A Day In The Life – VWB Uganda: Part 1

Text and photos by Jamie Neufeld, VWB intern and WCVM veterinary student, with Kyla Kotchea, Shauna Thomas, and Veronica Pickens

photo1cOur dining room, office, and lab in Mbarara.

While in Uganda, we are based out of Mbarara, a dusty town in the southwest of the country. We are renting an apartment at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology residences that triples as our office and laboratory. This photo features Veronica, Kyla, and Shauna with several VWB intern essentials: water, sunscreen, coffee, bananas, books, and beetroot smoothies.photo2An under-construction pen – do you reckon the goats will appreciate the view?

Most mornings begin with picking up our translator and dear friend, Vivian, and driving out to one of the sixteen community groups we work with. The groups are scattered throughout the countryside near a small town called Kaberebere, where we often stop to pick up chapati for our lunches. Chapati is made out of flour, baking soda, water, salt, and oil. It is fried in a large pan and resembles a crepe or big piece of naan.
The area of the country we work in is incredibly beautiful, to the point where our translators may becoming tired of our enthusiastic exclamations about the hills, streams, and species of plants that are foreign to us. The red dirt roads provide a scenic contrast with the diverse, lush greenery, and banana plantations take over the majority of the countryside.photo3The Kahenda Widows Group meets once a month. At their meeting we learned about the troubles the women are facing with theft in their community and accessibility to cervical cancer screening and treatment.

The VWB goat pass-on project has been in country for ten years, with the University of Saskatchewan and the Foundation for AIDS and Orphaned Children (FAOC) being major partners. The project focuses on impoverished women, many of them widows and the only income contributor in a household of 8+ people. Livestock and land ownership favours men, but it is acceptable for women to raise goats. Goats are hardy and manageable animals, making them ideal for empowering these women by giving them the means of going beyond goat farming to provide for their families, pay for school fees, buy mattresses, electricity, pots and pans, clothing, menstrual pads, and much more, like moving beyond agriculture and owning/operating small businesses. In the short amount of time working alongside these women we have heard many awe-inspiring success stories.photo4Vivian (right) translates the conversation between us and Margaret, chairperson for Akatete.

The project wouldn’t be possible without our Ugandan translators who are passionate and knowledgeable about the women’s groups and goat pass-on. Their relationships with the women and community members are invaluable while traveling from home to home to chat with beneficiaries, or needing directions along the way. The language spoken in this area is Runyankore, which is one of the 40+ languages spoken in Uganda. We have learned the local greetings and pleasantries, which is most often received with much delight.
photo5A newborn kid belonging to Innocent, whose mother originally received goats from VWB. He has taken over the goat care since his mother has become less mobile.

On July 20th we will be passing out goats as loans to beneficiaries who have demonstrated need for the animals, knowledge of goat husbandry (which we will happily teach them), and have built a proper pen. When a member receives a pair of goats, the loan must be repaid by passing a female kid on to another member in the group, and selling a male kid with profits going into the revolving fund, which functions as a bank. The groups meet once or twice a month and pay a small fee (about one Canadian dollar) per sitting that goes into the revolving fund. The money is loaned out when members have medical expenses, fall short on school fees, or want to improve their homes, and is retuned with interest.
To reiterate, the member receives one or two goats, passes on at least two goats, and then has a pair to make profits from. The groups that have embraced the pass on scheme have succeeded with goat husbandry and become a more sustainable community. Several groups have accumulated enough money in the revolving fund to buy all the grandmothers mattresses or chairs, pay school fees for every child, or invested in sewing machines or big sauce pans to either rent out or utilize as another income generating source.
photo6Rose stands proudly next to the pen she built, tick spray in hand. Rose has a strong pen with a door and a lock for the necessary security measures, but we advised she clean under her pen every day to prevent respiratory distress in her animals.

We work with many women like Rose from Kyenyangi. Rose farms goats, chickens, beans, maize, matooke, and an assortment of fruits to provide for her household of eight people, plus her eldest daughter’s postsecondary education in Kampala, where she is studying to become a lab technician. Before Rose joined the project, her home did not have electricity, she was without a cell phone, and was able to feed her family twice a day. Rose received goats from VWB, repaid her loan within one year, and has succeeded in raising goats through vaccinating, spraying for ticks, and deworming. Her home now has a solar panel for electricity and her family eats three times a day, sometimes four. Rose has been a member of the FAOC/VWB project for over five years and gave us full-hearted thanks for how the project has enriched her family’s lives, which should be passed on to all of the previous volunteers, interns, and project supervisors.
photo7Under the shifting shade of a few trees, Kandabe Gaude sorts through freshly harvested beans to take to the Monday market.

73-year-old Kandabe Gaude from Kyera enthusiastically rounded up her grandchildren so they could practice their English when I asked about who lives in her household. She supports five grandchildren and four of her own children by selling goats, beans, matooke, mango, avocado, and oranges. Four of the people in her care are HIV positive, so a portion of her income goes towards transportation to pick up medication and attend medical appointments.
Veterinarians play an important role in global and public health, as the wellness of people, animals, and the environment is all interconnected. The goat pass-on project is a people-first approach where animals are farmed as a means to bettering the livelihood of families. We spend more time speaking with members than practicing medicine, where we learn about individual and community challenges so we can continue improving how we work together.
After a wonderful meeting under the shade of a few trees, Gaude poured 1/2 kg of these hand-sorted beans into my camera bag as a gift to take home and soak.
Watch this space for Part 2!

Learning the Ropes in Uganda

By Shauna Thomas with Jamie Neufeld, Kyla Kotchea, and Veronica Pickens

In March, four strangers all said yes to the same question. Two months later that answer landed them all on a different continent in 3 days old clothes with not a shower in site. Besides their poor appearance (and even poorer smell?), their smiles could be seen from a mile away. After a month of grueling final exams, eager fundraising, and last minute “Oh no I forgot!” shopping trips; they had arrived in Uganda.

