The end of my time in Uganda is fast approaching. People have been asking me lately how I feel about leaving and I don’t think I have really processed fully my experiences here yet. I know it will be something I will never forget and it will be a part of me for a very long time.
I guess I can say that I possess a mixture of sadness and happiness. Sadness at leaving a place where I have met so many interesting and good people and seeing so many new sights and experiences. Happiness about going home and seeing family, my girlfriend, and friends.
I have also learned a lot. I have learned many things about the healthcare system in a foreign country. I have also learned about the development “business” and how it appears differently to you once you are on the ground to witness the actual implementation of the work. There are many well intentioned people here in Uganda trying to help as best as they think they know how. However, the question is really whether it is truly helpful in the long run. In this area, there are many ideas that are mixed with unselfish volunteers, dedicated Ugandans, religious zealots, con artists, corrupt officials, and of course the people who need the help the most (or may not seem like they do at times).
Uganda is an interesting place with a lot of potential. It may not represent all of Africa but it does give a profile of how development aid has succeeded (or often times failed) in the African continent. I wish only the best for this country and it’s people.
An interesting thing happened at St. Francis yesterday. For the first time in more than two years, the Executive Director held an Annual General Meeting (AGM). The AGM is called for in the Constitution of St. Francis in that every year, the clients, other interested parties, and staff gather to review the reports of what happened the previous year and vote on any major decisions. This meeting was also important in that a new Board of Directors would be named. The previous board had been in place for longer than the allotted time – two three year terms – such that many of them had been in place since 2003! The Guest of Honor was the female MP of the District.
The ceremony began with the singing of the Ugandan and Bugandan anthems, followed by a prayer. The previous board officers then gave their reports starting with the Board Chairman. This was followed by the Executive Director and then the Treasurer. There was a procedural vote on whether to accept the reports. Once accepted, the next phase was for the elections. This was interesting (and difficult) process for me to follow. One thing was that it was held mostly in Luganda but I managed to understand the basic gist of the process. So basically, nominations for each position were called for and then the general audience could nominate members. The facilitator for the ceremony was the District Health Officer (DHO) for Buickwe District. The Chairman position fell to a Mr. Patrick Rujumba who was the sole nominee. The Vice Chairperson was between the previous Vice Chairperson, a woman, and another woman, Margaret, who is the Program Director for an NGO – Foundation for Sustainable Development. This turned out to be the only moment that required a ballot vote from the crowd with the winner being Margaret. The other positions included: Representative for Clients, Representative for Disabled Persons, and general board members. The general board members were again nominated by persons from the crowd. Even I nominated a person – a Rwandan person born and raised in Uganda and now is the Executive Director for an NGO in Lugazi. The facilitator indicated that only six members would be selected and with mine and another person’s nominee, it raised the total number to eight. The process for a vote was about to commence when the Executive Director raised his voice and stated that the Constitution did not specify a number for the general board members and he recommended keeping all of them. This was warmly received and all eight were elected.
I was personally excited about the election since it signaled a new focus on developing more fundraising for St. Francis and that the board is now comprised of several members with NGO experience which can be of great help to the Executive Director.
There are a couple of interesting things I have learned through reviewing the St. Francis Five-Year Strategic Plan and the measurable indicators contained within.
One is that it is important to think of how to collect the data before one agrees to trying to accomplish an indicator and also if it is realistic. For instance, there is an indicator to reach an audience of 180,000 people in 2008 through Music, Dance, and Drama shows. This number seems excessively high considering the general population of Jinja is roughly about 80,000 in the surrounding vicinity of the town. Also, if one does not record the actual attendees, then how does one know how many showed up for your event?
Also, there are several instances where indicators are closely worded or are similar in concept but have different meanings which leads to confusion. For instance, “# couples who seek for and received HIV
counseling and testing at SFHCS” and “# persons receiving their HIV test results as a couple”. The former is supposed to show how SFHCS has “couple-friendly” services while the other is supposed to show how many couples show up.
Finally, there are 83 separate indicators contained within the plan which, by sheer numbers, can be a huge data burden for the staff from a data management perspective.
I think the take away for me at least is to not try and focus on the volume of indicators but the quality of them and the realism of actually being able to capture the information. Also, whether an indicator is a “true” indicator of the performance.
