Month: January 2020

“You are Welcome”

By Serena

Balcony

As I write, I am comfortably sitting on our vast balcony overlooking the so-far mystical Mukono. People’s homes can be seen interspersed on a sloping hillside lush with greenery. The apricot rooftops seamlessly fit into the landscape and nestle into the gentle curving edges and rounds as if they have always been one. Almost directly adjacent to my perch, a grand mosque obscures my view of some of the slopeside homes. The air is ripe with sound. My ears are encompassed by the chirping of birds, the sputtering of passing boda boda’s (motorbikes), the clucking of nearby chickens, the bustling horns of traffic and if I focus in closely enough, I can just barely pick up the soft rustling of leaves dancing in the breeze. The sights and sounds, all fresh to my eyes and ears seem to be brimming with possibility. Liminality reverberates in my surroundings, yet there is more to it than merely confronting the foreign. The novelty of foreignness is familiar to me. I have been to many places where foreign has been the cornerstone, at least if considered from my vantage point. This is something different.

The transience comes from being in a position imbued with temporality. There is a strange power that comes with knowing that each intern before us has had an experience akin to our own, apt to their own variations. Some have stood on the very balcony I am currently sitting on and have even been privy to the same view. It is likely that they too brought with them a sense of eagerness to advance the movement towards an equitable society. The very origins of FullSoul came from one such experience, through its founder: Christina Hassan. Her experience has amplified into a cycle of experiences, fuelled by intention. Intention has unfolded over and over and has unfailingly latched anew onto others. We are inextricably linked. Each of us has been united in the common pursuit of protecting the health of Ugandan mothers and their babies.

Perhaps, this is why the landscape seems to be alit with possibility. My surroundings are remnant with the like-minded aspirations of those once in our place and have become imbued in my perception. With each new delight comes a sense of awe, made all the more pertinent through its very sharedness. The sharedness comes in trying a Rolex, a popular Ugandan dish, for the first time. It comes in meeting locals and being able to put faces to the names past interns have recounted in their stories and playing with the kids that neighbour our guesthouse, who we had heard so much about. It comes in going to the market and coming across a vendor who fondly recalled an intern once in our place. Each of these sentiments reinforces the sharedness and makes me hopeful for what is to come.

Already, I feel I’ve experienced a whirlwind of unfamiliarity, despite knowing that I have barely scratched the surface. For now, I relish the unfolding of intention certain to take place during mine and my fellow intern’s time here and hopefully long after we leave. I will also take comfort in the relationships the interns before us have managed to build, the work they have been able to accomplish and the mothers and babies they have managed to impact, from a journey that likely had a similar start to our own.

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Meet a FullSouler: Greg Hoerdt

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Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

Hello! My name is Greg and I’m going into my 3rd year of Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo. I was hired at FullSoul to be the Field Engineer, which means I will be working with Hansen and Serena on improving the Maternal Medical Kit program from a technical perspective. For this semester that includes implementing grants, helping to arrange for experts to come and give training sessions, and working with partners at the University back home on sterilization process design and optimization. Some of my hobbies and interests include tennis, playing music, backpacking, and sustainability research.

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

I’m looking forward to exploring a brand-new culture! I have always been interested in travel because it allows me to see people with completely different perspectives than anything I have seen before. Learning new languages and traditions is one of my favourite things to explore and I can’t wait to do so on a continent I have never visited before.

I am also very excited about the work we will be doing for FullSoul! This will be my first time working for a non-profit organization, and I am looking forward to being able to do unique work in such an important field. It should prove to be very different from the internships I have done in the past.

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

Tons! The previous interns have given us advice on everything from how to befriend locals to how to plan meals with the foods available here. Overall they gave us comfort knowing they were able to succeed in a work and living environment so different from what we are used to.

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

Books – very limited access to the internet means I will be able to read a ton, something I did when I was little but have had no time for since starting University

Language learning tools – I downloaded a Luganda textbook on my computer to help with vocabulary as we try to pick up the local language

Sunscreen and bug spray – Avoiding the Canadian winter is a great plus, but we’ll need to prepare for the sun and mosquitoes instead

How can we follow you on your journey?