I digress… as I’m sure you have figured out, these four strangers are this year’s Uganda VWB goat pass-on project interns. My name is Shauna Thomas, I am from outside of Ottawa going into my 2nd year at the Ontario Veterinary College. Two of the group are from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Jamie Neufeld, a Saskatoon local, also going into her 2nd year; and our resident doctor, Kyla Kotchea from Fort Nelson, BC who just finished her 4th year! Last but not least, Veronica Pickens is going into 3rd year at the Ontario Veterinary College and the sole American VWB intern this year from Philadelphia, PA.

We arrived in Uganda on May 12th after a week of training at Cuso International in Ottawa. The first weekend we arrived in Uganda, we landed in Entebbe and had four days there to adjust before travelling to Mbarara, where our placement would begin. That first weekend set the scene for how our time here would flow and how the four of us would get along. By this I mean that instead of taking the days to deal with jetlag, adjust to the local food and rest….we unanimously decided to spend three of the days on a safari in Murchinson Falls, 6 hours north of Entebbe. The weekend was a spontaneous start and we’ve been travelling awesome together ever since. Pic 1

Jamie got to fulfill a life-long dream of seeing wild giraffes while in Murchinson Falls National Park; seen here a bachelor herd on the savannah.Pic 2

Silas, our guide and good friend, stopped the car on the side of the highway because he knew four vet students would love to see the baby tortoise he spotted in the grass…he was right!  Above,  Veronica, Silas, and the tortoise.

Ugandan solution to the car not starting in the morning…”everybody start pushing!” (below)Pic 3

A bit of a larger group this year, we’ve had to figure the ropes out ourselves as timing didn’t work out for Dr. Card (project leader) or Laura McDonald(a WCVM grad and 5 year project participant) to come over with us. After getting settled and meeting with the right people, we are well on our way. I’ll admit the first week here in Mbarara got off to a slow start, due to a combination of lack of meetings to attend that week and the adjustment to African time (a very very real thing). As of now we have attended three women’s group meetings out of a total of 17. Although we still have to meet the majority of groups, our June/July is filling up FAST. Our first day of work here we met with Vivianne, who is our translator/facilitator/local friend, and started to plan the next three months. About an hour in we realized that one of the women’s groups actually met that afternoon! We were eager to get started and decided to attend the meeting. It has become very apparent in these past few weeks that traveling from point A to point B means stopping at points C,D,E,F along the way. As such, we all piled into our trusty Toyota Rav4 and headed down the left side of the road (an adjustment for sure) to the meeting. On the way we stopped to meet with Boaz, the founder/head of the Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (FAOC), the organization we work alongside here in Uganda. After a few more stops we finally made it to our first meeting. Although the meeting started at 3, we arrived at 4:30…and were still not the last people there -..…African time! To say we received a warm welcome when we arrived at the meeting would be an understatement; there were endless hugs and a chorus of “we prayed for your safe travels”. The more people we meet the more that the saying ‘Ugandans are the most welcoming people’ comes true.  Below, we posed we posed for a group picture of the Kyabutoto women’s group after the meeting.

Pic 4crop

For those reading that are unfamiliar with what exactly the goat pass on project is, it is a development project aimed at rural Ugandan women to help empower as well as develop an income generating source. The ultimate goal is to provide them with the tools and means to improve the quality of life for themselves and their family. Each village we work with has a group of these women who meet once a month to discuss successes and short-comings in the past month as well as pay their membership fees. These fees (range from $0.30-$2 CAD) are pooled into the group’s revolving fund that accumulates month by month and is available to for members to take out loans to pay school/medical fees etc. Additionally, every year a number of beneficiaries (who have met the criteria for raising goats) are given a male and female goat as a loan. To repay this loan the beneficiaries must sell their first-born male kid and give that money into the revolving fund as well as pass on their first born female-kid to another member of the group.

Pic 5cropped (1)

 

Kasande Benardette (above) a Kyabutoto member with grandchildren and a few neighbouring kids eager to jump in front of the camera.

The goals for our group this year are: continue to promote the vaccination campaign (chlostridia and brucella), test/gather information on brucella prevalence, carry out an impact study and expand the PADS project. More information about some of those will come in future blogs. Admittedly, we have taken on a lot this year; however, with each part so key to the sustainability and success of the project, our hopes are high for how much we can accomplish. Our first goal has already provided our first minor roadblock as there has been a country-wide shortage of brucella vaccine since January! We have begun looking to import it from neighboring countries (at a steep price increase), so we will update you on the outcomes of that in the future.

In the midst of our first weeks we found a few free days and headed south to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest -arguably the coolest name for a national park ever! Four hours of trekking through the untouched jungle meant we got to spend an hour with a troop of Mountain Gorillas!! Impressive animals at a distance and even more impressive when one slides down the tree next to you and stands not even a foot away! If the gorillas weren’t enough, the hike itself was amazing with the views and all the vegetation. We say that now, but had you asked us after we climbed 2 km of straight vine-infested uphill….I think we would have had a few other words for it.  Below,  two mountain Gorrillas from the Bitukura troop we tracked.Pic 6crop
Pic 7At left — a few Canadian Vet students looking a tad lost in the Ugandan Jungle.

As I write this; watching women walk by carrying the heaviest items on their heads and listening to the slew of flatbed trucks/boda-bodas hitting the speed bumps that plague Ugandan roads, I sit with a smile excited about the country and people lives we get to be a part of for the next little while.

Until next time,

Shauna, Veronica, Jamie, Kyla

Pic 8cropLeft to right — Jamie, Veronica, Kyla, and Shauna in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest,
P.S. If you are interested in helping with the pass on project and donating towards the purchase or sponsoring a goat ($50 US), please follow this link! All money contributed by July 20, 2016 will go directly to purchase goats for our women’s groups here.

https://www.vetswithoutborders.ca/uganda-goats-2016

 

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!

The Great Goat Pass-Out!

Today was our most important day of the summer – the goat pass-out to new beneficiaries! I was so pumped (and a tad stressed) for this day; all of our hard work for the summer leads up to this and we really had to bust our ass to make it come together. Like I mentioned in my last blog, we managed to find 38 healthy goats that we could pass out.

(Thank you again to everyone from back home who donated money to buy goats!!)

