We’re here! We’ve arrived safely from a journey close to 24 hours long. 10:50 PM and bedtimes have never been so exciting.
But of course, we have yet to meet our new friends Asha and Bersh, ‘Bash’.
Two lovely Ugandan young people who we soon learned have passion beyond their years to change their country and see it to become the best it could be. And since life is all about opportunities, to work with FullSoul and have a chance to make a difference one way or another, they became part of our team. They guide us through everything cultural and all things Uganda.
We took our private hire car-a luxury as we soon learned- with 4 people at the back, the driver and one person at the front, no seat belts and loads of speed bumps. The car ride alone was an adventure.
We arrived at the Gorilla Guest House (it’s still crazy to think that’s it’s named ‘Gorilla,’ because there are real Gorillas in this country- like the ones you grow up watching on National Geographic).
We unloaded the car, and made our way to the cafeteria. We hung out with Asha and Bash for a while, talking about everything from our plans for the next day to child soldiers and world economics! Quite the dinner conversation.
Our accommodations that night couldn’t have been any more comfortable, in comparison to sleeping on a chair for a whole flight. Thankfully, we also had our mosquito nets to protect us. And a guard with a ginormous gun standing at the guest house gate.
The next morning, we head to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Kampala is one of the 2 most visited cities in Africa, a city known for its nightlife.
Another adventure. The drive to Kampala was nothing we could have expected.
First there are a few rules one has to keep in mind:
– There will be traffic. A LOT of traffic. And so you can never have your phone out..
‘Wait, what? Why..?’
‘Oh, because there will be people who want to take them. If they see them, they’ll put their hands through the windows, and just take them’ ‘…Oh, Okay.’
And so, the journey to Kampala continues. We go to get our new Ugandan numbers, and we finally get our beloved- cannot-live-without-internet.
We’re finally there. We’re in Mukono, at the HIHU Guest House. Our new home!
Now, it’s time to meet our neighbours. On one side, we have a music school with a performing band, where we get our very own show. Every day, around sunset, the band comes out to practice their music. The daily sound of drums, trombones and cymbals fills the air with music. Another reason to love Uganda!
Around the corner we have our other neighbors, the kids. They’re a group of about 10 children who live on the same street. Their ages range from 4-10 years old. Daily, Devina and I would stand in our balcony (with amazing views) and say ‘hi’ to the kids. They will start waving so excitedly, jumping up and down, with smiles so wide and laughs so loud, you’d think they’re going to Disneyland! Then, they’ll call for us to come downstairs and play with them. It has become part of our routine around sunset, and they’re the most joyful, energetic group of kids you can meet.
These are some of my first impressions on Uganda; but, enough on my recollection of memories. The following are some of Madhav’s and Devina’s thoughts on this beautiful country that we’re calling home for the next while,
“Uganda, you’re not what I expected. But in the best way! It’s definitely been an adjustment to live here, and I can already feel my heart and worldviews shifting. Learning to get around using taxis and boda-bodas… Trying food that my taste buds have never been so happy to discover… Making new friends with the best sarcastic humour… Finding my way around the health centres and hospitals… It’s a lot of new things all at once. Yet, there’s something about finding comfort in the uncomfortability that helps me see the beauty in unfamiliar places and things. I’ve always been very in touch with my senses – and let me tell you – they are registering new sounds and sights at such a fast pace. Roosters crowing in the morning, dogs barking at night. Drivers honking at pedestrians, taxi conductors yelling town names. Little kids laughing, newborn babies crying. Mothers in labour screaming, midwives silently focused on delivering. There are rare times in my life when my current circumstances or surroundings will leave me in shock, but when it happens, I’m left speechless in awe. Settling into Mukono and into the role of Fullsoul’s Project Manager has been exactly that. I may not have many words to explain everything I am experiencing right now, but all I can say is that I’m very excited that life has brought me here.”
“To visit new places around the world has always been my dream, and when the opportunity to work in Mukono, Uganda, as a field engineer and consultant arose, I couldn’t resist applying. In no time, I was already here, making new friends, and meeting people who grew up in a completely different world! My impulse to learn and achieve new experiences has contributed to my growth, and this trip so far has given me many opportunities to do such. I’ve realized this when I met several kids in school at the floor below, first showing them how to juggle, and then teaching them! By doing this, they’ve reminded me that sometimes the best way to learn is with a playful spirit. Uganda is an amazing country, with some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. I was very excited to visit Rotary, they’ve shown me that there are people out their working hard to make their own communities better. A truly inspiring club, with motives and actions that don’t get enough attention. I know the adventure has only begun, but if feels like it’s been on for the longest time, welcome to Uganda!”
