Brennan Baylis started her Ugandan experience with our May Uganda team this summer. Working in our rural medical clinics, she was exposed to a lot, but got to experience more than she could imagine once the rest of the team left.
My experience in Uganda was nothing less than amazing. As a student of International Studies with a concentration in Africa, I learned more living there than in many of my classes. For example, I learned how to ride a boda boda [motorcycle taxi] in the most ladylike way possible, I learned that meeting at 5 o’clock usually means getting together around 6, and I learned that street food is pretty much amazing..if it doesn’t make you sick. But in all seriousness, I learned a lot about Uganda, and this region specifically, during my time here.
I came with little expectations. I had only ever experienced Arab North Africa, and I knew Uganda would be very different. I came with the outreach team, so I had a grace period spending the week with them before I had to get onto my own feet. That week was really, really cool. I got to see the most depressing and crazy injuries and sicknesses and then I got to see the PMI team of almost 50 volunteers treat these people and care for them graciously and intentionally. They were long days, getting up before dawn and traveling out to rural communities to work hours, treating around 250 people every day. It was hard work, but extremely rewarding, and we all had a wonderful time getting to know each other over those 5 days. After a night (and a safari!) in Murchison Falls National Park, the team left and I was left to figure out my next 2 months.
After discussing everything with Newman, the on-ground supervisor here, we decided that I would have two main jobs: something “health education” related to play on the TV that sits in the waiting hall of the clinic, and is currently not being used; and patient/staff testimonies about the clinic. After some thinking, and a tip that Ugandans love improv and acting, I decided that I would get the clinic staff to work with me on a collection of health education dramas – soap opera-esque dramas that pertained to different health topics. This way, I figure, patients will actually want to watch them, considering they’re packed with humor and drama as well as an overarching health issue/topic such as HIV/AIDS, malaria in pregnancy, nutrition and exercise, sanitation, etc. The staff loved getting together to make these 20 minute episodes, and they’re extremely excited about seeing themselves playing on the clinic TV (as well as “in Hollywood”). This was a really cool way to get to know some of the staff at the clinic, and I could not be more thankful for the way that they give up their time after work to help me with this project. My other project of patient testimonies was interesting in that I get to meet people from around the community, and understand why they come to Masindi-Kitara Medical Center specifically. It is always very cool to hear people talk about how they came to MKMC because of what great things people are saying about the clinic in the community, or because they received help on one of the team outreaches. I love talking to these people and asking them about their visit, what they think we can improve on, etc. Another thing to note about the clinic – the maternity ward is bumpin’! I loved seeing healthy babies suddenly appear in the ward, the mother having given birth the night before. Another one of my favorite parts of the week was free immunizations on Friday mornings; mothers bringing their children and babies in for immunizations – it’s a good time to hang out and play with a bunch of babies.
I was also able to travel a bit; camping along the Nile or bungee jumping in Jinja. But in all honesty, I loved coming back to Masindi. I grew to love that little town, with all its friendly people. I love the clinic staff, who work so hard to serve their community and who still give extra effort to help out with other things like my projects. Newman and Trish, as well as Peace Corps volunteer, Emily, have really helped me out with questions that range anywhere from cultural differences, to my work here, to where to buy avocados. Being back in the States now, I miss Masindi and those wonderful people. It has been really rewarding to see just how much Palmetto Medical Initiative is doing and how much they continue to improve the lives of people in Masindi and around the world. I have gotten so much out of this experience and am so thankful to everyone both in Charleston and in Masindi. There’s no doubt I’ll be back.
College of Charleston