Unfortunately, last minute several more beneficiaries built acceptable pens, but we didn’t have enough goats for everyone, so we narrowed down our list to those who seemed like they were most vulnerable and in most need of help. We tried to focus on women, either single mothers or widows, or families who had members with physical or mental disabilities. We encouraged those with pens who didn’t receive to keep their pens because they will then be the first to receive goats passed on by beneficiaries in their community or will receive when we do another pass out next summer.

To our pleasant surprise today the beneficiaries didn’t run on African Time and they all were at the Demonstration Farm on time and some were even early. So I guess Ugandans are, in fact, capable of muzungu time after all – can’t risk missing out on getting your goats! Before we gave out the goats, I gave a little speech (read: lecture) to the new beneficiaries about the five steps to raising proper goats:

  1. Proper pen
  2. Proper food and zero grazing
  3. Providing water – you’d think this was a no brainer, but here in Uganda people believe that animals don’t need water. In two summers on the program I honestly don’t think I’ve seen one pen that had water available to the goats.
  4. Vaccinations and deworming
  5. Good human hygiene when cleaning the pens

 

I followed “the big 5” with a discussion of how these goats are a loan, and not a hand-out and tried to emphasize that loans need to be paid back. This is a constant issue and it’s incredibly frustrating to work so hard and feel consistently taken advantage of, so we’re very picky about who gets goats. Before handing out the goats we also awarded a new paravet a certificate and a medical kit; he had completed the training in the past but for some reason it was not made official until this summer. Finally it was the moment all of our hard work all summer had lead up to – passing out the goats to new beneficiaries. Shafiq and I were on goat wrestling and handing out duty and Brit took care of the paperwork for each beneficiary. I found out at the end of the day that unsurprisingly over a third of the women were not literate enough to sign the paperwork and had to use a thumbprint to acknowledge ownership of the goats instead.

Maybe because I was working up a sweat chasing and fighting with goats the whole time, but the pass-out flew by. In a little over a couple hours it was over, the photos were taken and we were saying our goodbyes to the beneficiaries as they strapped screaming goats to the backs of bodas and were on their way home. It was another fun day and we could feel the excitement radiating from the beneficiaries as they patiently waited in line to receive their goats. I really hope with all my being that they can care for them properly, taking our advice seriously, as this is a business opportunity that can and does work with a little bit of patience and effort. Worldwide women are suppressed by dated rules and patriarchal traditions that prevent them from accessing the same privileges as men. I truly believe the most important factor to improving lives of all people around the world is educating and empowering women. In developing countries men traditionally hold the power and wealth in the households, and too often they abuse and waste their privilege. In rural Uganda, in particular, men often spend the family’s money on alcohol, prostitutes or buying other wives. Some men abandon their family for the newer, younger female flavour of the week, leaving the wife to struggle to provide for the family and try to raise enough money to send children to school. When their husbands are gone, other male family members may try to steal their land and the little resources these women do have. Women here have little rights and little power over their possessions. When women have the money and power they put it all back into their home and their children, not needless vices for themselves. All of these reasons and more are why I feel so passionately about the goat project. “Loaning” the most impoverished women goats through the project gives them a chance at having a micro business; it allows them to have some control over their finances, ultimately empowering them and gives them some control over their life and livelihood. Some women obviously fail with the project by not taking care of their goats like we ask, but some are incredibly successful and at each community meeting we were thanked by the chairperson for helping to bring some security and wealth to their community. Each year we learn from past mistakes and are trying to make the project more successful and sustainable, and slowly we are seeing the positive changes it brings. One thing I’ve learned this year – and I have no idea how many times I’ve said this out loud over the last couple months – is that development work is a slow, and sometimes painful process. Often all your hard work brings seemingly little or no change, and your efforts bring no reward, but even being able to help improve the life of one person makes it all worth it.

So following the refresher training and pass out we were busy the rest of the week finishing our first, and trying to get started on the second, vaccination campaign. Recap: the first is where we went home to home collecting blood to test for brucella bacteria antibodies in the serum and simultaneously vaccinated the goats for clostridium. Now that we’ve run all the tests we are going back to each home to tell them the results and vaccinate their negative goats for brucella and also give a booster shot against clostridium. We lowered the price of the vaccines to be as little as possible (even less than the vaccine costs itself) in hopes of improving compliance to vaccinate. We had a wide mix of reactions with this one – some communities were great and understood the importance of getting their goats vaccinated, while others didn’t see the need to vaccinate their goats, and others flat out couldn’t afford it. Yet, next year they will complain to us about their goats dying of sudden death or aborting and demand us to replace them… which we will continue to refuse to do. I lectured about this at every single meeting this year. Unfortunately there is a complete lack of education regarding human and animal health in these remote communities; last year I spent time trying to convince people that you can, in fact, get HIV from having unprotected sex. True story. It makes it incredibly difficult to help people care about the health of their animals, or even themselves for that matter, when they have no prior knowledge about disease risks or transmission.

One of our new beneficiaries:

One of our new beneficiaries

Who doesn’t love cuddling with goats?! 

Who doesn't love cuddling with goats_

Awarding our newest paravet his kit:

Awarding our newest paravet his kit

Group photo with all of the new beneficiaries: 

Group photo with all the new beneficiaries

Love these cuties!

IMG_6925 IMG_6936

 

Paravet Refresher Training Day

Sorry we haven’t been keeping up with blogging lately; we’ve have been crazy busy the last few weeks. Since we last blogged Dr. Claire Card has joined us on the project for a couple weeks. She is a professor and veterinarian at the WCVM, and is also one of the founders of the goat project. We hoped to have the two biggest events of the year, the paravet refresher training and the goat pass-out, in the next two weeks. We also had another veterinary student from the WCVM, Susanne, joining us for the remainder of our time on the project.

 

Traditionally the paravet training occurs the day before the pass out so the goats to be passed on can function as demo/training goats for the paravets to use for some hands-on experience. Three massive feats need to be accomplished before any of this can occur though:

  1. We need to fundraise money to buy goats.
  2. We need to have beneficiaries ready to receive goats.
  3. And finally, we need to actually find healthy goats to give out.

With each of the above becoming progressively more difficult.

