Meet Janet.

Janet.

In Uganda, women are limited in their property and ownership rights. Goats are one of the few animals that women can own. For women and children, many of whom have lost husbands and fathers to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Vets Without Borders Uganda Goat Pass-on Project is providing an essential way for women to make a living and support their children through school.

Janet lives in Mbarara, Uganda. In 2008, she became the proud owner of a dairy cross goat thanks to her participation in the VWB/VSF Goat Pass-On Project, which helps to improve the health and well-being of Ugandan families. The program model provides a pregnant goat to a family and they keep first born goat kid, return the second born kid to the program for another household. With each additional goat kid born, the family can decide whether to keep the goat or use it to take out a micro-loan to use for school fees, medical bills or to start a business. This photo was taken in the summer of 2012, where Janet is proudly holding the latest goat kid addition to the family. For the last five years your donations have helped Janet to become a para-veterinarian, a model farmer for her community, secretary for the Goat Pass-On Group and Chairperson for the Micro-loans Group enabling her to better provide for her children and their future.

When you donate to Vets without Borders, give an eGift, or buy a goat tote bag or 2013 Calendar, proceeds go to programs like this, and people just like Janet, around the world.
You can help create healthy lives for animals, people, and the planet. 
Send your eGifts today and spread the love a little further.

To learn more about Janet and the Goat Pass-On Project, watch this video.

Des nouvelles de Jérôme en Ouganda

Le blog a été un peu négligé dernièrement, mais en faisant un résumé nous avons participé à la journée de défense des droits des enfants africains qui a lieu le 16 juin. Il y avait plusieurs activités organisées par la FAOC (notre partenaire local, Fondation for Orphaned Children) telles qu’une parade avec de la musique produite par les élèves  d’une des 4 écoles invitées, des poèmes, de la danse et de la peinture. Nous avons organisé deux jeux. Le premier était de nous mettre dans une boîte de carton avec un trou et les couleurs d’une cible autour du visage pour que les enfants nous lancent des éponges mouillées. Le jeu a été apprécié par les enfants, puisqu’ils riaient énormément, cependant certains sont de très bon lanceurs et je voyais parfois de la panique dans les yeux de Scott et Steve qui étaient dans les boîtes (moi je prenais des photo!). Ensuite il y a eu des piniatta remplies de bonbons, ce qui était plus compliqué à organiser entre autre parce que les enfants désiraient les bonbons avec trop d’enthousiasme et qu’ils ne respectaient pas la distance sécuritaire par rapport à la piniatta lorsqu’un autre participant s’approchait pour la frapper avec un bâton les yeux bander.

Nous avons aussi organisé une journée d’entrainement pour les paravets de tous les villages. Nous étions satisfaits des compétences qu’ils possédaient. Ils savaient très souvent quand administrer un vermifuge, des antibiotiques et traiter contre les tiques. Nous avons faits des cas cliniques et nous avons revus certaines notions comme le traitement d’un abcès et l’importance d’un abri propre pour les chèvres. Les paravets étaient très enthousiastes et contrairement à plusieurs autres réunions, personne ne dormait. Ils ont même insisté pour avoir plus de formation au cours de l’été. Quelques jours après nous avons eu de la rétroaction de la part d’une paravet qui disait que tous les paravets en général étaient très motivés depuis la journée de formation et qu’ils travaillaient fort. Cela nous a donné l’idée à Steve et à moi d’acheter des vélos pour les paravets parce qu’ils éprouvent toujours certaines difficultés de transport. Le paravets sont déjà motivés. Plusieurs se disent très contents de leur nouveau rôle (depuis qu’ils sont paravets) dans leur village. Ils ont plus de considération de la part des autres villageois et cela revenait dans les témoignages de chaque paravet que nous avons interrogé. Peut-être que s’ils avaient toutes les ressources nécessaires pour faire leur travail et que nous pouvions remédier au problème de transport, nous pourrions améliorer significativement la santé générale des chèvres dans les villages. Cependant, en Ouganda les femmes ne font pas de vélo, mais selon les travailleurs de la FAOC c’est tendance culturelle pourrait être renversée… Cette option reste à évaluer.

