Life in Kiwoko: building Adara Uganda’s IT capacity

By David Walker, IT and Project Manager

I’m not sure if I have been procrastinating, crazy busy or simply not sure how to describe my time at Kiwoko… in the end it’s probably the latter. It’s hard to put into words what it’s like here in Kiwoko. Uganda is beautiful but you can’t ignore the poverty in the landscape – the line up at the pump for water and the ever-present yellow jerry cans (20 litres) to carry water. They are everywhere – on boda bodas (motor bikes), on bikes, carried on the top of heads or by hand. Someone told me that “from the moment a child learns to walk, they learn to carry water because without water there can be no life.”

It’s dry and hot, with only a couple of brief downpours over the two weeks I’ve been here. The ground is so dry that 30 minutes after the downpour, the roads are bone dry again.

Kiwoko Hospital is amazing. Its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) blew me away – the staff are beautiful and the hospital has amazing leaders (Peter and James are both doing great things here). I met William from the HIV Department, Moses from community based healthcare, Ronnie the IT Manager, many doctors and nurses, and even a couple of the Ebeneezer boys. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Nakaseke, a nearby public hospital that Adara has worked with for a little over a year. I was given an hour-long tour and my first thought was, “if I get hit by a boda boda please take me to Kiwoko!” However, I need to be fair – Kiwoko has been built up over the last 20 years. Everything takes time.

The amazing thing was that over the course of the tour, I didn’t see one computer being used at Nakaseke. When I asked why, I was told that many don’t work and they don’t know how to fix them, so they get put into a pile. They want to send digital x-rays across the vast hospital but can’t figure out how to do it as there wasn’t a Wi-Fi network to be found – not even a wired network.

Throughout my time here I’ve also been immersed into the Hospital to Home (H2H) programme. Not only have I seen Maddy (our Senior Programmes Manager) and Brooke (Global Health Partnerships Manager) in action, but I’ve seen the technology being used (very gratifying) and worked with the discharge co-ordinators and Adara staff who are part of H2H. Seeing how it all ties together has been invaluable. To top it off, I was able to tag along for a village health team member’s visit to a young mother’s home. H2H data was collected by interviewing the mother as well as conducting a check on the newborn. All this data will eventually make it into RedCap, our new data collection database, for further analysis and reporting by the M&E Team – talk about experiencing the end-to-end process!

Another objective of my visit was to kit-out the Adara office with new monitors, wireless keyboard and mice, conducting health checks on all the PC’s and providing training. I was also tasked with setting up a new wireless internet solution and finally implementing wireless printing from the desktop so that the team didn’t have to copy to USB and take it to the printer to print their documents. The team said their office now looks like the Sydney office. Thanks to Cissy, our Finance Assistant in Uganda, for accompanying me to Kampala to help with the shopping and carrying around the bundles of Ugandan shillings.

We were staying in Ian House (named after the founder of Kiwoko Hospital) on the grounds of the hospital. I know Audette will say I didn’t have the Kiwoko experience because I didn’t stay in the Adara house (yes, I missed the bucket baths)… but the days have been long. Maddy has been interviewing and videoing people like crazy and hosted many visitors for meetings including James and others late into the evening. At times it seemed that Ian House wasn’t big enough!!! Being a 2-minute walk to the office is also a bonus and of course the amazing Rachel has kept us well fed.

Many have asked what I’ve liked best about my visit and to be honest there are too many things to list. But attending chapel with Maddy (with the opening song like something out of the Lion King) and the NICU are near the top – both allow time for quiet reflection about life in Kiwoko.

I could go on for pages, but will end here with a big thank you to our wonderful Adara Uganda Team for their hospitality, kindness, laughter and many, many hugs – and of course for my surprise birthday cake. Also a huge shout out to Maddy for organising the trip, my schedule, going to chapel, and answering my seemingly endless list of questions. And of course Dan, our amazing Uganda Country Director who accommodated our every request with laughter, kindness and the words “it will be done” despite having to travel back and forth to Kampala over the two weeks to take care of his family.

Mwebale nnyo – Uganda nsi ya kyewunyo.

Thank you very much – Uganda is a wonderful country.

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