And there you have it! Some of our insights on the first few weeks here in Uganda! 🇺🇬Read More
A re-occurring issue I have seen in Uganda, these past few months, is inconsistent support from non-government organizations. Within the Global South in general, organizations, both government and nongovernment, run in to donate aid, and then run right back out. Some organizations look like they provide a large amount of support through the aid they give, but aid can be pointless if you do not also provide the support needed to use the aid. If a contact is given to a health centre or hospital, chances are, in a couple months, that contact will have changed and healthcare facilities are left with their “aid” sitting in the corner to collect dust. As FullSoul Canada Co-found Hyder Hassan would say, “we want to provide good giving”, which is the giving that will have a lasting positive impact on as many people as possible. As I mentioned above, it is not just about providing the aid, but creating strong partnerships that allow for support to be given as well. Which is exactly what FullSoul is working towards.
FullSoul does not wish to only donate the Maternal Medical Kits (MMK). Neither does the MMK program just consist of the kits. In order for the Maternal Medical Kits to be used to their full potential, in the delivery room, the reason for their existence must be understood and appreciated! Through the implementation of the MMK program in health centres and hospitals, FullSoul has strengthened their relationship with each of the healthcare facilities. Providing support to midwives and nurses throughout the continuation of the program is an integral part of FullSoul mission to success!
This is where the Midwife Minutes presentation comes in. One of the biggest projects I worked on during my time in Uganda was a presentation that I would show to midwives in Mukono Health Centre IV and Kawolo Hospital. I named the presentation Midwife Minutes, and this particular segment was about The Three W’s (Why, why and why). The purpose of creating this presentation for midwifes was to encourage the use of FullSoul’s Maternal Medical Kits by providing an understanding of their importance. Midwifes are skilled and comfortable using their improvisation techniques when they do not have access to delivery instruments. However, Ryan, Breanna and I observed that even when sterile instruments are available, midwifes still improvise. A large contributor to maternal death is infection, which can arise from not using sterile medical instruments. Through my Midwife Minutes presentation, I explained why using the MMK can benefit mothers giving birth, midwifes conducting the birth, and also the hospital or health centre the birth is taking place in (the three whys)! Not only does the MMK equip midwives with sterile instruments to deliver babies, it also creates a safer birthing and working environment, decreases infection, increases work efficiency, and gives credibility to hospitals and health centres! It is important for midwifes to understand that the impact of their work surpasses just the mother and baby. It is also important for midwifes to feel supported throughout their work, and the Midwife Minutes presentation allowed for FullSoul to show its dedication to their partners. As I repeated many times, it is not just a health centre or hospital on its own, and it is not just FullSoul Canada on its own. FullSoul partners with health centres and hospitals to create relationships that will allow for progress to be made! This is something that I have experienced firsthand living and working in Uganda.
During my final Midwife Minutes presentation at Kawolo Hospital, a midwife made a comment about how the MMKs would be much easier to use if they came as a “kit”. Although the Maternal Medical Kits have the word “kit” in their name, they do not stay together past the time of donation. The midwife went on to explain that it would be ideal to be able to grab a “kit” off a shelf, put it on the delivery bed, and then you’re ready to deliver a baby! Her idea seemed to be agreed upon throughout the audience because shortly after, Head Midwife, Sister Beatrice, was running to grab a government provided safe circumcision “kit” to show me. They told me that FullSoul should provide an actual kit, similar to the circumcision kit, explaining how it could work in the delivery room and allow their work to be more efficient. I was really amazed by their ideas and passion to work with FullSoul! This is a real-life example of how positive partnerships between those giving aid, and those receiving aid, can allow for action to be taken not only by an organization such as FullSoul, but by the people living the real need!
Working with FullSoul Canada and living in Uganda these past few months has really opened my eyes to the NGO industry. Although giving aid is important, it is equally as vital to ensure that you are giving the right aid. This is a concept that took me a while to fully understand, and I still struggle with defining what “good giving” is. More than anything, those who are living the need will be the ones who are best equipped to identify the need. Even though I’ve been living and working in Uganda, I do not work as a midwife delivering 15 babies a day. FullSoul’s partnerships with hospitals, health centres, midwifes, nurses and doctors allow for our efforts to be steered in the right direction, proving the best “good giving” we can!