Après la journée d’entrainement nous avons commencé à préparer des journées de vaccination pour tous les villages. Cette année nous pouvons vacciner contre la brucellose pour la première fois. Ceci étant dit, ceci double le coût relié à la vaccination, ce qui veut dire que les villageois devront dépenser environ 90 cents (2000 shillings ougandais) pour vacciner chaque chèvre. Déjà, plusieurs trouvent le coût trop élevé. Nous avons vacciné environ 80 chèvres dans un des 18 villages. La vaccination de toutes les chèvres dans tous les villages représente un travail considérable qui pourra être effectué par les paravets dans le futur.

Nous avons aussi préparé un questionnaire que les travailleurs de la FAOC remplissent avec les bénéficiaires. Ce questionnaire nous aidera à évaluer l’impact économique de l’attribution de chèvres. De plus, nous essayons d’établir un lien entre les soins attribués aux chèvres par les bénéficiaires (vaccins, vermifugation, technique de régie etc.) et le succès de leur entreprise. Nous voulons aussi connaitre la motivation de bénéficiaires face au projet, c’est–à-dire s’ils entrevoient la possibilité de faire plus d’argent en reproduisant leurs chèvres et en investissant dans des vaccins d’autres soins pour leurs animaux.

Nous avons également acheter, vacciner et distribué 28 chèvres aux bénéficiaires qui étaient prêts a en recevoir.

La semaine dernière nous somme retournés au lac Bunyoni pour nous reposer et nous avons été rejoins par Scott, Christy, Nicole, Stefanie et Stephan qui débutaient leur safari pour leur dernière semaine en Ouganda. Cette rencontre était une surprise. Nous avions fait nos adieux la journée précédente et ne pensions plus nous revoir après ces deux mois passés ensemble. Le climat paisible du lac Bunyoni nous a donné l’idée de suivre nos amis jusqu’au parc Queen Elizabeth où nous avons passé trois jours en compagnie du Dr. Siefurt, un vétérinaire qui travaille sur la faune en Ouganda depuis environ 30 ans. Il enseigne aussi à l’université de Kampala. Nous avons retracé une lionne et un léopard à l’intérieur du parc grâce à des colliers émetteurs que Dr. Siefurt avait posés sur ces animaux dans le passé. La technique était assez efficace. Par exemple, nous avons trouvé un léopard qui se trouvait à environ 40 km de notre point de départ en environ 2 heures. Le but est d’évaluer les mouvements de ces animaux et d’en trouver les raisons. Aussi, Dr. Siefurt tentait de trouver une solution afin d’éviter que les lions mangent les chèvres des paysans, mais aussi afin d’éviter que les paysans empoisonnent les lions.

Ensuite nous sommes allés dans un autre parc national, le parc de Kibale qui est réputé pour contenir une population très dense de chimpanzés. Nous avons passés environ 7 heures à observer des chimpanzés dans la jungle. J’étais un peu déçu parce que tous ce qu’ils faisaient étaient de se promener dans les arbres et manger des fruits, mais je n’ai pas eu la chance d’observer certains comportements qui auraient reflété leur intelligence développée. De plus, le prix pour cette journée était très élevé comparativement à toute activité que nous avions faite en Ouganda jusqu’à ce moment (220$ ou 550 000 shillings Ougandais).

Nous avons ensuite rejoins nos amis qui poursuivaient leur safari à Entebbe pour aller faire du Rafting sur le Nile, ce qui était très agréable. Je m’attendais toutefois à être plus secoué et tomber à l’eau plus souvent.

Nous sommes maintenant de retour à Mbarara pour les trois dernières semaines du projet d’été. Nous allons poursuivre la vaccination des chèvres et la récolte de données.

#Photo de Dr. Kent Weir

Post #3

Since I last wrote we have sadly lost one of our team members. Dr. Laura has returned to Canada. We thank her for all her hard work and guidance she gave in the first 3 weeks. She is very devoted to the project, having returned for the 3rd time. It is apparent how much the communities appreciate her as they express their sadness when we inform them she has left. Jerome, Scott and I have been continuing the work and progress is being made. We have been visiting our beneficiaries, searching for vaccines, and conducting paravet training.

We had the opportunity last Saturday to take part in the FAOC Day of the African Child celebration. The Day of the African Child is an international celebration to remember over 200 children who were killed during the South African apartheid when they stood up for their child rights. The day focuses on advocating child rights throughout Africa. This years theme was Children with Disabilities. The intention was to bring awareness to the high prevalence of disabilities in Uganda and the challenges these children face. The event included a parade, speeches, demonstrations, music, and games. It was a huge success and we were happy to be a part of the program.

