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Thursday, May 30, 2013

"With Courage and Love" -TASO

       We began the day with an early breakfast at MUBS. We then traveled to the Mulago branch of TASO, The AIDS Support Organization where we met Claire who was our guide for the morning. This is one of 11 TASO clinics, not including one training center/laboratory. Before we entered the clinic we saw the day care where children of clients can stay. Inside the day care there is a clinician that children can see when they are sick. We then entered the clinic and spoke with two of the counselors. The counseling services at TASO provide clients with advice on nutrition, family planning, and information on AIDS medicine and its side effects. Those services are provided for clients who are able to come to the clinic for regular appointments. Counselors also have the duty of delivering medicine to clients who cannot get to the clinic. They are given a dispensing list with a patients contact information and the regiment they are on. Currently there are 4 regiments that clients can be on depending on their conditions.
       We then proceeded to the entrance of the clinic. When clients enter, they are greeted by expert clients. Expert clients are in charge of checking in the clients and bringing them to their appointments. There is a resting room available for the clients that are not able to wait due to illness. In addition, they give health talks every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We then moved down the hall to speak to the medical coordinator. He explained the procedure that most clients go through when they come to the clinic. Clients are always tested for HIV/AIDS when they come, even if they have already been tested elsewhere.  This insures that clients get results that are known to be reliable. In addition, they must take a baseline survey and receive an evaluation of their organs. Booklets are given to each client to keep track of their medical history, goals and appointments.
       The director of the clinic proceeded to greet us as we sat down to watch a performance by the Mulago Drummer Group. This group was formed by TASO clients who wanted to give back to the clinic. The Mulago Drummer Group educates communities and schools on HIV/AIDS through song and drama. Gurtrude, one of the group members, then shared her AIDS story. Through TASO she was able to have two HIV negative children with her husband.  All of the group members had beautiful voices and seemed very passionate about educating Ugandans.  Their performance and stories were very inspirational for many of the Drake and MUBS students.

Fellow Explorers of Uganda-
Do you think performances by the Mulago Drummer Group are an effective way of educating people on HIV and AIDS? Why or why not?
Did you learn anything new about HIV/AIDS during our visit?

