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!
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
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!
Most FullSoul followers have heard of GreenHouse at St. Paul’s University on the University of Waterloo campus. And many have also heard of an ever-growing impact radiating from the small social enterprise incubator- so I sat down with GreenHouse’s Director, Tania Del Matto to chat about Social Innovation, FullSoul and how GreenHouse works to tackle complex issues- like maternal mortality in Uganda!
Christina has has often said that she “came into GreenHouse with an idea and came out of GreenHouse with a business” that business is the FullSoul we know and love today.
But what is so special about GreenHouse that allowed our co-founder to give her time, support and hard-work while going to school full-time?
As a bit of background, the University of Waterloo is world-class when it comes in innovation. “Idea’s start Here” Christina echoed when she first shared the FullSoul idea on the Tedx Waterloo stage. The GreenHouse program is one of the University programs at the heart of innovation, more specifically- social innovation and entrepreneurship.
The GreenHouse students live on-campus, and build connections to accelerate their own start-ups and social change initiatives. GreenHouse is designed to allow students the opportunity to develop and hone in on their own ideas and goals, while managing a full course load.
GreenHouse gives a place where students can actually tackle the problems they see in the world today. Said wonderfully by Tania, with her economics perspective, “we have a vast supply of young talent here at the University of Waterloo”, but we also have demands: “that is unmet problems that we don’t have answers for”…
GreenHouse encourages students to tackle complex societal issues, to see where they can “make an impact on a pressing societal problem”, perhaps setting them apart from other ‘incubators’ as a place where non-profits and for-profit social-enterprises can thrive. There is an additional focus on the students personal growth and development; Tania mentions that “At university we don’t necessarily empower young people to do these things- here, we give them opportunities to get out of the building and talk to people”. Encouraging GreenHouse participants to network and interact with their idea and issues in a real-world setting helps to ensure that “regardless of where their venture goes, they’re going to do great things”. They are learning how to build up their skills, and use what they have to tackle these problems. Students are encouraged to use “a wide lens in imagining what kind of impact they can make- some are big venture’s like Christina’s, and some are more about policy change”.
After her co-op placement abroad— working with an organization called Save the Mothers in Mukono, just outside of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala— Christina was more than inspired to do something. She was determined and needed to create something to change the huge systematic issue of maternal mortality. Women in Uganda face a 1 in 44 chance of dying in childbirth or a pregnancy related complication, this problem plagues more than just women – it strains the entire population. Husbands’ lose wives, parents’ loose daughters, siblings’ loose sisters and the remaining external family such as grandparents, are often called upon to take in their orphaned relatives. The children, who grow up motherless, are vulnerable and less likely to reach the age of 4. Everyone is impacted, but what is more is that; “The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council has highlighted maternal mortality as an issue bearing not just on development, but also on human rights” (WHO, 2012)– every mother and child’s deserves the right to health, equity in health and gender equality.
Tania notes that when Christina applied to the GrennHouse program,” Christina came in with a lived, on the ground experience, from co-op- [and] knew from that that she wanted to do something about it”, GreenHouse was ready to take on the task with her.
The GreenHouse method, which encourages students to “Get out there, Start talking to people, test their assumptions [about where there are gaps and needs in a social issue, and get a] Better understanding of the problem, before they go into solution mode.” Christina had an issue that she was passionate about, which fit well with GreenHouse’s idea of encouraging its innovators to “get as close to problem as they possibly can. [This] enables them to better understand it, better understand what’s been done, what’s worked, and what hasn’t worked in the past, what gaps there are [in the climate surrounding this issue]”.
With the community based, live-in approach of GreenHouse, it makes sense that it can produce an effective way to tackle a complex societal issue in Uganda- the collectivist culture, of supporting, sharing and building with each other mirrors many aspects of the East African country’s own way. “Students can be inspired by their peers- it’s great when Christina gets back and gives these talks, it really inspires other students to go ‘wow, she did that, maybe I can do something too’” Tania says of how, even now that Christina has been graduated from the program for 3 years, they remain connected. “She was in our second cohort- Not short of praise for our co-founder either, Tania speaks on how Christina- and FullSoul- really were able to grow in the program, and become the force that they are today; “Gosh, how do we get more Christina’s? how do we create the conditions so that more Christina’s and can thrive, and can step forward […] get engaged with these problems [..]she’s been the inspiration for a lot of pieces of our program.
In the years since FullSoul’s first days in GreenHouse a lot has changed! Our team has grown, both in size and in our passion to live soulfully, FullSoul has gained hundreds more supporters globally, and best of all we’ve travelled back to Uganda, delivering our first safe-birth kits to clinics in Uganda. We’re so thankful for our founders’ passions, and of places and networks like St. Paul’s Greenhouse that really allow these ideas to become reality- some of our past FullSoul volunteers have gone on to start their own initiatives for social change too! We’ll keep up the ‘Sindica’ for safe-motherhood in Uganda, and we’re glad and honoured to see everything that GreenHouse and its fellows push towards too.
Read more about Christina’s experience with St. Paul’s GreenHouse here: Life is TriageRead More