Aspen Ambassadors Trip – Recap

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, 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. In this blog, Sam DeGiovanni shares his reflections on the trip.

Same and Junior

By Sam DeGiovanni, Aspen Rocky Hill Office

It’s no easy feat to put together a recap of the experiences that have filled my days this week and press “send” feeling I’ve done them any sort of justice, but I shall give it a go nonetheless.

As you’ve read in the other blog posts over the last week, we’ve had a full schedule of getting to know the various wards and individuals that make up the grounds and administrators/staff of Kiwoko Hospital. Having seen the remoteness of the surrounding villages and heard the stories of the devastation that the Kiwoko and greater Luwero areas have witnessed in the last few decades, that there’s plenty to see, hear, and do on the hospital campus is itself testament to the degree of success this hospital’s been able to achieve with the help of ISIS’s (and our) financial backing.

On a number of occasions this week I’ve found myself chewing on points of confusion and contradiction. How could I have been at the hospital 48, 72, etc. hours and yet feel as welcomed and comfortable in my physical (some exceptions!) and social surroundings as if I’d been at the hospital for months, not days? How could some of these individuals with truly heart-breaking histories – some colored by violence, others by loss, disease, extreme poverty, etc. – and with extensive challenges ahead so thoroughly succeed in epitomizing gratitude, joy, ambition and genuine hope in their everyday lives? And, crucially, why were our quite serious attempts at recreating some of the customary Ugandan dances to which the nursing and lab students treated us on our final evening met with such decidedly unserious laughter**?

Health education in Ugandan VillageEfforts to make sense of these (maybe not the latter) and other thought-provoking experiences lead me each time to appreciate the vital role that community plays in a lot of the good that’s unfolding here. As Dan Kabugo (ISIS’s country manager for Uganda) succinctly puts it, Community is Family, and I was overwhelmed by just how thoroughly and obviously this community-first attitude shines through. Without it, I’m not sure Ian Clarke – who left Northern Ireland as a medical missionary in the late 1980s to start a medical clinic – would’ve planted the seeds that blossomed into this hospital that’s saved countless lives, delivered hundreds of disease-free babies (many from HIV+ mothers), educated the broader bush community on preventive healthcare and taken great strides to mold the next generation of Uganda’s medical professionals. Kiwoko Hospital is woven deeply into the fabric of this community and amounts to a great deal more than what the definition of “hospital” calls for. I know I speak for each of the Aspen ambassadors when I say it’s been an eye-opening and inspirational week and I’m truly grateful to have had the opportunity to see first-hand what Aspen’s financial support really means.

**As an aside, in case assigning school yearbook-style superlatives for each ambassador ever becomes part of the blogging experience, I’d like to pre-emptively retire “Danciest” from the list and leave Ian Walker as its first and only awardee.

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