This week we had our first paravet refresher training. Paravets are local men and women who we have trained in basic animal husbandry, nutrition and medicine. They have been trained over the past years by previous volunteers. We held a refresh training course to review important concepts and answer questions. The individuals are very keen to learn and show great initiative. They asked great questions and were engaged the whole day. We ended the session with case studies regarding typical situations they might face. We presented a case of a goat with ‘flu’ (pneumonia) and had the paravets ask us questions as if we were the owners. This helped to review history taking, common diseases, treatments and husbandry/nutrition recommendations. It was very interesting for me to see how they interpret the situations and their medical approach. This was my favorite part of the summer so far. I really enjoyed interacting and learning with the group.

We are now working to set up vaccination days with all our parishes. We are hoping to carry this out over the next month. Beneficiaries are busy building goat pens and once they are complete we will be holding our second pass out. For those interested, Brian has been discharged from the hospital. We returned him to his home last week. It was difficult to send him back home as I am unsure if he will receive the care he needs. We checked on him on Friday and he seems to be doing well. We provided him with a matress and mosquito net to make him more comfortable.

We are meeting new people every day involved in exciting work across many disciplines and from many different countries. We have booked a trip to Rwanda next weekend to visit the Genocide Memorial and experience the different culture. I am hoping to meet up with the two vets that I met in Guelph before leaving that work with the Mountain Gorilla project. We are about half way through our trip and we realize everyday how much still needs to be accomplished in such little time. Motivation is still high as the staff at FAOC have been very supportive. I am excited to see what the second half of the trip has to offer.

All the best,

Dr. Steve

La première distribution de 35 chèvres.

Hier nous avons complété la première distribution de 35 chèvres. Celle-ci s’est déroulée comme on pouvait s’y attendre, c’est-à-dire sans imprévu. Nous pensons distribuer un peu plus d’une centaine de chèvres au cours de l’été et cela ne représentera pas une grande difficulté en se basant sur notre première distribution. Les travailleurs de la FAOC effectuent un excellent travail pour repérer les chèvres à vendre. Nous effectuons alors une première visite pour confirmer que l’âge des chèvres convient, ensuite nous faisons un examen physique général et prenons un échantillon de sang pour tester pour la brucellose. Par la suite, dépendamment du nombre de chèvres à acheter nous engageons un transporteur qui possède un camion ou nous allons chercher les chèvres avec notre Suzuki qui peut en contenir environ 7. Avant la distribution nous effectuons quelques traitements sur les chèvres tels qu’une vermifugation, un traitement contre les tiques et la parure des onglons.  Les défis sont plutôt de trouver une solution afin de lutter contre le vol des chèvres distribuées, de s’assurer que les paravets sont suffisamment consultés lors de maladies chez les animaux et qu’ils peuvent répondre à la demande.

Les journées sont assez chargées, ce qui fait que les jours et les semaines passent vite. Nous nous sommes un peu établis une routine de travail et je pense que ça ferait du bien de voyager un peu pour changer le rythme et retrouver la sensation de voyage qui était plus forte un peu plus tôt et qui rendait le tout plus excitant, jusqu’à il y a environ une semaine. Nous allons probablement partir pour le  lac Bunyoni  (un des seuls lacs où l’on peut se baigner sans risque de schistosomiase, un parasite qui pénètre la peau et qui migre dans les viscères) demain. Ceci étant dit, les paysages sont très beaux et les villages dans lesquels nous passons la majorité de notre temps correspondent à l’image bucolique que l’on peut se représenter sans jamais n’être allé en Ouganda.

De plus, ce qui est frappant est l’intérêt porté aux blancs. Dès que l’on sort de la ville, tout les gens nous saluent, même lorsque nous sommes dans notre auto, parmi plusieurs autres autos. Les enfants sont les premiers à saluer avec enthousiasme et à crier Muzungu, Muzungu! (personne blanche), mais même les adultes semblent enthousiasmés par notre présence. Les femmes dans les villages viennent nous saluer et nous remercier avec souvent beaucoup d’émotion au début et à la fin des réunions auxquelles nous assistons.

Nous avons une très bonne équipe avec Laura, Steve et Scott. Nous sommes productifs et l’ambiance est détendue. Il y a aussi plusieurs voisins canadiens sur le campus où nous habitons. Par exemple, la semaine dernière nous avons fait une petite fête où nous étions plus d’une dizaine.

