FullSoul blog

Snapshots of September (.. and October) – Reflecting on What We’ve Learned So Far

I think that every intern at FullSoul has experienced a whirlwind of questions and uncertainties the first time they step into the labour ward. For us it was no different. Even though each of us have our respective responsibilities, projects, and tasks for the Maternal Health Project, we all come into our positions as students ready to learn.

Alison has been working hard to iron out the last few details of FullSoul’s funding applications and implementation plans for next year, Anna is developing thorough evaluation and data collection plans to measure our expansion project’s impact, and Lorien is working with a few partnered organizations to answer questions about the patterns of tool sterilization that we’ve observed.

In addition to these specialized projects, each of us is working with University of Waterloo’s Oscar Nespoli to practice design thinking as it applies to our new setting. We meet with Oscar weekly to reflect upon a thought-provoking experience or need that we’ve observed, and we plan to dedicate part of our time in the second half of the co-op term to complete individual case studies based upon a need that inspires us.

This may sound vague; it sounded vague to us too, at first. But all three of us are finding that these assignments are becoming really powerful tools for us to reflect on gaps we see inside and outside of the labour ward. FullSoul is always looking for ways to expand its capabilities and address problems on all levels of maternal health. By engaging in this reflective practice, we give ourselves time to take a step back and ask why we notice the things we do during our observation shifts. The type of problems we may talk about may be about communication, they may be about ergonomics, or they may even be about environmental sustainability.

One of the exercises the three of us completed together was to try to find connections between problems that the other two had expressed. This was an interesting way to identify common themes between very diverse problems. It also helps us to ask questions about how maternal health may be impacted by factors that are far removed from the labour ward. We like teaming up in activities like this because each of us brings different ideas to the table, usually related our respective programs back at the University of Waterloo 🙂 

Because we are living and working in a culture and setting that is brand new to each of us, the weekly reflections have helped us to monitor the role that we play in our project with FullSoul’s partnered healthcare facilities. The practice of design thinking has put us in a strong learning mindset, which is essential both as co-op students and also as visitors to Uganda. We are thankful to our teachers: midwives, students, Rotarians, administrative staff, and other friends we’ve met so far along the way.

To commemorate the moments and memories we’ve made so far, here is a video;

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fullsoul/48996822071/in/dateposted/

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Meet a FullSouler: Alison Elliott

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Heya, my name is Alison Elliott, I’m in my 3rd year of Planning, and I’m thrilled to be sharing my FullSoul experience! This will be my third co-op term, and my first international placement. I’ll be taking on the role of Project Manager, working alongside my colleagues Lorien and Anna to distinguish problems and solution in maternal health. I’ll individually be working on the ongoing Global Grant application with the Rotary Club of Uganda, the implementation plan, the FullSoul budgeting scheme, and the blogs/social media. I’m a very outgoing and adventurous person who loves skiing, horse riding, hiking and travelling. I’m very excited to begin this journey with FullSoul 🙂

Can you tell us what you are looking forward to the most? 

I’m most looking forward to embracing a new place. I’ve never been to Uganda, let alone Africa, and I know I’ll learn many valuable lessons when there; whether as simple as learning to cross the road or as complex as communication and personal growth. I’m also looking forward to building the FullSoul family and working for an NGO that has such an important call to arms. Never in my undergraduate degree did I think I would be working in an organisation in maternal/public health, and I now cannot wait to start doing so.

How are feeling as you prepare for your trip? 

Part of me is feeling extremely ready to jump into it, but part of me is quite nervous. I think the idea of being so far from home physically and not exactly knowing how often I’ll be able to contact home is scary. I think my colleagues and most past interns have felt the same way at times, and reasonably so! But all things considered, I am feeling excited and prepared to start working for FullSoul, and I know that once I’m settled in Uganda, I’ll feel settled in my mind as well. I am someone who can adapt easily and can see the positive side of situations, so I know that I’ll be okay!

Did you get any interesting advice from previous interns or others to prep you for the trip? 

