Sunday, April 14, 2013

“30 Sites and 30 Nights”—April 14, 2013 (Day 26)



Name: Tara Matthews

Age: 25

Home Town: Novato, California

What she did before Peace Corps: Completed a degree in health science, volunteered in her community both at the County Health Department and at a local community center helping to teach English to Latino adults, and worked at a children’s toy shop

Program Sector: Community Health

Number of months spent in Uganda: 10

Host Organization: Ishaka Health Plan

Site location: Southwest region, Bushenyi District, Ishaka Town

Language spoken at your site: Runyankore

Tara has recently had a site change. She was initially working with the Hunter Foundation Hospital, however, unfortunately, that organization shut down while she was there leaving her without any work. At Hunter Foundation Hospital she went on weekly outreaches into the villages where she gave health talks to women and children on topics such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. Now she is working with Ishaka Health Plan in Ishaka Town. She is expected to attend outreaches and work with the orphans and vulnerable children in areas of malaria and ensuring they are educated about the importance of sleeping under a mosquito net. “The health plan office wants to increase health access to all Ugandans so I anticipate assisting them with this, which will start off by organizing their office and making it streamlined so that everything is easier to locate. Also, the man that started Ishaka Health Plan, Kakunta Daniel, is still an active part of the organization. He is seventy years old but would not miss a day to make his hopes and dreams come true.” In addition to getting her new primary project off the ground, she also has high hopes for her secondary projects. She has been networking with schools to begin some health education classes, life skills groups, and RUMPS (Re-Usable Menstrual Pads) workshops. She is also co-directing National Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), which is happening in August.

Tara can get all the food she needs in Ishaka Town. She shops at the supermarkets and the local market. She can get some western food in the supermarkets and in the local market she can get many staples such as tomatoes, carrots, onions and beans. She can also sometimes get lettuce, cucumbers and cilantro there. As for water, Tara has running water in her bathroom.

Some of Tara’s favorite things about her site are having a toilet, 3G+ internet and a market with fresh produce. She also loves the people in her community. “The people are some of the most welcoming I have met and they are very open to the ideas that I have during my service.” Her favorite moment at site is when she met Comfort, a young girl in her community. “Comfort is my new bestie. At twelve years old, she was the first ‘child’ that I struck up a conversation with in town. Her mom owns a stationery store, where I now go when I am in need of tape, paper, or pens. Comfort doesn’t shout muzungu at me as I walk past, no those would just be the boda drivers. She has ambitious goals of being a doctor and we have already chatted about GirlTech and GLOW.”

Tara has also greatly enjoyed the hospitality of Ugandans in general. “The fact that the HCN’s (Host Country Nationals) everywhere, not just those in Ishaka Town, will open up their homes and hearts for anyone. People I have just met invite me for dinner, want me to come and take tea, or would like me to greet their distant relative on the phone. In America, I would probably be annoyed, frustrated, or think to myself, ‘What is wrong with this person slash are they a serial killer?!’ but here, I am honored. “

So far, at Tara’s site, her biggest challenge is working with her organization and establishing her role within the organization. “While they have big dreams and goals, which is great, they want me to be a supervisor and that is not my role.”

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This morning I had quite a relaxing morning where I slept in and didn't get up until 11. It's Sunday so most volunteers don't have much going on. After spending some time hanging out at Andrew's place, we ventured out to get some food. We went to a local restaurant where we got goat and chips. Despite the fact that I don't like goat, this was pretty good. Unfortunately, I didn't really think things through and I had left my bags at Andrew's house, so after eating I traveled back to Andrew's house to get my things and I ended up hanging out for a while before heading over to Tara's place.

At about 5:30 PM I finally left Andrew's place and met Tara in Ishaka Town. We stopped at the market and then walked back to Tara's house. Tara's house is only about a 15 minute walk from town and her house is decently big. She has a large sitting room as well as a large bedroom. She also has a bathroom and running water.

So tonight I'm staying here with Tara and then tomorrow I'm heading down to Rukungiri. This project is slowly coming to a close, but I'm really glad to be back in the Southwest. With my COS date fast approaching, I'm realizing how hard it is going to be to leave and how much I'm gonna miss all of my friends that I'm leaving behind. Nonetheless, I can't think of a better way to end this project than with some of my closest volunteers.

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