Since 2007, The ISIS Foundation has had the great privilege of partnering with Aspen. It has been an amazing partnership, which has shown us all the exponential power of linking the business sector with those in need in the developing world. Together, we have been able to provide the hospital with a new and expanded neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and a brand new maternity ward. In addition, Aspen helps people living with HIV to stay happy and healthy through various programmes. Most recently, Aspen has committed to supporting the ISIS Safe Motherhood projects as part of the larger community based health care programme.
Each year, eight Aspen staff members from offices across the globe come to Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda to see firsthand the impact of this partnership. Every year, they leave inspired. For the next week, the ambassadors will be writing a blog each day about their experience at Kiwoko. This is Day Two.
By Kim Colbert – Aspen Ambassador – Atlanta, Georgia
Hello from Uganda. It is Day 2 here at Kiwoko, but this is the seventh day of my adventure. A quick back-story follows to bring you up to date.
So, I am kind of a disaster, so choosing to leave Atlanta for Africa was a bit out of my comfort zone. I don’t do bugs. I don’t do vaccination shots. I don’t love planes. Yep….Let’s go to Africa.
I turned 30 this year and have apparently lost my mind. So imagine my delight when I arrived in London to learn by bags have been left in Atlanta. Oh yep. This is happening. Here we go. Luckily my bag arrived the next morning and I was able to relax and enjoy the sights of London. Beautiful city!
Now onto Uganda.
We arrived in Entebbe tired and sore. Long flight. Hello jet lag. My bag arrived…last but here. Good times. Onward to the hotel for our last hot shower and an insane van ride through cities and villages to Kiwoko Hospital. Yesterday we got a quick overview of the hospital and intros to staff. We had to settle in as Day 2 was the big race day.
Now I am not so much a runner. By that, I mean not at all. I am, however, an excellent cheerleader. My husband is a runner so I have been to lots of races. So in my mind this would be like any other race. Wrong. This race is about community and strength and celebration. This community lost over 1/3 of its population to the civil war less than 30 years ago but their spirit runs deep into the earth and you feel it everywhere. Everyone who participates gets individually recognized, with the winners each taking home a mattress.
As I looked around at the runners, walkers and spectators I just tried to soak in as much as possible. I guess I would have to say my favourite part was the children. They are amazing. I made one little friend in particular. He climbed underneath the table to get to my lap. He put his arms around me and just lay his head on my shoulder. He is probably 3, so the same age as my son. He leaned back and touched my face. Smiled. Yep. As we say in the Atlanta office, I had a “mommy moment.” That kid had my heart. There are so many children and they are fascinated by the “muzungus” – white traveller. They especially love to play with cameras and phones. Not much different than any other child really.
After the race and the awards, there was a big feast. The previous night we had all gone to sleep with a large bull causing a ruckus right outside our windows. Let’s just say that tonight, after the feast, it is going to be quiet. Which may be nice as everyone is feeling a little tired today. Particularly Andrew O’Brien who was in Uganda as part of his 12-in-12 Challenge, where he turned the Kiwoko Chase (usually 10 miles) into his third marathon. Way to go, Andrew!
There is so much I could say about today but it’s a blog not a novel so I guess I will close with this– This experience is unparalleled to anything I have ever or will ever do. It’s truly life changing. I feel like I will leave here with a little piece of Africa with me and I don’t just mean the dirt I can’t get out of my hair. It’s humbling and eye opening. So as much as I miss the comforts of home and my family, I am so happy I wasn’t afraid to go on this adventure.
So from the comforts of my mosquito net- goodnight.