This post is about the the news today declaring the independence of South Sudan. The 196th nation to be formed in the world and the 54th nation in Africa. At 10am local time, the new flag of the Republic of South Sudan was raised and the new anthem was played in Juba, the new capital. Dignitaries from around the world were present, including: the US, China, Norway, European Union, Ethiopia, and the African Union. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave an address talking about the challenges and the hopes of the new nation and how the world would be there to help this new nation.
I was inspired to watch this unfold. As I watched NTV here in Uganda, the caption during the live coverage was, “Free At Last”. Many in Uganda side with the South Sudanese than their Arab cousins to their north. After a 21 year civil war (one of the longest in Africa) and a peace deal in 2005 paving the way for this day, the hopes of thousands of people were raised on this day. I was also a little pessimistic. I have recently read a book called “The State of Africa” by Martin Meredith that details the 50 year history of Africa since the first nation, Ghana, gained it’s independence from colonial authorities. The stories detail one tragic story after another as these fledgling nations fell into economic and violent woes. One dictator after another came to power only to steal and/or brutally repress their peoples. Would this new African nation suffer the same fate? Who knows. There are still tribal issues and land disputes with their neighbor to the north, Sudan. The UN is to provide several thousand troops to act as peacekeepers between the two nations in partnership with the African Union. Only time will tell.
Some local story links below.
I am making this post shortly after the 4th of July. A date which means little here in Uganda but a major celebration in the U.S. – Independence Day! So a belated fond “Happy Birthday” to the US of A.
This post is about my recent travels to Kenya. I was fortunate that the Project Director of Omoana, Adrien, had asked me to join him for a week of holiday. Our travels started on Saturday the 25th of June where we boarded a bus in Jinja heading east to the Kenyan border. We arrived in Busia, the border town, a couple of hours later. After paying the $25 USD fee for a single pass visa, we were on our way. I expected that Kenya would look somewhat different than Uganda from terrain, etc, but I found that it resembled Uganda in many ways – building structures, landscape (maybe a little less green). Our first big stop was in a town called Kisumu where we had lunch at a local cafe. From there we continued on until we reached Nairobi at around 9pm. We got a hotel which was nearby and spent the night. My impressions of Nairobi are that it is much more organized than Kampala and the streets are in better condition overall. However, one thing I noticed was that there were significantly more stop lights than Kampala but few drivers heeded them from my impression. We spent the day walking around and checking out the central area of the city. In the afternoon, we walked to the National Museum to take a look around. The Museum was recently renovated and looks modern and new. The exhibits were fascinating and informative – everything from natural history to the political history of Kenya. It was sad to compare this to the Ugandan National Museum which is in a more neglected state unfortunately. While we were in the museum, we did not realize that a huge thunderstorm was pelting the city with rain. We did not think this was an issue until we started our walk back and saw that the main road was flooded and no cars could pass! We asked a local policewoman about a safe alternate route and she informed us of one but that she “could not guarantee our safety”. For those of you who do not know, the unofficial nickname for Nairobi is “Nairobbery”. We struck out on the side street and fortunately found a taxi who got us into downtown safe and sound. We had dinner in a very nice Italian Restaurant, Trattoria. Later we hopped on a bus to the coast and Mombasa. Mombasa has a long and colorful history to say the least. It was once occupied by the Portuguese who built a fort there to protect the wide natural harbor. Later the Arabs came and drove out the Portuguese. The English then came and colonized the area. Mombasa and it’s surrounding areas relies heavily on the port for commercial shipping of goods but also to tourists who flock to the northern and southern beaches to enjoy the warm Indian Ocean waters. The hotel we stayed at was about 15km north of Mombasa. One of the nice things about the hotel was that it was somewhat self-enclosed but accessible to the beach. Why was this important? Well, on the beaches it seems that local Kenyans are free to set up shop and accost passing tourists with their wares – everything from cheap keychains, to wood carvings, to clothes. They are very persistent and often kept me from just walking along the beach if I wanted to. One day we decided to travel to Old Town Mombasa to visit the ruins of the Portuguese fort, Fort Jesus. The old section of Mombasa is an area of narrow streets that are lined with shops, outdoor markets, and local taxis of “Tuk Tuks” (three-wheeled motorcycles). There one can find Swahili mixed in with Arabic, and even Hindi. The aroma from the Spice Market is especially memorable. I had my first coconut juice (straight from a coconut) and also a Custard fruit (very sweet). We then took a tour around Fort Jesus accompanied by a local who just offered his services. He seemed very knowledgeable and friendly but we suspected that a price had to be paid. At the end of showing us around, he did ask for about $25 USD which drew a strong reaction from Adrien. I didn’t blame him for that since we did not ask for the man’s services. We did pay him some money to get rid of him but it sort’ve left a sour taste to the day. One day I got a chance to go scuba diving in the local waters. I was very excited about this but I had foolishly stayed up late the night before. This led to my eventual seasicknesses on the boat ride out to the dive site. However, I persevered and made the dive which I was glad to do. The water conditions were not so great though. A big current and cloudy water conditions which left visibility to about 12 meters. I still got to see many fish, coral, a Grouper fish, and a giant sea turtle! On Friday, we then hopped on a night bus from Mombasa and made the long 22 hour trek back to Jinja via a bus change in Nairobi. If possible, I would recommend flying next time.
