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
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
Take a peek into the days of living SoulFully in Uganda! Each day brought a new adventure and experiences, and further understanding of the importance of bettering Maternal Health in Uganda.
Day 1: The first day of our first trip as a team in Uganda! We’re so excited to bring each of you along with us on this journey!
Co-founder Christina Hassan and our Ugandan team (Asha, Vicent and Bersh) met the first of our Canadian arrivals at the Entebbe airport- including Christina’s parents for their first time in Uganda- and a fellow Master of Public Health, Emma!
The team got outfitted with hats worthy of a FullSoul adventure, met other Ugandans passionate about the work FullSoul does, took a boat ride on the beautiful lake Victoria, and finally picked up our guests into the night as their flight arrived.
Still in Entebbe, our team spent their first FullSoul day in Uganda; Waking up to our first real views of the country, we took strolls through the city of Entebbe, meeting Ugandans and exploring the art and beauty that Uganda as to offer! Ending with the Wildlife Education Centre and the beaches of Lake Victoria, it was a perfect day to adjust to the home of FullSoul.
The rest of our team joins us in Uganda! Another experience with the great Lake Victoria, our team spent the day out on the water! We made our way to the equator on Lake Victoria, went fishing on the lake- and caught a Nile Perch for our dinner! Back to the airport for two more pickups, we finally have the whole team with us back to Kampala for the end of the night- ready for the FullSoul Experience to begin!
Exploring the busy city of Kampala! Our team took to the markets and taxi park to really get a feel of the hustle and bustle of Uganda’s capital city. Onward to Mukono, where the Save the Mothers accommodations would be hosting us for a few days as we prepare the Safe Birth Medical Kits for delivery! We were able to attend the Mukono Rotary meeting and bring greetings from three different Canadian Rotary clubs as well, joined by members of the Ugandan club and the Mayor of Mukono! Ending the night showing off our dance moves, it was a great welcome to the town where the idea for FullSoul began.
Getting to work; Preparing the medical kits for delivery. Each kit has the same number and type of tools. They are all purchased within Uganda and engraved with the Health Centre’s name, before delivery. These two aspects of FullSoul’s model are extremely important to us:
- This not only keeps the cost of the kits lower (than it would be to import them from Canada), but it also keeps the money within Uganda, and with Medical Supply Companies that cater to the entire country- this means that they will be able to continue to grow in their reach and what they are able to offer, which benefits our partnerships as well as others.
- This gives a sense of ownership, pride and responsibility to the hospitals that we deliver the engraved kits to- they know that they belong to them and are proud to use and care for them as needed. This also helps decrease the risk of theft and loss of materials, and makes it easier for us to track where our donations are and how they function and deliver in their respective hospitals and health centres.
Our team then, as safely as possible, took boda-bodas to the Mukono Health Centre IV to deliver the first 5 of our kits! We met with the head midwife on duty and were able to see more of the health centre, as well as meet some mothers and their babies- all safe and healthy! Mukono Health Centre has grown substantially since FullSoul began, and it’s very exciting for us to witness the positive changes that we see at this centre!
Ending our evening with a bit more culture, the group joined the Ndere Troupe; a group of incredibly talented young Ugandans who preform cultural dances, songs and stories from around the country- this is a great, and very fun, introduction to many of the areas and cultures within Uganda! Of course, we end out evening, again, with dancing.
New Years’ Eve Day- Off to the second Medical Kit delivery of our time here, we travelled to Kawolo Hospital. Meeting with the head midwives that were just finishing off their overnight duty shifts, this hospital held many many mothers that had just delivered and some still waiting to labour- the midwives were thankful to share with us the importance of the kits delivered, and expressed again how important it is for them as well to have these tools- to keep themselves safe and work most effectively!
From Kawolo, we continue to Jinja, and take another boat onto Lake Victoria to the Source of the Nile River! The longest river in the world, this amazing natural wonder begins in Uganda-and our team was able to stand at this very spot!
