Written by Meron Samuel
“You Are Welcome”, a common phrase that I have heard most people say in Uganda and one that is used sincerely. Whenever you travel to a different country or interact with individuals from different backgrounds, culture is always a topic of conversation. Culture is the foundation for differences and commonalities between people and the locals in Uganda are delighted to share their culture and language to visitors. This sharing was foreign to me as I did not experience it growing up.
Growing up in a small city in Canada, where the population of people of African descent is low, I never felt like I truly belonged. My heritage includes East African and it was challenging to create personal connections with people that came from the same culture as me. My elementary and secondary school experiences have not significantly contributed to my understanding of African history and culture. My knowledge was only limited to stories from my immigrant family members. I remember during my time in history and social science classes, these topics were either minimized or glossed over. The lack of emphasis on African history, culture, and legacy led me to believe that these issues were unimportant. Yet as I grew older and began to watch more news media, I became increasingly aware of the dissonance between what was reality and what people wanted to believe. I was itching to learn more about the diversity of Africa and to understand real life there. I wanted to learn beyond the struggles that I’ve seen from Western media, which can often shape the public’s view and misrepresent African identity. These representations have become rooted in the consciousness of most individuals I have met in North America. I sought out anything that I could learn—from books to university classes—but it wasn’t enough for me. Soon after, I came across an opportunity to work with FullSoul and the Maternal Medical Kit (MMK) program as a Project Manager Intern and was immediately hooked on the idea of experiential learning. The chance to interact with people in Uganda would give me invaluable insight that goes beyond what I would learn from school or news articles. Exploring and branching off into new environments have always been an aspiration of mine and I’m very grateful that life has brought me here.
From the moment I arrived in Uganda, I was greeted with warm smiles and friendly hellos. When you are in an unknown environment, your sense of awareness starts to increase. Residing in our guest house in Mukono, you are awoken by the sound of roosters crowing and the birds chirping in the early morning. The call of prayer from the mosque nearby is also a reminder to me of the diversity of religions that are within this community. The sound of taxi conductors yelling names of cities and the honking of cars gets increasingly louder throughout the day. Our neighborhood is filled with young children with wide grins and endless giggles who run up to you each time they see you walk by. Around the corner of our guest house, there is a music school with a performing band that plays almost every evening. The sound of trombones, drums, and laughter in the air fuels my soul.
Because of these features, community cohesion is stronger than ever. You never feel alone here. So many of these aspects are like the glue that holds the community together. I constantly learn from the people around me through daily interactions, which helps me better understand diverse perspectives within the world we live in. My new friends share what is important to them, from their dreams to aspirations. This makes me believe that we are not quite different from one another. The interactions with people that I have met here have given me comfort knowing that storytelling strengthens relationships. It is also a reminder of the similar stories I grew up listening to as a child of immigrant parents. The harmonious connections that have been created is something that I have always been searching for back in my hometown. I am planting my feet firmly on the ground with confidence, knowing that I feel a sense of belonging here in Mukono and grasping the narrative of my family cultural roots. I am constantly exposed to an environment that continues to teach me some of the most essential values and lessons. These values include developing open mindedness and communicating effectively with people from diverse backgrounds, which have become increasingly significant than they ever were before in today’s diversity and culturally aware society.
The two months working with FullSoul with my fellow intern Vinu have been a whirlwind. Adjusting to our new environment has kept us pretty occupied. From getting accustomed to the hot weather and busy streets, trying the local food, and finding our way around health facilities, moving to Mukono with numerous things happening all at once felt like an emotional rollercoaster.
I remember the feeling of shock during my first time walking into FullSoul’s partnered hospitals for introductions. The waiting rooms were crowded with people. The equipment were either old or not functioning properly. Other resources, such as beds and mosquito nets, were scarce since the hospital is low-funded. The fast-pace environment and the surplus of patients and low-staff can give you a sense of panic. Despite the conditions in which they are in, the midwives continue to push through and work with what they have. I continue to witness both patients and midwives greet each other with smiles and friendly conversations from all around the facility. It is evident that this is a part of Ugandan culture, which made me feel at home with my family again. It was encouraging to see how receptive healthcare staff were towards the work that FullSoul is trying to do in providing instruments and improving maternal health. However, I am learning so much more from the midwives and their tremendous efforts to be as efficient as possible to keep mothers and babies safe and healthy.
Part of the work that Vinu and I do is conducting a needs assessment in the labour wards to see how instruments in the MMK and other resources are used. This is done through observations. Observation is one of the best ways of learning. It allows you to see exactly how a process is done and understand the technicalities of it. Learning through observation wasn’t easy for me initially. I caught myself deliberating Western practices, which greatly impacted my learning ability. Having discussions with the midwives and letting us into their world as to what they perceive as challenges has opened my mind in ways I never thought it would. For people living in the developed world, it is hard to swallow the truth that solutions to problems may look different in other places around the globe. Due to the lack of resources in hospitals, improvisation is common among midwives. Allowing yourself to take a step back and comprehending the bigger picture to the problem is tough but truly rewarding. I am grateful for the amount of patience from the people I am learning from and to have the opportunity to connect with the midwives while understanding the problems they face when working in the labour ward. Working alongside with them has been an enlightening experience as their resiliency and perseverance is always inspiring. I am growing strong roots in Mukono by making connections here that will last a lifetime and I look forward to what the future has in store.