Author: Lauren McLennanRead More
You’re an expecting mother and it’s time for the baby to arrive. We have all seen the drill either first hand, second hand or in one movie or another. Water breaks and all involved bee-line it to the hospital without stopping for a moment to ask why? Surely it is not for the scenery or ambiance, and it’s definitely not for the food. We go to the hospital because we need the help of medical professionals. We need them to use their training, compassion, and tools at hand to help us through and keep us safe.
What if you arrived at the hospital and they had little to nothing to offer you? The medical professionals are available to provide care but there is no gauze, no forceps, no clamps, no gloves and nothing is clean. This is a reality for many pregnant women in developing countries.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. These deaths are not dispersed around the world. These deaths are concentrated in the rural areas of developing countries. Rural Uganda is one of these places.
The many reasons women in rural Uganda are 49 times more likely to die in childbirth than their Canadian counterparts are complicated and vast. There are multifaceted issues including local cultural practices and beliefs, along with the lack of adequate infrastructure that create barriers to accessing maternal health care. However, within this complexity there are simple, actionable solutions.
In Uganda, women must arrive to the hospital with their own supplies and women arriving empty-handed have to pay for supplies or are often turned away. A shortage of supplies also means that disposable items get re-used between mothers, potentially spreading dangerous infections. This is why FullSoul chose to intervene with a maternal medical kit program. FullSoul is a not-for-profit organization equipping hospitals in rural Uganda with medical supplies. The program provides hospitals with toolkits containing necessary non-disposable tools needed for childbirth and are able to be sterilized and re-used again and again.
Rotarians have been at the heart of this project from an early stage. With many of the FullSoul Team being Rotarians and most of the cost of the initial kits coming from the generosity of clubs across Canada, it is fair to say that none of this could have been done without Rotary. In developing countries, having friends on the ground is integral to success and these friendships have been formed with the Rotary club of Mukono.
There is a lot of work to be done if the world is going to reach the UN’s Sustainable development goal of reducing maternal mortality to 70 deaths per 100,000 births by 2030. FullSoul’s maternal medical kits are part of the solution but they are not stopping there. Through Rotary partnerships they have received a global grant to expand the program in the coming year.
So if you find yourself in a maternity ward take a moment to look around and appreciate how lucky we are to live in a place where medical professionals can use their training, compassion, and, of course, tools at hand to help us through and keep us safe. Every child and mother deserve that, and organizations like FullSoul are essential to ensuring families in every corner of the world have a chance at a healthy start.
Author: Emma McDonaldRead More
Wow! It is unbelievable that three weeks have already passed. At the same time, it is equally baffling that we have only spent three weeks here in Mukono, Uganda! Truly, now, our accommodations at the Ugandan Christian University feel like home. These past three weeks have been nothing less than an exciting whirl of events. Events much different than what we are used to back in Canada! In order for these blog posts to not be too terribly long, we will be reporting on a weekly basis, so stay tuned!
It all begins with our arrival at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on January 16th. Breanna and I had travelled from Toronto together, and Ryan, coming from Vancouver, had arrived earlier the same day. Dragging our luggage behind us—well somewhat, my luggage was unfortunately left behind in Amsterdam—we were met by our first two Ugandan friends, Asha and Vincent. As a side note to this, Breanna and I were lucky that Ryan had arrived first so that he could serve as a familiar Canadian face among a sea of waving Ugandans! Since it was late at night, Vincent and Asha took us to the Entebbe Gorilla Guest House, where we were to experience our first taste of what it is like to live in Uganda. As exhausted as I was, after settling into bed covered safely by mosquito netting, instead of falling straight asleep, I couldn’t help but think about how my journey had just begun! I was excited, yet nervous and anxious of the unknown yet to come. Most of all, however, I was grateful. Grateful for this opportunity to travel to Uganda, to work with Fullsoul Canada to improve maternal health, and to have two awesome people by my side the entire time—meaning Ryan and Breanna if you did not catch on.
