“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” — Audra Lorde
International Women’s Day is a public holiday in Uganda; celebrating women in our communities here, in our lives and in our history. I am currently working with one of FullSoul’s partner organizations- Save the Mothers, here in Uganda, and have the chance to take the day off of work. Many of the International Women’s Day Platforms are centred around a Women’s Strike, proving that women make up a great deal of the unpaid work in our society, and protesting wage gaps in our paid workforce.
I loved this idea- while ‘drastic’, the concept of starkly and irrefutably proving why something is valuable by taking it away is a powerful one. Of course, it is not possible for all women to strike on this day- for their own personal reasons, or because quite literally our societies would crumble. While I love the idea and the power that it is demonstrating, as a woman, I am choosing to work today, working on truly unpaid work, writing right here for FullSoul.
Why is this just as empowering for me? Through my work with FullSoul and Save the Mothers, I see areas where women are absent, and see the devastation that that causes within families, societies and a country; these women are not on a strike, or not simply not empowered to work- they have died due to pregnancy complications or childbirth. They have developed complex physical complications during or prior to delivery that make them outcasts and unable to participate, in work, communities and even their own families.
As we know, in Uganda, everyday many women’s lives are at risk, due to pregnancy related complications- approximately 16 every day. This are easily preventable, leading to generations losing those strong women leaders and mothers. The loss of these women means the absence of mothers for a generation of children. It also means the loss of one of the most powerful aspects within development; women are necessary to further empowerment within a nation, and without these women, changes to better the whole will fall behind.
Women make up the majority of nurses and midwives in Uganda- we’re grateful that these skilled health care workers show-up, and assist in deliveries, antenatal (aka. pre-natal), and newborn care throughout a woman’s pregnancy. These workers are often under-paid, over-worked, and with very little resources to assist them.
I, myself, cannot do everything that needs to be done to help the women that are dying, simply by being mothers. No one person can- it takes communities, nations. It takes other women. But we can do our parts to make this job easier for those that have the ability to direct change; FullSoul supplies safe medical kits to hospitals in Uganda, so that women can have save deliveries, so health-care workers have tools to do their jobs safely, so babies can have their first breath and their mothers to raise them.
There are areas where Women’s Day is about proving how impactful a day without women can be; but there are areas where a day without women is the reality- So, for my International Women’s Day, I am finding wonderful power in doing what I can- finding my own voice in a movement, and creating a #Sindica for change that is greater than myself.
FullSoul Social Media Manager
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
FullSoul and the Co-op Student of the Year & International Co-op Of the Year Awards!
Christina has always been dedicated to her work, whether it was for academics or for widely known institutions and organizations such as St. Michael’s Hospital, Save the Mothers or FullSoul. Thus, it is only fair that she is rewarded for her hard work and determination. As a part of the Health Studies co-op program, she participated in four different co-op placements, first three placements lasting four months, while the final placement lasted eight months long. Throughout these co-op placements, she has shown strong work ethics, commitment and achievements.
[Christina & Dr. Eve (from Save the Mothers), on one of their 24 hour shifts at Uganda's National Referral Hospital]
The University of Waterloo is known as “the world’s leader” for its co-operative education program, which consists of six faculties with approximately 31,000 undergraduate students. The program annually hosts a Co-op Student of the Year award and only one student from each of the six faculties have a chance to win this award. Thus, students with exceptional contribution to their work term as well as community involvement and academic excellence are recognized. Soon after completing an outstanding work term at St. Michael’s Hospital as a project manager, Christina was honoured to be the Co-op Student of the Year representing the Applied Health Science Faculty. This marks as one of the early stepping-stones of her career.
“Christina is a fantastic communicator — both for the discouraged midwife in rural East Africa who Christina encourages to continue to help voiceless mothers… to the large crowd of Canadians who have gathered to hear Christina share her experiences. Her dedication to saving the lives of mothers and their babies around the world is inspiring. I’m confident that as she moves through her career, her influence will only grow stronger and deeper.”–Dr. Jean Chamberlain- Executive Director and Founder of Save the Mothers
Another accomplishment was just around the corner while finishing her last year at the University of Waterloo. She began teaching at Ugandan Christian University through Save the Mothers, an organization seeking to improve maternal health in Uganda. While teaching, she was given the opportunity to observe surgical operations in the maternity ward at a nearby hospital. But before she could wrap her head around the idea, she delivered 200 babies in addition to raising maternal health awareness in Uganda. This ever-changing life experience aspired Christina to co-found FullSoul and as a result, was then selected for the International Student of the Year award from WACE (World Association for Cooperative Education) as well. Amazing accomplishments, and such an honour for FullSoul to be recognized in such a way- we’re excited about the continued momentum of support and excitement surrounding the FullSoul message and cause!
“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
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
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
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!
Greetings from Uganda,
Can’t believe it’s finally happening !
We are excited to announce the news that our FullSoul team has just arrived Uganda, to began their journey of bettering maternal health. We will be posting daily live updates of the trip on our FullSoul Canada Facebook page.
Please stay tuned and follow and like our page and posts! #bettermaternalhealth #sindica
Facebook Page: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