Last Thursday we started out the day with homemade peanut butter made by our awesome cook, Olivia. It is SO good! This was our first day of construction. Our nourish members split into two groups (Kelly, Ania, Katie, Shane) and (Melissa, Ben, Olivia). We each went to different sites and began digging of latrines (2 feet wide, 8 feet long, and 15 feet deep.) Melissa’s group ran into a huge mass of bedrock 3 feet down and after using a pick ax to dig down another foot we had to stop and pay community members to finish digging because it was taking too much of our time. The other group’s site got 10 feet deep to great help from the community and good soil and finished constructing a drying rack as well as trash pit. Each group was welcomed with a warm lunch and tea once our day was complete. Later this night we were invited to attend the Sr. Sargent of Police’s promotional party.
Friday was our first day of home visits in the community. We visited ten homes that day of expecting/ new mothers. The gifts we gave were a couple bars of soap, sugar, salt, and jelly for the baby. The main focus was to encourage the mothers to go to the health centers for checking up on themselves and their babies. Unfortunately, many of the mothers didn’t give birth in the health centers because they didn’t have access to transportation or health center staff. A touching part of this day was that a lot of babies were named after members of our group After work, we drove immediately to Lira Town to go to a corporate dance, but the team was exhausted so we settled for an end of the week recap meeting with our director Bob at our hotel.
When we awoke on Saturday, we were pleasantly surprised by a shower with running, hot water. We drove about two hours to Murchison National Park, which had an entrance fee of only $35. Some of the wildlife included baboons, gazelle, warthogs, elephants (from a distance), giraffes, water buffalo, and a few others. For dinner, we stopped at a really nice hotel that charged $250 per night, but had a swim-up bar overlooking the Nile. Following dinner, we returned to the hotel and retired for the night.
Thankfully we were actually able to sleep in on Sunday. After breakfast we took a tour of Lira given by the hotel staff. We saw several schools and banks and were able to walk through the local market. The vendors in the market sold everything from clothing to dishes to fresh fruits and vegetables. We ate lunch at Prince restaurant which featured African, Indian, and Chinese cuisine. The food was delicious but unfortunately we had to wait over an hour to get it. Ben had to wait the longest, an hour and a half. Luckily, while we were waiting we were able to watch Monsters Inc. on the restaurant TV, which made it more bearable. We then left Lira to come back to Oyam where we watched Italy lose the EuroCup Finals before going to bed.
Monday began our second round of HIV testing in Oyam. We split into two groups so some of us went to Adyegi and others to Adigo. We taught the community members about danger signs to look for during pregnancy, when to have prenatal check-ups, danger signs in newborns, breastfeeding information, and how to prevent malaria. When it was time for testing to begin, we helped copy patient names and test results into the record book. Both groups tested roughly 90 people in total that day. We got home with fresh mandazi (fried bread) and homemade peanut butter on the kitchen table. Stephen, a Peace Corps volunteer staying in Oyam, came over and we chatted about his 1.5 years in Uganda and about his work here. For dinner we had cabbage and chapati (flatbread) and ended the night with a few rounds of some card games.
On Tuesday, we visited Aber and Atura, two other villages in the Oyam district, to conduct another round of HIV testing. Over 140 people were seen and about three tested positive. The group from Aber went to the youth training center, where young women were learning how to sew and young men were learning computer skills, to promote getting tested. Ben, Melissa and Olivia had luck catching a fish and gave it to our driver’s family. We ate roasted corn on the cob from a vendor on the way home then went for a quick run.
The next day was spent building a drying rack for one of the villages and about half of a latrine. One of the latrines was already dug so we built the surrounding wall halfway up. The team and the community members all pitched in to help lay the bricks. On the way home, we stopped at the Oyam market, picked up peanuts for peanut butter and each of us had a stick of sugar cane. They’re a lot of work to eat! We celebrated July 4th with our friends from the Peace Corps, complete with burgers and a movie.
Today, Thursday, we planned on starting to dig another latrine, but we didn’t have the tools with us to get it started. Instead, we went to homes with expecting mothers or mothers who just gave birth. We encouraged them to go to the health center for prenatal visits and for check-ups after giving birth to check on the mother’s and baby’s health. We visited 8 homes and gave each home a gift of soap, sugar, salt, and jelly.
It’s been a very busy week and a half! We are finally getting into the routine of our work week and the above workdays will be a part of our normal schedule.
We’ll go more into depth about our struggles and the adjustments we’ve been makin