Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Life Skills

Just a few days after I arrived back in Uganda, I was able to meet with an Australian woman named Marg. Marg has spent considerable time here working on women's reproductive health education in an effort to reduce the fertility rate and break the poverty cycle. I was very fortunate to be able to meet with her because she was leaving to go back home to Australia the next morning. When I arrived at her place, she had just come out of a meeting and was ecstatic! Exhausted, but thrilled nonetheless. She told me that she had just received unanimous approval from a board of all males to move forward with her curriculum in their training center. Why was this so amazing? Because here in Uganda, if you don't start with the decision makers, you don't get anything done. And men happen to be the decision makers in this country...even about women's reproductive health...when and how many children their wives will have, the information and education (or misinformation and myths, rather) they get about their health, etc. I am so proud of the work Marg is doing alongside a local female doctor. Together, they hope to take it to the highest level in their government to create country-wide change. But right now, they're taking it one step at a time.

This type of education is probably one of Uganda's greatest needs. Uganda has one of the highest fertility rates in Africa. Cultural myths and traditions as well as poor knowledge in reproductive health drives the poverty cycle. The high abortion rate, gender inequality, high maternal mortality rate and excessive number of orphans and abandoned babies are just some of the tragic results of a high fertility rate. 

During my meeting with Marg, she passed along a curriculum to me designed for exactly this purpose, but it doesn't start with reproductive health education right away. In order to create behavior change, they must first know the "why." Why is it important to control the size of your family? Why should you care? Why should you make this effort?

In order to bridge the gap between giving information and behavior change, I will begin with teaching Life Skills. This includes communication, decision-making and relationship skills. I am currently adapting this curriculum to my specific people group and culture. I am SO excited to teach this course! It will give these young people the skills necessary to make the best decisions for their lives, not only where reproductive health is concerned, but in every life decision they must make.

Please take a look at this short video. This is what I will begin my course with. It illustrates very well the issues and dangers Ugandans face without this vital education.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Never waste Earl Grey

So a couple of days ago I wake up in the morning, walk into our kitchen and make a cup of tea. This particular morning I decide to have some Earl Grey tea...my favorite that I brought from the States. April, my roommate, is in our bedroom and I let her know there is hot water for tea or coffee if she's interested. A few minutes later I hear, "Um...Vanessa? ...did you rinse out the tea kettle before you boiled water?" Oh, no. There's no telling what she means by that. Every other time I've made tea, I rinse out the kettle and boil fresh water. But not on this day. This day I figured I wouldn't need to since Lori (housemate) had been up earlier and made coffee. I was wrong. In the bottom of April's cup are about 20 tiny ant corpses. I start to pour mine out (I still hadn't touched it), when April says, "No! Don't waste your Earl Grey!! Just strain them out." And so we did. Turns out, those little wire mesh strainers that fit on top of a glass are pretty good at straining dead ants out of tea. :) 

Ants gone, tea saved, and my morning's back on track...and that's the way I see it.  

And don't ask me why ants are attracted to a metal kettle and water. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! For those of you who don't know, Fount of Mercy is a non-profit organization that works to support orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers through education, vocational training and healthcare. For more information on what we do and how we got started, go to www.fountofmercy.org. I am the Director of the Community Health Initiative (CHI) and have moved to Uganda for the next 6-8 months. I will be teaching women's reproductive health to girls from ages 8 through 30 years. In Uganda, it is taboo to talk about such subjects cross-generationally...even mothers to daughters, so young girls are left with their peers to navigate the complexities of puberty. Knowing this, you can imagine the misinformation these young girls obtain along with myths they believe about their bodies that are often times very dangerous. Even basic health education can empower these young girls and give them the information they need to make choices for themselves that can change the course of their lives. 

During my time here, my goal is to research best practices for teaching women's reproductive health in Uganda, improve and add to my existing curriculum, and hire a part-time local CHI associate. This blog is intended to keep you up to date on CHI and to share fun...or interesting stories from my life in Uganda. I hope you learn or laugh at these entries, maybe both...because this is the way I see it.