Sunday, April 7, 2013

“30 Sites and 30 Nights”—April 7, 2013 (Day 19)



Name: Lori Cleveland

Age: 56

Home Town: Mount Shasta, California

What she did before Peace Corps: Taught Nursing at College of the Siskiyous

Program Sector: Community Health

Number of months spent in Uganda: 10

Host Organization: Hoima School of Nursing and Midwifery

Site location: Hoima town, Hoima district

Language spoken at her site: Runyoro

Lori works for a Nursing school in Hoima Town. Her job description is to take roll call. This is very important to the school because students have a tendency to skip clinical time in the hospital or to attend only the wards which they are interested in. “I have adjusted my role to taking attendance at the beginning and the end of our 5 hour day. That allows me to spend some time every day with students to coach and mentor them by supervising their skills and promoting critical thinking.”

In addition to her primary project, Lori also has a couple secondary projects she is working on. First she is working with The Bunyoro Orphan and Albino Helper's Organization which was started in October of 2011. Their goal is to provide for those who live in the worst conditions, who have no family, and who have been shunned by society. For 31 orphans and 11 albinos, they do what they can, out of their own pockets. They provide transport to medical care. They help with school supplies. They help to dig and plant. They solicit for sunscreen. Their work plan for 2013 includes providing school supplies, clothing, and shoes; testing the children for HIV; and acquiring land for an orphanage home. “My role is mostly advisory and a friend who cares. Since I have been on board we have completed 2 projects: 1) We recently provided school books, pencils, pens, clothing, and sunscreen to the children at a celebration lunch, and 2) we have promoted our organization and educated the community on albinism through a local radio program. Most recently we have completed a grant to provide HIV testing and treatment for all the children in their program.”
One of Lori's nursing students teaching family planning at a secondary school

Second, she is working on a project with 3 other volunteers; a physician from England and two others from the U.S. who are working with Think Humanity. “We are working on a program to bring the nursing students into the schools to provide education on HIV/AIDS and family planning. This project is just starting, but our intention is to begin with teen girls who are already established with the volunteers from Think Humanity. The teens have asked many questions in relationship to HIV/AIDS and we hope to educate and help them understand. Through this program we want to dispel rumors, improve life skills capacity, and mitigate transmission. In addition, this program builds on the skills of the nursing students. We will be educating small groups who will then go to the schools to teach and answer questions, thus promoting public speaking, patient education, and critical thinking.”  They also have plans to teach malaria and water and sanitation primary school students.

Finally, Lori is also facilitating a pen pal program between students at her nursing school here in Uganda and nursing students in the U.S. at the college she used to work at. Some of her students are also pen pals with some of her friends and family back home.

Being in town Lori has many options when it comes to food shopping. She shops at the supermarket about once a week and at the local market every few days. Lori also has running water in her house. “I have city water which is pumped into a storage tank and then to my house. And I count my blessings every day for it because I had no running water for the first 5 months of my stay at site.”

Lori says her favorite thing about site is the people. “They are welcoming, friendly, and courteous. The women are so strong and resilient and work very hard without complaint. Recognition is very important to them and they appreciate any compliment, beaming when they hear ‘webaleimirimo’ (thank-you for your work). If someone presents a problem and says ‘I can’t ….’ They will often reply with, ‘but you can!’ Tears are rarely seen unless it is something devastating, and complaints are not heard, even in the hospital. They are very respectful, especially to older persons, and teach respect even to the smallest children. And the children, they are so curious and just want to touch you or greet you. The children are taught in school to say, ‘how are you?’ in English using this high pitched twang that they think resembles our accent. Although it can become very irritating after hearing it daily for months, it can also be endearing when you see how important it is to them to be greeted and recognized by a ‘muzungu’. But the best part about the people is watching their faces light up and the smiles blossom when you greet them in their own language.”

For Lori, naming one favorite moment is too hard. Instead she named several. “There are small things that happen every day that make me smile…
  1. giving pipe cleaners to children on the surgical ward to play with
  2. a student teaching another student a skill that I taught him the day before
  3. witnessing the birth of a healthy baby delivered alone by one of my students
  4. giving school supplies to orphans and sunscreen to albinos
  5. helping my students to critically think through a problem
  6. sharing American food with neighbors
  7. being welcomed with smiles, laughter, and hugs from my Ugandan friends”

Lori’s biggest challenge at her site in that she fears that she is ineffective. “The people are immersed in tradition and because of that change comes ‘mpola mpola’ (slowly, slowly). It takes a long time for them to believe in your skills and to gain their trust. One of the tutors (teachers) compared my concern about making a difference to a mosquito. He said if I get into bed and a tiny mosquito gets under the net with me, what will happen? I may not even see the mosquito or realize it has bitten me, but its small bite can cause a major event.”

The most interesting thing Lori has found about the culture is the lack of privacy and personal space or maybe just lack of a need for such things. “There are no privacy curtains between the hospital beds although screens are occasionally used for procedures. The children are often naked. There is basically no thought of personal space when they are interested in what you are doing. When I take roll call they crowd up against me and each other calling out their names in a cacophony of sound and movement. When I am passing out sweets or have something intriguing for them they stand right in my face with these puppy dog eyes and want to be first to receive.”

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This morning, after getting myself up and ready to go, I made my way to the taxi park in Luwero. When I was ready to leave, Sara said she would “give me a push”. This is a very Ugandan saying. What it means is that “I'm going to see you out” or “I'm going to go a little ways with you”. So when she said this she meant she was going to walk me to the taxi park. So Sara walked me to the taxi park and on the way I stopped and got a rolex for breakfast. When I got to the taxi park I got in a taxi, but it took about an hour to leave. From Luwero, I traveled to Kampala and got a bus going to Hoima. This bus only took about an hour to leave, so by around 1 PM I was well on my way to Hoima.

Buses can be really frustrating in this country. Today I got off the taxi in the new taxi park. This taxi park was just recently moved so when I arrived there, I was very disoriented. I finally figured out where I was going and got going in the right direction. In the process of this, though, I constantly had people in the taxi park trying to lead me to certain taxis or trying to figure out where I was going. And then I realized just how far away I was from the bus park. So I started walking. It wasn't real far, but with my bags and everything, it was a little ways. Once I managed to get to the bus park, I found the bus I needed to get on, got a ticket, got on the bus and found a seat.

On buses here while they are filling they often have people getting on the bus selling things. This could be anything from soda and water to cakes to shoes and jackets and everything in between. I find these people particularly obnoxious, because there are usually anywhere from 1 to 10 of these people on the bus at one given time. They just get in the way and annoy me. While you are waiting for the bus to leave, it is a constant parade of products in front of your face that you probably don't want to buy.

Finally the bus started to move. We were full and we were leaving the bus park. However, before we left Kampala, we stopped at a gas station and half the people on the bus got off to go the bathroom or get some food. Why couldn't they do that while we were waiting for the bus to leave? I've been here over two years and I still can't figure this out!

Nonetheless, I eventually made it to Hoima by about 4 PM. When I got here I met Lori and an ex-pat friend of hers. So we got acquainted and Lori made tortilla chips and guacamole. We ended up eating so much of that that we never made dinner.

Another day down. Tomorrow I'm going to go to see Lori's hospital and then I'm also going to see Sisay's organization.

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