One of the most important notes I got was from Olivia, the last terms project manager. She told me to be confident in myself and feel assured that I can do my job well. As a co-op student it’s easy to second-guess yourself and feel overwhelmed by the real time demands of the workforce, but she reminded me to take a breath and remember that I am capable of doing my job and doing it well.

What are the top 3 things you are for sure packing?

  1. Notebook: for journal and drawing purposes as well as note taking on the fly
  2. Cliff bars: quick easy boost of protein!
  3. Vitaminsgotta stay strong

How can we follow you on your journey?

You can follow my journey (as well as my colleagues’) on the FullSoul social media account, but additionally you can check out my personal Instagram (@alisonfielliott)!

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Meet a FullSouler: Lorien Boyce

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Hi, my name is Lorien, and I am a third-year student of Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo. I’ll be taking over as the field engineer intern for the next few months, meaning that I’ll be working closely with the other interns and some of the hardworking midwives in Uganda to identify and improve any shortcomings that may exist with FullSoul’s MMK (maternal medical kit) program. Something about myself is that I love talking to people and hearing their stories! My interests include worldbuilding and storytelling, the great outdoors, and waste management.

Can you tell us what you are looking forward to the most?

I am incredibly excited and grateful for the opportunity to learn about a problem space by talking to those who know it best. My experience so far has taught me that there is a lot to learn from simply listening to others and asking questions. I’m looking forward to gaining new friends and teachers from all walks of life as I work to become a better engineer.

I am also excited to see Ugandan geography and flora! Hopefully I’ll get at least a few chances to see and learn about the local plants, climate, and landscape. At home, I’m happiest when I’m walking or hiking with my family, and I’ve been told there are a few hikes in Uganda that I might be able to plan for.

How are feeling as you prepare for your trip?

Every time I travel, I have a hard time knowing how to feel beforehand. Mostly, I can just sense the mountain of unknowns that I will have to face in the coming weeks. FullSoul has done a great job at preparing us as much as possible for living and working in a new culture and climate, but I’m still anticipating some culture shock, some exhaustion, some confusion, and some many more hours of researching and learning and reading. The hardest part of any internship is building new habits and adapting old ones to work in a new environment. I am glad I have two other interns that I’ll have as a support system, and I am eager to reconnect with them in the coming days!

Did you get any interesting advice from previous interns or others to prep you for the trip?

Absolutely! I’m prepared to make a lot of homemade suppers with beans, rice, and fruit (YUM – these are already my staples) and I’m bringing some Tupperware for meal prepping. I had to find some long skirts for the hotter weather I’m about to experience, which means I won’t be able to count on my trusty jeans and threadbare pullovers anymore. Other advice I’ve received is to learn to conserve cell data for daily work, use bodas and taxis to get around, and walk slower than I would at home.

What are the top 3 things you are for sure packing?

  • My notebook for scribbles, doodles, and letters
  • Good shoes for walking and [hopefully] hiking
  • One or two good books

How can we follow you on your journey?

The FullSoul media outlets and this blog! I hope to contribute a few entries during the next few months.

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Meet a FullSouler: Anna-Kay Smith

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Hey everyone, my name is Anna-Kay (my friends and family call me Anna) and I am super excited to be sharing my journey in Uganda with you all. I am currently in my third year of Health Studies at the University of Waterloo, but for the next few months I have the opportunity to work with FullSoul as the Monitoring and Evaluation Intern. My job entails working with FullSoul’s partner hospitals to understand the Maternal Health Project and conduct an evaluation to see what works well and if there are ways it can be implemented better.

A fun fact about me is that I absolutely love anything music related, whether it’s playing instruments (I can play trumpet and piano), listening to music or watching musical theatre performances (the next show I want to see is Hamilton)!

Can you tell us what you are looking forward to the most? 