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
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…
“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.
On July 27th, 2014, FullSoul partnered with the talented Prosad for an amazing afternoon of soulful music, dancing and fundraising- all done in the name of Safe Motherhood in Uganda. Through this event, we were able to purchase over 20 safe birth kits for health facilities in Uganda!
Coverage of this event was promoted by the Calgary Sun, whose article can be found here: http://www.calgarysun.com/2014/07/23/calgary-woman-reaches-back-to-africa-to-help-improve-conditions-for-pregnant-womenRead More
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
The non-profit industry requires a certain level of collaboration to function effectively and properly; perhaps influenced by the Ugandan way of life, where community comes first. One of the greatest issues is making sure that, as an organization, we are continuing to work effectively to fill these gaps that exist. Again Susan Fish’s article for ‘Charity Village’ in 2015, Fish quotes FullSoul co-founder Christina in saying that
“[FullSoul] is another strong believer in partnership. “We decide it’s right time to have a partner when someone does something better than us. We can then focus our time and effort on what we’re really good with. You have to know what each other’s values are. When you find a partner whose values are on the same wavelength, it’s a great relationship.”
Indeed, FullSoul has been inspired by countless other organizations throughout our years- and each volunteer brings many of their own influences as well. Christina’s first-hand exposure to the issue of maternal mortality in Uganda was during her co-op placement in 2013, working at Save the Mothers in the East African country.
Save the Mothers is one organization that has inspired, influenced and advised FullSoul from the beginning!
Working with and learning from other students- any who were forming their own organizations at the same time- at St. Paul’s GreenHouse at the University of Waterloo, was another great way for Christina to connect with passionate individuals- and volunteers! Students in this program are encouraged to reach out to those in their industry of interest, and work with them to see not only what is needed, but what has worked and perhaps more importantly, what has not in the past. It takes collaboration to know exactly where those gaps are and what is needed to fill and resolve them; With years of collective experience among organizations, it makes sense in the non-profit world to work together to create change. At times, collaboration that comes in the way of just talking- having a conversation about the reality of situations and what is realistically happening to solve issues; With FullSoul, Christina is not one to shy away from conversations- even the difficult ones that may be necessary in forming an organization, or working with an issue as sensitive as mothers and babies dying during childbirth.
“Talking with a larger organization gives us the experience we don’t have, someone to talk to who has been there before, to remind us to dot our Is and cross our Ts — somewhat like a mentor relationship. And larger organizations can recognize that smaller organizations are doing great things too.”
Considering the big picture is important in these organizations, and understanding that there is collaboration that needs to take place- no one- person or organization- needs to do it all, nor can they! In working together at an organizational level, we can hopefully create an environment and culture of commitment and collaboration among those communities we work with as well- which then truly benefits everyone!
To ensure that our collaborations are indeed creating a positive impact for those involved on every level, there are some questions that must be asked before entering into partnerships, mentorship and collaborations:
The ‘Three R’s are something that FullSoul, and our co-founders specifically seek to consult when we are looking to partnerships with other organizations and groups. Outlined and beautifully stated as well in Fish’s article, these are:
Reciprocity (“making sure it’s good for them and good for us, and no one’s values are compromised”).
This is important as an organizational stand-point- with so many incredible and very important causes, it is important to have a focus; we can’t do everything! Being able to find what we (or any organization) excel at allows us to do the job well- and others to do the same! Teaming up can assist in larger projects succeeding, which is beneficial for all those involved!
Relationships (communication, follow-up, etc.); and,
Treating people with respect! Allowing those important communications at a higher level in the organizations really does come down to how we treat people at an individual level as well. When we can have those honest, open and effective communications in planning meetings, we can take that same attitude when we’re ‘on the ground’- and vise-versa!
Reality Check (“being realistic with what we’re talking about so we don’t take on too much and we can keep our commitments”).
Again- knowing what we are and what we are best at. Where our reach is and what we can do most effectively with our resources. Sometimes large projects are the dream but not accessible at a certain time- and that is okay! Allowing others to take on a good idea instead of holding it back to be our own- that creates the change that we are all working towards.
Much of what a non-profit, especially FullSoul means is working together- from metropolis Canada to rural Uganda- we are all working for people- to allow others to live and thrive and do the same. Everyone has a part to play in this and as a non-profit organization, FullSoul is one example of soulful individuals collaborating to create something big- reducing maternal deaths and bettering maternal and child health in Uganda. None of us could do it alone, and FullSoul could not do it without you too.Read More