Mulembe! My name is Allison Carter and I participated in the Summer International Health Fellowship (SIHF) at Project Bududa for 2 months in the summer of 2016. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, I attend school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I'm a sophomore majoring in Biology and Women and Gender Studies with plans to attend medical school after graduation.
I had the opportunity to participate in SIHF through the Morehead-Cain Scholarship Foundation at UNC- Chapel Hill. Through my scholarship, I was able to pursue a summer of public service anywhere in the world. I had heard about FIMRC through past SIHF participants at UNC, and felt that it provided a way to serve sustainably while pursuing my own passions. Specifically, I chose the Bududa site because of the newly opened maternity ward and the opportunity to aid midwives in births. Before coming on the trip, I trained as a doula (birth partner) and was hoping to utilize these skills at the Bushika Health Clinic. Throughout my time in Bududa, I was able to work on this goal and learn so much more than I ever expected.
Every day truly was a new adventure in Bududa! While in the clinic, I split my time between the maternal and child health (MCH) ward and the lab. In MCH, I helped the mmidwives conduct prenatal check-ups, prepared the maternity ward for its opening in mid-July, and aided in births. In the lab, I helped with conducting malaria and HIV testing and scribed for the lab technician. I also spent much of my time out in the community doing health education for the Post-Test Club for HIV positive adults and for local schools.
Reflecting back on the summer, I think that the most valuable part for me was the opportunity to build relationships with clinic staff and community members. I was able to learn so much about the community and Ugandan culture from the clinic staff. I remember going shopping with Jackie, the lab technician, to get a tailored dress. I ended up learning all about Ugandan fashion (with an ensuing fashion show featuring myself and another volunteer trying on various Ugandan traditional wear). I remember being invited into the homes of community members for dinners, cooking lessons, and long chats. I remember getting lost and receiving travel tips by boda-boda (motorcycle) drivers. The clinic staff and community really cared about the FIMRC volunteers and I felt valued at the clinic and in the community because of their kindness.
One of my favorite stories from the summer is the time that the other volunteers and I bought a goat for the Post-Test Club for HIV positive adults. Every Monday is market day in the trading center right next to the FIMRC clinic. On market days, I would look outside the window of the clinic and see around 50 goats for sale in the market. On the second to last market day, I joked with another volunteer about buying a goat and bringing it back on the plane with me. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, but one of the clinic staff members, Musa, overheard and said that the Post-Test Club could "adopt" the goat while we're away. After talking with Musa about it, 4 other volunteers and I went in on buying a goat and donating it to the Post-Test Club. One the last market day, I went to the market with Musa to buy the goat and then walked her on a leash 2 miles uphill to our guesthouse with a few other volunteers. The next day, the other volunteers and I took her to the Post-Test Club and were greeted with shouts, clapping, and dancing from the Post-Test Club members. We had a goat naming ceremony, named the goat "Patsy," and presented her to a club member for her goat business. I hope that I can visit the Post-Test Club members int the future and see Patsy again...even though goat meat is highly valued.
All jokes aside, my summer in Bududa was an extremely valuable experience. I learned so much about sustainable service, building relationships, and empowering the people who you serve. In addition, my work in the clinic and health education in the community confirmed my interests in MCH and infectious diseases. Overall, my experiences in Uganda went above and beyond any expectations that I had going into it. Even though I'm still working on my own self-development, this summer really put some of my goals into motion, while being able to serve others at the same time. I can't wait to visit Project Bududa again!