As our project for this year is underway, we'd like to take a moment to thank all you for your support! Your willingness to contribute to and learn about our project is instrumental to the health and progress of Gulu women and children. Following are a few updates regarding the progress of our project, as well as the ambitions and concerns of GWED-G staff as they strive to improve the health of their community.
Pamela, the executive director of GWED-G, and Juliette, the interim coordinator for GlobeMed's project, recently skyped with a few members of our chapter to provide updates about recent developments in the field and the progress our project has made in the community. The discussion was both educational and entertaining, with Pamela and her nephew Prince expressing their excitement for the GROW team’s visit in May.
The project has seen great success in the past year, with 15 mothers giving birth to HIV negative babies. As the rainy season begins in Uganda, the old mothers and youth groups, who were beneficiaries of our project in previous years, are also beginning to open up their fields, which they plant using the seed grants funded by GlobeMed’s project with GWED-G. Pamela said that the youth groups are hoping to add rice and onions to their crop as well. In addition, the old mothers are now receiving Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) training, which will allow them to save money and take loans as a group. Juliette expressed her excitement for the success of the Gender Based Violence awareness component of the project, stating that many of the mothers’ husbands are now accompanying them to their antenatal care appointments and are being more supportive. Both Pamela and Juliette were very proud of how much the project has grown, and are looking forward to the further expansion of GWED-G’s impact in the region.
Despite these successes, Pamela and Juliette also expressed some concerns about the lack of resources in Uganda. Though our project accounts for 50 mothers, GWED-G currently only has 20 mama kits, and will need to receive at least 30 more to fully account for the babies’ safe births. These kits contain items that are often discarded by US hospitals, such as gloves and gauze. They are full of basic, but extremely important supplies needed for healthy births. Pamela is hoping to receive more than that so that GWED-G can donate the kits to the local health centers and by doing so encourage other mothers to receive proper care. The biggest concern, however, is the HIV testing kit shortage in Uganda. There are currently no HIV testing kits in Gulu or Amuru, which are the two main districts where GWED-G’s activities take place. Though GWED-G is trying to make connections to international non-profits to receive kit donations, Pamela is worried that the shortage will hinder GWED-G’s ability to test the newborns in our project. Pamela also hopes that the new GROW team can help establish a relationship with a local auto company and thereby address the transportation concerns that have only increased as people from IDP camps are moving back to their original homes, increasing the distance between villages and health centers: many mothers are not able to get to the health centers in time to have a hospital delivery, or are transported using bicycles or motorcycles, both of which are very dangerous for a mother in labor to travel on. Pamela hopes that GWED-G can come to some sort of agreement with a local auto company, and perhaps commission a vehicle to transport the mothers to the hospitals when needed.
In happier news, GWED-G is greatly expanding their impact in Uganda. Pamela told us about a recent meeting where civil societies in Uganda got together to discuss good government and socioeconomic rights, and was particularly proud of their “Uganda 2020” plan, which entails a strategic vision for growth on a national level. She also talked about GWED-G’s plans to “domesticate human rights tools” by providing literature to local universities such as Gulu University. Pamela hopes that these materials will give background on human rights mechanisms in the context of international law and practice, and make local workers aware of the tools at their disposal and how to use them. Finally, Pamela told the GlobeMedders that GWED-G’s website is being revamped to look more lively and feature more content, and will hopefully have a consistent site manager in the months to come. Clearly 2014 has already been a very productive year for GWED-G, and Pamela shows no signs of slowing down.
When asked if she had a message for GlobeMed at Columbia members, Pamela said, “I want them to know that we are grateful for the strength of the work that the GlobeMed team does. I am happy that you are working together as a team to foster global health, and I hope that you continue that unity. I also want them to know that my door is always open, not just to speak to the leaders of GlobeMed but to anyone who wants to talk or who has questions for me.”
Before she signed off, Pamela brought her nephew Prince onscreen to say hello. He wanted the new GROW team to know that he still likes dragons, and is very excited for them to come (especially now that the team has another boy). He then proceeded to giggle and run off screen into another room.