 

Week 2

First goat pass out at Demonstration Farm

I write this blog in great spirits after finishing a very rewarding day. I left off last time with aspirations of constructing a goat pen at our demonstration farm. Construction was started by Scott, Jerome, Laura and myself with the help of Joseph who is a FAOC extension worker. We had a great time starting the work but at the end of the day all we had managed was the frame of the pen. To ensure the rest of our summer would not be spent building the pen we decided to hire a local carpenter who  constructed a model pen. The past week has been spent finding goats to purchase for our beneficiaries. Goats are usually sold in small numbers (3-5 at a time), so we have been driving around to many farms in order to obtain the numbers we need. We have been conducting pre-purchase exams which includes a full physical plus Brucella testing. Brucellosis is a bacterial disease which is very prevalent in the area. The disease is responsible for causing abortions in the dams and infertility in the males. The disease is zoonotic (can transfer from animals to humans) so we have been working hard to decrease the prevalence in our goats. A blood sample is collected and  taken back to our lab for analysis. Unfortunately of the goats we tested, a large number were positive, making our work more difficult. The good news is we managed to find 35 healthy females for distribution. We transported the goats back to our newly constructed pen where they were ear tagged, dewormed, hoof trimmed, and sprayed for ticks.

Today was our first official goat distribution ceremony. It was a full day program which took place at the demostration farm. We began with reviewing the important points on goat husbandry, nutrition, and health. Scott then went over the principals of the pass on scheme. This is the foundation of the program. Each member is entitled to receive two female goats as a loan. Once the goat has kids, the member needs to then pay back the loan. A female kid is  given to a new member and a male kid is sold and the money enters into a revolving fund. The revolving fund functions as an internal micro-loan system. Members  take out loans with minimal interest to help with their buisness’, household expenses, and school fees. After the seminar we started to hand out goats where the 35 goats were distributed to beneficiaries who had constructed a pen and harvested Napier grass for feeding. This would not have worked without the kind donations from friends, family, and everyone at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. I was sure to mention where these donations came from which was met with cheers and applause. Thanks again to everyone who has donated!

On another happy note, we have been visiting Brian regularly and he has been improving each day. He was given antibiotics for current infections and started on a nutrition program. Unfortunately we were correct in assuming his HIV status, but he has started anti-retro virals which will help extend his life span enormously. We visited him today and saw him smiling, laughing, and even walking with some assistance. The aunts biggest concern was loosing income while staying in the hospital with Brian. We have supplemented her lost income for the month and donated some money to help with her children’s school fees. This all came to $30 Canadian. Brian will be in the hospital for another couple weeks and we will be visiting him frequently.

After a hard couple weeks of work we will be taking a short break to Lake Buyonyi, a favorite place of Dr. McDonald. After some rest and relaxation we will be ready to  start the search for more goats to pass out in the upcoming weeks. Today is my convocation day and I am sad to miss it. I wish I could be there with my fellow classmates to celebrate our accomplishments. Congratulations to the WCVM 2012 , I will be thinking of you all today.

All the best,

Dr. Steve

First 10 days

First village meeting in Kyabitoto

We arrived safely in Entebbe, Uganda on May 17th. The two days of travel were tiring but Dr. Laura, Jerome, and myself were excited to arrive. After stepping off the plane I was instantly welcomed back to Africa with the familiar scents of fresh humid air, earth, and a hint of burning garbage. Due to lost luggage we had to spend a couple extra days in Entebbe. We met with Scott Hitchings, a former U of S political studies student. He will be helping with the group dynamic and micro finance portion of our project. The first few days were spent orienting ourselves to the culture, arranging cell phones, organizing supplies, and adjusting from jet lag. We left Entebbe to Mbarara on the 20th after picking up luggage from the airport. The drive from Entebbe, through the capital city Kampala, and on ways to Mbarara quickly brought me back to the reality of driving in Africa. Speeding buses, enormous potholes, jay-walking goats and many, many people made for a stressful drive.

We arrived into Mbarara in the early evening and were welcomed at the office by the FAOC staff and a magnificent feast. It was great to finally meet the people I have heard so much about from Laura in the past few years. The staff was extremely welcoming which made us eager to start work the next day. The past week has been spent in meetings, reading, and setting up our new lab. We have made it into some of the villages to interview our beneficiaries and health check some goats for purchase. The program has expanded to service over 20 villages and hundreds of beneficiaries so we have our work cut out for us. The village visits are always my favorite. Mbarara is a decent sized town that is swarming with people, animals and boda-boda (motorbike) taxis. The lush green and peaceful country side is always a welcome escape.

