Category: Uncategorised

Meet a FullSouler: Colette McKee

Colette_McKee

Hey my name is Colette (my family and friends call me Lettie) and I am a third year Biomedical Engineering student at the University of Waterloo. I will be joining FullSoul in the role of Field Engineer.  I will help design and develop test prototypes and processes for the sanitation of the medical kit. A fun fact about myself is that I am the youngest of 5 kids. We all love to travel. This summer we will be spread out between 3 Continents.

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

Going overseas for this crazy, cool opportunity is amazing, but I think what I’m most excited for is the hands on experience I will gain as a field engineer working at FullSoul. I am an avid hiker and adventurer and I am excited to see what the country of Uganda has to offer. I am looking forward to experiencing the culture and meeting as many people from this part of the world as I can.

How are feeling as you prepare for your trip? 

It still hasn’t sunk in that I will be leaving soon. It might not actually hit until I step off the plane. I’m preparing as best as I can for the trip, the culture and the weather. Its hard to think of everything, but I am talking with the people that I will soon be meeting at my work, and I am getting lots of ideas.

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

My brother went to Uganda on a work experience a couple of years ago. He is my best advisor on what to expect, different foods I should try and potential adventures I could go on.  I have heard from past FullSoul interns that I should bring skirts and dresses to work in as the clinic is quite hot. The only dress in my closet is from prom so I will definitely need to go on a shopping trip!!

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

  • Some books
  • My journal
  • Good hiking boots

How you can follow me on my journey

Instagram – @Lettiemckee

Read More

Meet a FullSouler: Olivia Salter

Olivia_Salter

Hello, my name is Olivia and I am in the Honours Arts and Business Co-oP program at the University of Waterloo. I will be FullSoul’s newest Project Manager on the ground in Uganda! I will be in charge of the global grant initiative and working with FullSoul’s partnering hospitals in assessing the needs for Medical Kit program.  I love to explore the great outdoors. I spend every summer camping with friends and family, taking in everything this wonderful planet has to offer in the rawest way.

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

It is extremely fascinating to me getting to see and explore how other people in different countries live and I am enthused about having the chance to submerge myself completely into their culture through everyday activities and the opportunities to meet locals. I want to be able to come away from this experience having fully experienced all that the Uganda way of life has to offer and be able to really understand and appreciate their culture as it is so beautiful.

How are feeling as you prepare for your trip? 

I am very excited to be on this journey with FullSoul and cannot wait to actually touch down in Uganda. I am a bit anxious to be leaving family and friends but know that I will make friendships there that will last a life time.

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

One piece of advice I got from past interns is the importance of “Going with the flow.” It is important to keep in mind that Uganda doesn’t work the way we do here in Canada but rather it works in “Uganda Time”. This means that things tend to be more relaxed and easy-going and we need to be adapting to that. Personally, a break from the crazy hustle and bustle sounds amazing to me!

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

  1. A sun hat – I am super pale and burn super easy, so a big sun hat is an essential for me!
  2. Chocolate – I am a sucker for chocolate and can’t take the risk of not finding any for the next couple of months
  3. My camera – I love taking pictures of nature and new places. I hope to get some amazing shots while in Uganda!

How can we follow you on your journey?

You can follow my journey on the FullSoul Instagram page @fullsoulcanada and FullSoul Canada Facebook page.

Read More

Lessons Learned So Far: Swimming, Relationship Building, and Beyond

Written by Vinussa Rameshshanker

Have you ever felt as if you’ve been thrown into the water and have no choice but to learn how to swim?

Exactly four weeks ago, I was thrown in the waters that I now call home – Mukono Town, Uganda. Four weeks ago, I was starting to pick up the local language. Four weeks ago, I was learning how to cross the road. Four weeks ago, I was becoming accustomed to buying freshly picked vegetables from road stands near my new home. Then, just as I was learning how to keep myself afloat, I officially started work as FullSoul’s new International Consultant – Public Health for the next eight months.

Vinu_balcony

Sitting in my living room as I reflect on the past month, I realize that both myself and my fellow intern Meron have learned how to swim quite fast. We now know how to schedule our own work weeks and are slowly falling into a routine. Personally, I find that the work I do is split between travelling to several of FullSoul’s partner health facilities and working from home.

As of now, most of my office work is planning for the evaluation of FullSoul’s Maternal Medical Kit (MMK) project in the coming months. I’m lucky to be mentored by Crystal, FullSoul’s Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, as we work through the logistics of what our evaluation might look like. Through this planning, I’ve realized quite quickly over the past weeks the difficulties of arranging virtual meetings with our FullSoul team members in Canada – dealing with eight to ten hour time differences can really be a challenge, but we find a way to make it work!

Aside from working from home, the other half of my work so far has been visiting our partner health facilities for introductions, touring the facilities, and completing observation shifts in the maternity wards to get a sense of how a typical shift unfolds for a midwife in the labour room. So far, we’ve visited two of our three pilot health facilities for the Maternal Medical Kit project (Mukono Health Centre IV and Kawolo Hospital), as well as Kojja Health Centre IV, one of our expansion partner facilities that we are looking forward to working with in the coming months.