The 3 of us will be managing the FullSoul Instagram account, as well as adding blog posts.

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Meet a FullSouler: Hansen Lu

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Hello!  My name is Hansen Lu, I was born in Beijing and raised in Toronto.  Growing up exposed to two different worlds has inspired me to travel and try to understand what we all share in common as humans.  I am going into my fourth year in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waterloo with a biomechanical specialization.  I will be working with FullSoul as the project manager.  Now that the Global Grant has been approved, my time with FullSoul will be heavily dedicated to implementing new equipment and training.  In addition, I’ll be identifying design optimizations in the sterilization process of medical equipment in the local hospitals.  Fun fact about myself is that I love tree planting in British Columbia!  It’s an environmentally friendly, yet lucrative job.  National Geographic ranked it as one of the toughest jobs in Canada and it strengthened my confidence to face adversity.

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

I’m looking forward to starting the decade by exploring Africa for the first time!  I’m excited to learn the lifestyle of Ugandans and experience the natural beauty of Africa.  This is also my first time working with an NGO and working with the locals will be an immersive opportunity to learn about the Ugandan culture.

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

Don’t eat too much Rolex.  Rolex is a popular street food in Uganda that’s made from rolled up omelet and dough.  I hope I don’t gravitate too much around it, because there is so much fresh meat and produce from the local market.

I love to work and experience things in person, rather than through a screen. To me, fulfillment is found in helping others and watching them excel.  Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post, Namaste!

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Meet a FullSouler: Serena Meghji

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Hi, I’m Serena. I’m a Health Studies at the University of Waterloo and will be entering my fourth and final year upon returning from Uganda. Until then, I will be working as FullSoul’s Public Health intern. Much of my work will relate to monitoring and evaluation of the Maternal Health Project during its implementation. This basically means that I will work alongside our stakeholders in order to better understand the activities of the program as they unfold. I am super excited to have arrived during a phase of the project, where I get to observe firsthand the culmination of all the hard work and dedication that has been invested by the FullSoul team to reach this point.

Fun Fact: My family is of East African descent. Both of my parents were born in Tanzania and immigrated to Canada as children. They have travelled back many times. I have only been once when I was just 8 years old. I’m happy to now be living in a country that is so close to where my family comes from and doing work to benefit mothers and babies who are not so far removed from my own origins.

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

What I am most looking forward to most is immersing myself into the culture and adjusting to a new version of normal. I love to travel and actively seek out novel experiences that challenge my current perception and worldview. I find that exposure to difference enables deeper understanding of oneself and is thus critical to growth. I also enjoy being exposed to diverse customs and ways of life and look forward to learning more about Ugandan culture during my internship. In addition, I am beyond ecstatic to get to enjoy the local produce and delicious foods that Mukono has to offer, which I would not be able to access at home.

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

Some interesting advice I received that I will attempt to put into effect during my internship is to be useful to the midwives’ in any way I can while doing observation shifts. The previous interns told me that this eased the dynamics somewhat and was a great way to quickly become accustomed to the work environment. This will also allow me to more closely observe what is working well and what isn’t and gain a clearer understanding of how things are taking place from a grounded perspective. I also got the advice to pack Kraft Dinner from the previous interns, which I found quite funny. I have to admit that I did follow their advice.

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

1. Movies-I made sure to upload a bunch of my favourites and a few that I’ve always wanted to watch on a USB stick. It will feel pleasantly odd to be watching a familiar film in such unfamiliar circumstances.
2. Snacks-I brought a bit of everything just in case I get a craving: chocolate, almonds, popcorn, and a couple boxes of Annie’s mac and cheese.
3. Flashlight-To be prepared for power outages.

How can we follow you on your journey?

My fellow interns and I will be sharing our experiences through FullSoul’s Instagram @fullsoulcanada https://www.instagram.com/fullsoulcanada/?hl=en  and the FullSoulCanada Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/FullSoulCanada. I will also relay some of my experience’s and reflections in a couple of blog posts.

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