Secondary Education in Uganda: City Secondary School and a Cow

A few days ago, we visited our first school in Uganda! As an education major, this greatly excited me. It was raining in the morning and a bit buggy, but as we've learned, the weather changes very quickly in Uganda. It went from a rainy morning to a hot, sunny and humid afternoon. We traveled a while in Big Blue (our MUBS coach bus that escorts us everywhere, even on the most treacherous of roads!) and arrived at a sign that pointed us down the road towards City Secondary School. We were greeted at said sign by the school's marching band! What a surprise this was. We marched down the street/alley and into the campus to tunes like "Oh When The Saints Go Marching In" and paraded through the students who were lined up all the way to the main building. This was a new experience for many of us. We felt like celebrities who become famous for no particular reason, we felt we didn't deserve such a gracious welcome.
In the main hall we were seated in desks and got to listen to a few more songs from the band and choir including the Uganda and Buganda anthems. The Master of Ceremonies spoke to us, as well as the Head Teacher. They explained Uganda's education system which is adapted from the British, and told us about their school. City Secondary School has grades S1-S6 or Senior 1 through Senior 6 (S1, S2, S3, etc). This is kind of similar to combining middle school and high school for us. It is a boarding school of 300 students with 24 teachers and 13 support staff. The students' families are usually of lower economic status and are those that could not attend public school because of lack of money. Some students are able to work off some of their tuition so they don't have to pay as much (although their overall fee is greatly less than those of other Ugandan schools). The school has their own farm with animals and crops (bananas for making matoke, a staple food of the Ugandan diet). The cows and chickens roam the campus freely.
We had a packed schedule while at the school! It was a little different than the usual "African time" we had gotten used to, typically relaxed and usually at least 15 minutes behind. The Master of Ceremonies was very organized and made sure each activity was timed well. First we all split up into different classrooms, about 3 Drake kids and 2 MUBS kids per group. Myself, Samantha, Austin, Sarah from MUBS, and Ratiib from MUBS were all assigned to a S6 classroom. These are the students in their last year, trying to figure out what to do next whether it be go to university or a two year school or find a job. They asked us many questions about American schools and wanted to know about areas we study and areas they are interested in. They also asked questions about America in general. We were SO impressed by their questions! Throughout the different classrooms, students from CSS asked not only about education and us but about topics such as racism, the illuminati, gay rights, dating in America, the Syrian war and our involvement in it, and concern about what our government  has done to make sure something like the Newtown shooting doesn't happen again. Many of these things blew us away and we hope that we answered them adequately enough!
Following this, we worked on an art project of making a T-shirt with the CSS and DU crests/logos on them with "friends forever" on the back, the students also took us around their art room and showed us the artwork they've been working on. I was SO amazed at the beautiful creations! I wish I had that much talent.
Next, we took a tour of the campus, ate a traditional lunch and sat spread out amongst the students so as to interact and get to know each other. This was a little bit difficult because, depending on the age of the student, it sometimes felt like the students thought you were an exotic wild animal. Many of them had never seen a person with non-black skin before, so for me it was pretty difficult to get them to talk to me. This was a good experience, though and the food was very good!
After lunch, the majority of the group headed down to their private football (soccer) pitch and played games with the students while the education majors in the group and the professors had a teacher discussion with the teachers of the school. It was very enlightening to hear about the efforts they put forth to try to use the student centered teaching model. For the record, the Drake and MUBS students won the game against the CSS students with a score of 3-2 and were very, very, muddy and sweaty afterwards.
We all met up at the administration building where they set up chairs for us with the students facing us. They thanked us graciously many, many times. We presented them with our gifts of some books and school supplies and they gave us a cow. Yes, they literally gave us a cow. This is a traditional and very significant gift. This is a gift that is usually given as a dowry during a wedding ceremony. Needless to say it was a BIG deal. Dr. A and Dr. McKnight had to kindly ask them to care for our cow (dubbed with the name "Drake") and keep it on their property, but were very appreciative and made sure the school knew we knew how much it meant.
The giving of the cow, the marching band, and all of the thank yous made us feel a bit uncomfortable. None of us have ever been treated so generously, it felt like too much. Dr. Senteza enlightened us all the next day that this generosity is truly a part of Ugandan culture. They are hospitable, they spend hours and days of preparation for visits like this. Gaining this knowledge made many of us feel a little better.
I don't know if any of us will ever be treated as such a celebrity at any time, but I'm pretty sure none of us will receive a cow as a gift ever again. Pretty cool, huh?

A question for my classmates:
What do you think of Ugandans hospitality? It seems to me that this is something we are missing at times in the United States. Do you think we could benefit from such welcoming in the U.S.? Does this or could this contribute to the country becoming more sustainable?

Healthcare in Uganda: Mulago Hospital

Today encompassed two very eye-opening, enriching looks into Ugandan healthcare. I will summarize our afternoon visit of the day, a tour of Mulago Hospital, the largest hospital in Uganda. As we walked through the hospital en route to an introductory lecture, it became apparent Mulago was strikingly different than the American hospitals we are accustomed to. There are no waiting rooms in the Mulago Hospital; rather, friends and family of patients find free spaces on the ground within the open-air building to rest, eat, and wait for loved ones.

To begin our tour, Professor Josaphat Byamuigisha gave a short presentation summarizing current health care issues in Uganda, focusing specifically on obstetrics and gynecology, the department which we would later have an opportunity to see for ourselves. I will highlight a few striking and significant facts from his presentation. Mulago is a public hospital, which offers "free" services to citizens. I was advised by the MUBS students, however, that the situation is not quite so straightforward. The hospital has a private sector, and generally offers better, faster services to those who are able to pay. Mulago faces major issues in providing adequate healthcare in gynecology, including an extreme shortage of staff, supplies, and space, patient-induced abortions (illegal in Uganda), high prevalence of fistulas, and cultural norms of having several children, often without maternal healthcare. An American woman, currently completing her residency in Boston, happened to be doing rounds in Mulago at this time. She spoke to us about making a difference in this hospital, and the stark contrast we would see from U.S. hospitals.