Going into University I knew I wanted to travel abroad – either on an exchange term or a co-op abroad. When I heard about Christina and FullSoul I was enthused to find a position that allowed me to travel and combined that with my passion in Global Health. When I think about my time over the next couple of months, I don’t know if I can just pinpoint a single thing that I am looking forward to the most. This past semester I took my favourite class of university – ‘‘social determinants of health’, where I learned about social and economic conditions that influence the health of populations and individuals. I am grateful for the opportunity to take the knowledge that I have gained in school and further learn about the complexities of maternal and child health issues. I also cannot wait to immerse myself in the culture and build new relationships and connections with the locals.

How are feeling as you prepare for your trip? 

As I’m writing this there are three more days before I fly out to Uganda and it still doesn’t feel like it is actually going to happen. I have definitely experienced a rollercoaster of emotions these past couple of weeks. Although this experience is something that I have envisioned for myself for a while, there is still so much uncertainty and change that comes along with it that makes me anxious. Despite that, I know that the experience is going to be life-changing and am super excited to be in the country.

Did you get any interesting advice from previous interns or others to prep you for the trip? 

I love this question because I’ve gotten so much advice from friends and family that has physically and mentally prepared me for the trip. Something that I really appreciated was advice from the previous interns on how to communicate with the locals. They taught us some common Ugandan phrases and told us about different mannerisms used there that would help us communicate better. My role as the monitoring and evaluation intern is heavily focused on relationship building so going into Uganda with this knowledge makes me a lot more confident with my day to day interactions.

What are the top 3 things you are for sure packing?
  1. Camera – instead of writing in a physical journal I wanted to try making video journals, as well as create ‘day in my life’ videos that I can share with future interns
  2. Chocolate! – highly advised by a previous intern (thanks Olivia!)
  3. Books – I plan on reading (and sleeping!) a lot during the 17 hour flight!
How can we follow you on your journey?

You can follow my journey on the FullSoul Instagram page @fullsoulcanada and the FullSoul Canada Facebook page, as well as my personal Instagram page @annakay_1999.

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Reflecting on Our Journey

By Olivia and Colette

 
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We saw it rather fitting, that since we have done everything together since arriving in Uganda that it be the perfect ending to our journey to write our final reflection together.  

If you could tell the next interns one thing, what would it be?

If there is one thing, we have learned from our journey here in Uganda, is that every day you come home with a new story to tell. Often times we step back at the in the evenings and think to ourselves “How did this all take place in just one day?!” Every time you leave home you can expect a new adventure as you are surrounded by a different culture, people, landscape, and energies. We have learned how important it is to engage with the culture and you will often find when you do, you will be welcomed with open arms. We didn’t know the language coming in, and often got it wrong but people here are so appreciative for your effort and will love taking on the role of teaching you new things. It is through these interactions that we have been able to submerse ourselves so deeply and would recommend you take the leap as well! If you do, you might find yourself having your every own “Rolex Man” just like us!

What is your greatest take away from conducting hospital observations?

Maternal and child health is often a top concern throughout many developing countries due to lack of funding in the healthcare sector, often leaving them without the necessary medical equipment, resources and adequate staffing needed to have positive patient outcomes. We are very fortunate to have gotten the chance to bear witness to the extraordinary efforts of the midwives who somehow always greet these challenges with a smile on their face. One thing we often hear in hospitals throughout Uganda is “it was challenge but we pushed through” it has been a true gift to be able to partner with such motivated hospital staff, who not only seek change but makes it happen every day. Our greatest take away is that despite the barriers that these hospitals face, we have seen how dedicated and eager the staff are to help mothers and continue a strong relationship with various supporting organizations to give mothers the best possible health care available.

What has working for FullSoul taught you?

It started with one person, Christina Hassan recognizing a need, through hard work and dedication she was able to assemble a team that reaches beyond borders. We have learned that it takes a village to implement the change and have seen the importance of building community relationships across the globe. Having had the chance to work with Rotary, SPECT, and the hospital teams here in Uganda we have come to understand the value of a strong partnership that feeds off each other to turn one person’s vision into lasting change. We hope this is a lesson that we can take with us for the remainder of our academic journey and then into our professional career.

Sitting here on our balcony writing this, it is crazy to think our time here in Uganda has already come to an end. It felt like it happened in flash but I know we are always going to remember the people we have meet, and lessons we have learned from working in maternal health as a proud FullSoul intern.