We were all fortunate to have amazingly supportive friends and family back home who offered to donate goats to the project. Thank you to everyone who bought goats this year! You are the best! Each goat costs about $50, which covers their vaccinations, deworming and transport to the FOAC Demonstration Farm where the pass out is held. So, thanks to generous people back home, step one was easily check off the list.

Now, like last year, finding beneficiaries who were ready to receive a goat ended up being a time consuming challenge. We are working in 17 different communities, some that are pretty spread out, and each with their own little quirks and differences – some communities are much older with primarily widows as members, while others are newer and have younger families. Others are very successful with the pass out and some have completely fallen apart over the years. We have a few basic requirements that must be met before a beneficiary can receive goats. They have to be an active community member and they absolutely must have a goat pen that meets our standards – four walls, a roof, raised off the ground with a proper floor and a door. Pretty basic and simple, right? We want beneficiaries to keep their goats in pens 100% of the time because it protects them from wild dogs, thieves, reduces the amount of parasites they consume and how many ticks they are exposed to. We tried to really emphasize the importance of building a good pen at the community meetings. Unfortunately, in some of the previous years goats were given to beneficiaries with no pens based on false promises that they would build them, resulting in an incredible number of goats dying the following year. Obviously we didn’t want to deal with a bunch of dead and dying goats again so we cracked down this year – no pen, no goat. After spending most of the week going community to community and home to home we were able to gather a list of about 30 beneficiaries ready to receive.

Lastly, we had to find healthy goats for the pass out. Generally, each beneficiary receives two goats, unless they’ve received one in the past or other special circumstances, so we were hoping to find close to 60 goats. In a country that literally has goats tied up along every street, this is actually incredibly difficult. We were able to buy a few off of community members, but usually we end up buying goats from larger ranches. We also have a checklist that each goat needs to pass before they are considered for the pass out: ideally less than 100,000USH, female (usually), between 12 and 18 months old, healthy body condition, low worm burden, a negative blood test result for brucella, and clear of any other significant health problems. After much searching and pulling blood from so many goats, we were able to find 38 healthy goats to pass out.

Besides searching for goats or inspecting pens, we were also busy making posters, writing the training manual, and about a dozen other small things that needed to be organized for the paravet training day and pass-out. We worked long hours everyday and tried as hard as we could to get everything done before Lena left, but alas, African Time won and we had to push the date back for both events and sadly Lena would have to miss out on them.

Lena flew home on Monday, so Sunday night we had the VWB family over for dinner as a joint going away party for her and a birthday party for Shafiq (one of our translators). As you’d expect, it was bitter-sweet but at the same time couldn’t have been more perfect. I’m not sure why, or how it happened, but after Brittany pulled out her ukulele to sing for Shafiq, Vivian requested to hear “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and that kicked off the start of an epic dance party! In case you were wondering, white girls still can’t dance as good as Ugandans, but we try! My face actually hurt from laughing and smiling so hard and I will forever be reminded of this night when I hear that song. According to Joseph, “the way we’ve chatted tonight has added years” and “if we can dance, we can make it” and I couldn’t agree more.

A couple days later, we arrive at the demo farm with training manuals and homemade posters in hand. Claire did a brief intro then asked the group for any questions they might have or tough cases they’ve seen over the last few months. I suppose this is where I should probably explain what paravets are. Paravets are members of the communities that have been selected to receive special vet med training, allowing them to provide very basic medical care to livestock. They do a week-long course taught by VWB interns and upon graduation they are awarded a medical kit to take with them into the field. Each year we provide a refresher training to go over some of the basics and answer their questions, which is followed by hands-on training to help them refine some of their skills.

After the intro and many, many, MANY questions it was time for me to present. Oddly enough, I ended up discussing pig husbandry for the second year in a row, but then added on common pig diseases faced here. Susanne discussed the chicken training section and Brit talked about cattle followed by a demonstration on how to properly milk cows. We then broke for lunch followed by the hands-on training section of the day. Attempting to learn from the chaos that ensued during this section last year, we broke the paravets into groups and arranged ourselves into stations. First up was Susanne with the physical exam station where she taught the paravets how to properly restrain a goat, check it’s body condition score, take a temperature, age the goats, and check their FAMACHA score, which measures anemia by looking at the conjunctiva. Pale conjunctiva indicates anemia due to a high blood-sucking parasite burden likely from the Haemonchus contortus worm. Following this station, they would move to my station where I taught them how to properly vaccinate against Brucella melitensis and clostridium (or what the locals call “sudden death”), and how to deworm the goats. Next up was Brittany with the IDing and ear tag station, and lastly they saw Joseph to spray the goats to repel ticks.

The day was very long, but also very successful! Like last year, the paravets were all very eager to learn and asked a lot of questions. It was great to see them so excited and passionate about being an educated paravet. This made me realized just how much what I’m doing here means to these people. For us, it might seem like just a simple presentation where we looked up some facts, drew a few posters and relayed all we learned back to some people we barely know. However, to them it was so much more; we are teaching them how to make a living and improve their livelihood and for some this could be their means of survival. Beyond that, it’s a break from their day after day life of working in a plantation or tending to duties around the home, so to them this was a big deal. All of us here agreed that it feels great to be a part of this fun day!

Next up, the big goat pass-out!

