*The following blog is a post by Shanti Uganda volunteer Lauren and her experiences in Uganda*
Village Outreach- Katuugo
The ride on the boda (motorcycle) lasted nearly 20 minutes. I wanted it to never end. Through fields of coffee and maize, roads and hills I have never dreamt, homes of brick and stick and mud, dozens of school children scrambling through football yards and too big bicycles- we roamed. Not entirely sure what to expect, and somewhat unaware of where we were going, we arrived in Katuugo, greeted by the warm face of a man I had met two weeks before. We were late, so he and his small son had been patiently waiting for us as well as his other guests.
To begin with, I was amazed at this man’s warmth and kindness. I realized at our last meeting he had a severe limp, but had somehow managed the 2 hour windy-hilly bicycle ride to admire our center. From the way he spoke of his newly constructed health center (a humble one room building, which employs one nurse) it was obvious that this man has a passion for his people and for the mothers of Uganda. He welcomed us to a seat in a circle under a large tree for shade as he spoke of the cash crop for this region as well as the current events of his family and village.
After waiting for a bit, a group of three women clad in gomezes joined our sitting circle. As women passed, they were waived over. Others, including several men, cantered under the tree, as a mzungu is a rare commodity in such a rural space. So here we were- a group of 27 (including several infants) listening to a speech on maternal mortality, and the easy preventability, as well as the importance of family planning, and what that means for communities. I, of course, could not understand a word, as it was all in Luganda, the local language.After maybe an hour, and some few questions, we handed out “learning blankets” with designs and instructions on proper nutrition and care for the first 6 months of life. There were a total of 3 babies in the group, and once we began handing out the blankets every single woman got up to retrieve her own infant, so she too could receive a blanket.
I left feeling blessed, and somehow amazed at this meeting. It was mind boggling for a man to have put this event on. It is the norm, when it comes to birth and many other things, for men to not be involved. However, our new colleague stressed the importance of if we wanted to reduce maternal mortality, at this point in Uganda is devastatingly high, that men must also be educated and involved with family planning-as well as stressed the importance of prioritizing capital for an instance where the wife may need a transfer to a larger health center.
I am extremely grateful for having the chance to participate in these outreaches. I feel that I am learning so much about the culture, the people, and am reassured time and time again about the need for education on the topic of reproductive healthcare. I am so fortunate to participate in these meetings, and am given the ability to understand all perspectives on the topic, and how real it actually is. It is wonderful to see how excited people become afterwards, having this knowledge is incredibly empowering, and to watch women gain this power and knowledge is an experience I cannot put to words. I will say it once again (and probably 100 more times after this) I am incredibly blessed to be where I am!