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Carrying It Forward, Uganda to Canada

Written By: Vinu 
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One week into my internship with FullSoul back in January, I quickly made the realization that Uganda would be my teacher over the next eight months. Thinking back to that time now that it is August and I’ve only one week remaining in the country, I could not have been more correct. Reflecting on the lessons learned during my time here, I don’t even know where to begin. How exactly does one go about recapping eight months worth of professional and personal accomplishments and growth? And let us not forget about the challenges and barriers that were overcome as well. Summarizing my eight months interning for FullSoul in Uganda is no easy feat. 

At the most basic level, my role with FullSoul has been co-managing our Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Portfolio with Crystal, FullSoul’s Director of M&E. Together, we’ve made strides in preparing for a strong, high-quality evaluation of FullSoul’s project activities. In the past months, we’ve come to understand the context of working with our partner healthcare facilities, identified the main evaluation priorities of our partners to help focus our areas of assessment, as well as listened to how we can make the evaluation as meaningful and useful for our partners as possible. Engaging with our partner healthcare facilities as we prepare and plan for the evaluation has allowed us to be responsive to the needs of our stakeholders and the MMK program context.

Being that this internship has been my first real-life exposure to M&E outside of school, I feel as though I have grown considerably as an evaluator. Without debate, I’ve learned that one of the best skills you can have is reflexive practice, meaning that you are able to constantly reflect on both your internal and external experiences in a manner that fosters learning and development. Even eight months down the road, I’m always experiencing novel circumstances, environments, social interactions, emotions, opinions, and thoughts. Only through reflecting on all of those experiences and how they relate to one another have I learned how to thrive in my role. For example, it’s through reflexive practice that I’ve become accustomed to the social dynamics and important cross-cultural communication skills here. Being reflective has also supported me in identifying challenges experienced by our partnering facilities, including both those that are outwardly expressed by staff as well as the more subtle challenges that can be observed.

The learning didn’t stop with my work responsibilities either. Moving to Uganda required immersing myself in my new context and becoming comfortable with my new living circumstances and surroundings. Having to complete shift my life for eight months taught me many things, but most importantly it taught me the importance of community. I cannot deny that sometimes it can be difficult to be halfway across the world, feeling distanced from your family, friends, and regular routines. Yet, remembering the new relationships and routines I’ve developed in Uganda is what has helped me overcome those challenging times and feel grounded in my surroundings.

The lessons, perspective, and knowledge I have gained these past months are immeasurable and I know for a fact that I will be carrying these lessons forward even as I return to Canada. Through this internship and working with our partners, I’ve experienced collective leadership firsthand, evident in the gathering of like-minded, passionate individuals from both Canada and Uganda, joining hands to protect maternal health in this country. Although the time has come for me to return to Canada, I look forward to seeing what the future will hold and following along with FullSoul’s journey in the push for a better tomorrow. 

 

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Tales Of A Midwife – Sister Juliette

By: Vinussa Rameshshanker

“In those days before the ultrasounds, it was a blessing to be the first person to know what sex the mother was carrying…” 

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FullSoul is ever grateful for our partners who join us as we work together towards improving the state of maternal health in Uganda, which is why I would like to share with you the story of one of our valued partners and how she came to be the midwife she is today.

Meet Sister Juliette, the lovely woman in the photo with a beautiful smile who greets me warmly whenever I visit Kawolo Hospital. Kawolo Hospital has been one of FullSoul’s partnering healthcare facilities since 2014. Sister Juliette is the In-Charge Senior Midwife for the hospital’s maternity department. In fact, Sister Juliette has been working at Kawolo Hospital for 26 years now!

Let’s travel back to Sister Juliette’s childhood. Visiting hospitals for various reasons during her youth, Sister Juliette always knew that she was attracted to the purple uniforms worn by some of the healthcare workers she would see walking around the facilities. However, she never knew what the purple uniforms represented. And so one day, she decided to ask and she learned that the workers dressed in purple were actually midwives in training!