All of the Paravets that attended the training:

All the paravets that attended the training

An example of a great pen:

An example of a great pen

Brit and Shafiq discussing cattle diseases:

Brit and Shafiq discussing cattle diseases

Claire and I demonstrating how to castrate piglets:

Claire and I demonstrating how to castrate piglets

Katarina from the Kahenda community learning how to restrain goats:

Katarina from the Kahenda community learning how to restrain goats

Last team photo together:

Last team photo together

Spontaneous dance party:

Spontaneous dance party

Teaching how to vaccinate against clostridium:

Teaching how to vaccinate against clostridium

VWB Family Photo:

VWB family photo

Celebrating the Day of the African Child

Written by Sarah Zelinski:

Here on the goat project, we work with more than just animals and have been taking some time to visit a couple primary schools in the district we have been working in. June 16th (sorry, this entry is a little late) is the Day of the African Child, which started in South Africa in 1991 after an uprising of black students demanded better rights to quality education. I (Sarah) didn’t get a chance to take part in the festivities last year, so we talked to Boaz (FAOC’s director) and he set things up for us to visit Rustya Primary School for the day. In typical Ugandan fashion we arrived at 10am, the start time for the day, and the kids were still setting up the tarps and tents. Chaos would break if they saw a bunch of muzungus leave the vehicle, so we drove past the school to give them time to organize themselves without distractions. While waiting, we remembered there was a young puppy a short drive away that we considered rescuing a week prior. Silas, a long time friend of Dr. Claire and Dr. Laura, told us earlier in the summer that he was looking for a puppy so we were keeping our eyes open for one we could save from village life and give to him. The school was going to take at least another 45 min or so (in actuality it ended up being a solid two hours) so we left in search of the dog. To our luck the woman who owned the dog was home and for only 20,000USH (about $8) he would be ours and we planned on picking him up at the end of the day.

Rustya Primary School has a little over 300 students, but is unique in that about a third of them are special needs children; mostly deaf children and those with unspecified mental handicaps. The school also boards several special needs children who cannot travel daily from home to school and back. The beginning of the day started with a tour of the school for the guests and parents where we saw the sleeping quarters, the mostly bare classrooms and the grounds. According to the agenda, following the tour there would be several speeches, lunch and lastly free time to play with the kids before everyone went home. However, since the speeches only started around noon, lunch and the afternoon would likely be postponed… and postponed it was. There was speech, after speech, after speech, all in the local language, with no breaks. Fortunately, I was sitting beside Joseph who was paraphrasing it all for me. (Also of note, there was someone performing sign language throughout the speeches for the deaf children which I thought was incredible.) Everything was directed at the parents and the speeches tried to emphasize the importance of keeping children in school and educating them would give them a chance at a better life. They also talked about how the children need proper nutrition to learn, asking the parents to send their kids to school with lunches, as the school doesn’t always have enough food for the kids. Lastly, they asked parents to discuss financial issues with the school instead of pulling children out of school if they cannot afford it.

After the speeches, it was time for awards for students that worked really hard, had outstanding grades and good attendance. Along with local chairpeople, directors of various educational programs and the school, us VWB interns stood in a row, shaking hands and congratulating the students receiving awards. The award? Three small notebooks that cost about 17 cents each at the local grocery store. When these kids often don’t even have a pencil or paper to take notes, these notebooks can make a huge difference. Dozens of children received the awards, some receiving multiple books. We was really pleased to see many special needs children being awarded as well.

When these awards were done it was time for us to present some donations we (and Laura) brought from home or bought here – activity books, stickers, markers, pencils and erasers, crayons, paper, VWB bandanas and a soccer ball. The bandanas were given to the school net ball team, as they were given new uniforms that day while the rest were given to the school to distribute. I was asked to present the donations – the crowd went wild when they saw the soccer ball – and give a little speech, so I thanked the school for having us and did my best to use my motivational skills to explain the importance of staying in school to be successful later in life. Maybe hearing it from a muzungu will have a longer lasting impact? Let’s hope. Let’s also hope that everything I said was translated properly as a local news crew was filming most of the day! So if anyone tuned into Local News West that day let us know how we looked! Ha!

After all the festivities we bought the village dog I mentioned earlier and made our way back home. “Puppy” or “Benji”, depending which one of us you ask, was covered in ticks, fleas, had a round belly full of worms and at the same time was nothing but skin and bones. He was terrified of people but was also so weak that he didn’t really move or try to get away once he was picked up. The first thing we did when we brought him in the house was give him a serious, serious bath; he smelled foul. By the end of the night he started to warm up to us and we were able to get him to eat if we hand fed him. As the week progressed, so did he! Deworming him was the single most important thing in improving his character; he was a new puppy once all the worms were out! We also were able to locate a rabies vaccine and a distemper/parvo combination one for him. All week we home cooked for him and his appetite came back with a force! Despite still being a little fearful, he eventually trusted us enough to play a little and followed us all around the house. It was so nice to come home from “work” and be greeted with a wagging tail again!

The work in the field continued to be the same as previous weeks, although this week we were held up from getting as much done as we would like due to intense rain storms and a community wedding.

Anyways, before this gets too long we’ll stop here for now!

Group Photo at the end of the awards:

Group photo at the end of the awards

In one of the classrooms- the kids get so excited to see pictures of themselves!

In one of the classrooms - the kids get so excited to see pictures of themselves

 

My turn to give a speech and present the donations
My turn to give a speech and present the donations

Our puppy all cleaned up!

Our puppy all cleaned up!

 

Students performing the traditional dances for the guests

Students performaing traditional dances for the guests

 

The netball team in their new jerseys and bandannas- don’t the look great?!

The netball team in their new jerseys and bandanas - don't they look great_

 

We got a chance to play with the children at the end of the day

We got a chance to play with the children at the end of the day

Pioneer Training

Life on the project has continued to be busy with field work and pulling blood, running tests, and many community meetings. In the previous blog, we mentioned going to Queen Elizabeth National Park to visit Dr. Seifert and assess some new communities wanting to start their own goat projects. To start, they are planning on implementing the project in three different communities: one in the mountains, one that has issues with elephants eating their goat forage, and lastly, one community that has issues with lions eating their goats. These are all problems that do not occur in any of our current communities in Insingiro.

Mondays have become our at-home “office day” as it’s market day for most of the region so no one is usually at home for us to pull blood and do vaccinations. Since our visit in QE park we have been using office days and some evenings to get ready for the big Pioneer Training for the QE community people. A lot of the material for the trainees was completely new for us as VWB doesn’t typically train new groups; FAOC takes care of that. Each of the three communities was sending three selected members to learn all basics of the goat project so they could go back and mobilize their communities to start the prep work to eventually receive goats.

After busy days writing training manuals, making posters, booking chairs and speakers and ensuring there would be enough food prepared for everyone we arrived bright and early on training day… and about two hours after the training was supposed to start, all the trainees rolled in. African time, man.