The week took an unexpected turn when we were called out to a village by a staff member to check on a sick child. The child belonged to one of our beneficiaries. His mother had been sick for over two years so he had been left in the care of his aunt. The aunt has six other children to care for so she would often have to leave for days at a time in order to produce enough money to feed the children. Due to this, the child (Brian) had been neglected and severely malnourished. He appeared to be no older than 6 months of age, but was in fact closer to three years. He could not walk, talk, and was severely emaciated. This is a harsh reality for many children where resources are spread so thin. Protein malnutrition has distended his stomach and left him severely underdeveloped both physically and mentally. Unintentional neglect has left him severely depressed and unable to smile. The aunt had been working tirelessly to be able to afford transportation into Mbarara to seek health care. After tracking her down in the field, we drove her and Brian into Mbarara hospital to seek care. A blood count revealed a severely weakened immune system which likely indicates a positive HIV status. Brian and his aunt will be staying at the hospital for one week while he receives treatment. It is unfortunate that even if he responds to treatment his current living situation will make it impossible for him to recover. We are currently seeking other solutions but it can be difficult to intervene if the family is unwilling. I will be checking on him this weekend, hoping to see an improvement and hoping to see a smile.

While difficult, this experience has made me realize the importance of my work this summer and the potential impact we can have. Talking with beneficiaries whose lives have been greatly improved by the project is very uplifting. Even though their lives consist of struggles which are foreign to most back home, their positive attitude and strong worth ethic is always inspiring. I am excited to get the project in full swing. We will be visiting farmers this week, ensuring they are ready to receive a goat, and also visiting farms for pre-purchase exams. On Sunday will be building a new goat pen at our demonstration farm which will be a good chance to get my hands dirty and appreciate the amount of work that is needed to construct one. We have a great team and I am expecting great things from this summer.

All the best,

Dr. Steve

Pitch for Progress: Homemade pesticides to combat pest problems in rural Uganda

I have just returned from an enlightening four days at the Global Development Symposium in Guelph, Ontario. I had the pleasure to help represent Veterinarians without Borders at this conference. The schedule was jam packed with inspiring keynote speakers, including Mr. Stephen Lewis, and scientific presentations of exciting work that is being conducted around the globe.  It was extraordinary to see the passion towards positive sustainable change that transcended throughout the conference.

Amongst the key note speeches and scientific presentation there were ‘pitches for progress’ (pfp). A pfp was a presentation that was intended to present an idea that would change the world. Ideas ranged from creation of ‘one health’ networks, integration of one health into curriculums, and using homemade pesticides to combat pest problems in rural Uganda. The latter pitch being my own. I had the opportunity to present this pfp and receive valuable feedback that will strengthen my application and evaluation of the program.

I came up with the idea while talking with past volunteers of the Ugandan goat project. After discussing the current issues facing the farmers of the region, I was presented with the fact that their crops are being affected by pests, especially the borer worm. The Ugandan goat project works in coordination with the Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (FAOC). FAOC has been developing a chick pea program in response to severe protein deficiency in the south west region of Uganda. Thirty-eight percent of children under five are chronically malnourished or developmentally stunted, 16% are underweight, and another 6% are acutely malnourished during illness or drought. The local diet is primarily starch based; consisting of plantains, cassava, or maize which is served with simple vegetables and sauce. Animal protein is too expensive for the majority of the farmers and only served on special occasions. The chick pea program was developed to address this issue. Using local chick pea varieties, farmers are encouraged to harvest their crop and sell a portion to increase income but retain the majority to increase their family’s protein intake. Chickpeas are known for their high quality of protein and relative ease to grow in tough conditions.

The scourge of pests is greatly decreasing the farmer’s chick pea yield.  While chemical pesticides are available, their use is unrealistic. These products are sold in bulk and are too expensive for the average farmer. These villagers often have no reliable means of transportation to obtain the pesticides. It is also not uncommon for these products to be tampered with, either watering down or adding chemicals that can be harmful to the people and animals. These chemicals are also very damaging to an unhealthy soil bed affected by years of monoculture plantain production.

