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
Though the FullSoul visitors have returned home, we still had one more delivery to attend to.
We met with Dr. Mubeezi, the Head Doctor of the hospital, to speak more about what the greatest challenges they face in their facilities, and how they experience Maternal Health- and Maternal Mortality, as one of the largest hospitals in their area. Though not technically a referral hospital, this facility often acts as one due to the large catchment area that it serves. However, this causes problems with resources, since it will be under-supplied to deal with the number of cases that it actually receives.
Watch more about the ‘delivery’ experience and more of the challenges that this FullSoul Partner Hospital faces…
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!
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
A Fullsoulers’ return home from Uganda…
As a part of an academic-based service-learning experience program, I found myself living in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, for the summer of 2013. Throughout my three months in Kampala, I had met FullSoul’s very own co-founder (pre-FullSoul!) Christina, and we met up a few times to explore some of Uganda together. As the three months sped by, and my time living in the quiet(er) district of Kampala was coming to a close, I was preparing, however reluctantly, to return home to Canada— back to school and life in Southwestern Ontario.
Tearful goodbyes, and nkwagala nyo (I love you so much in Luganda!) to each of my house-mates and friends, and into the van to the Entebbe airport for the first time again in just over 100 days. After a quick move through security, we were on our first plane in a 24-hour journey home. A quick re-fuel in Rome and then a very long overnight flight forward through the time-zones that had kept me quite confused for the past 3 months, and the flight landed in Pearson International Airport in Toronto and that was that— 102 days of living abroad done, and we were back.
That first day back, with a lot of jet-lag, I stayed awake with my family, partner and excitement of another new location. The tiredness did not really dissipate for a few weeks- time-change is a very strange thing, and I was feeling groggy, nearly constantly tired and had little appetite, especially for this strange Canadian food. In the years since, I have come to see that there was more than jet-lag in this. Coming home is so much more. Even three years later, their are parts and pieces that still feel like they are returning, and some I’m quite sure will not come back to me.
Christina has told me a story of her own return that I think encompasses many pieces of my own experience; Coming back from her own 4 month co-op placement, she went right back into classes at the University of Waterloo- which also meant finding a place to live here. This meant house-searches and tours with some of the many landlords and property managers that thrive in the University-Student market in Waterloo. In the days just following those goodbyes, flight(s) and essentially time-travel, she found herself in the laundry room of a rental home in Waterloo, crying. She had spent that 4 months hand-washing her clothes- a process that I also experienced as as an often enjoyable source of bonding with my house-mates, but non-the-less difficult, especially having never experienced this before. Now, she was faced with a washing machine- and dryer- all within her home-to-be. The contrast is striking. I’m sure somewhere in that difference is a sense of relief to not be spending hours to clean one’s clothes, but like I mentioned- that was often a time of community and conversation for me in Uganda. A time where my Ugandan roommates would tease and teach me how to properly wash my clothes and shoes; a time where you could literally feel the red Kampalan dust and dirt come from your clothes, all by your own power. Now, standing stilling inanimately in front of her was a machine to take away this dirt-it would get the job done quickly, rather quietly and completely out of sight.
However, I think more impactful and what continues even three years after our first time “Coming Home”, is how much those differences separate that experience- our lives in Uganda- to what we know in Canada- perhaps in many ways changing this to what we knew…
For myself, and as documented by many fellow travellers to those ‘lesser-developed’ regions of our world, returning home brought- and continues to bring- what has been commonly termed as “reverse-culture shock”; ultimately, this is the same experience as when one enters a new, different country or area that has a different culture than what they experience as home. Reverse, therefore, is having experienced this new culture, and returning to one that is familiar, but changed, questioned or perhaps even un-relatable through the experience of the new culture. One example for me helped me to further understand this: I had been driving myself in Canada for at least 4 years, yet after 3 months in a country where traffic drove on the opposite side of the road, I was suddenly questioning which way I was supposed to do it. This did not help with taking my G test a few months after returning, and sometimes still it is something that has to be a conscious though- not instinctual, as it was before. As more time went on, I felt frustrated with this experience. Many of the things that were making me feel this aversion were questions of human interaction- why people would not share space on a bus when in Kampala folks would make room for as many people as possible. I missed the community and close connections that I experienced in the big city of Kampala.