We didn’t know what to expect from the trainees as they come from completely different backgrounds than the groups we’re used to. We work almost exclusively with women, most of which are widows, whereas all but one of the QE trainees were men. The QE communities are also slightly less impoverished than those in Insingiro, so we’re hoping to have less of a struggle getting members to pay for vaccines and treatments for their animals. Considering none of us really knew what we were doing with the training and most of it was really rushed, it went shockingly well, and was actually a lot of fun! The trainees were very engaged the entire time, asking a lot of good questions and seemed to understand and accept the information we gave them. Each of us gave separate presentations and we had three of our paravets, Joseph, Ibrahim and Janet talk about their success with the goat project. We focused on how each group should run, the business model of the project, and lastly some basic husbandry rules for keeping goats alive and healthy. Since we are starting from scratch with these groups, we’re hoping we can learn from past mistakes in Insingiro and have these groups become very strong and successful with less pitfalls. Another bonus is that these groups have been pastoralists for generations so they have a longer history and deeper understanding of some basics of raising livestock.

Following all our presentations another paravet of ours, Margaret, made a huge feast of traditional food for everyone. After lunch we took the group to Joseph’s home to show them what a model goat pen should look like. To be honest, while Joseph does have a near model pen, he doesn’t zero graze like we tell people, but he’s a great paravet so he knows how to take care of his animals and they live just fine. However, we wanted the community people to think he followed all our instructions so we stalled the trainees by quizzing them for a few minutes to give Joseph time to collect the goats from grazing in the field and put fresh Napier in the trough. We made it just in time and the group was very impressed by how great his pen looked! We have high hopes for these communities and if they can keep up the momentum and enthusiasm for the project they can take it really far!

~ Sarah, Brittany and Lena

All the trainees and speakers at the Pioneer training:

All the trainees and speakers at the Pioneer Training

Lena explaining how keeping goats alive will turn a profit:

Lena explaining how keepign goats alive will turn a profit

Sarah teaching basic goat husbandry:

Sarah teaching basic goat husbandry

First Uganda Student Post of the Summer!

Well, us interns have been in Uganda for about a month now so we’re definitely long overdue for a blog entry! First off we’ll introduce ourselves. There is Sarah, who is going into her third year at the WCVM in Saskatchewan, and this is her second year working on the goat project. Brittany is also vet student from the WCVM who is going into her third year, and lastly there is Guylene (Lena) who is going into her fourth year at the FMV in Montreal.

Sarah was the first to arrive in Uganda, followed by Brittany and then Lena. We were also joined by Dr. Laura McDonald, a WCVM graduate who has been working with the goat project for five years now. She would be here with us for the first month helping us to get settled in and introduce us to any important contacts in Mbarara, where we’ll be stationed for the next three months.

Kyera community meeting
Kyera Community Meeting

In a nutshell, the Goat Pass-On Project strives to help the most impoverished women of rural Uganda – mainly widows and orphans – and we help them to start mini businesses by raising livestock. Through fundraising, us interns will raise money to purchase goats which we will “loan” to beneficiaries in hopes that they can keep them alive (sometimes much harder than you would think) and have them reproduce. To qualify to receive goats, villagers need to first invest in and build a goat pen following our recommendations, but we’ll go into this more closer to the pass-out. To pay back their loan, they must give one kid to another beneficiary in their community and also sell another kid and put the money they earned into a revolving fund. The revolving fund is essentially a community bank account that all the members in the community are required to pay into and can borrow money from, and pay back with interest. This fund is important for the success of the community because it gives people the opportunity to start another small business, invest in their children’s education, borrow if they need medical treatment, etc. The people in the community who are part of this group have meetings once a month to discuss how the revolving fund is doing, who’s ready to pass on or receive goats, organize and vote on loans, and so on. We also organize vaccine clinics, training days and a lot more that will come later in the summer.

Us interns work with 17 different rural communities in the Insingiro district surrounding Mbarara. The community groups where established by one of our partner organizations, Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (aka FAOC), who we have worked closely with in the past. Unfortunately, FAOC has sort of dissolved over the last year due a drop in funding, and at the moment they have no current projects. We will still be working with some of the staff this summer, which will provide them with a wage for the next couple months, but otherwise us interns will be guiding the project largely on our own this time.

team with joseph and other beneficiaries
Team with Joseph and Other Beneficiaries

The first few days in Mbarara consisted largely of reconnecting with the FAOC staff, particularly Vivian, Joseph and Francis, and they helped us begin organizing our summer. Vivian welcomed us back with a delicious feast of traditional food, and Joseph surprised us with homemade lunch on our first day in the field. It was so nice to receive such a warm welcome to the project. Other than a few formalities and getting settled in we have been going to each community and speaking with their chairperson and/or paravets. We wanted to let everyone know that we would be back for the summer and would be attending their next community meeting to assess any problems they’ve had over the last year, see how their goats were doing, and talk about upcoming vaccine clinics we’re planning.

After only a week on the project we traveled to Queen Elizabeth National Park for the weekend to work with Dr. Siefert, a vet who runs the Uganda Carnivore Program doing research and monitoring large carnivores including lions, leopards and hyenas. Dr. Siefert is originally from Germany, but has been living in Uganda for almost 40 years working endlessly in the QE park trying to protect the wildlife in the area. His prime focus has been on the dwindling lion population that has been a target of poachers, and poisonings by local farmers frustrated by the lions attacking their cattle. Dr. Siefert asked us if we could help him start up a goat pass-on project in three of the communities in the park. The purpose of the project here would be for different reasons other that female empowerment; the main focus would be working with the community to improve wildlife conservation efforts. If we can help them protect their livestock from the wild animals, hopefully they will stop harming the local wildlife. We spent the weekend with him visiting the communities and meeting the members, and assessing the land so we can tailor the project to their needs, as the environment is quite different from the ones we have been working with around Mbarara. One of the biggest challenges we will have to overcome is risk of dangerous wild animals attacking the goats, since leopards and lions live in the area. Also, the grass that is a staple of the goat diet here is also one of the favourites of the elephants, so we must plan to have the goats and the grasses well protected. We are taking all the information we gathered in the visits and are preparing a training day for a few select members of the community to help them get ready to receive goats in the following months.