The following morning, after a brief—cold—shower, Asha, Vincent, Ryan, Breanna and myself were served breakfast. If you’re wondering what we had, it was not much different from a typical Canadian breakfast! There was cereal, toast, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, coffee, and tea. More than enough food to fuel us for our trip all the way to Mukono. The drive from Entebbe to Mukono is just less than 60km, but with the awful traffic here in Uganda, that can take over 2 hours. I was extremely thankful that I was not the one navigating through the seemingly impenetrable stream of cars, taxis, and motorcycles—called Boda Bodas. Vincent honked his way all down Entebbe and Jinja road, where we took a brief pit stop at his home, and then finally arrived at our destination of the Ugandan Christian University (UCU) in Mukono.
I am not sure what I expected our accommodations to look like, but I was definitely not disappointed! Ryan, Breanna and I all stay together in a residence style housing unit in the Tech Park community. Our unit has two bedrooms—Breann and I share—a bathroom with a shower, common sitting room with two couches, and a kitchen equipped with a fridge, toaster, and gas stove and oven. Tech Park is a little friendly community consisting of 8 units decorated by flowering gardens and surrounded by lizards, exotic birds, and monkeys! The neighbors we have met so far come from Toronto, Nebraska, and Uganda, all equally as welcoming as everyone we meet.
Once we had settled ourselves in, Asha guided us on our first walk across UCU campus and down the hill into Mukono Town, where we were nothing short of overwhelmed! In the more populated and developed areas of Uganda, the streets are busier than a Canadian mall on boxing day. Asha showed us around Mukono town, allowing us to get acquainted with our new home. She showed us the market, where you can find basically anything you may need, and the grocery stores, where you can find products similar to Canadian stores. I was happy to find some foods I was unsure were available in Uganda, including cake! On the way back, we ate at the campus canteens for the first time, experiencing all the traditional Ugandan foods including beef, chicken and fish—bones included—beans, peas, lots of rice, matooke, cassava and posho—a type of cooked bananas, a root vegetable, and a dense, white, spongey bread. At this time, we also learned that the serving sizes in Uganda are even larger than they are in Canada! After this initial meal, we usually opt to share.
After our brief introduction to Ugandan life in Mukono Town, we got right to work! Asha introduced us to our new primary mode of transportation; Ugandan taxis. This is not the typical Canadian taxi you may be picturing. Taxis in Uganda are large vans able to seat 12+ people along with chickens, produce, and mattresses. To figure out where a taxi is going, all you need to do is listen for the conductor yelling out their destination, and then simply wave a hand or node your head in their general direction and the taxi will stop for you. We traveled to Lugazi our first taxi ride. Lugazi is a small town about 30km down the road from Mukono, that is home to Kawolo Hospital, one of three locations of the maternal medical kits (MMK) Fullsoul provides. This was the first hospital we had encountered so far, and we were quick to observe the differences between Canadian public and Ugandan public hospitals. Built in the 1950s, Kawolo is definitely due for a facelift, but of course the hospital has much greater concerns to deal with first. We met with Kawolo hospital administrator, Dr. Wamala, who was very welcoming and open to Fullsoul’s presence over the next three months. Dr. Wamala discussed with us the concerns of the hospital. He informed us that not only did they act as a referral hospital, but that they also had to commonly refer patients to larger hospitals due to lack of staff and equipment. As representatives of Fullsoul, Ryan, Breanna and I explained to Dr. Wamala exactly why we were there, and what we were looking for—our goal to assess the MMK program Fullsoul has implemented by observing delivery techniques, sanitation practices, and instrument conditions. Shortly after our meeting with Dr. Wamala, we made our way to the Maternity Ward where we met Sister Beatrice, the head midwife at Kawolo. We also met Sister Juliet, another dedicated midwife, who took us on a tour of the Maternal Ward. In our short time at Kawolo, we observed crowded rooms, rusted beds, and broken equipment, all which the staff of Kawolo did their best each day to work around. Needless to say, after only one visit to Kawolo we already knew we had some big problem solving to do!
The next hospital Asha introduced us to was Mukono Health Centre IV. As said in its name, this hospital is located in the heart of Mukono, much closer to UCU than Kawolo, so no taxi needed! We had a brief meeting with Dr. Geoffrey, the hospital administrator, and then went on to meet the head midwife Sister Alex. Again, we communicated as best we could what our intentions were for the next three months, explaining that we did not want to hinder their work, but work alongside them. We also had the pleasure of meeting Sister Jessica, another senior midwife. Every staff member we met greeted us with warm hearts! Mukono, although different from Kawolo, shares many of the same disadvantages. The delivery and post-natal beds are rusty, waiting areas are overcrowded, and the sever lack of equipment and instruments leaves patients at risk every day. But just like Kawolo, the midwives of Mukono work through their shortcomings to provide the best possible care. After visiting Mukono Health Centre IV, we finally understood Ugandan time, meaning time is never scheduled, and things will get done when they get done, no pressure!