In other news, the recent conflicts in South Sudan have resulted in an influx of South Sudanese refugees into Uganda. According to UNHCR, as of February 25, over 82,000 refugees had arrived in Uganda from South Sudan. The refugees, 70% of whom are women, largely lack the support that they need to maintain their health and well-being in the refugee camps: the facilities put in place have proven insufficient to provide for the needs specific to women and girls. Refugee women, about 15% of whom have been widowed by the conflict back home, have out of necessity taken on the additional burden of searching for water and firewood for their families, doing household chores, and helping to maintain their households' temporary lots of land. Further, gender-based sexual violence and other forms of human rights violations against women have been reported to occur in refugee camps. The presence of refugees in Northern Uganda has put an inordinate strain upon the resources of host communities, including that of Gulu: in the nearby camp of Nyumanzi, there are over 22,000 refugees in over 5,000 households. As director of an organization devoted to the health of her community, Pamela expressed a few weeks ago her sense of obligation to provide some means of relief for the refugees. Accordingly, she rallied GlobeMed at Columbia University as well as other friends and contacts to help raise money during a month-long campaign to provide emergency health kits for refugee women, including essential items such as soap, salt, rope, a dish towel, a washing basin, sanitary pads, underwear, and educational pamphlets designed for the refugee population on topics such as peace-building, emergency health, and refugee rights. We hope that these simple provisions will help displaced women and children maintain their health and dignity, and that the progress of ongoing peace talks will allow them to return home in the near future.
Although the emergency relief effort for South Sudanese refugees is tangential to our project, we felt a distinct obligation to support GWED-G in its time of strain, and, like Pam, an inability to ignore the suffering of refugees. GWED-G will continue to move forward as planned with our project even while juggling a plethora of other ambitions, concerns, and obstacles, and GlobeMed at Columbia will support them every step of the way.
Thank you again to all of our supporters, and we wish you the best that spring can bring!
Happy New Year! This is a time for us all to refresh our lives and consider what is most important to us. As we enter 2014, we wanted to share with you a Story of Change about Bosco, who was also able to have a fresh start because of GWED-G. Please consider supporting our project and helping more men and women like Bosco be role models in their communities.
This is Bosco's story:
Bosco is a personal testimony to the impact of peer education. Before joining one of GWED-G's youth group, he recalls being very angry with his situation in the world. Now, he says he has hope to one day have a family where the priority is on health and education.
Bosco is the Secretary for the Palema Youth Group supported by GWED-G. Part of GlobeMed at Columbia’s HIV/AIDS prevention project involves engaging men in the fight against HIV/AIDS and targeting younger generations to adopt healthy behaviors early. As a member of the Palema Youth Group, Bosco acts as a “Positive Male Role Model,” advocating for healthy living through his actions. Instead of formal educational events, Bosco will start conversations with his peers during normal recreational activities and teach youth about safe sex practices and the consequences of gender-based violence that affect an entire community. The Palema Youth Group also has their own Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA), where every month youth save a portion of their income in a village bank and gain interest on their savings. The group can loan money for members’ investments and provide emergency assistance to members in needs. In phase 3 of GlobeMed at Columbia’s project, the youth group will decide on a communally owned income-generating activity to supplement their VSLA savings.
Happy New Year!
Menaka and Nicole
As GlobeMed at Columbia continues our Individual Giving campaign this holiday season, we wanted to share with you another story of change about the impact that our project has had on individual lives in Gulu, Uganda. This story is Lucie's. As you read her story, please consider supporting our project so we can write more stories just as impactful as hers.
This is Lucie's story.
Lucie is an HIV positive single mother of four children. She is trained as a Human Rights Volunteer, Community Health Worker, and caretaker with GWED-G. As a Human Rights Volunteer, she holds sensitization events in her community about human rights and HIV/AIDS awareness, and as a Community Health Worker and caretaker, she makes regular visits to rural villages to educate people about their HIV/AIDS status and to make home visits and referrals to sick people in her community. Even though she has four children to take care of, she gives up time farming her own land to do all her work on a volunteer basis because she believes in making a difference in her community.
Before her involvement with GWED-G, she was not receiving treatment for her HIV/AIDS, and she was too weak to farm her land. Her neighbors started taking parts of her land away from her, saying she did not deserve to own land that she was not going to use. As a single mother of four children, she was unable to support her family and did not feel like she had enough authority in her community to fight for her right to property and health care. After attending a human rights education session organized by GWED-G in her community, she was connected with legal counsel that got her back her land and was referred to a local health center to receive treatment for her HIV/AIDS. She no longer believes her status as an HIV positive woman justifies her marginalization. Now, she is not only one of GWED-G’s most active volunteers, she is integral to all of GlobeMed at Columbia’s project objectives.
To our friends, family, and supporters,
To celebrate the beginning of GlobeMed at Columbia's Individual Giving campain, we asked our chapter members to write "This I believe" statements to share with their family and friends as they talk about what GlobeMed has meant to them. The responses were beautiful, with members saying "I believe that inaction towards global disparity is unacceptable," and "I believe that everyone deserves to achieve happiness." And we began to think about how GlobeMed's partnership with the Gulu Women's Economic Development and Globalization has influenced what we believe in. Some of the most meaningful lessons we have learned have come through the stories we have witnessed in our time at GlobeMed. And so this will be the theme of our Individual Giving campaign for the winter of 2013: the stories that shape what we believe. Every other week, we will share the story of an individual who has inspired us to believe in the work that GWED-G is doing. Our Individual Giving campaign is dedicated to these men and women. As you read these stories and consider the values and beliefs that have shaped your life, we hope you consider supporting our project during this holiday season.
