Month: June 2019
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.
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.
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.
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!Read More
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.