After this short lecture, we split into two groups to tour the gynecology and obstetrics ward. By no means am I exaggerating by saying the experience was absolutely shocking for many of us. Our views of healthcare and privacy were inverted, twisted, and split into a million pieces.

In the post-operational room, over twenty beds and patients were held in a medium-sized room. Patients were no more than two feet from one another. As startling as this may seem to us Westerners, the resident informed us that this ward had much more space than most. We were given free reign by the hospital staff to enter the wards and observe patients - an act that seems like a monumental breach of privacy and respect to me. Furthermore, we walked into the delivery room - another medium-sized room filled with twenty-some women. In this room, however, all the women were in labor. A small curtain surrounded each bed, but the nude women were still visible to us. A just-born, premature baby lay on a table near us; it uttered its first cry as we stood nearby, with no one to comfort it. The scene was beyond alarming - almost indescribable. A sign posted in the ward stated, "Women, please take your babies with you when you leave. Do not throw your baby in the dust bin. Police are watching. You will be prosecuted."An unsettling knot festered in my stomach soon after reading this.

While in the hallway, the resident informed us that after giving birth, women lie in the corridors outside the ward to rest up until the next morning; they leave shortly after this. Typically, two midwives serve sixteen women in labor at a time. Often times, women are forced to go into labor on the ground. The hospital regularly delivers 80 babies in a span of 24 hours. These facts are unbelievable and mildly disturbing compared to American maternity care.

Despite these scenes, I was remarkably impressed by the poise and courage of the hospital staff. Undeterred by the severe shortage of staff, space, and supplies, the doctors and nurses were putting their absolute best efforts forward to take care of these women. While many doctors choose to work in other countries, seeking higher wages, one doctor stated firmly that Kampala was her home; she would serve the people here. Her pride and resilience in the face of incredible adversity was inspring.

Students - What was your reaction to the hospital visit? How do you think conditions can be improved? What role does the government need to play? What role should international donors play?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 4: Perceptions of the "Muzungu" People in Uganda

Today was our fourth day in Uganda, and it started out like the days preceding it. We met at MUBS and as we drove onto campus, we noticed there was much more security than usual. Although nothing was mentioned at the time we drove in, during our breakfast there was quite a bit of commotion as there was a helicopter landing on the futbol field at MUBS. There was speculation that Museveni, the President of Uganda, was landing on the field as he sometimes does, but this time around it was his brother. We also had the pleasure of meeting Godfrey, a wonderful man selling even more wonderful art. Many of us had the pleasure of buying beautiful souvenirs from him at a very reasonable price.

After breakfast, we headed off to the Equator, a first for many of us! We had the distinct pleasure of experiencing what road construction looks like in Uganda, and needless to say, it took us a bit longer to reach the equator than originally thought. There were a few times when Maggie and Damali (two truly amazing MUBS students) instructed me to pray, because we were on a notoriously dangerous road. After a bit of a treacherous drive, we arrived at the Equator! There were many pictures taken with one leg on the Northern Hemisphere, and the other on the Southern Hemisphere, as well as looking at an experiment involving the way water drains on the different sides of the Equator. We were also able to explore some shops with local art, clothing, and other souvenirs, which is where the main theme for this post begins.

There have been many times where members of our group have been referred to as a "Muzungu", which is the word commonly used for white people. The direct translation, however, is actually "one with privilege." I was a little put off when I first heard this translation, because, as members of our group have expressed, we do not wish to be seen as special, and certainly don't consider ourselves as being better than anyone else. We are extremely privileged to be in Uganda, and to have the wonderful classmates, professors, and colleagues that we do, but we don't want to be treated any differently than the average Ugandan.

