Wednesday, March 20, 2013

“30 Sites and 30 Nights”—March 20, 2013 (Day 1)

Name: Chelsea Geier

Age: 23

Home Town: Norwalk, Wisconsin

What she did before Peace Corps: Worked as both a Member Service Representative for Minnesota State and Public Programs at UCARE (State of Minnesota welfare programs) and as a leasing agent at Stadium View Apartments in Minneapolis.

Program Sector: Community Health

Number of months spent in Uganda: 10

Host Organization: Midas Touch Medical Services

Site location: Teso region, Kumi District, Kumi Town

Language spoken at her site: Ateso

Chelsea is working with Midas Touch Medical Services, which is a private hospital. Her primary assignment is data collection and monitoring of a USAID funded STRIDES project to improve maternal and child health. “Every day there is an outreach at one of 21 hospitals we work in. At the outreach we assemble all the pregnant women gathered to talk to them about what makes a healthy pregnancy. Then, we offer ultrasound scans for them. This is really cool as it offers them the chance to see their baby and allows the health workers to ensure the baby is in a good position and viable (cephalic, or head down, and alive). The mothers are tested for HIV and given IPT2 doses (medicine to prevent malaria, which causes miscarriages and other complications in pregnancy) and those who complete 4 ANC [antenatal care] visits are given both a caverra [plastic bag] and gloves, which they are required to buy and bring for the hospital staff when going into labor. We give these for free to encourage mothers to complete the 4 ANC visits, which are recommended by the WHO [World Health Organization]. Additionally, any mothers who experience complications or necessitate a caesarean section are referred to our private hospital and all costs are paid out by the project. The people I work with are all friends. It’s a welcoming environment and very inclusive; they make serving as a PCV in Uganda worthwhile.”

Even though Chelsea spends so much time on her primary project, she is trying to start a few secondary projects. “I’m looking to start a Community Health Insurance Scheme as well as several girls’ clubs at nearby high schools. I’ve had preliminary meetings with one of the schools (Wiggins) about teaching Life Skills classes, and hope to eventually expand that to several other schools.”

Chelsea does all of her food shopping in the supermarket in Mbale Town and at the local market. Bananas, pineapples, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and potatoes are most common as well as various millets, dried beans, and peas. As for water, Chelsea can get it from a tap next to her pit latrine, which is about 10 feet from her house. The water comes from her neighbor’s borehole, so when the borehole runs dry so does her tap.

Chelsea with her neighbors in front of her house

Chelsea’s favorite thing about her site is that she can get 3G+ internet. And her favorite moment at site was when someone offered her a baby. Her biggest challenge is the sexual harassment and devaluation of women in Ugandan society.

One of the most interesting things Chelsea has found in the culture she is living was some statistics she had found in a District Health Survey. “According to District Health Survey, the majority of men (70%) have had sex with someone other than their partner in the past year. Promiscuity is very prevalent in this district. Sex within the confines of marriage is seen only for the purpose of reproducing. Men have sex for pleasure with mistresses.”

Chelsea may have only been at site for several months, but she has formed some strong relationships and friendships with people in her community. “My entire organization is very close-knit and supportive. I consider each of my coworkers close friends. Additionally, I have 2 close Ugandan female friends, Hasfa and Stella.”


Sparkling Juice
Today being the first day of my project I traveled from Kampala to Kumi. To get here I first took a bus, the Elgon Flyer, to Mbale. I've taken this bus before and I think it is one of the best, most well established bus companies in this country. The bus was supposed to go at 9 AM, but it left at 10:30. This was the only bad thing that happened taking the bus today. The bus was not very full. I ended up getting a two seater to myself. This bus company also offers napkins and the conductor comes around with a trash can after we stopped at a food stop, so that people don't throw their trash out window or on the floor of the bus. I've never seen this happen on any other bus in Uganda.

After getting to Mbale, I took a taxi to Kumi. To get from Mbale to Kumi the road is one of the worst PAVED road I've seen in this country. In most places it's not wide enough for two vehicles to pass and even on the paved part it is littered with pot holes. In many places the vehicle would just drive on the dirt shoulder of the road because it was better than the paved part in the middle of the road. Then finally at about 5 PM I arrived in Kumi Town.
Sparkling grape juice with strawberries

So when I arrived Chelsea and Van met me at a local restaurant and we had dinner. After that we came back to Chelsea's house and we are currently drinking sparking grape juice with freeze dried strawberries.

Tomorrow's plan is to possibly go into the field with Chelsea and also go to Van's school.

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