At midnight, we joined others from around the world to celebrate and welcome in the new year! 2017 was off to an amazing start!
Heading north-east from Jinja, the team joined our FullSoul Ugandan Team member- Asha, with her project (MENTOR) in delivering school supplies to one of the schools that she works with in Mbale District. While the students were not currently in school, it was an oppurtunity for our team to see another aspect of Ugandan life and the education system.
Beginning our day at the beautiful Sipi Falls in Kapchorwa District of Eastern Uganda; Armed with our handy hiking sticks our team began the day hiking through the rainforest, coffee plantations and hills to reach the spectacular falls. The team joined a radio station in the region to speak more about the importance of maternal health and safe motherhood- Radio is an important tool in Uganda to share information throughout the population- it is accessible since most homes have access to a radio, it is availible in local and many languages and with a high illiteracy rate, it is an easy medium to understand.
A truly amazing day, our team visited FullSouler Asha’s mother and village in Mbale district. An amazingly warm welcome, the team was able to celebrate the day with the men, women and children in the village- with songs, hugs, food and of course, dancing! Such a special treat to be able to connect with the families of our Team FullSoul Uganda members!
The remaining days of our FullSoul Uganda Experience took our team across the country and across the equator again.
After taking a bus back to Mukono, our team then met with our safari van to head to Queen Elizabeth National Park, to meet some amazing Ugandan wildlife, from Marabou Storks to chimpanzees in the trees! We walked the tea plantations and saw how one of Uganda’s largest exports is harvested, and were able to meet many other Ugandans- and other travellers- along the way.
Finally, the majority of our team headed back to Entebbe to catch the flights back to Canada.
We are so thankful and truly honoured to be able to share our FullSoul Experience and our work with this team- connecting our Ugandan team and friends to those in Canada has been amazing- and we’re very excited to be able to continue building these connections and creating more #sindica for change.
For more of a look into the daily adventures of FullSoul, head over to our youtube channel!Read More
The FullSoul Experience in Uganda- a group of 12 FullSoulers, Canadian and Ugandan, spend 12 days in Uganda. From medical kits to villages, our team of FullSoulers were able to see a lot of Uganda in 12 days, meeting a lot of folks along the way, and most importantly, delivering safe medical kits to hospitals and health care workers along the way. Making delivery a safer experience for mothers and babies throughout Uganda is our goal- we’re so thankful that we are able to share this with our team and supporters!
Learn more about what the experience meant to each of us, how we got connected and invested in living soulfully for this cause, and what our time together in Uganda means for the future. Special thanks to our Rotarians on the trip, who speak so passionately about the cause and about FullSoul to their own clubs and districts; after sharing Uganda with us, we know they have big plans for the FullSoul Future!
Check out our day to day adventures in our next post coming soon!
Interested in joining us in Uganda? Follow here for updates on future experience trips- we would love to share Uganda with you!Read More
FullSoul has always been a team. Even from the time it was founded, Christina has worked alongside other organizations, within hospitals and health centres, University classes (both in Undergrad Applied Health Sciences and Masters of Public Health!), through St. Paul’s GreenHouse at the University of Waterloo, friend groups and of course her co-founder, Hyder.
Now, we’ve grown and changed in the 3 years since Christina first came back to Canada from a University of Waterloo Co-op placement in Uganda, with Save the Mothers. Today we have volunteers from and living around the world- each connected with their passion and dedication to living soulfully, for others, and helping to better maternal health in Uganda. We’re so proud of our ‘FullSoulers’, both past and present, and all of the amazing work that they’ve accomplished!
[FullSoul Team in Mukono, Uganda, Dec 2016] Photo by: Shazzar Kator Muhangi]
In addition, FullSoul has welcomed supporters to join us in Uganda, for the first time at the end of 2016. This group connected with our Uganda-based team who shared with them their home of Uganda. The team was part of the medical kit delivery to two hospitals, travelled around Uganda experiencing the country and culture of the people here. We look forward to welcoming more people to the FullSoul Family as more trips enable us to share the issues and beauty of Uganda!
