Sneaky Internet

The level of health care most Canadian receive is incredible. That’s a statement that is proven by our Universal Health Care system that ever citizen pays into. We are supported and taken care of when we are sick, and the modern medicine we have access to saves lives and extends our longevity. Being able to recognize this privilege does not make me feel guilty for having them but forces me to appreciate the environment and country I live in. Uganda’s health system is still in its developmental stages. Local health centres can only treat certain types of health problems and have limited resources. The system relies on volunteer health workers to visit the majority of the rural villages in hopes to catch any impending ailments among its population; especially in children and infants.

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Rural Uganda

You eventually realize that a ‘work place’ or farm incident/injury more often than not results in a fatality. The remoteness of most of the villages is a huge hurdle when it comes to health care, and certainly in cases that are time sensitive. Is this to say that Ugandan’s aren’t resourceful? Of course not, they have proven may times (even while I was there) that they come together as a community to look out for one another and help each other when someone is in need. The reality is, education and on the ground resources are needed to help grow and amplify the necessary quality of care.

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Rural Health Care Centre

The first health centre we stopped at was very rural. It took us on some back roads and then back roads to those back roads. The second centre we visited was a training base for volunteer health workers or VHTs. These VHTs are organized by Healthy Child Uganda to give local villagers the basic health knowledge and skills to check on the younger population in their districts. They learn to take basic measurements for growing children, how to dispense vaccines and de-worming meds, and they learn songs to sing about how to take care of basic hygiene. All those skills are taught on top of the most vital piece of education; VHTs are taught to recognize the signs of children who are malnourished, suffering from trachoma or dysentery, and test to see if the child has inherited HIV or AIDS.

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VHT workers gathering for training.

VHT workers are essential for the success for Uganda’s developing health care system and I was so lucky to be apart of a project that got to show and prove it. These volunteers put the health of their community as their top priority and it’s comforting to know that the program continues to grow and recruit more caring community leaders.

and…

Yes, I know I’m a big whinny baby when it came to the lack of internet…I’m sure it’s much better 4 years later. One thing about being able to skip major infrastructure systems…you don’t have to rely on cable!

-K

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Boda Boda Time

“It’s a Sunday and we aren’t going to be shooting.” I remember this being said and a wave of mixed emotions entered my brain. On one hand I was disappointed because the work elements of the trip were just starting up and having to stop on day 2 seems like an energy kill. Contrast to that reality, I got to spend a day exploring the city of Mbarara and observe the regular on-goings of its citizens.

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The city is bustling with boda boda taxies and people going about their day. The road system operates under the order of functional chaos rather than structured alignment back home.

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This is something that you really don’t get used to in a short period of time. The idea that you can pass at any speed or proximity took me by surprise more than a couple of times. I may have had a few close calls walking across the street.

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After we collected our items and found a kiosk that would sell us some mobile data and time, we returned back to the university guest house and proceeded to enjoy the evening. I think this was the first evening that I wasn’t fighting jet-lag and got proficient sleep.

Moving forward we are going full-out on filming this project, and I get to see some places in Uganda that are the definition of rural.

-KB

Bushenyi & Beyond

 

After taking the morning to render a schedule and revise the scripts for filming, Rick and I were taken to the district of Bushenyi. We arrived at a small village that had some of the HCU (Healthy Child Uganda) programs running. The first homestead had a chicken raising program and a bee keeping program, which were both run and operated by the local family who had some of the mothers volunteering as community workers. The next village was a “pilot program village” where the families were given the tools and skills to develop healthy/clean living spaces. They developed a safe food prep area, self-contained latrines, and a “tippy-tap” system which is used to make sure all the villagers could clean their hands after using the washroom. The final stop of the day was to visit a young family that nearly lost their daughter to a an illness, however with the volunteer health worker visits she was flagged as high risk. She survived because they were referred to a district health centre and she got the surgery she needed. Each location came with such a different experience and exposure to Ugandan families, and their way of life.

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Rural village where chickens and bees are raised.

Which leads into the topic of poverty.

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Children from rural village.