Since coming home, I have taken to building my experience of Uganda into my every-day- I began a placement at my local HIV Organization, doing similar work to the AIDS Service Organization that I was working with in Kampala, where I had had all of my training and learning of HIV to that point. It was interesting to be in a similar space here, comforting in fact to continue to work within a topic that I had grown to love while in Uganda, yet interesting that the way stigma, HIV status and testing differs from Southwestern Ontario and Kampala, Uganda. Having these reminders, not only of the beautiful and positive parts of the trip, but also the social issues and struggles that were connected to it, can be incredibly powerful in keeping that experience alive and well. It is easy to ‘sugar-coat’ the stories when we come home, sharing the cute antidotes and fun photos with our friends and families- almost keeping on those rose-coloured sunglasses even when we move farther away from the equator’s sun. Perhaps this is ‘easier’ because that experience was ours, your own feelings and memories may not translate, for reasons more than just language differences. It can be difficult to instead share those more difficult experiences- of witnessing poverty and slums in a very real and close context, perhaps working with HIV, TB or malaria- diseases that are either rare or ignored in our own countries, striking differences in the availability of education and employment. Yet, as those who have experienced these contrasts- these details can be the most riveting, empowering to change and well, life-changing, for both those that experience them and hear of them.
Personally, I struggled greatly with this change, and ended up reaching out to a lot of counselling services in trying to manage and understand what I had experienced and was experiencing since coming home. Many folks who travel speak of their experience as life-changing, and while this is sometimes considered cliche, it often seems to be the most accurate description when coming home. Many will say things in comment to how little those that they connected with in this new country had, yet they are happier or more grateful than those familiar faces at home. Of course there is something to be said here for perspective, cultural standards and traditions, and how these travellers are interacting with those of their host country, but the point remains that a difference is noticed, often more-so in the reflections of returning home.
There is often a lot of privilege in travelling, and I question my own bias and status in this experience often. Firstly, an international experience, through University, in a country where I became a visible minority (therefore I am not usually), so even in Canada I come from a very privileged place. Then going to a country where I am viewed as even more so, I have really tried to be open to every part of understanding where this places me in the world and my experiences. Working in a social-justice, anti-oppressive service setting is something that I was already quite set on, and this experience opened infinite questions for me, all which I was trying to answer here at home. Being a part of FullSoul has been therapeutic, inspiring and life-changing in its’ own way; I remain connected to those that are also passionate about positive community-based change, the Uganda that I adore, and connecting with others that share these passions.
The most sense that I can make of coming home is this:
I have scarves bought in Uganda that still have some of that dirt-red colour to them. Those red marks were created there from walks to the market, boda-boda rides home after work, afternoons laying under the mango tree, nights cooking with my Ugandan family. They, for some time after still smelled of the busy copper and ruby streets in Kampala and the country. These scarves were strong and well-made- they made it through safaris, long work-days and a flight across the globe- yet delicate in their cloth, the fine fabric which makes them up and holds them together. They must be washed by hand, even here in Canada. I am sure that on a delicate setting, with some special detergent and fancy settings on a machine they would be okay. But I missed washing by hand, even now, but I know other ways are possible and perhaps more efficient. Now, however, I avoid this process to maintain the dirt. Sometime having those changed experiences, having some of that red dirt in my life, just seems right now, and washing, by hand, as gently as possible, keeps some of that red in my life. So I will keep hand-washing, I keep some of that dirt in the fabric, I keep working with FullSoul and finding ways to bring into my days the lush and harsh beauty, busied calm and complex simplicity of the life and love that experienced in Uganda, until I can return to my Ugandan home.
Social Media Manager at FullSoul