETURNED!!! We were so happy to see them start trickling back on campus last Wednesday (no meeting, no announcement, students just started showing up! Some strange Ugandan nonverbal communication?! We aren't sure...) The break ended up being about two weeks, so not nearly as long as it looked like it might be. We are really grateful, and the students seem to also be grateful! There are actually now only 3 more weeks of teaching, then mock exams, and then the term is over. Since this is supposed to be the "academic" term, we feel we are scrambling a little to get all the teaching done in the time that remains. To make matters worse, classes were canceled on Friday afternoon so the students could clean their dormitories (which were supposedly in a "shockingly" dirty state - one of the tutors reminded us in all seriousness that "cleanliness is only second to godliness!"), and a small group of students was forbidden from attending classes yesterday and today because they were late for the morning assembly. So, for so many reasons, it will be a challenge to cover all the material with students before the term slips away from us!
I also started a secondary project of sorts - a drama club at a local primary school! When I visited it a couple of weeks back, the principal shared with me his passion for including creativity in the school curriculum. This excited me greatly as, in the experiences I have had so far, creativity is generally not encouraged in the Ugandan school system. So, we decided I would work with the p4-p6 (3-5th grade) boarding students on Saturdays to lead some creative dramatic activities and maybe even create a play with them. So, I embarked last weekend with my trusty assistant Ryan ;-) and had a great time with the children. It was nice to have some creative time and wonderful to work with the children! When we arrived, they spent the first 30 minutes or so singing and dancing for us, then we got to work with them on the drama activities I had planned. It went pretty well, though was challenging to get the students to come up with original ideas and they much preferred to just copy the one brave student (often Ryan!) who came up with an idea. Not unexpected, but hopefully we can develop some imagination and a willingness to be creative in the kiddos! I'm really looking forward to it. (Incidentally, when I asked the children who could tell me what the word "imagination" meant, not a single child knew the word!!!)
Another project I am working on is getting a "Math Power Hour" set up for the PTC students in the evening. My idea is to have an informal time twice a week where students who are struggling with problems or topics can come for small group/individual help. The college is constantly expressing concern for the mathematical proficiency of the students, so I thought this could be a great way to help address that concern and hopefully build relationships with students in the process. It's been a mess of Ugandan red-tape to get it started, though. (Another one of those times where the need is there and solution seem so simple, yet I can't seem to find a way to connect the two!! There seems to be no lack of those situations here!)
My first step was to talk to our Director of Studies. Although I had an evening time slot in mind, he insisted we schedule it for 5:30-7:00 in the evening. Then, I had to get approval from the principal and the math department head. The math department head was not fond of the idea, yet later approached me with a "new idea" he had that was really just my idea in his words, and insisted that I should get it started. (So thankful that a man could help this "unknowledgeable" woman come up with something valuable! grr...) Anyhow, when I finally got it all approved, I showed up on Tuesday to find no students! After fifteen minutes of sitting by myself a thoughtful student arrived to tell me that nobody would be coming since there was compulsory sports and games every day from 5:30-7:00. Nice. So....I am working on getting a new time and working my way through all the protocol once again. If all goes well, it will start tonight! I'll keep you posted!
*Each night I am going to start with a critical thinking problem. Here's the one for this week, see how you do - "Use any mathematical symbols and the number eight eight times to create a mathematical expression that equals 1,000." Any ideas?
We've also volunteered to help out with the upcoming Track and Field competitions! Although this is certainly not my area of expertise, it should be a fun way to support the students and continue to be more involved with them. Yesterday we observed the practice time and both of us about freaked out seeing the students "high jump" head first into a (way too small!) pile of dead grass. Neck injury, anyone? They're also throwing javelin (really long sticks), running, triple jumping, long jumping, shot putting, as well as all those other track and field events that used to make me cringe in gym class! :-) But it should be fun now that I'm not being forced to compete! There are regional, then national competitions, but for now they are just getting themselves ready. I'm excited to get friendly with a stopwatch and be a cheerleader for our kids!
Ryan's been busy with his computer classes (despite super frequent power outages as of late) and running open lab hours in the evenings. He is looking for a way to get involved in an economic development secondary project and is thinking about the clubs he hopes to get going at the start of next term. He's also been doing research into grad programs that he might be interested in post Peace Corps, so that's pretty exciting.
And...though it might seem like no big deal, we started getting fresh milk delivered to our door every morning! If you know how much I love milk, you'll know how exciting this is for me! So, at about 7 am each day a man shows up (straight from milking the college cows) with about a liter of milk for Ryan and I! We have a milkman! I love it! And...the milk is absolutely delicious! I don't know that I've ever had milk straight from the cow, and it is so fresh and really fun to get.
So...that's what's been happening in our neck of the woods. As always, we love and miss you all and think of you often. Keep in touch,