This past day was my second day at St. Francis. It was a clinical day meaning that was the day when they were available to refill ART medication. Tuesdays and Thursdays are when this usually occurs and that is when they are usually the busiest.
I had three introductory interviews today. One was with Faustine on general security. Uganda is generally a safe country but one has to be cautious. Especially as a foreigner. He recommended that I not travel at night alone. He also said to avoid alleys and to avoid large crowds that are load and obnoxious. The second was with one of the counselors named Angela. She gave me the Ugandan cultural brief. I really enjoyed talking to her and found it very informative and inspiring. She had previously been a business woman and had at one time owned her own freight shipping company. She then felt that she wanted to do something meaningful and so she enrolled in a course that taught about HIV/AIDS counseling and she then joined St. Francis. Some interesting cultural notes:
- The area that St. Francis is in is within the Buganda tribal area. It is the largest ethnic group in Uganda. However, there are many tribes in Uganda with differing customs.
- Ugandans enjoy greeting each other and can often talk a long time in doing so. If one was to enter a local rural village and enter a house, each member will approach the visitor and spend some time greeting them.
- When a person greets a higher respected person, they will often kneel down before talking to them (I witnessed this a few times). Also, Buganda itself is a ceremonial kingdom and when the king approaches, the people will prostrate themselves before him. He is often held in higher regard than the President!
- There is still some polygamy going on in the rural areas which is actually a problem when dealing with HIV/AIDS prevention.
- The Christian religion is strong in Uganda – particularly Anglican and Catholic churches. Angela herself is Catholic but she still advocates condom use for instance. She understands that saving a life is more important than church policy.
I then interviewed the HR Director, Charles. His background is interesting as well. He got his degree in Theology and has worked in several East African countries including: Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, and even Congo. He later received his Master’s in Human Resources. He has worked at St. Francis for only 4 months but he has seen much and is a big advocate for what they do there. He told me a story where a man who was dying said that he wanted to die at St. Francis because he felt that was his home. He stayed there for about a month and he did pass away there. He mentioned that one of the hardest people to hold onto are medical doctors. St. Francis used to have at least one but could not hold onto that person who just left one day – most likely due to higher salary demands. They now have three clinicians. Charles said that the head clinician, Emma, is probably better than many local doctors in any case. I asked about other retention issues and he told me a story: Last year, from January to June/July, St. Francis had no money to pay salaries due to a delay in receiving grant money. During that time, the employees stayed and worked treating patients for free. I didn’t need to ask any follow on questions.