Greetings from Africa! I have arrived safely in Uganda. Amidst an HIV epidemic, extreme poverty and recent terror attacks, Uganda remains a beautiful country with beautiful people.
We were picked up by Nancy at the airport and began our three hour drive to the AOET complex in Jinja. After being reunited with the rest of our team we rested up for the night. The next day we had an orientation of AOET. We saw the clinic, the village, and the schools. One of my hopes was to see how an NGO works. Up to this point, if I have learned anything, I have learned that a NGO should really address the needs of the people and the community. For example, AOET has a school that provides for orphans and students. But it doesn’t stop there. It follows a logical and conscientious progression to address the situation in Uganda. In order to provide and help the orphans, AOET has established housing for young families to live in without the cost of rent. In this way they are able to save up funds to get themselves on their feet. In exchange for the free living they take care of an orphan which becomes assimilated into their family. Moreover AOET provides vocational training for women so that they are able to provide for themselves and their families and give them purchasing power. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope that I can reveal more in subsequent entries and hopefully my descriptions bring justice to the amazing work being done here.
I could really talk on and on about AOET’s staff. But before I lose your attention I hope to talk a little bit about our experiences in the past couple days.
I will talk more about yesterday and our work in the clinic later because we still are working on a project. Today was indescribable. I am not a kid person. Of all the choices for my future professions pediatrician and grade school teacher are definitely crossed off the list. But at least for today and at least for my stay here in Uganda I am totally changed. As a group we walked to the primary school and had the opportunity to be a part of the classrooms and educate the children in a couple of issues. For the older classes we talked about HIV and malaria. For the younger grades we addressed HIV but also talked about oral hygiene and hand washing. What was impressive was how much the students already knew about HIV and malaria. HIV is integrated into their science curriculum. This is a testament to the magnitude of the problem in Uganda but also a tribute to how well the school is doing in educating the students.
After lunch we participated in providing albendazole to the children at the school. This day of deworming was great. Each grade, in turn, lined up and received their drugs and then received a sticker upon showing that they chewed the medication completely. It was good to be a part of something meaningful and something that I had simply learned and read about. Though being part of this experience was a plus, nothing will compare to hanging out with kids at the school during recess and during their breaks. We played soccer, we danced, and we talked about Arnold and John Rambo. The children are friendly, always willing to shake your hand, give and receive high fives, and are friendly and genuinely kind.
Will anything in my life ever compare to being able to hang out with these kids like I did today? If ever something does, my life should be envied because today will be hard to top.