Our first week living in Mukono, Uganda has given all three of us a good dose of culture shock! There is no doubt that as each week passes, we grow more and more familiar with our new settings, and cultural practices. We have monkeys in our trees, lizards in our kitchen, and an occasional chicken in our yard, but we can see the sunset every night and it is always amazing. Thank you for reading this increasingly long blog post, there is just so much to say and so little time! Make sure you stay tuned each week for more updates on our amazing experiences in Uganda!Read More
I was in Uganda’s Mukono Health Centre IV the first time I saw a woman give birth. The hospital’s delivery suite was about the size of a single private room in a Canadian hospital, yet at that moment it hosted 1 midwife, 4 nurses, 4 occupied beds, medical supplies, and myself. The woman’s delivery was difficult and as I watched, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions – worry, amazement, relief, and, finally, elation. During the delivery, the midwives and nurses worked in a well-practiced manner, improvising when certain materials, such as forceps or surgical scissors, were not available. I was surprisingly unfazed by the conditions; I had already mentally accepted that hospitals in Uganda are often insufficiently funded. However, I was shocked by the implications of this reality. For the first time, I saw what it meant for a woman to deliver a baby without adequate medical facilities, privacy, or support.
FullSoul Intern, Alyna Moosabhoy, interviews the head midwife at Mukono Health Centre IV, one of the locations of the FullSoul Kits.
Unnecessary delays are believed to be a significant cause of otherwise preventable maternal deaths and they occur all too often when hospitals are not properly equipped. I travelled to Uganda this past summer to evaluate FullSoul Canada’s Maternal Medical Kit project, which supplies essential delivery tools to under-funded rural Ugandan hospitals. Throughout my internship, I recognized first-hand the relevance and significance of the work FullSoul does. A large portion of my role entailed listening and observing. From site visit observations, audits, and interviews with healthcare workers, I gained insights on the specific needs and challenges of our partner hospitals regarding maternal health. Simultaneously, through conversations with newfound Ugandan friends I furthered my understanding of the context of FullSoul’s work, as we discussed the fundamentals of national politics, economics, and healthcare.
FullSoul partners with local stakeholders and institutions to practically and appreciably improve maternal healthcare and decrease the number of preventable maternal deaths in a country that has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates. Using the DMIAC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) approach, I evaluated the efficacy of the program’s implementation, the details of which can be found in the published Evaluation Report. I am grateful to have gained insight on the state of maternal healthcare in Uganda from my internship, as it now enables me to contribute informed ideas on how FullSoul may best progress and grow. I have taken this opportunity to work with an organization that saves lives by implementing a feasible solution to the immediate problem many rural Ugandan hospitals face: lack of basic medical tools. I also developed personal and professional skills, and was immersed in a spectacular cultural experience. I worked alongside local Ugandans, some of whom became my closest friends. I learned of cultural differences that challenged my perceptions, beliefs, and values. In such a beautiful country, surrounded by lush greenery, I was welcomed by its people and free to discover its many charms; ultimately I had a uniquely wonderful two months.
In the two short months I was there, I came to love Uganda. I cherish my time there and the people I met, and I hope to return soon. In the meantime, although I am back in Canada my journey with FullSoul has not ended. FullSoul does great work and I can clearly envision its bright future, which I am excited to work towards with the rest of the team.
Alyna Moosabhoy served as a FullSoul Intern in Uganda for May-July 2017, evaluating the kits and the needs surrounding maternal health in these facilities. She continues to work with FullSoul in their evaluation, development and implementation of projects since returning to Canada.
The Baby Blanket. An important item and image in many cultures- a way to carry and protect, or a symbol of comfort and security. Throughout the world, these pieces assist mothers’ bonds with their babies and in some cases are a matter of survival. We know how important these small pieces can be for mothers delivering; when many are not even having money to pay for transport to a health centre for a safe delivery, a blanket seems even further from their reach. We also know, however, just how important such things can be for a new mother- So at FullSoul, while we work to make safe deliveries an accessible norm in Uganda, we also want to add some comfort to these mother’s lives. We’re very excited to introduce a new partnership with Adventure Baby Gear, that aims to do just that!