As much as Meron and I attempt to plan for our hospital visits, we’ve really come to expect the unexpected. Sometimes when you visit a health centre, you’ll find yourself observing the midwives in the labour ward working together like a well-oiled machine, delivering a newborn every 15 minutes. Other times, you’ll find yourself trying to travel to one health facility but ending up lost on the way there or stuck in traffic. Just in these past weeks, I’ve come to accept that as much as I’d like to work on my schedule, it is much more likely that I’ll be working to fit the schedules of everyone else around me. This brings me to one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned through my role so far – the importance of relationship building.

The work culture in Uganda is quite different compared to the North American context. Here in Uganda, there is a very significant emphasis placed on relationship building. For instance, meetings don’t happen when they’re scheduled to happen but rather when everyone whom should be there is present. Meetings don’t end until everyone has finished sharing their thoughts. And most importantly, business doesn’t take place until you’ve built a relationship with somebody, taken the time to genuinely learn about one another, and until you’ve gained each other’s trust and respect.

Reflecting on these lessons learned, I think back to my very first visit to a FullSoul partner health facility – Mukono Health Centre IV. Meeting the midwives and students whom were all bustling around the maternity ward, my mind was swarming with numerous ‘what if’ scenarios. What if the midwives didn’t want to meet me? What if they felt my presence wasn’t needed? The list of ‘what ifs’ could go on and on.

Mukono_Health_Centre

 

Yet, it was a couple of weeks later that it dawned on me – there really wasn’t a point to all of my worrying. FullSoul continues to touch the lives of many mothers and midwives alike because of the partnership and relationship fostered between our Canadian and Ugandan counterparts. Just from the past weeks, I can pinpoint the changes in my relationships with the midwives and other hospital staff I met on my first day. Now when I visit Mukono and see someone I know, both of our faces light up in recognition, and we take time to talk about how we are doing that day, our families, and our lives. Worrying on my first day wasn’t helping me in any way, but what I really needed to acknowledge was the importance to allowing for the time to make connections, form partnerships, and build relationships that went deeper than the work I needed to do given my role as an intern with FullSoul.

Coming from Canada and working with our Ugandan stakeholders, it has been an extremely valuable experience to get to know everyone around me rather than view them as a means to an end. Another colleague (who is now truly a friend) that I’d like to talk about is Asha, our FullSoul Cultural Ambassador. Flying in to Uganda, I knew that Asha would be meeting Meron and I at the airport and helping us settle in. However, I could have never anticipated how much we would learn about each other, our cultures, the challenges in our work, as well as our passions and wishes for the future.

Vinu_Asha

We all have our goals that we want to achieve, and we all have our own agendas that we’re working by. But with that in mind, sometimes we need to remember that the people you work with, yourself included, are all human. Together, we can make a difference, tackle complex societal problems, and make the world a better place. And togetherness requires looking beyond yourself, to see the world through the eyes of another, and to walk alongside each other as we work towards improving maternal health and strengthening healthcare system capacity.
It’s only been a month, but the lessons learned are numerous. With Uganda as my teacher, I look forward to the next months ahead as a student, learning more and more with each day’s passing.

Read More

Meet a FullSouler: Meron Samuel

Hi! My name is Meron and I am in my last year of Public Health co-op at the University of Waterloo. I will be working with FullSoul as the new Project Manager intern in Uganda. My responsibilities include coordinating the Global Grant project to receive funding for implementation and to help conduct a needs assessment for the Maternal Medical Kit program. I enjoy learning new things and believe that every experience is valuable. My friends would describe me as someone who is always optimistic, which I believe is a quality that has helped me get through undergrad! You can catch me with a smile on my face almost all the time.

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

I am always curious about other cultures and languages and love to learn more about them. I look forward to connecting with new people and being immersed in Ugandan culture for the next couple of months. My background includes African heritage and since this will be my first time travelling to Africa, the experience is very meaningful to me. I am also excited to develop new skills and knowledge regarding maternal health as an intern. My interest for sexual and reproductive health was cultivated from classes I took in university. I believe that working on the ground at hospitals in Uganda will provide me with invaluable insight that goes beyond what I would learn from textbooks at school.

How are feeling as you prepare for your trip?

It feels unreal. I am eager to start my journey with FullSoul and learning more about the conditions of maternal health in Uganda. I do feel a bit uneasy about the long flight ahead but at least I will be able to catch up on my sleep on the plane!

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

I got the chance to connect with previous FullSoul interns, which was a great opportunity as I got a better idea of what to expect when I arrive in Uganda. Information that they have shared that I took to heart was to appreciate my time in a new country and take everything in. It made me realize the importance of being in the moment and learning to become an observer in order to properly adapt in a new environment.

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

  1. Books – To help me get through the long flight to Uganda
  2. My Journal – I enjoy reflecting and I find that it reduces stress
  3. My favourite snacks – I have a sweet tooth and obsessed with chocolate!

