Final Days in Uganda

Well, this will be our last blog post from Uganda. I honestly can’t believe it’s over already.

Our last day in the field was a really fun one and we spent it teaching the women of the Kahenda community how to make donuts. Kahenda is one of the first communities we started to work with way back in 2007, and it is also one of our oldest communities, comprised mostly of widows. Back in June when we attended their community meeting they asked if we could provide training on how to make donuts. Since the community is almost entirely made up of elderly women, the goat project wasn’t a great fit for them anymore; the physical labour in caring for livestock was becoming too much for them and they are often the target of thieves because they cannot protect themselves very well. They are hoping to use making donuts and other sweets as a new source of income. Kahenda is also a very far out and isolated community with little to no amenities or health clinic, so we also invited the U of S nursing students to come along and give them a health talk.

Frying up some tasty donuts:

Frying up some tasty donuts

The Kahenda women learning how to make donuts: The Kahenda women learning how to make the donuts

Upon arrival in Kahenda we were all greeted with the warmest welcome we have ever received in any of the communities! All the women came over and shook each of our hands and gave us hugs, thanking us for coming to see them that day. I had no idea they would be so excited to see us! After prayers and quick introductions, our nursing students from the University of Saskatchewan, Janaya and Anthony, were going to present on cervical cancer and STI’s. Back in June they did a placement in Rugazi and along with health care students from Mbarara they chose these topics to focus on in that community. A bunch of 80 year old widows might not make for the most appropriate audience for these topics but it’s what they had already been prepared for. Janaya discussed cervical cancer, which is the most common cancer in Uganda and talked about its relationship to HPV. The women were really interested in doing a cervical cancer screening so we’re hoping to organize an outreach camp to come to their community in the future. Following this, Anthony talked about all of the different STI’s that are prevalent in Uganda. Not realizing this is a community of widows, he also lectured on the importance of being faithful to your husband or wife… oops. Fortunately, they didn’t seem to mind. I was quite blown away by all the questions and openness the women had when it came to discussing any health issues they have been having. I can’t say I would be quite that comfortable talking in public about the spots that itch and the fluids and discharges that may be affecting my nether regions.

Janaya explaining cervical cancer:Janaya explaining cervical cancer

Finally it was the time everyone was most excited for – donut making! We hired a friend of Shafiq’s (one of our translators) to teach the group all that she knew about making the tasty deep fried sweets. The training went really well and the ladies got a chance at making donuts and we all sampled some of the finished product as well. I now know how to cut the shape of donuts using a cup and a bottle cap! The community also all came together and contributed to preparing a massive feast of traditional food for all of us as well. It was such a kind gesture and they were very excited to share it with us.

Katrina taking a turn at making donuts: Katrina taking a turn at making the donuts

Just as we were saying our goodbyes and about to leave, Katarina, the community chairperson, started to clap her hands and sing with the group joining in. I’m not sure if they were on a sugar high or just so thrilled that we came to visit them, but they all started singing and dancing. One woman even picked up a jerrycan to create a drum beat! It was absolutely beautiful and we all were almost tearing up a little before the performance was over. I was overwhelmed by how much this day meant to these women. It was the most perfect way to finish our last day in Mbarara.

Our farewell dance party:Our farewell dance party

The last few hours before leaving Mbarara ended up seeming a bit frantic as Brit and I tried to get everything organized for Susanne before we left. Despite being so busy every day working on our vaccination campaigns, Brit and I were not able to make it to all the communities for a second visit so Susanne and Joseph were going to finish them for us. We also had to say all of our goodbyes, which is always, always hard. Having spent two summers on the project now, leaving everyone is so much harder as I’ve grown close to all these wonderful people. It’s difficult to be excited for the next chapter of my life when I feel the guilt of leaving so many great people behind.

I think I can speak for both Brit and Lena when I say we will miss Uganda and the amazing people we’ve met; even the light switches that randomly electrocute you when you turn them on, and its seatbelts that come undone when you shift in your seat too much. However, Brit and I are both getting excited to see all our friends and family back home, and who knows, maybe we’ll be back again some day!

Well it has been one amazing journey and the summer of a lifetime. We hope you enjoyed the blogs and thank you to VWB for giving us this great opportunity! Webare munoga!

Thank you VWB!