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. This is Day Five.
By Maria Roche, Aspen Dublin Office
Well it’s our last day in Kiwoko… it both feels like we’ve just got here and have been here forever. Our day started early with Morning Prayers. Kiwoko Morning Prayers are not just like any normal morning prayers.. they’re filled with beautiful up beat songs with positive messages followed by a member of the community speaking about how they overcome their everyday challenges and also to welcome any new visitors to the village. However, today we were saying farewell and a member of our team, Dolu, stood up and said some wonderful words about how this visit has affected us as a group and thanked the community for their warm welcome during our stay. The team all agreed that Dolu is destined to be a politician or a speaker of some sort because she did it with such passion and ease!!
After morning prayers we met Moses from the Community Based Health Care Programme (CBHC). The CBHC programme serves a catchment of 500,000 people in the area around the hospital. Although the hospital has all the facilities needed, the CBHC programme was created to reach those people in the community that live a long distance from the hospital. The department has its own car and medical equipment and its key objectives are to promote sanitation, immunisation, ante and post-natal care, female adolescent health, mental health, rehabilitation of physically challenged people and community health education.
Moses brought us out into the community to visit the Kiwoko National School where we met Ibette. Ibette is the senior teacher who teaches the female students sex education, hygiene and the reproductive system, topics that were traditionally quite taboo. From there we drove to a village to meet a physically and mentally disabled girl called Annette. Annette was abandoned at the hospital when she was born. She stayed at the hospital for 1 year before Moses arranged for her to be taken in by a woman whose 7 children had all died either during the civil war, or due to illness. When we arrived at their house Annette was sitting outside with a huge smile on her face, surrounded by friends and neighbors. She was quite the celebrity of the village. She even tried to speak a little English which made us all smile. This visit really showed us how important Moses’ work is and how it has changed the lives of so many people.
The next part of our journey brought us to the mobile ante-natal and post-natal clinic which is set up under a tree in a rural nearby village. Here the women can walk from their homes to get their babies weighed (on mango trees) and vaccinated as well as receiving general advice from the nurses. A local woman kindly allows the nurses to use her home to do ante-natal checkups. In Uganda, the average number of children per family is 7, so you can imagine how busy these clinics are.
While the check-ups are being done, the local drama group sing up-beat songs with simple life saving messages such as how to sterilise your water. These messages are sung because in an area where illiteracy is the norm, the songs help the community to retain the information in an informal way,
Moses’ work is so important because he is teaching the community things that may seem common sense to us but are threatening the lives of the people of rural Uganda.
We say goodbye to Moses and head back to the hospital where the nurses show us a traditional courtship dance accompanied by traditional drums. The dance is so full of energy and just as I thought to myself that there would be no way that I could do that, we were all asked up to join them!! We all gave it a go and then Ian, Aidan and Sam decided to share some of our “traditional” dances. The ‘sprinkler’ and ‘feeding the chickens’ dance to be exact!! Everyone was laughing and clapping – the perfect end to a perfect day.
It’s hard to sum up in words what we have experienced on this trip. I have seen things that have filled me with so much sadness and also things that have filled me with so much happiness (not least the wonderful positive collective attitude of my fellow Aspen Ambassadors). The people of this region are so amazingly strong even though they are faced with so many devastating challenges every single day of their lives. If I was to sum up this trip in one word, (okay two words), it would be ‘life changing’.