Day one – Anticipation and Arrival

Since 2007, Adara 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. They also support the preventative arm of the hospital, through community outreach.

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. Here is day one.


Going to Uganda felt theoretical for a long time. It didn’t feel real when I had bug after bug injected into my arm, nor even when I read about the mango flies that burrow into your skin if you leave clothes outside to dry. When I told my mother that I would be going to sub-Saharan Africa, the horror that crossed her face was akin to me having told her I’d taken up base jumping. While drunk. It’s so dangerous! she warned me. There is poverty and disease! Wasn’t there a war there recently?!

It is true, war has been present here in what is known as the Luweero Triangle, as my reading of Dr Clarke’s ‘The Man With The Key Has Gone’ attests. (Dr Clarke was the man who founded the hospital from its earliest beginnings under a tree.) However, the war ended – I informed my mother – in the mid-1980s; London is probably more dangerous. Well, don’t do anything stupid, she said. Damn, I thought. I was looking forward to doing stupid things in Uganda.

I left the house weighed down like a packing mule: while the hospital never expects gifts or supplies, this year’s ambassadors went to town on purchasing single white bed sheets, stationery for the clinical staff and premature baby nappies. My mother got very excited when I told her I’d be needing baby clothes. (“No, not for me mother…”) In fact, they are given to mothers who don’t have any clothes for their new little ones. I also left the house with the distinct feeling I’d forgotten something.

I had: my malaria tablets.

We are now sweltering in the training centre of Kiwoko hospital, the temperature firmly in the 40s. A chattering of Luganda (the local language) rises up above that of the tropical weaver birds and other foreign sqwarks and twitterings that dominate the trees. Signs warn not to bring animals into the compound and that a good nurse has no vendetta.

We are some of the only white people (‘mzungu’) in the area apart from some of the staff who busy themselves with the demands of the various wards that sprawl across the grounds. We’ve been stared at by many curious Ugandans. One man even offered 100 cows for Cabrie’s hand in marriage. (Ryan declined that one. She is worth at least 125.)

Now it feels real!

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