How can we follow you on your journey?

You can find me on the FullSoul Instagram page @fullsoulcanada or my personal account @mernx. I look forward to sharing my experiences with all of you!

Read More

Meet a FullSouler: Vinussa Rameshshanker

It’s nice to meet all of you, my name is Vinussa (some people call me Vinu) and you can see me in the photo rocking all blue in the mountains of Peru.

I’m currently a fourth year Bachelors of Public Health student at the University of Waterloo, but for the next few months I’ll have the pleasure of joining FullSoul in the International Consultant – Public Health role. Most of my work will revolve around working with FullSoul’s present and future partner hospitals to better understand how the Maternal Medical Kit Project is being implemented, what’s working well, and also what isn’t.

Oh, and a random tidbit about myself – you may have guessed from my photo that I love to travel – the next destination on my list is Utah, they’ve got the most amazing national parks!

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

I mentioned that I’m studying Public Health, but that’s a pretty broad term. My real passion lies within the field of global health and development – I realized this at the young age of 17. At the time, I was starting to learn about just how enormous the world is, how much the lives of different people vary, and just how much of those differences are matters of social justice and human rights. The trickiest challenges that we face today such as poverty and maternal and child health are complex issues, and it can be extremely difficult to grasp how these problems continue to exist, let alone how these problems can be made better. As daunting as it may be, the first step is to learn – to learn about these wicked problems, to learn from my fellow FullSoulers in Uganda and Canada, and to learn from those whom are first-hand experiencing the problems that together we can solve. To sum all of that up, I think what I’m looking forward to most is to learn.

 How are feeling as you prepare for your trip? 

Never could I have anticipated how crazy of an emotional rollercoaster I would be riding the last few weeks prior to flying out to Uganda. I often find myself laying awake at night unable to sleep, completely and utterly excited to be embarking on my journey with FullSoul. Yet at the same time, I also find myself feeling stressed as I recognize just how much change I will be experiencing, especially during my first few weeks in Uganda. In a sense, I think both of these contrasting emotions are two sides of the same coin.

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

 The most interesting advice that I received from a Professor of mine was to, simply put, ‘roll with the punches.’ The line really struck a chord with me. As I prepare for this trip at home in Canada, there are so many unknowns about how the next few months will unfold. I am 100% sure that there will be much that I experience which will be unexpected and completely different to the experiences I am familiar with in my day-to-day routine. Rolling with the punches speaks to the importance of going in with an open mind, adapting to the ‘new’, and learning from whatever and whomever is around me.

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

Definitely a tricky question, but I would say the top three would be:

  1. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – this is my absolute favourite novel that I can never get tired of re-reading.
  2. A few photos of my family in a small envelope – they never fail to make me smile, and I can’t imagine not bringing some photos along with me.

My journal – I’ve been an avid writer since I was in elementary school and it’s definitely a core part of who I am.

How can we follow you on your journey?

Through the FullSoul instagram @fullsoulcanada and the FullSoul Canada Facebook page! From time to time I will also write a few blog posts.

Read More

2018: A FullSoul Year in Review

2018 was a big year for FullSoul.

1. We expanded our Maternal Medical Kit program to 7 more hospitals! This meant we were able to impact the health of 15,000 newborn babies in 2018 alone. Check out our instagram @fullsoulcanada to see some photos from our hospital visits.

2. We participated in community projects including a visit to Salama School for Blind in Mukono District. Our interns planted fruit trees, renovated dormitories, and talked to the children about about schooling and career goals.

3. Our intern Lauren, started a segment called Midwife Minutes with local midwives at Mukono Health Centre IV and Kawolo Hospital. These sessions helped to build relationships and create a dialog around how to improve the safety of current delivery processes and the Maternal Medical Kit program.

Check out Lauren’s blog on the Midwife Minutes here.

4. We participated in Rotary Family Health Days.

3. We got some awards and a great media attention!

Our founders Christina & Hyder Hassan both were recognized by The Avenue’s Top 40 under 40 for FullSoul. Hyder was featured in the Calgary Herald’s Compelling Calgarian Series, and last but not least Christina was honoured with the People of Action Young Innovator Award from Rotary International. Check out FullSoul Canada Facebook page for photos and live videos from the day!

We are honored to have been featured in CTV News, Calgary Sun, Chatham-Kent Daily News and Huffpost for our work.

We are so excited for the year ahead. We hope to expand the MMK program to even more hospitals. A new group of FullSoul interns will be landing in Uganda soon. Stay tuned for an introduction to them!

Read More

Days of Living FullSoul in Uganda [Dec 2016-Jan 2017]

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.

Day 2:

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.

Day 3:

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!

Day 4:

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.

Day 5:

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:

  1. 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.
  2.  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.

Day 6:

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!

Day 7:

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.

Day 8:

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.

Day 9:

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!

Day 10-13

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.

FullSoul in Uganda, 2016-2017

For more of a look into the daily adventures of FullSoul, head over to our youtube channel!

Read More

Calgary Gala

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!

Calgary Gala

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-women

Read More