Aside from the community visits, we spent our time following Dr. Siefert around the park trying to absorb every word he said, as he is a wealth of knowledge and incredibly inspiring to listen to. Our first night we all had dinner together, talking about everything from problems in the park, Ugandan politics, religion, and of course wildlife, that is, until our dinner was interrupted by a wild elephant running through the outdoor restaurant. African problems, eh?

As of now, we have spoken with all of the communities in Mbarara we are going to work with and are slowly making our way through each monthly community meeting. We use Joseph, one of the paravets, as our translator at the meetings, and we really couldn’t get any work done without him! He’s a wonderful man who believes in female empowerment and is a really good motivational speaker, so he’s great to have on the team.

Laura conducting community meeting
Laura Conducting a Community Meeting

A lot of the problems occurring are the exact same ones as last year (and according to Laura, are the same as every year prior). Thefts tend to be high in some communities, dog bites are still too frequent – both of which can be mostly avoided if the beneficiaries keep their goats in pens instead of letting them free graze. Two other major problems are goats dying from “sudden death” (aka clostridium) and having abortions due to brucella infection. Both of these are avoidable diseases, as they are two things we vaccinate for. Convincing communities to keep goats in pens and vaccinate them is a lot harder than one would think, as we have to change their long standing perspective on raising goats, but for those beneficiaries that listen to what we teach, the benefits are incredible. Some beneficiaries that have gone on to be community leaders and taken on political roles, are able to send their children to school and now live a much more comfortable life in good homes. The best part of each meeting is hearing the success stories of the members and it thrills us to hear how far so many people have come. Saphina is one of these success stories and she invited us into her home for tea made with fresh milk from one of the new cows she’s been able to purchase over the last year. She thanked us again and again and told us how the goat project drastically improved her life; she has a beautiful fenced-in home, lots of livestock, and a great job.

Saphina- most successfull beneficiary
Saphina, our most successful beneficiarySaphina's great goat pen
Saphina’s great goat pen

We have a much smaller team compared to last year, and as such and have limited resources, so we are trying to concentrate our efforts on the communities who are the most motivated and want to listen to our recommendations. Some groups still view the project as a handout and are uninterested in taking our advice, despite us emphasizing that this is a business opportunity and the goats are a loan. We can only help these people if they want to help themselves. As the saying goes, “give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. But teach him how to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”Drawing blood for brucella testing
Drawing blood for brucella testing

Goats haven’t been the only animals we have been working with so far. Joseph has acquired two guard dogs since last year, so we offered to neuter the male to keep him from straying from home to mate. After a bit of a hunt through town we managed to scrape together enough instruments and medications to perform a crude neuter on the dog. The day we performed the surgery, Joseph had a neighbour who also wanted to have his dog neutered so as a team we completed two surgeries, out in the open air, on the Ugandan ground, with swarms of flies and a few children buzzing around.  Doing these surgeries gave us a great appreciation for all the surgical equipment and supplies we have available back home, and the lack of monitoring equipment definitely tested our skills.  As Laura says, “field surgery makes good surgeons!” And we’re pleased to say that both dogs are still alive and well.
Field surgery on Joseph's dog
Field surgery on Joseph’s dog

Well, we think this entry is getting long enough, and we promise to stay more on top of entries for the rest of the summer!

 

Jaime and Mary-Claire’s last post from Uganda

Here we are – our last blog post of the summer. Tempus fugit.

We said goodbye to Drs. Card and Perdrizet on July 21 and to our Global Vets teammates Jen, Elyse, Megan, Feh and WCVM first year student Sarah on July 22. We felt so lucky to be joined by such passionate individuals, and we recognize just how much we were able to accomplish with everyone’s hard work. Thank you ladies for your great help and companionship!

The departure of 7 team members left Mary-Claire and Jaimee as the lone Canadians on the project for the first time, with much work still to do. In the few weeks we had left in Mbarara, we continued vaccinations and blood tests for brucellosis, wrote our final report and found a little time to do some traveling.

Factors that lead to genocide.Picture 2

 Factors that lead to life.Picture 2

We took the bus to Kigali, capital city of Rwanda, and visited some of the memorials for the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. It was hard to believe that this tiny country – which felt more like Europe than Africa in some respects – was in a state of complete devastation only 20 years ago.

Kigali Barracks – now a school – where 10 UN soldiers from Belgium lost their lives on April 7, 1994, the first day of the genocide.Picture 3

Ntarama Church Genocide Memorial. Thousands of Tutsis gathered at this church to seek refuge from the genocidaires. They were massacred here on April 15, 1994.Grenades thrown by the militia made large holes in the walls.Picture 4

This visit was an emotional experience for the both of us. Kigali is a fascinating city and the Rwandan countryside very beautiful. We would recommend that anyone thinking of visiting Africa make a stop in Rwanda, learn about its history and consider how far this East African country has progressed. It was an inspiring trip.

We also made a weekend trip to Queen Elizabeth National Park to visit with Dr. Ludwig Siefert, a wildlife veterinarian working on carnivore conservation. He and his associate James took us out to track the wild lions, and taught us about the cultural circumstances that surround their work.

Jaimee and Kenneth – a local tribesman and our hiking guide – atop a large rock we christened “Pride Rock”. We hope the name will stick.Picture 5

Mary-Claire and Kenneth checking out the horns of a beautiful Ankole cow.Picture 6

Conservation work in the park often clashes with human interests, such as the competition for territory between the wild species of the park and the livestock of the people living there. Large carnivores are sometimes driven to attack cattle herds due to declines in their natural prey species, and this leads to financial losses for the people. Many farmers have been driven to poison the lions and leopards of the park in retaliation. Dr. Siefert and James have developed partnerships with the indigenous communities to create solutions that benefit the people and the wildlife. This approach has met with success, and they continue to work hard to protect these amazing creatures.