Adventure Baby Gear began as husband and wife team, Nusia and Peter set out with their little one on adventures near and far- from shopping trips and visiting family to international exploring. Two sentiments sum up ABG best: that having a child doesn’t mean you have to stop exploring, and every time you leave the house with a little one, it’s an adventure!
It also represents the theme of caring for our babies and wrapping them with our love and support, whether they are in our home, or hundreds of kilometers away in Uganda.
Adventure Baby Gear has partnered with FullSoul Canada to support the work that FullSoul does for maternal health in Uganda, East Africa. One of their products, the Baby Blanket will go to support FullSoul’s work with mothers in the hospitals in Uganda- for every blanket purchased through ABG, one will go to a new mother and baby that we work with.
We had the opportunity to talk with Nusia and Peter to discuss about what inspired this partnership, and what safe motherhood means to them:
Tell us more about what inspired you to start Adventure Baby Gear, and what it means to you now!
When our son was born, we didn’t want traveling, such an important part of how we spend our quality time, to be affected. It’s a fact that having a baby changes many things but it definitely does not have to put an end to exploring and experiencing as much of the world as possible. We continued to travel and simply took our little guy along with us; from camping in Ontario, road tripping through the Rockies, to sightseeing Paris at Christmas. This led to many experiences, both good and challenging, that showed us the huge benefit of being prepared and having the right tools. So came the idea for a store filled with hand-picked adventure baby gear based on items we found convenient and indispensable, or ones that through our research we would have loved to have with us sooner.
A big part of your focus with Adventure Baby Gear is maintaining customer service, providing high quality content in your blog and affordable product prices- that’s a tall order! Why is it important to you to also work with a non-profit in your business model?
Indeed! We consider those things mentioned above, a priority at ABG. Working with a non-profit actually wasn’t part of our business model. Maternal health and safely delivering newborns into the world is so closely related to our mission of providing the best for our little ones so this partnership presented itself as an opportunity to cross borders and affect change. By supporting the hard work of an organization like FullSoul, the time and effort we are putting into managing our online store, now has an even greater meaning.
Baby blankets- why did you decide on this product to sell in support of FullSoul?
We decided on baby blankets as we figured is was a good, universal product that anyone could make use of, in North America or Africa! It also represents the theme of caring for our babies and wrapping them with our love and support, whether they are in our home, or hundreds of kilometers away in Uganda.
Do you think your international explorations will take you and your family to Uganda with FullSoul?
We never say never! We are always open to new travel opportunities and a mission trip has always been a bullet point on our travel “bucket-list”. So if everything aligns, and we are at a stage with our baby that we feel comfortable travelling with him to Uganda, then we will definitely be there, to take part in FullSoul’s work.
To learn more about Adventure Baby Gear, and their partnership with us at FullSoul, check out their website.
Purchase your own FullSoul Baby Blanket here.
Share your own stories of baby blankets, especially your little one’s FullSoul blanket using #FullSoulFuzzies on Social Media!Read More
Though the FullSoul visitors have returned home, we still had one more delivery to attend to.
We met with Dr. Mubeezi, the Head Doctor of the hospital, to speak more about what the greatest challenges they face in their facilities, and how they experience Maternal Health- and Maternal Mortality, as one of the largest hospitals in their area. Though not technically a referral hospital, this facility often acts as one due to the large catchment area that it serves. However, this causes problems with resources, since it will be under-supplied to deal with the number of cases that it actually receives.
Watch more about the ‘delivery’ experience and more of the challenges that this FullSoul Partner Hospital faces…
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” — Audra Lorde
International Women’s Day is a public holiday in Uganda; celebrating women in our communities here, in our lives and in our history. I am currently working with one of FullSoul’s partner organizations- Save the Mothers, here in Uganda, and have the chance to take the day off of work. Many of the International Women’s Day Platforms are centred around a Women’s Strike, proving that women make up a great deal of the unpaid work in our society, and protesting wage gaps in our paid workforce.
I loved this idea- while ‘drastic’, the concept of starkly and irrefutably proving why something is valuable by taking it away is a powerful one. Of course, it is not possible for all women to strike on this day- for their own personal reasons, or because quite literally our societies would crumble. While I love the idea and the power that it is demonstrating, as a woman, I am choosing to work today, working on truly unpaid work, writing right here for FullSoul.
