My first month in Kiwoko

Helen_byers Posted by Helen Byers on Sun, 21 Oct 2012 | 3 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook

Firstly I must apologise that it has taken me a full month since I arrived at Kiwoko hospital in Uganda to write a blog! It has taken me this long to collect my thoughts and sit down to try and record some of them!

The journey alone from the airport in Entebbe to Kiwoko was enough to give me material for a full blog! The cows with giant horns at the side of the road, the people cycling with enormous amounts of anything from jerry cans filled with water to three people plus a baby on the back of their bicycles, the women sitting outside their one-roomed houses cooking over a fire, the sheer amount of people and noise everywhere. All very overwhelming for a new visitor but fascinating at the same time.

From my arrival I have been welcomed very graciously by everyone I have met in Kiwoko. It’s not often there is a volunteer pharmacist so I have spent some time carving out a role with the staff here and also getting to know them. For anyone who is interested in the pharmacy side of things, I have been working in the dispensary which is attached to the out patient department, and while preparing some information posters and doing some teaching with the staff there, I am also working on hopefully developing a formulary for the hospital.

The Ugandan people here see a lot of visitors and volunteers from all over the world but it doesn’t seem to have made them understand us any better! All my attempts at Lugandan (the local language) are met with laughter as are the evening jogs a number of us ‘mzungus’ (white people) take. But it turns out the feeling of bewilderment is mutual as I cannot profess to fully grasp all the Ugandan events I have attended. I went to the nurses’ bible study last week and during the singing, everyone started to spin around and sit down. Again, cue more laughter as being the only confused visitor in the room I just kept clapping my hands and missed all actions. It is now my aim to learn this song and the accompanying actions before I come home!

The people are very keen to find out more though as most have not left Uganda so have no idea what home for me is like. I have been asked countless questions about Northern Ireland, from what crops do we grow to what month is malaria the worst? To the latter I delivered the information that in fact we don’t actually get malaria in Northern Ireland, blaming our not so sunny climate as the reason. ‘Oh you are so lucky,’ she sighed. I’ll be honest…our lack of malaria is not something I have ever given thanks for, and I’m guessing that half our population would probably take the risk of malaria in order to have some decent sunshine! But when you see the number of young children here being treated for malaria it really does make you think twice, so today give thanks that we don’t have malaria in our country!

Another part of Ugandan life I have been getting to grips with is the wildlife. Unfortunately I’m not referring to monkeys and giraffes, the sort of animals we all hope to see in Africa. No unfortunately I’m referring to cockroaches, geckos and rats… Last Sunday afternoon, Kiwoko was quiet and peaceful, everywhere except in the guest house where I have been staying since my arrival. Preparing craft for the monthly kids club had taken me longer than expected so as I ran round the house looking for toilet paper (to make a veil to cover Jacob’s wife’s face in case you’re wondering) I stumbled across a half eaten sponge. I’m currently staying by myself and although I have been craving some food from home, I’m not desperate enough to eat a sponge. On glancing at my clothes drying on the clothes horse nearby, my pleasant Sunday feelings were replaced with pure horror as I gazed upon my favourite dress with three large holes in it! My t-shirt next to the dress had been, and there is no other word for it, mauled and was in fact now a crop top. As the realisation struck me that I was sharing my house with a monster I ran out of said house across the grass, forgetting about feminism and looking for a man to help me. Returning with Paul in tow we set a trap and I had a nervous night’s sleep. The next day with no sign of any creature, it was decided to do the job properly I was going to have to evacuate the premises. I happily packed a bag to stay with my very accommodating and hospitable neighbours and left Vincent the unofficial rat catcher to it. Two days later and a dead rat has been found outside the house. Is it the one who left teeth marks in my dress? I can only hope so! Was it big we asked. ‘Yes, very big,’ Vincent responded.

I’m sure you’re all wondering amidst all the excitement of that Sunday afternoon, did I make it to the kids club? The answer is I did and had a great time playing games, singing and doing craft with the local children. It reminded me very much of the wonderful children at home in St Patrick’s Broughshane! But even a kids club can’t be without drama as at the end of the club, when the children scattered to walk home, there appeared to be a crowd congregating beside the pit latrines closest to the maternity ward. One of the leaders was trying to disperse the crowd of children with a stick. ‘Oh, it must be a snake,’ Natasha the on-call doctor at the time said to me as we stood at a distance. When we started to see nurses running towards the crowd (an odd occasion to see a Ugandan run), Natasha decided to investigate and quickly realised a woman was in fact giving birth! Within 5 minutes a healthy baby was carried out of the latrine followed by the mother who had been caught rather unawares!

As you can tell I am having lots of new experiences here and I look forward to many more exciting and challenging times in the coming weeks and will try to keep you updated. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me, it has been much appreciated!

Love Helen


Niall KissickNiallkissick said Wed, 24 Oct 2012 11:28AM
Hi Helen, love the update. Great to hear what you are up to! Praying God continues to bless you and protect you whilst you are out serving him! Take care Niall
Trevor Anderson said Tue, 06 Nov 2012 10:49AM
Hi Helen, as it's only 16 days until I head out to Kiwoko it's great to read your blog but not the bit about the wildlife. I think I'll pack some deterrents in my luggage! Hope to see you soon, Trevor

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