After going from one village to another I couldn’t avoid the perception that these people had very little in terms of material items/property. I was conditioned growing up to think that people in rural Africa were these “hopeless” people who had nothing, and couldn’t survive if we (the selfless Canadians (that’s sarcasm)) didn’t deliver these little shoe boxes filled with items we considered essential to living. Now, I was a kid who eventually educated herself that the Catholic school system wasn’t right about a lot of things and this was certainly one of them. Yes, these families didn’t have cars, or TVs or even electricity but that didn’t make them incapable or incompetent. They are all people of their circumstances.

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Child from “Pilot Project” village.

The majority of the kids and parents never got an education, and most of them may never even see a larger city in their life time. They are however hard-working people who usually sustain their own farms and are able to feed their families. Does this mean every family has that ability to be self-sustained? No. Life  is always more complicated than that, and there will always be circumstances that are out of our control. What it does re-affirm is that education and learning is really the best way to help provide effective development for people no matter their circumstances, and not thinking we should just throwing some toothpaste and shampoo in a box.

I tried filming a small clip about this at the end of this day but couldn’t bring myself to post it in the video because I did such an awful job explaining my experience. It came off as uninformed and elitist; which it was. I’m bringing up a couple of these topics as the vlogs progress but I wanted to touch on the importance of recognizing that just because people may not have the same things we do, it doesn’t mean they are less capable or less worthy of knowledge. I also have to recognize that this is such a complex issue and I’ve narrowed down only to a single element to give this vlog some context. Please know that there are so many more variables when talking about poverty.

What do you think would help developing countries and their people?

-KB

Entebbe to Mbarara

The first full day in Uganda was filled with driving, filming and some culture processing. The differences in sights, sounds, smells and certainly culture was undeniable and I had to adapt to the new environment I was visiting.

After leaving the Boma, we travelled to the capital city Kampala where we dropped by the Ministry of Health to get a couple of interviews about how Healthy Child Uganda was helping the development of Uganda’s health infrastructure and resources. Following those interviews we moved along toward Mbarara where we had a couple of stops to meet up with some doctors and other individuals involved in Uganda’s health system.

Once we arrived in Mbarara we were put up in the guest houses on the Mbarara University of Science and Technology campus.

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Rick and I quickly unpacked and settled into our home for the next week. We took some time to discuss the project and how the following shoot days will most likely proceed. I was still adjusting to the physical environment at this point. The humidity, the change in temperature, and sounds of the insects at night. In Canada we don’t even experience any kind of bug/insect interaction for 6-8 months of the year so needing to sleep with nets around my bed was something unfamiliar.

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I needed to get as much sleep as I could as the adventure really start the following day. We head into full production mode and get this project rolling!

-KB

 

Uganda & Kenya

Ready for a time jump? Cause we are going all the way back to 2014 when my uncle and I went on a trip to Uganda and Kenya to document the progress of a great organization called Healthy Child Uganda.

https://www.healthychilduganda.org/

They’re a NGO that was started as a partnership between the Mbarara University of Science and Technology, and a collection of Canadian Universities to develop and grow local health systems.

These vlogs document some of my time in both countries, and how I had to learn some important life lessons. Uganda was the first country that I visited that would defined as “developing.” This trip vaporized my expectations and highlighted some entitlements I harvested as a Canadian.

Electricity, clean water, education, health care, modern amenities, technology, motor transportation; just to name a few are all things that I have access to back home with barely a second thought. It’s not to say Uganda doesn’t have all these systems and infrastructure (they do!) it’s just not distributed to all citizens. I had to reflect at moments to recognize that certain privileges I have are directly connected to the place I was born, the family I was born into, and the complicated dynamics of wealth and value.

Questioning and analyzing your perspective is a necessary skill to develop in life. There is no discernible way to grow and learn without being exposed to different environments, cultures and people. You may not agree with certain aspects of different cultures and that’s completely valid. At the same time it’s important to recognize that there are aspects of your own that may not be the best either.

To clarify, this trip to Uganda nullified some of my inaccurate North American presumptions, and delivered on a terrific learning experience.

If you have any similar experiences I’d love to hear about them. Leave a comment and share with friends 🙂

-KB