Alice: age 29
At first, Alice didn’t know she was HIV positive, but she heard rumors in her village that her husband was infected. However, she ignored them because she didn’t want to take the issue seriously. When asked to get tested, Alice refused, afraid that she would have to take drugs. It was very difficult for her to believe that she might be positive. Even when she became pregnant at age 26, she decided again not to test herself.
Finally, a GWED-G campaign changed her mind. A few of Alice’s friends convinced her to attend a community sensitization session with them. As she listened to the program, she heard about other mothers who were able to have healthy babies, despite the fact that they were HIV positive. When she went home that night, she talked to her husband and told him that they needed to go to the hospital to get tested. Unfortunately, when the results came in, both her and her husband were diagnosed as HIV positive.
After realizing that she had the virus, Alice became incredibly stressed and didn’t want to talk to anyone. Feeling helpless and confused, Alice approached Grace, one of GWED-G’s Village Health workers and HIV caretakers, asking for help. Grace counseled Alice and visited her in her home. When Alice heard that GWED-G’s HIV program was looking to support HIV positive mothers, she said she was interested. After talking to her and her husband, GWED-G enrolled her in a program focused on prevention of mother to child trasmission of HIV.
Thanks to the services provided in the program, Alice delivered an HIV negative baby. She says that GWED-G’s intervention changed her life, because otherwise she would have just given birth at home with no antenatal care and her baby would most likely have been HIV positive. Because Alice shared the knowledge she learned from the sensitization with her husband, he chose to support her decision to become part of the program and even joined with her. When GWED-G gave the family bean seeds, her husband helped her farm the land and plant them. Currently, Alice has given birth to two healthy HIV negative boys.
This story inspired us to believe in the power of community action to create tangible change. If you believe in the power of this story as well, we hope you will consider supporting this project.
Nicole Dussault and Menaka Dhingra
Dear family and friends,
Summer is almost over and the GlobeMed at Columbia team is getting ready to start the new year! We have some exciting updates from GWED-G and are getting ready to unveil our new proejct for 2013-2014. We can't wait to start a new semester of fundraising and awareness campaigns, and we hope you will continue to follow our activities and support us as wonderfully as you have in the past.
Our Grassroots On Site Work team wrapped up their activities in Gulu, Uganda at the end of June and have spent the past few months preparing the media and stories collected from the field to share with you all. Look forward to stories from our beneficiaries and new photos documenting field activities, as well as some interviews of the HIV positive mothers in our groups and some of the GWED-G staff as well! The team also helped design the new project for this year, which we will share with you all in the beginning of September. In the meantime, here is a brief summary of GWED-G's activities from their quarterly report.
GWED-G's main goal for Maternal Health projects is to decrease the infant mortality rate, which has risen in the past years to 438 deaths per 100,000 live births. Despite the daunting challenges in achieving their target reduction, GWED-G has continued implementing awareness and treatment campaigns on the parish, community, and home level over the past few months. They have also continued their work with maternal health and family planning as well as ANC and PMTCT care.
A second strategy towards reducing the infant mortality rate that GWED-G has been using is engagement with local officials. GWED-G is working with District Health Officers and VHTs to ensure that health facilities and existing government health stuctures are being properly and fully utilized. They have also been advocating for educational campaigns for children, which will serve as a preventative measure against the spread of HIV/AIDS and will facilitate proper family planning.
GWED-G has also been trying their best to ensure that all the mothers our project is responsible for are receiving proper antenatal care. However, transportation to health centers is proving to be an issue for many of the women. Some of the women's husbands refuse to take them for treatment, and they cannot afford to hire a motorcycle taxi to take them. GWED-G will be working with GlobeMed in our new project to address issues such as these. On a brighter note, 30 of the mothers received safe birth kits which will allow them to have HIV negative babies.
The GROW team was able to see the VHTs' work while in Uganda, as well as distribute the incentives promised to them by our project. The VHTs received soap and sugar as well as bicycles while the GROW team was on site. They were also invited to a planning meeting where they were able to discuss training strategies as well as some of the challenges that they face in their daily work, such as transportation and lack of official materials to distribute to the community (i.e. informational pamphlets, flyers, etc.).
You can read about the rest of the activities conducted by GWED-G this quarter in the attached report, including blood screenings for HIV and GBV awareness and sensitization sessions. We will be revealing our new project within the next few weeks; we can't wait for you all to see what GWED-G and GlobeMed at Columbia have planned for the new year!
In the meantime, stay happy and healthy!
GlobeMed at Columbia
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