Class of 2012-2013
Today was a beautiful day in Kyangwali.
The morning starts with the usual wake up with a cold (but refreshing) bucket shower and instant coffee as I rush for the car at 7:30 AM. At the office power normally doesn’t go on for a while so we chat about the night (last night the rats were back running on my roof and making loud noises) and our plans for the day. There is a bit of normal confusion about transport and which department is doing what. Eventually, after I grab a quick chapatti from the man on the corner who makes them the best (they are the best warm), we head out into the settlement.
We stop quickly at the health center II to pick up the vaccines we need for the day, to drop staff off, and to check how things are going. There are already many people gathered, mostly mothers because today is antenatal day, waiting patiently outside. The three nurses that run the center get ready to open as we head out with our ice box full of vaccines for DPT, Polio, BCG, Measles and Tetanus.
We go to Chea, a village that is one hour from the refugee settlement, where nationals (Ugandans) live. It is the definition of hard to get to. But at the same time the rolling, lush hills are absolutely gorgeous. On the way we use the loud speaker to mobilize people to come to the trading center for the outreach. In the mornings people mostly work in their gardens (farms).
During the day we, two of us health workers sitting under a tree, vaccinate over 120 mothers and babies. It is hard to see babies that are missing vital immunizations and are getting them sometimes over a year late. This is in light of the recent Measles outbreak in our district. In a way it is understandable though, because the nearest health center is a days walk away over muddy roads and often the center will be out of stock. Sadly we have to end because we run out of the vaccines, even though more mothers are coming. (This was partly due to the fact that we were given half of what we were supposed to get because the supplier forgot that DPT now comes in single doses instead of double- normal logistical challenges.)
After the vaccinations finish we head out along the road to find a mother in labor trying to make it to a health center. We pick her up. It is now way passed working hours and we had not eaten all day. So what do we do? We play music on the car’s loudspeaker. What do the kids do? Every single kid (and even some adults) break out in dance as the car passes throughout the settlement. It makes me so happy to see these kids laughing and dancing, quite well too (sorry Americans, but you really got nothing on these kids.) This is followed by a rainstorm and watching the sunset over Lake Albert and the hills of DRC as we drop the mother off at the health center. The day ends by finally getting home at 8:30 to share sticky Jack Fruit with friends.
This adds on to the many beautiful moments I have had here: a boda boda gave me a ride to work and would not accept pay because he just wanted to help me out, my colleague in charge of environment commented about how amazingly fertile the soil is and when we looked down we saw beans growing where someone had accidentally dropped seeds, watching football matches with people making Ugandan noises as the teams battle (“eh!”), lighting a charcoal stove for the first time with enough fuel to last a week, my “Ugandan mom” surprising me with food after a long day, and so many more great moments. People ask me why I do this. It is because for me, right now, this is living. Anything else would just be existing.