All-in-all it was a great week and I enjoyed a chance to visit another East African country before I leave for home! Some pictures posted below.
On Saturday, I had the privilege of being inducted into the Rotary Club of Jinja and now carrying the title of a “Rotarian”. The event was held at the home of a Past President of the Rotary Club and was well attended. I was especially impressed that the Guest of Honor was a Mr. Henry Kyemba who has worked in almost every regime that has governed Uganda since Independence – this included a stint as the Minister of Health under Idi Amin before he fled to the UK with his family. He was the one who placed the Rotary pin on each of our lapels as well. There were 10 of us who were inducted and included lawyers, business people, and senior members of local NGOs. The event included speeches, music, and even dancing. I am always impressed how Ugandans love to celebrate and enjoy life whenever they can! Some pictures of the event are enclosed. The suit coat was from Faustine who was gracious enough to lend it to me. “Service Above Self” as the motto goes!
So I am kind’ve combining two posts here. One is about a recent Rotary event that occurred at Jinja Children’s Hospital on Saturday. The other is to talk a little about my Evaluation report.
So on Saturday I traveled to the Jinja Children’s Hospital for an event where about 350 kg of nutritious foodstuffs was donated to the hospital in order to help provide new mothers with some basic foods to feed their babies and/or young children. The donation was made possible through monetary donations from the Rotary Club of Havant (UK) to the Rotary Club of Jinja who purchased the food products. Before the transfer of food, there were several speeches by several attendees including: the Rotary Club President, the Executive Director of Jinja Hospital, and the Senior Nurse. The speech by the Executive Director was noteworthy in that he spoke about the dire health care problems facing Uganda and the sad state of affairs where people suffer from malnutrition even while Uganda is so “green” and that access to safe drinking water is so difficult even though the proximity of the Nile River is so close. The humorous part of the situation happened when he said that he was glad that no reporters were around. Little did he know there was a reporter present from the Daily Monitor! The reporter was there covering another story when he saw what was going on and became interested. Since he was not quite prepared, he only had his mobile phone camera to take photos. Fortunately, I had brought my camera and he asked if I could send him some photos – which I did later. We then did a handover of food, symbolically, to a few mothers present and then took a tour of the hospital facility. I have mentioned this before, I believe, but the conditions are not too good at the hospital. It was overcrowded with patients and lacking equipment. There was one lab technician on duty handling up to 40 babies waiting outside for lab testing! There was a situation where a woman was crying and yelling while running through the hallways. The Director turned to me as if he knew that I was curious to know what she was saying. He told me that the woman had just lost her baby. I always feel a bit bad when visiting the hospitals here. Some pictures are attached.
For my report, I am finally down to writing it! I have an outline which I created a few months ago which I dusted off and used to help me start writing. Even though I have learned a few more things and will probably adjust the content before I am finished, the outline was the best thing I could have done to assist me in overcoming some initial writer’s block and begin putting words through a keyboard. My goal is still to finish by mid-July at the latest. My work will be interrupted in a couple of weeks to go on a trip with the Project Director of Omoana House, Adrien, to visit Mombasa, Kenya for about a week! I am looking forward to that, as well as finishing my report (the main reason I am here of course)!