Although I have only been in Uganda for four weeks, I do feel like this place will have my heart forever. Through tears, sweat, and layers of dust I have forged long lasting bonds with people I would have never met without this program. Here in Kabale, I have learned about friendship, cultural competency, and medicine.
I first heard of Child Family Health International(CFHI) because of their partnership with the University of California San Diego (UCSD). A previous Khiefo student discussed the Uganda program in a blog which sparked my interest in coming to Kabale.
Throughout this program, I had the honor and privilege or working with the wonderful staff of Khiefo. The staff was so patient with the students. Daily, we bombarded them with questions about how the people lived, what their sicknesses were, and how we could treat them. During the first week, I nutrition clinic I was able to measure a child’s Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC). Measuring a child’s MUAC is important because it measures malnutrition. If a child is malnourished the wrap around color will be on the red, if they are slightly malnourished it will be yellow, and if a child is healthy the color will be green. In the United States, there is minimal worry malnutrition, in fact there is an increase rate of obesity in young children. This experienced caused me to question the nutritional information that we provide to kids in the US.
One of the most memorable experiences was visiting a traditional healer. In school, I have learned about indigenous medicine but have never met a traditional healer from Uganda. I have been to herbalists in Chinatown, but have never met traditional attendants. The traditional healer was located on lake Buyoni, the deepest lake in Africa (more than 4,000 feet). The healer was located on a steep hill, hidden from plain view. His hut was covered in soot because he liked to burn a fire in the middle. When asked about his belief in birth control, he recommended tying the umbilicus chord around a woman to prevent pregnancy. Although I believe in different types of birth control methods, it was eye-opening to find out what some may believe in.
I enjoyed going to outreaches every week. During outreaches, we would all go in a van to a local school or church to provide medical services. This includes dental, HIV testing, antenatal care, and primary healthcare. The first school we went to, was really enthusiastic to see us. I had the chance to apply fluoride on kids. It was nice to interact with the local community to really immerse ourselves in the places here. As a US citizen I am very privileged and acknowledge that my life is much different. Going to outreaches taught me that I still have a lot to learn. During outreach, we could shadow physicians to see what their diagnoses were. I learned about how the environment can influences people’s health behavior. Up in more rural areas, it was harder to get water so many people were dehydrated. They also had longer distances to travel and many of them suffered from arthritis or joint pain.
As someone who would like to go into midwifery, it was amazing to see a live birth. Throughout the experience I compared the way we in the US see birth and the way women here experience birth. During the process, the woman did not scream even once. The midwives talked calmly to the patient, telling her not to over-excerpt herself. Looking back at my women’s health classes expectant mothers talked about how they felt they lost control in their birthing process. Here in Uganda, mothers are in more control.
It saddens me to write this last blog post but I know I will be back again. Thank you to the Khiefo team and those and CFHI for making this dream a reality. Thank you to the amazing friends who supported me throughout this process.