By Sadie St. Denis
I had the opportunity to travel to Uganda for the first time in October 2011 as part of the Canadian International Development Agency’s Youth Internship Program. Travelling was not new to me and it was not my first time in Africa but it was to be unlike any other experience.
With an interest in education, it was my initial hope to fill a vacancy for a Community Education Officer working with the Uganda Library Association. Instead I was offered a position as a Community Health Officer working in the maternity ward of one of the country’s major referral hospitals.
Yeah, I had questions too!! But I was inspired by a desire to return to Africa, so I took a leap of faith and reserved my questions for when I got there. It was impossible to know how completely that choice would change my life’s ambitions.
I witnessed first-hand the consequences of a poorly managed, under-resourced, inadequately staffed, overburdened public health facility on the health and wellbeing of women and their newborn infants. It was shocking, heartbreaking, infuriating, and impossibly frustrating. The experience left me emotionally exhausted and nearly hopeless, but also so greatly moved that I could not possibly betray the rights of all birthing mothers and newborn infants who suffer from the same deplorable conditions I had witnessed by returning to a life of apathy.
Coming back to Uganda as the Project Coordinator for a remarkable organization like Shanti Uganda will be a journey of healing for me. In only five short months I witnessed so much wrong and had so little power to make any of it right. I’m certain that my experience at Shanti Uganda will be one of great fulfillment and hope.
I applaud Kristen Porter, the out-going Project Coordinator, for her tireless efforts in making Shanti Uganda the home it is today. And to Natalie Angell, the staff, volunteers, board members, fundraisers, the women and everyone who makes Shanti Uganda possible, jebale ko. Thank you for the work you do. It is so important, and I am honored to now be a part of it.