 Sharon’s pride. Sharon, fourth from the left, is the matriarch of this group and wears a radio collar which allows Dr. Siefert and James to track her.Picture 7

Papa, one of the breeding males in Queen Elizabeth National Park. He also wears a radio collar and has arguably the most handsome mane in the park.Picture 8

 Many thanks to Dr. Ludwig Siefert.Picture 9

Upon reflection, the goat pass-on project was about a lot of things. It was about goats; curious, adaptable and lovely creatures that they are. It was about women and their struggle to raise children in an oppressive culture. Most importantly for us, it was a study in how one can make change in the world. There were countless times when we wanted to pull out our magic wands, wave them about and grant people the better lives we imagined for them. In the absence of this option, we discovered that the world our beneficiaries live in is only going to change for the better is if they are able to change it for themselves. Development work as we know it is a slow process, but we hope that we were able – in some small way – to help our beneficiaries on their path to a better future.

After 12 weeks in the Pearl of Africa, this place has left its mark on our minds and in our hearts. We learned so much from our time here, and are so grateful for the opportunities and friendships we’ve been afforded. While we are both excited to return to Canada, meet with our friends and families and enjoy a hot cup of Timmies, we will greatly miss our Ugandan family and we hope to return to them someday soon.

Jaimee, Shafiq, Mary-Claire and Vivian on our last day together.Picture 10

Webale munonga munonga! Tugende!

Uganda Paravet Refresher Course

What a busy few weeks we’ve had! July has certainly kept us on our toes. In addition to our regular house monitoring and vaccination days, we held two major events.

The paravet group.Picture 1

On July 17, we held a Paravet Refresher Training Course for 21 paravets from 15 communities.  We covered important issues in pig, cow and goat husbandry, as well as a demonstration of brucella testing. Finally, we gave our paravets some hands-on experience vaccinating, ear-tagging, tick-spraying, deworming and physically examining a small herd of goats. The paravets were enthusiastic and inspiring participants – it was like being in a classroom full of keen veterinary students! We all had a lot of fun.

MC, Sarah and Shafiq presenting the pig tapeworm lifecycle to our paravets.Picture 2

Offloading our goats from the truck. The paravets helped prepare them for the next day’s pass out!Picture 3

A goat receiving the clostridial vaccine. We also see how heavy the tick burden can be on goats when they are not treated for ticks. Under the eye is an example of an engorged tick.Picture 4

The conjunctival Brucella melitensis vaccine being given.Picture 5

The following day, July 18, we held a Goat Pass-Out Ceremony for our newest beneficiaries. All of our scrambling to find goats to buy, test them for brucellosis, figure out the logistics of permits and transport, and prepare the goats for distribution (i.e. vaccinations, abscess treatment, etc.) finally came to fruition. We passed out 24 goats to 13 new beneficiaries from the communities of Birere 2, Kikokwa, Rweiziringiro and Kishuro. In order to receive a goat, these beneficiaries had to build a goat pen and demonstrate a willingness to take proper care of their goats. We emphasized that each goat received is a loan, not a hand-out. Once the goat reproduces, the beneficiary is able to pay back the loan to the community by donating one kid to the group. After that, the beneficiary is free to use their goat to build up a herd and create a viable business. We hope that these new beneficiaries will take that advice to heart and create a sustainable income for their families, as other beneficiaries have done before them.

Pastor Joseph, a paravet from Birere was so excited to be receiving his goats. We have high hopes for him to continue to be a role model in his community.Picture 6

Sarah was all smiles as she brought forward a stubborn goat.Picture 7

Happy to be receiving her goats!Picture 8

 A family is welcoming her new goats!Picture 9

Neither of these special days would have been possible without the help of Dr. Claire Card, who joined us between July 4 and July 21. She has been an inspiration to us budding veterinary students, from her wealth of veterinary knowledge to her deep compassion for our beneficiaries. She is quite the runner too! We’ve been very grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from her.

Picture 10 – Dr. Claire and Mauricia, a long-time friend of Veterinarians Without Borders.Picture 10 

While we have met with success this month, we have also been dealt some hard blows. One of the most difficult was when we learned that 6 young girls (most around 14 years old) from the Nyamuyanja community were sexually defiled by men in their village. Some of the girls are now pregnant as a result. Only a few weeks ago we visited Nyamuyanja and were inspired by the great success they have had with our project, having passed-on 50 goats within the community. Now Nyamuyanja is struggling to address what happened to its girls, with limited resources and political will to bring the rapists to justice. This terrible story reminded us of why we came to Uganda. The rights of a Ugandan woman and the way she is treated in Ugandan culture are often inadequate, unjust and abusive. We work with women in rural Uganda not only to provide their families with a better income, but also to foster a spirit of empowerment. An empowered woman has more options, more confidence, and is in a much better position to demand better for herself and her children. If enough women stood up, spoke and were heard in this country, they could be a force to be reckoned with. Our hope is that someday they will make the atrocity of what happened in Nyamuyanja a memory from an outrageous past.

Jaimee with the school children during our visit to Nyamuyanja with Carol and the FAOC SCORE (Sustainable Comprehensive Responses for Vulnerable Children) project.

Picture 11

 

The school children showing off their future ambitions. Many aspired to be teachers, police officers, or members of the church. Sadly, no one wanted to be a veterinarian…yet!Picture 12

Despite the actions of some of the men in Nyamuyanja, we have come across several respectful, forward-thinking men who want positive change for women in their country. Shafiq – our third translator – most definitely falls into that category.

Shafiq, looking dapper at the Paravet Refresher Training Day.Picture 13

Shafiq is a young man of 22 years who just completed a university degree in international development. He hails from the trading-post town of Kaberebere, and lives just down the road from Paravet Joseph Ahimbisibwe. He has been working part-time for us as a translator for the past couple of years, and knows the ins-and-outs of the project better than we do. He is an engaging public speaker and very good at conveying our words to the beneficiaries in relatable way. He has aspirations to study abroad, and we hope that someday he will be able to join us in Canada to further his studies. Shafiq has been an absolute pleasure to work with, and we will miss his sense of humour and genuine friendliness. Thank you for all your hard work Shafiq, and best of luck to you as you make your way in the world!

The whole team at Shafiq’s birthday party. L – R: Jaimee, Vivian, Dr. Ursula, Jen, Mauricia, Megan, Shafiq, MC, Elyse, Feh, Sarah, Joseph. Picture 14