What I proposed in my pfp was to experiment with different homemade pesticides using local products. From my research I came across effective pesticides made from marigold leaves, chilies, onions, garlics, and neem leaves or oil. These ingredients are boiled in water for 20 minutes or alternatively stand for 3 days. The solution is combined with soapy water and applied to the plants along with wood ash. This application is not new to Uganda. These methods have been successfully implemented at a small sustainable farm, St. Jude’s Family Projects, in central Uganda. I will be visiting this farm during my first week in Uganda to gain a better understanding of homemade pesticides and other sustainable agriculture solutions in rural Uganda.

I was nervous presenting this idea as it is beyond my formal training. When I discussed this idea with others they were often confused as to why I would address this issue and not something related to veterinary medicine. My response was always the same. Under the concept of eco-system health we are not bound to our professional limitations. Our goal is to realize a healthy population of people and animals while sustaining the environment. The pest and pesticide issue is of concern to the famers I will be working with and so I consider it my responsibility to do what I can to address the problem. A healthier chick pea crops and soil will lead to greater yields. Greater yields will improve childhood nutrition and family income. Greater income and nutrition will increase opportunities for childhood education and result in healthier immune systems, decreasing disease prevalence. Increased income will also result in more disposable income which can be used for animal vaccines, better shelters, and increased nutrition. Our animal health problems cannot be addressed by focusing on a single problem but rather by looking at the bigger picture. Healthy people and healthy environments will lead to healthier animals and more productive agricultural systems. For this to happen it needs two things. One is for people of different disciplines to explore beyond their profession. While my background is not in alternative agriculture, it did not take much for me to research potential applications for small hold farmers. The second is collaboration. I am not an expert in these techniques; my research has only scratched the surface on a vast body of knowledge. But through this research I was able to connect with people at home and abroad that are experts in this field. It is these contacts that will ultimately drive a successful project.  By collaborating with other professions, I can focus on the goats, while the experts I bring in or consult with will help to solve a problem that will further increase the health of the community.

 

The pitch itself flew by, but the research and preparation was extremely educational. The questions and comments from the audience created further contacts and options to explore. The entire conference had a very welcoming atmosphere. There were people from a variety of disciplines that came together to present and collaborate on One-Health. I feel very fortunate to have been able to attend and present at this conference and hope it becomes an annual event. I would like to thank VWB for their support.

 

Quelques pensées avant de partir pour l’Ouganda

J’ai hâte de pouvoir être utile et d’approfondir ma connaissance sur le rôle du vétérinaire dans une société. Je continue d’apprendre la profession avec intérêt, toutefois je ne connais toujours pas exactement mon but, mon rôle comme vétérinaire et son importance. Mon instinct me dit que de découvrir une culture assez éloignée de la mienne m’aiderait sans doute à cadrer les principales valeurs qui dirigeraient  par la suite mes futures décisions de vétérinaire. J’envisage avec enthousiasme de découvrir une nouvelle culture. Les cultures distinctes ont des points de vue différents sur la réalité que je tente de définir. Il est intéressant de se promener de point de vue en point de vue pour avoir l’image la plus représentative de la réalité et de pouvoir par la suite agir en étant plus harmonieux avec celle-ci.

Je participerai donc à un projet vétérinaire qui impliquera des chèvres laitières en production extensive dans une communauté constituée majoritairement de veuves et d’orphelins. Je serai heureux de partager mon expérience avec vous en faisant part de mes surprises et de mes déceptions par rapport aux attentes que j’ai vaguement mentionnées et qui peuvent se diviser en 2 parties soit le côté humanitaire et le côté vétérinaire plus pratique.

 

Vets without Borders is a finalist in Heska Inspiration in Action Contest – Vote Now!

Veterinarians without Borders/ Vétérinaires sans Frontières is one of five finalists that has a chance to win $25,000 in the national 2011 Heska Inspiration in Action Contest. Vote for VWB/VSF now!

By building healthy communities in some of the poorest developing countries, where people are struggling to recover from war and epidemic disease, the VWB/VSF program helps mitigate conditions that lead to instability and the spread of disease. In times of unstable climate, economy and politics, this creates a basis on which to build a more stable global community. Prize money from the contest would be used to support two ongoing projects in Laos and Uganda.

In today’s global economy and crowded planet, the health and welfare of animals and people everywhere are inter-connected. 60% of human diseases originate in animals, and is most acutely felt in developing countries where rural farmers rely heavily on animals for insurance, transport, labor, food, and income. In these developing countries, the veterinary profession now, more than ever, has the opportunity to help resolve challenges in food security, agriculture, equity, empowerment of women, and human and animal health. Currently, 70% of the global poor live in rural areas where women are challenged to provide 75% of agricultural labor and produce 80-90% of food.