Meet our current team in the ‘About’ Section of our website: https://www.fullsoul.ca/about/
Are you interested in joining our team? Follow our LinkedIn profile for volunteer postings, or send us an email to let us know how you think you can add to our FullSoul team!
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
After some soul-searching for the right model for us, our vision and our cause, FullSoul became a not-for-profit in Canada. With many new organizations now working from a for-profit model (and doing so effectively), this was an important choice for us- and one that now made, really defines FullSoul, and, what’s more, what living SoulFully means to us.
Our co-founder, Christina was interviewed for a piece by Susan Fish called “Reinventing the Wheel: Does Canada need more nonprofit organizations” (spoiler alert- if done well, of course!) for ‘Charity Village’ a networking site that allows non-profit organizations to post jobs, find volunteers, as well as host online education sessions and develop directories as a community, in 2015. She was quoted in saying “Had the Ugandan government filled hospitals with medical supplies, we wouldn’t have gone into that area. There has to be a gap where you can meet a need”- a need that Christina has witnessed and experienced first hand in Ugandan hospitals and clinics since 2013. She says, “as in any sector or industry, new initiatives in the charitable and social purpose sector come about when people see a gap”. In the case of FullSoul, non-profit just works better!
As a non-profit social enterprise, FullSoul can focus on our vision- of allowing mothers access to a safe delivery, regardless of where they live. Non-profit means that we work with giving- from beginning to end; connecting with like-minded soulful individuals and groups around the world to raise money- and compassion- for women and their families in Uganda, where 6,000 women die each year from pregnancy related causes; this number does not even include those babies that die before, during or shortly after delivery. Giving support, giving money, giving interest and attention, from both groups and individuals, and moving with this support to those that give medical assistance to those mothers who are giving life.
If living soulfully, and helping others to do so, is a cause you’d like to join, let us know!
FullSoul’s work is only possible due to the generous contributions of our donors. You can donate here to help better maternal health in Uganda- 100% of your contributions will go towards FullSoul’s Medical Kit Program.
Working together to make Non-Profit Happen! How collaboration and community makes FullSoul function.
There is a well-known Nelson Mandela quote that reads:
“there is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered,”.
For Christina, there are no better words to better encapsulate what it was like returning to Canada. Nothing was quite the same anymore, not the big things nor the little. Everything was how she remembered it, there hadn’t been intense cultural changes in the four months she was away, but it was also completely different. The familiar was no longer familiar but it was because she had changed so much, it was as if she was seeing things through an entirely different set of lenses.
[Pictured: Ken Corlett (left), Christina Hassan (Marchand) and Greg Kett- those who nominated our Christina for this award!]
As time passed she adjusted to these new lenses – they became her new normal. Christina was home for three months when she was invited back to her hometown, where she grew up and went to school, to receive the YMCA Peace Medallion for her experiences in Uganda.
Returning to Chatham, it could have been easy to focus again on the new perspective Mandela described… but instead she found herself reflecting through a different lens. As she met with her family, community members and the people who educated her, Christina realized she was reconnecting with the people who helped her to build the foundation of who she is. These people, together, create the community where she learned how to dream, challenge herself, ask questions and care about the lives of others.
Yes, Christina definitely returned to her hometown a changed person, but in the moments she spent there, she was grateful for all of those who helped her become a person that pursued these experiences that cause such fundamental change. They are her champions of motivation, education and believing in the good of this world. This community… her family… they are the ones who first taught her what it means to live SoulFully.
We at FullSoul are so very excited for Christina to have received this award for all of her amazing work in Uganda and now with FullSoul! Recognition is so important, and we’re honoured to have Christina recognized with such an important award! Continue reading for more on the YMCA Peace Medallion!