Why is this just as empowering for me? Through my work with FullSoul and Save the Mothers, I see areas where women are absent, and see the devastation that that causes within families, societies and a country; these women are not on a strike, or not simply not empowered to work- they have died due to pregnancy complications or childbirth. They have developed complex physical complications during or prior to delivery that make them outcasts and unable to participate, in work, communities and even their own families.
As we know, in Uganda, everyday many women’s lives are at risk, due to pregnancy related complications- approximately 16 every day. This are easily preventable, leading to generations losing those strong women leaders and mothers. The loss of these women means the absence of mothers for a generation of children. It also means the loss of one of the most powerful aspects within development; women are necessary to further empowerment within a nation, and without these women, changes to better the whole will fall behind.
Women make up the majority of nurses and midwives in Uganda- we’re grateful that these skilled health care workers show-up, and assist in deliveries, antenatal (aka. pre-natal), and newborn care throughout a woman’s pregnancy. These workers are often under-paid, over-worked, and with very little resources to assist them.
I, myself, cannot do everything that needs to be done to help the women that are dying, simply by being mothers. No one person can- it takes communities, nations. It takes other women. But we can do our parts to make this job easier for those that have the ability to direct change; FullSoul supplies safe medical kits to hospitals in Uganda, so that women can have save deliveries, so health-care workers have tools to do their jobs safely, so babies can have their first breath and their mothers to raise them.
There are areas where Women’s Day is about proving how impactful a day without women can be; but there are areas where a day without women is the reality- So, for my International Women’s Day, I am finding wonderful power in doing what I can- finding my own voice in a movement, and creating a #Sindica for change that is greater than myself.
FullSoul Social Media Manager
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”-Pablo Picasso
Art is a great way to connect with people, nearly anywhere in the world. Whether at an exhibit in Canada, or a craft market in Uganda, conversations can strike up easily, and culture, ideas and emotions can transcend language, distance and difference.
This was the idea behind the fundraiser “Art for the Soul”, held on Sept 25th, 2015 at St. Paul’s University at the University of Waterloo.
Thanks to the time and energy of an amazing team of volunteers, we had many groups and individuals come and showcase their talents during this event, from visual artists, dancers and slam poets; it was an evening of creativity and innovation. FullSoul’s own co-founder, Christina Hassan, joined the evening to speak about how creativity, collaboration and innovation shape- and re-shape- FullSoul as well.
Thanks to all of those that came out to support, and those that put this event together.
Canada’s infant mortality rate (IMR; the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality ratio (MMR; the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) are some of the lowest in the world with 4 infant deaths/1,000 live births and 7 maternal deaths/100,000 live births recorded in 2015, respectively (World Bank, 2016). As a result of this, childbirth is not considered to be a risk to a mother’s or an infant’s life in Canada or in most other Western countries. On the other hand, “childbirth” and “a safe procedure” are not synonymous concepts in many underdeveloped countries of the world such as Uganda where delivery-related complications cost the lives of roughly 17 women per day (World Health Organization, 2013). Despite experiencing a slow decline in such statistics over the past few years (World Bank, 2016; Mbonye et al., 2007), Uganda still had some of the highest MMRs and IMRs in the world in 2015 with 343 maternal deaths/100,000 live births and 38 infant deaths/1,000 live births, respectively (World Bank, 2016). Rather than being a risk-free process that symbolizes the beginning of one’s life, in Uganda childbirth is more of a dangerous task that could cost the life of the mother, the child, or both.
With this in mind, an organization that is highly aware of the poor state of such health indicators in Uganda is FullSoul Canada, anon-profit social enterprise dedicated to reducing such alarming statistics within this African country. FullSoul aims to improve and protect the health and safety of delivering mothers, their infants, and the medical staff involved in the birthing process by providing necessary Ugandan hospitals with locally made, safe, and reusable medical kits. With each sterile kit consisting of a needle holder, a dissecting forceps, 3 artery forceps, 3 surgical scissors, and 2 kidney dishes, such medical equipment is believed to contribute towards significantly reducing the burdensome tertiary delays – delays in receiving adequate or timely care once present at a health facility due to a lack of available medical resources, personnel, and/or services – that are responsible for roughly 50% of Uganda’s high MMR (Thaddeus & Maine, 1994; AOGU, 2013).