We have seen two different sides of being considered a privileged person, one being yesterday at City Secondary School, and the other today in the shops at the Equator. At city secondary, we were welcomed with a brass marching band, heightened security provided by the school to keep us safe, were given t-shirts to be used in a beautiful art project, were served the special meal that students only receive on Sundays, and were even given a cow as a gift. This made many of the students, including myself, feel slightly uncomfortable because if anything like this would happen in the U.S., President Obama, Beyonce, or an entire professional sports team would have to be present. It is still unclear if this had something to do with the color of our skin or our country of origin, but Professor Senteza did enlighten us on the fact that Ugandans have a sense of hospitality heightened so far above that of Americans that it would be expected us to be a little shocked. Despite a bit of uncomfortableness, it was still an exceptional day.

Today, we saw the more negative side of being considered a privileged person. At the market, we were expected to pay higher prices, and had very little luck bartering prices down, despite our prior understanding that bartering is a very common practice in Ugandan markets. As a group we came to understand that this is because Americans are all seen as having an excess of money, and should be able to pay higher prices, instead of the fair prices offered to Ugandans. So I have two questions related to this: Is it ethical for shopkeepers to charge higher prices to some than others, or should they be able to charge what they want? Why or why not? Also, would the bartering structure used in Ugandan markets function in the U.S., apart from small scale seasonal farmer's markets? Why or why not?


Monday, May 27, 2013

The Scene in Uganda: Human Rights

Our second full day in Kampala started on time at 7:45 A.M. Ugandan time, so approximately 8:00 A.M. by American standards with breakfast at MUBS. After breakfast, we headed up one of the seven hills of Kampala to the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI).  Located in a wealthier portion of Kampala, we finally arrived in at FHRI. Upon arrive, I found that the atmosphere was the perfect recipe for a nap. The chairs were comfy. The room was warm, and we had time because we were waiting for Dr. Sewanyana, the executive director of FHRI.  However, as wonderful as a nap seemed at the time, Josephine, the research director of FHRI, arrived and quickly captivated our attention by discussing the state of human rights in Uganda, the projects that FHRI undertakes and the challenges faced by human rights organizations. The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative focuses on advancing civil and political rights in Uganda. Each year FHRI researches and publishes two reports on two human rights initiatives in Uganda. These topics range from the right to a fair trial to children's rights. This past year's initiatives were right to a fair trial and labor rights.  The current research topics are eradication of extreme poverty (in line with the United Nation's  Millennium Development Goals) and the right of fair elections. During her talk, she discussed a wide array of topics including government corruption, police torture and right to food and answered our nonstop questions over an hour. Dr. Sewanyana arrived added to the information that Josephine provided us.  One of the most important things that I took away from the meeting with Josephine was the importance of continuous dialogue and advocacy for each topic. For me, this persistence shown by FHRI is something that everyone can learn from. True grit and persistence is key to any accomplishment.

Students: During Josephine's presentation, she said "if you want development, it comes at a cost." In your opinion what has been the cost of the advancement of human rights in Uganda? In your opinion how to human rights in Uganda compare to human rights violations in the United States? What is one thing that surprised you from the discussion?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Everybody has a Natural Rhythm