Vote for VWB/VSF now! Voting is open to US citizens 18 yrs+.

Wishing we could stay longer

Our time in Uganda has flown by so quickly. We are near the end of our trip and working harder than ever to try to finish all of the things that we want to accomplish while here. Jess and I have realized that we are just unable to say no and as a result, we have been working sometimes as much as 15 hour days to try to get the work done. As rewarding as it is, I think we will be ready for a vacation at the end.

One week ago we trained 14 lead farmers as Paravets. The selected members are model farmers in their communities who have very good animal management practices. We spent one week training them on the in’s and out’s of goat and pig husbandry and taught them the basics of veterinary medicine so that they can provide medical services to the animals in their community who would otherwise not have access to any treatment. The week was so rewarding. We had such a great bunch of members who were so eager to learn. They all excelled in the course and asked very good questions throughout the week. The supertrainers (paravets with advanced training) who were trained in previous years joined in the teaching and helped very much with the practical training. It was so great to have them there. One of the previously trained paravets, Innocent from Nyamuyanja biked 3 hours each way to the demonstration site where we held the training so that he could advance his knowledge. He is such an inspiration. Innocent had to drop out of school in primary 4 because his father died. Even still, he managed to teach himself English. He is very well spoken in English, is very intelligent and incredibly inquisitive. I’ve never met someone who asks as many great questions as he does. He never gives up on learning!

We had the paravet graduation ceremony on Saturday which was an incredible day. The members received a FAOC & VWB apron, a graduation certificate and a medical kit filled with all of the medicine and equipment that they needed. We had many great speeches and the members promised to make us proud. It was one of the greatest days here so far. It was such an honor to teach a bunch of amazing people and it was great to see how appreciative they were. I’m confident that they will do great things for their communities!

This recent week, we have been tying up loose ends. Although we only have 1 more week after this, we are still madly searching for goats. Many members have worked so hard to build beautiful goat pens and meet all of the requirements for receiving a goat that we just cannot disappoint them. Also, all of the 7 new groups have only received female goats and do not have a FAOC breeding buck so we are going to provide each group with one as well. On Wednesday, we took all of the new paravets to St. Jude Family project and rural training center which is a self-sufficient production farm. The paravets had to be ready for 6:30 in the morning (they likely had to get up very early to travel to the meeting site) since the farm was 3 hours away but they were just so excited I don’t even know if they slept the night before. We rented a costa (a 21 person bus) and the whole way to and from Masaka (the town where the farm is) the paravets were laughing, clapping, singing, etc. At the farm, there was a training session about successful farming and all of the ways that these paravets can achieve success. It was such an amazing place. I will be taking back many of the ideas to Canada! On the way home, we provided the group with pictures from the previous training week. I have never seen these people happier.

On Thursday we had a vaccine day for Kigyendwa, one of the old parishes that have been very successful. We provided the vaccine, but the members have to pay for the vaccine so that they have the money to provide the booster vaccines. It is way to all these people to become self-sufficient and not be reliant on muzungu’s (whites) to come every year to provide the vaccine. Hopefully, this will help alleviate the problems of sudden death in the goats.

Some interesting facts that I’ve learned over the past few weeks:

–          children do not have the concept of stranger danger. We can pick up a random child on the side of the road and they will not only give us directions, they will take us to where we want to go. We have gotten directions from children as young as 4. Wow!

–          One of the recent forms of praise we have received is when the members rub their hands together, someone asks if it is warm and they say no a few times, then they are asked if it is hot, then they say yes, clap multiple times and then push the heat from their hands to us. It is a very cool form of gratitude.

–          Dingo is the name for chickpeas in the local language

–          We were at a concern with popular musicians who have very bad messages to send to the pubic. They were encouraging unprotected sex and having affairs with many married men. Multiple artists had the same message which was very disturbing. Needless to say, we didn’t stay long.

We have a limited number of days left in Uganda and I am already planning when I can return. I would love to stay here full time if I could.  The members are just so motivated when we are around and the project has advanced so much in the past 3 months that it will be so hard to leave them. For now, I will enjoy every minute of the upcoming day and look forward to our vacation in Kenya prior to our return home to Canada.

 All the best,

Laura & Jessica