Sister Juliette’s interest and passion for midwifery stayed with her as she finished up secondary school and studied to receive a certificate in midwifery. To Sister Juliette, it is a blessing to be the first person to know the sex of the baby carried by the mother. As a midwife delivering a mother, you are granted the opportunity to reveal the secret of whether the mother would be receiving a new baby boy or baby girl – how incredible! This was true especially back in the day, when ultrasound scans were not as common. In fact, even in the current time, many mothers are still unable to receive an ultrasound prior to delivery due to many different reasons. For example, the mother may not have the funds for transport to a clinic with a scan, or nearby facilities may be lacking functioning ultrasound scan machines. Recognizing these circumstances where mothers may not be able to access the care that they need, it is the work of delivering newborns, helping mothers, and bringing new life into the world that brings Sister Juliette happiness every single day.

Each year, the number of patients served at Kawolo Hospital continues to grow. Without a doubt, Sister Juliette alongside the rest of the hospital’s staffing team will be there to continue supporting and fighting for healthier communities. It is clear that challenges exist in the working environment, such as the limited resources for providing care. However, after both listening to and observing these challenges firsthand during my internship with FullSoul, it is equally as clear that the work of staff at Kawolo Hospital as well as other public healthcare facilities in Uganda demonstrates nothing but resilience worthy of admiration.

On that note, let us take a moment today wherever you may be to thank and celebrate our partners who, like Sister Juliette, commit themselves daily to serving mothers, children, families, and communities to help build a stronger and healthier nation. Thanks for reading FullSoulers, until next time!

 

 

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FullSoul, Sterile Processing Education Charitable Trust (SPECT), and Rotary Club of Mukono are partnering to provide medical kits and training on surgical instrument sterilization to Nurses and Midwives in Uganda

In Canada, when women labor in hospitals they have trust in the healthcare system to use sterile supplies for safe delivery. In Uganda, chronic underfunding has left many health facilities without adequate medical supplies. Very often, pregnant women arrive at hospitals with their own medical tools and must pay for their own delivery supplies. If they cannot do either, they are turned away. In addition, shortages of consumables means that disposable items often get reused between patients, potentially increasing the spread of dangerous infections. To reduce post-delivery complications and deaths, FullSoul and Sterile Processing Education Charitable Trust (SPECT) are partnering to provide medical kits with reusable surgical instruments and training on proper sterile processing techniques to midwives and nurses.

FullSoul, a Canadian non-profit organization co-founded by Christina Hassan, implemented the Maternal Medical Kit (MMK) program in hospitals in Uganda. The program provides hospitals with toolkits containing artery forceps, scissors, kidney dishes, needle holders, and dissecting forceps that can be sterilized and reused.

With funding provided by a Global Rotary Club Grant, SPECT will provide training and mentoring in sterile processing practices to help ensure instruments provided through the MMK program are safe for reuse between patient procedures. In partnership with the Rotary Club of Mukono, SPECT and FullSoul will provide sterilization equipment, including instrument baskets, dressing drums and autoclaves where needed. The added tools, as well as SPECT training, will equip nurses and midwives with an essential understanding of the importance of sterile processing practices. SPECT’s research has found knowledge of effective sterilization practices motivates healthcare workers and decreases the risks present in the birth environments for mothers and babies.

“FullSoul’s number one priority has always been safe births for mothers, babies and healthcare providers. With the help of SPECT, we will make sure that our tools reach the highest attainable level of sterility so no one is left behind.” says Christina Hassan. “Thanks to Avenue’s Top 40 under 40, we came to know about SPECT and all the great work this Calgary-based organization does around the world. It is always great to meet people doing wonderful things in our global community, but even better when we find those connections at home in Calgary.”

Christina Fast, founder of SPECT, established the organization after visiting hospitals in Sierra Leone and learning that sterilization of surgical tools was absent in the hospitals she visited. Fast is an experienced sterile processing educator who has been teaching healthcare workers since 2011, both in Calgary and internationally. SPECT has worked in 7 countries in Africa, including Guinea, Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Benin. SPECT’s involvement and connection to numerous countries in Africa makes them suited to work together with FullSoul to improve healthcare in Uganda.