We began our first day in Uganda by traveling to Makerere University Business School (MUBS) to meet the students and professors that will be accompanying us for a majority of our trip. Once we arrived at MUBS, we were kindly greeted by the men and women of MUBS and served a small breakfast of cereal, muffins, bananas, sausage, and boiled eggs. Once breakfast was over we took the bus to a shopping center to exchange our US dollars into Ugandan schillings. With our newfound riches in hand we strolled around the market feeling like half a million schillings. After our time at the market, we ventured back to MUBS to grab sack lunches and proceeded to the Ndere Dance Cultural Center. The center was founded to help promote and retain African tribal heritage. Upon arrival, we learned the fundamentals of Ugandan music and dance. Once our broad overview was completed, we divided into different groups to specialize in different areas. I have two left feet, but for some odd reason I chose to learn a traditional dance. After mastering our individual talents, we were brought back together as a group to show what we had learned. There were many outstanding performances by students, especially Sam Brenner’s undungu solo. I on other hand was on the opposite end of the spectrum and managed to give everyone a good laugh at my attempt to dance. The evening culminated with dinner and a performance by the student of the Ndere Center that was amazing to say the least. I know everyone had a great time and cannot wait for tomorrow, but for the time being are exhausted and ready for bed.

Students – How important do you think it is for people to embrace traditions in general? Also, do you think that having knowledge of traditions will contribute to a more or less sustainable Uganda? Finally for personal reference, on a scale of 1 to 10 how humorous was my attempt at dancing?

Friday, May 10, 2013

2013 Uganda Travel Seminar Readies for May 24th Departure

The Drake University faculty and student participants in the 7th annual Sustainability in sub-Saharan Africa study abroad program depart from various points in the Midwest on Friday, May 24th.  One student will start her adventure much earlier than the rest of the group with a 6 AM departure flight. If all goes according to plan by 4:35 PM Eastern time, twenty-two excited Drake students, Dr. Glenn McKnight & myself will meet up at the Newark, NJ (Liberty) airport to board the 5:45 PM transatlantic flight that will take us to Entebbe, Uganda via Brussels, Belgium.  Our third professor, Dr. Jimmy Senteza, will meet us in the Entebbe airport as his itinerary goes through Amsterdam instead. Approximately 23 hours later, we will have traveled more than 8,000 miles/nearly 13,000 km (straight-line distance) and will arrive in Uganda ready for a great, educational, and stimulating three-week program with our partners at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) exploring various components of development and sustainability.
It's a long way from Iowa to Uganda...

Over the past several weeks the Drake students and faculty have been learning about the Ugandan educational, government, healthcare, economic, agricultural, tourism, and civil society systems in preparation for our in country activities. The students have also prepared proposals for several service-learning opportunities including teaching at a school with both able-body and disabled students; conducting basic healthcare workshops in a rural village; exploring possibilities of establishing an internship program within a successful group of Ugandan companies; determining consumer attitudes on more sustainable alternatives to clean water access, environmentally friendly packages for bottled water, and approaches to wildlife conservation; and working alongside human rights workers and medical providers. When one looks at what the students plan on doing it blows your mind – they amaze me. And, as one of their professors I get the opportunity to see firsthand the transformation that occurs…I can hardly wait.

This program has grown considerably over the years but one constant event in each year’s schedule has been the rural visit to the Village of Kikandwa in the Kasawo county of the Mukano district.  The people of the village welcome us as friends and share with us the many activities of their daily lives. Through several conversations and many, many partners over the past 12 months we have embarked on a joint venture with the village…we are partnering with them to build a health clinic that will improve access to many basic health care services. This is not an easy nor cheap adventure – we’ve been learning a lot. Students from the 2012 study abroad program have spent the past nine months fundraising for this project. We still have a long way to go but we are pleased to announce the 2013 class will attend the clinic’s groundbreaking!  To learn more about this project and how you can contribute to it, please visit www.drake.edu/partneruganda.

So – with this introduction, we hope you will follow our journey (this blog). Students will be blogging about their experiences and we welcome your comments, questions, and engagement. To get our conversation started, please post your answer to the following question in the comments section below:

What one or two things from your daily life would be the hardest to give up for a 3 week trip to another country?

My answer?  I will definitely miss being with my family (although I will Skype them from Uganda) but the 1 thing I currently have everyday that I won’t have in Uganda…diet Pepsi.  Luckily, on occasion I will be able to get a Coke Light (diet Coke)…but it’s just not the same. Then again, maybe this will be a good thing. :)

Until the next posting….

**Dr. Adkins**