Monday, 2 January 2012

My Work

I came to Uganda not knowing where I would be living, or who I would be working with. Based on my language assignment, I discovered the region I would be working in within the first week of my service. During week five of my training, I learned the organization I would be working with, and a few days before I was to leave to site, I learned that my assignment had changed. Today, I am living in Gulu town (which is more like the projects then my originally signed placement of living in the bush) and I am working with an NGO called Aid Africa.
Aid Africa started just as the war in the North was ending. The work began in the IDP camps, providing tools to make energy-efficient mud stoves, and providing transportation for sick and dying children to the hospital. As the times changed, the efforts of Aid Africa increased. Amongst the previously mentioned programs, the organization now sponsors a handful of kids in their schooling, builds and repairs boreholes, and shelters water springs. I was brought on to the team to help the NGO develop, and to introduce new projects based off the needs we see in the villages, and my own personal skill set.
As we look forward to a new year, we are taking steps to potentially add the following foci:
Health Education and Prevention
It’s heart breaking to take these children to the hospital, as the problems they face seem to arise again and again. Additionally, the hospitals tend to focus on malaria and typhoid, leaving many conditions unnoticed, and unrecognizable. Our goal this year as Aid Africa is to introduce health programs that would focus on prevention rather than on treatment. Such areas will include, but are not limited to: clean water, sanitation and nutrition. As a long term goal, I’d love to introduce reproductive and sexual health workshops… but such a topic must be introduced slowly, with an immense amount of cultural sensitivity, once trust within the communities has been established.
Income-Generating Activities (IGAs)
I came here having a clear idea of what I wanted to do. But like so many things in life, things change where adaptation is needed. For those of you who know me well, you know that one of my life’s missions is to empower young women. Well, rather than the original plan of providing workshops concerning the manner, Aid Africa and I are taking a different approach. The resources in Uganda are plentiful, as is the creative talent of most women. Where the guidance is needed is in production and marketing. In helping these women find alternative sources of income, we are indirectly empowering them. For beyond introducing the idea that they have a purpose beyond taking care of their husbands and their children, we are giving them alternative options that might not have existed otherwise. For example, if a woman is in an abusive relationship, she does not leave, for how would she survive financially without her husband?
Which leads me to the final project we hope to implement:
Gender-Based Violence

…Which I won’t get into right now, in fear that I will inevitably stick my foot in my mouth. However, I can assure you that I will approach this topic eventually-as it is one of Uganda's many secret killers.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, my alliance is not only with the organization I am working with, but with the needs I see of the people, and I am encouraged to develop my own secondary projects… which I hope you will read about in my next post.

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