For more information on FullSoul please email info@fullsoul.ca. For more information about SPECT please email hello@spectrust.org.

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A Toast to Celebrate Father’s Day – The Best A Father Can Do…

Written by: Vinu Ramesh

“All fathers should always try to give a better future for their children, and that begins with giving love to their children and to their mothers. That’s the best a father can do…” -Bash

Six months ago when I arrived in Uganda, I had the pleasure of meeting Bash. Bash is part of FullSoul’s Communications team and the one that we go to for designing FullSoul branded materials or filming what’s going on with FullSoul in Uganda. Basically, Bash helps work the magic behind FullSoul’s public image, typically through social media.

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On top of being part of the FullSoul family, Bash also has a family of his own. Pictured above is Bash, Ann, and their baby girl Elena – they are his pride and joy. In fact, he will be celebrating his second Father’s Day this June. Countries around the world differ in terms of when they celebrate this special day – Uganda will be celebrating Father’s Day on Friday June 21st this year. With Father’s Day fast approaching, I took the time to sit down with Bash to hear from him what he thinks about maternal and child health. As a toast to Bash and all the fathers of the world, I would like to share with you through his own words what Bash taught me on what it means to be a father.

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In your perspective Bash, why do you think maternal and child health is important?

To me, I think the most precious thing anyone can do is to give love and to give life. To lose life on the other hand is unbearable. In Africa especially, it’s clear that we have a lot of mothers giving birth to children every single day. Which means each day, new love and life is brought into the world. Knowing this, we need to work together to see that the lives of mothers and children in our communities are taken care of. As a father, my family is what keeps me happy at all times, so if maternal and child health isn’t important, what is?

When it comes to maternal health, what can men do to support their mothers? What is their role?

Of course, many men have no idea what to do when it comes to labour. But in my opinion, the most important thing that men can do is to support the women in their lives – whether it be the mothers, wives, or sisters – through their entire experience of motherhood. That includes ensuring that they receive the maximum amount of engagement with healthcare facilities before, during, and after birth, overall supporting the health and wellbeing of mothers, families, and communities.

If you were to share, is there an experience or life event that comes to mind which made you realize just how important maternal and child health is?

There was actually one thing that sparked a thought about just how important it is. During Ann’s pregnancy, I wasn’t able to be around a lot of the time because of work commitments but thankfully she was cared for and supported by her mother. When it came time for Ann to deliver, I was working in Kampala (the capital city), about a 4 or a 5 hour drive away from her. It was at that time that I received a phone call informing me that I had to be there as soon as possible for the delivery. Apparently, things were not looking good.

I made it to the healthcare facility as fast as I could, and was told that Ann was in the operation theatre for a Cesarean section. My heart skipped a beat just thinking about the state of the operation theatres here. Thankfully, both Ann and baby Elena made it out okay, but it was such a difficult time for all of us.

It was in those moments that I realized the possibility of losing a life at a time when you are meant to bring life to someone else. That’s why I think maternal and child health is so important.

And now, after just over a year of fatherhood, how would you describe what it’s like being a father?

It’s amazing. There’s a way that you change when you know that you have someone else to take care of – someone that you helped give life to. My little girl is stubborn, but I get the greatest joy from being with her. It’s the most rewarding experience that I’ve ever had, and it brings me happiness knowing that in a way, I have another version of myself running around. She is so precious to me, and I’m always feeling the need to fix everything in the world so that it is perfect for my little girl.

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As I spoke to Bash that evening, I could physically feel the love and care he has for his family and his dedication towards improving maternal and child health. Clearly, the issue doesn’t just concern the women and children of the world. It’s an issue for women, men, children, and communities at both the local and global scale. FullSoul is proud to be working towards a better future for the state of maternal and child health each and every day, and we’re also proud to have a team of volunteers and supporters that believe in the same cause. And so today, let us come together and celebrate the fathers out there who play such an important role in making the world a better place for us all – Happy Father’s Day!

