From Project Coordinator, Sadie St. Denis -
It has been almost a month since I assumed the role of Project Coordinator for Shanti Uganda and there seems to be no end in sight to the work that must be done. Though at times daunting, the work that lay ahead also gives me a great sense of satisfaction. Shanti Uganda is an inspiring example of the change that is possible in the world, and my day planner that spills over with meetings, by-whens, reminders and to-do’s is only one sign that ‘the change’ is growing!
Every time a new mother and her spouse attend their first antenatal appointment and before leaving share that they plan to bring their sister, sister-in-law, cousin, or friend, every time a young girl can tell you that she’s learned how HIV is contracted and how she can keep herself free of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and every time a mother delivers a healthy baby without fear or uncertainty, it is a sign that Shanti Uganda’s impact is worth every penny raised, every meeting held, and every difficult decision weighed!
One clear sign of our progress on the ground this month has been the hiring of a very promising new head midwife. As the former President of the Uganda Private Midwives’ Association, Sister Mary brings with her an impressive CV, but what’s more is that she possesses one simple desire that breeds a kind of passion and determination into her work that surpasses any professional qualifications she holds; that is “to see mothers alive”. Mary has a tender and motherly way with people that make them feel instantly relaxed and comfortable around her. It is truly lovely to observe her welcoming the mothers in her friendly way. She is so sensitive and attentive with the mothers that I suspect they will come to look forward to seeing her familiar warm smile.
Mary and I will be very busy over the next coming weeks meeting with District Health officials and making plans to register as a maternity centre and a private not-for-profit clinic. This will allow Shanti to access various government programs and apply for funding to expand Family Planning services, carry out Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of AIDS/HIV (PMTCT), and engage in continuous training of our midwives.
This month has also seen the completion of a tremendously successful Teen Girls’ Health and Wellness Workshop. Incredibly, we had 25 young girls in attendance! Instead of targeting girls directly, which can be very time-consuming, we decided to experiment this time. We identified the Women’s Representative on the Local Councils of our 4 target villages and requested their assistance in inviting girls from their local community to join our week long Heath and Wellness Workshop.
The midwives tell me this is the largest number of girls they’ve seen attend a single workshop! While I still wasn’t sure what we had gotten ourselves into, the staff seemed to relish in the energy and enthusiasm of the large group. Once I saw that our staff and volunteer could not only manage, but ROCK, this unusually large group, I too enjoyed the life the girls brought to our normally quiet centre. When I wasn’t hearing the girls singing or the midwives teaching, I could poke my head out the door and find the girls deep in a friendly but competitive game of netball. It was also a welcome escape from administrative duties to join the girls in their feverishly paced game!
While Mary and I sat in the office discussing plans for the centre, the girls could be heard playing outside and our midwife could be spied attending to antenatal mothers, I was overcome by the feeling that this is going to be a year full of positive growth and good things for Shanti Uganda!