With each medical kit costing $500 CND to produce, translating into an expense that is less than 5 cents for every baby delivered, each one is theoretically capable of assisting the birth of 2-3 babies per day for about 20 years thereby potentially safely delivering over 15,000 infants in its lifetime. With 15 kits having already been implemented in 3 different Ugandan hospitals, it is hypothesized that this will be able to statistically significantly improve the proportion of mothers and infants surviving childbirth in these locations. It is theorized that these medical kits will provide such hospitals with a larger quantity of safe medical resources allowing for more timely and efficient care to be provided which will lead to a significant reduction in the effects of tertiary delays on maternal mortality and therefore also significantly reduce the MMR in these respective Ugandan hospitals. However, in order to confirm that such medical kits are actually able to achieve these intended aims, their abilities must be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively; one way that this can be done is via a comprehensive program evaluation that systematically analyzes both the processes and outcomes of this initiative. The outcome assessment of such evaluations involves a step-by-step process that investigates how effectively a particular program is achieving its intended outcomes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). Alternatively, the process assessment is meant to specifically evaluate if a particular program is being implemented as planned as well as to deduce how the program is operating with respect to what tasks are being carried out, who is performing them, how these are being performed, and who is being affected as a result of such tasks in order to inform the continuous improvement of the program. Overall, both the process and outcome aspects are critical components of an evaluation because they determine not only if a program works and/or is sufficient for achieving the intended goals but also allow for exploring its strengths, weaknesses, and areas that can be potentially improved in order to better obtain the desired results (CDC, 2011). All of this is to be done while simultaneously and continuously incorporating the needs and desires of key stakeholders throughout the entire process with such findings then being communicated back to these individuals as a means of being accountable for the program’s effects on the projected goals.
With respect to the medical kits, their ability to significantly reduce the MMR will be evaluated in the three Ugandan hospitals where they have already been implemented. The overall objective of the outcome portion of this evaluation will be to determine if the MMRs in these three hospitals after the kits have been implemented are significantly lower than the MMRs in these same respective hospitals before the initiation of this program. Likewise, it will be assessed if the MMRs in these locations have been significantly reduced in comparison to Uganda’s average MMR to determine if this initiative improved the health of the mothers and their infants. Secondary data sources will be used to keep track of such rates at both the hospital and national levels in order to compare the pre- and post-treatment MMRs. For the process evaluation, how the medical kits are being implemented (i.e. if the medical personnel involved in the childbirth process are using the kits as they were instructed with respect to using them at the right time, applying the correct techniques, properly sanitizing the kits after each use, being the only qualified stakeholders to use such kits, etc.) will be assessed using site observations, interviews, focus groups, and case reviews with information being collected from the hospital staff as well as the mothers being cared for in order to evaluate if the program is being delivered according to plan and if the kits are being used as intended in order to achieve optimal effectiveness. This will also be used to detect if the delivering mothers are informed about and receptive to such medical kits by analyzing if more of them are choosing to have their babies in a hospital setting where such materials are available instead of attempting to give birth in private venues such as within their own homes. By evaluating the implementation of these medical kits in 3 distinct hospitals, the execution of this program within these different settings can be compared and contrasted in order to obtain information with respect to how the overall delivery of this program can be improved (i.e. by either having more kits, having more tools in each kit, developing better ways of teaching the medical personnel how to use the kits, etc.). Such a process can underline some potential barriers to the proper delivery of this program that may exist in one hospital and not in another whereas it may also point out if one hospital is doing something differently than the other two which could lead to a more successful delivery of this program.
All in all, implementing such an evaluation and disseminating its findings will inform the Ugandan mothers and hospital staff as well as the FullSoul team, the sponsors of this organization, and any other key stakeholders if the implementation of these medical kits is a sufficiently effective approach for significantly improving the safety of childbirth in such Ugandan hospitals. Similarly, this assessment will reveal to such stakeholders if this program is being carried out as planned with respect to the kits being used as intended and if they are reaching a sufficient number of mothers in need. Both components of the evaluation will be used to infer if this current approach is sufficiently effective and if it is ready to be implemented in more hospitals to achieve such goals or if more work needs to be done in order to develop this program into a more feasible and successful initiative before a significant impact on Uganda’s MMR can be attained.Read More