Strides Forwards and Backwards

12 07 2012

By Craig Moxley

To quote one the members of the Health Fair Committee, today’s news was not very “breezy.”

In years past STRIDES, a project of the Ministry of Health, has donated approximately 2.5 million UGX ($1000) annually to the health fair. The total budget for the health fair is 4.6 million (although the figure has been changing daily), so this large contribution has been absolutely paramount to the program’s success.

STRIDES can’t donate this year.

What do you cut first, HIV testing or essential drugs? Do you reduce the event from 2 days to 1 and sacrifice the number treated for better quality? If we can’t raise money in the community, is it okay to operate an unsustainable program? Genny and I have been able to donate around 1.7 million (or around $650) from our DGHI funds to the health fair thus far. We have also been able to draw in donations from around Mityana, bringing our total collected to 2.45 million with a remaining balance of 1.77 million. We have five days until the event. As Genny and I spend money on our other projects, the amount of funds we have left to put to the$ outstanding balance of 1.77 are limited.

One particularly upsetting critique that I’ve come across with the health fair is, our–the students’–failures. Members of the Health Fair Committee have emphatically stated that every year the students leave with a consensus about how important it is to view the health fair as a yearlong event to get on organizations budgets early in the year and avoid the 7 week dash. Genny and I heard this in December but did not make real steps to understand the Health Fair until after arrival. We need to change this.

Will we repeat our missteps and again fail to continue with the health fair after our departure? Or will we take steps to make it a yearlong exercise resulting in more productive event? Only time will tell and words are cheap… but I hope we take the necessary steps. We have the unusual benefit of being able to look back on multiple lessons from multiple years and we should leverage that in a concept paper. A challenge I see, however, is that even if it is continued throughout the year and we are able to send invitations and reminders as early as November, the funds may not be on the ground to see the parts move. The Duke students definitely serve as catalysts during the two months of field work, largely due to our ability to use funding to see parts move. Despite this, inaction during the rest of the year is a two-way street. Regardless, Project Naama holds majority ownership of the Health fair, so the burden of responsibility is in our lap.

In other news, COPE is developing well. We held another session this past weekend. The CDO is a wonderful partner. We are at close to max capacity with 76 10-17 year olds. Francis, COPE’s Recruiting Manager, brought in all the guardians to manage their expectations of the program and remind them of the importance that their children attend regularly. Robinah, COPE’s General Manager, recently finished our 11 page constitution. The more I see the program develop the more faith I have in it. We are going to use our limited funds to combine psychosocial counseling with access to a library we’ve developed for the program, regular career talks, vocational training, and income generation projections in the hopes that after completing the year, they leave the program not as OVC but as empowered children and teenagers with better emotional health, reading abilities, career aspirations, skills, and talents. If our data shows it’s working, we’ll bring in the next group of 85 kids for another year of sessions.

After 60 household visits and multiple community leader consultations, the community tool is almost complete. Robinah has translated it to Lugandan and during the past three data-collection visits the local leaders did the entirety of data collection. We’ve purchased notebooks and will use clear tape to plaster the Lugandan version of the tool into the front cover. The local leaders will use these notebooks to do data collection. The local sub-county office has offered to lend time on their computers to one of the local leaders to do data entry. Hopefully, this can translate into more informed action and proposals for action on behalf of the local government who will be empowered by the hard data they have on their constituents.

Genny’s project using local materials to make sanitary pads has been really fruitful. As I write this, Robinah and her are at Naama Secondary School teaching the girls how to make resuable sanitary pads with local materials.

Genny and I leave so soon. It’s crazy how quickly time has passed. While work has most definitely ramped up in the past few weeks, we have also taken the time to relax and enjoy Uganda’s pearls. We took a really fun day trip to Kampala 10 days ago, and went on an amazing Safari to Queen Elizabeth last weekend.

We were lucky to spot lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park

This whole program has been such an opportunity. Hopefully, these projects can produce some benefit so we can offer opportunities to others as they have been offered to us.

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