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A Letter From Vinu: Five Months in, Three to go…

Dear FullSoulers,

I’m currently sitting comfortably on the couch in our Mukono Town FullSoul office, which doubles as our home. I’ve got one steaming cup of coffee on the table, neighboured by a now empty mug of coffee from the morning. The past few days have been full of rain and chilly weather, so I’ve wrapped myself in a blanket to keep warm. This could very well be what I would do in an afternoon at home back in Canada, the resemblance causing me to realize just how ‘at home’ I feel halfway across the world in Uganda.

I feel as if I went to bed in January and I’m waking up to find out that it’s May. I cannot believe all of the events which have transpired over the past months – I have become part of the community here in Mukono, made many friends, and I now go about my daily routines with a nonchalance that comes automatically. It all feels so surreal, yet its a reality that I am proud of as it symbolizes just how strongly I’ve immersed myself into the lifestyle over here. It’s undeniable that I’ve grown as a person through this experience. I’ve realized how adaptable I can be in a new country, how well I’m able to balance my introverted nature with Uganda’s rich social culture, and even how reflective I can be of my own experiences. Adding to those personal accomplishments, I’m equally as proud of my role and progress we’ve made in planning to evaluate the Maternal Medical Kit project.

The past few months have been filled with reviewing FullSoul’s program documents, organizing site visits to our partner healthcare facilities, and engaging with our project stakeholders – all in efforts to conduct an evaluability assessment of FullSoul’s project. Basically, this assessment is meant to identify the enablers and barriers to conducting a project evaluation in a valid and reliable manner. Starting off my term, I’d only known what an evaluability assessment was in theory. However, jumping right into the work in January, I was quickly becoming more familiar to the nitty-gritty of what preparing for an assessment actually entailed such as creating our own assessment tool and systematically collecting data on factors which will influence our future evaluation. To name a few, we explored the availability and quality of existing data collection protocols at partner healthcare facilities, the resources available for the future evaluation, and input on desired information needs and evaluation outputs from facility staff.

Before I knew it, it was May and we had not only finished preparing for the assessment, but we’d collected, cleaned, analyzed, and interpreted our data, eventually pulling it all together into a formal report. We’ve come across some interesting findings in the process such as the importance of selecting data collection approaches in the future that do not contribute to the existing challenge of work overburdening and stress experienced by staff. Knowing this, we’ll need to balance the reporting requirements of our funders with the real life challenges of our local partners, fnding creative ways to capture needed data in a way that does not disrupt the usual activities on the ward. Indeed, there is still a lot of planning left in order for us to execute our evaluation in a respectful and informed manner.

Despite our progress, it definitely wasn’t a smooth journey the entire way. For instance, I distinctly remember the frustration I felt while trying to communicate our findings in our final report – all of our healthcare facility site visits were jumbling together and there were so many findings that I wanted to get across. There were many days where I started my mornings staring at the computer screen, thinking to myself that the report had taken a turn towards becoming a bit Frankenstein-esque. All challenges aside though, FullSoul is now at the point of moving forward with our evaluation planning, and the evaluability assessment was fundamental in better understanding the feasibility of an evaluation within the program context.  As for me, I feel as though there is finally an opportunity to take a few breaths after what felt like treading in the deep end for a few months. Soon enough, we will be drafting our evaluation plan which will serve as the guiding document for conducting the evaluation, outlining everything from our key evaluation questions to our proposed data collection tools.

In whole, what’s been the most fulfilling in working towards FullSoul’s project evaluation is the recognition of how fundamental such efforts are in maintaining our accountabilities. Not only are we accountable to ourselves to create a learning culture where we rely on evidence-informed decision-making for program development, but we are also responsible for reporting to our key stakeholders, from partnering healthcare facilities to major funders. Without question, I am looking forward to the challenges and successes the new few months will bring as FullSoul takes on the task of evaluation within the development context for the purpose of better supporting the communities we serve.

Soulfully Yours,

Vinu

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