May 22, 2017

By Professor Irena Creed

Global Health Systems in Africa graduate students have been given three short days to design and implement their projects.  Let me introduce you to two key people that will be integral to the success of these projects.

Dr. Dennis Twinomugisha is an excellent resource of not only the scientific underpinnings of the projects, but also how to communicate, organize, negotiate and ensure that we are using our relatively small budgets to ensure maximum benefit to the communities.  Next to Dennis is Francis, who owns and operates a fleet of vehicles that we used for our international field school, as well as our “on demand” vehicular needs to take us to visit community leaders as well as the suppliers, distributors, designers, builders, and technical experts needed to ensure the sustainability of our projects.  Thank you Dennis and Francis!

Hatching ideas

Bob Kigen, Christine Park, Leah Rosenkrantz, Veerta Singh, Spencer Yeung, and Angelina Zhu

As our community project continues, we understand that a crucial part of the process is the involvement of community members to gather feedback in order to best execute our project. Unfortunately, the profit that our project generates initially is incapable of supporting all the orphans in the village, so our hardest decision was to choose which orphans to fund. We came to realize that it will be impossible to support every orphan at this moment, so we wanted to include their voices by involving the community. As a group, we were motivated to have the community members decide the best way to choose which orphans to fund. This further solidified our participatory approach to community engagement by asking questions, listening carefully, and remaining open to community opinions. Even if we didn’t completely agree with their ideas, we felt it was important to understand the cultural and community significance of their words and implement their ideas to the best of our abilities.

Reflection 16 (1)

High Pork Stakes

Daniel Brenner, Mike D’Agostino, Mike Dallosch, Liz Favot, Anya Köchel, Clare Nelligan, and Carolyn Spiegel-Feld

We often experience stress when cramming for exams or scrambling to submit final term papers. While we consider these tasks to be a stressful component of school, those feelings don’t even come close to the stress we have collectively felt over the past few days. Here the stakes are much higher. During exams, we are only accountable for ourselves – if we don’t invest time into studying it will be reflected in our grades. However, for the piggery project, we are accountable to the sponsors who donated funding for the project, as well as the entire Kanyawara community. We are working hard to finalize the budget and the structure of this project to not only ensure short-term success, but also long-term sustainability. We feel responsible to the community as we want this project to positively impact Kanyawara and we think that the potential for this is within our reach. This experience will serve as a reminder that often the anxieties of our day-to-day lives are within our control and that sometimes there are worthy causes to stress over.

Reflection 16 (2)

Bee-Ringing Us Together

Oscar Senar, Eshan Shah, Camille Chemali, Rick Dong, Felicia Krausert, Jason Knapp, and Reshel Perera

Money can’t buy happiness, but it could buy a honey extractor! Unfortunately, honey extractors are nearly 6 million Ugandan shillings (1600 USD), an amount that is out of our budget range when trying to implement a sustainable beehive farm. This price forced us to explore innovative alternatives that would keep costs low and make this project possible. One such alternative would be selling the raw honey to a distributer, thus avoiding the cost to buy an extractor. However, this means giving up ownership of the marketing and sales, and is less profitable. Our second alternative is to build a honey extractor ourselves. To accomplish this task, we had to work together to solve a problem that was out of our area of expertise. We were pleasantly surprised to find a wealth of information in the locals and our peers, even though they were not engineering professionals. In the end, the journey towards establishing an efficient home-made extractor has created unique partnerships between ourselves and the local community!

Reflection 16 (3)

Building up the community

Kevin Erratt, Erika Freeman, Onyka Gairey, Georgina Mends-Paintsil, Rose Moss, Stefania Wisofschi, and Hannah Guiang

Venturing thought the red-stained soils of Kibale, we searched the adjacent village for a location to establish the Kanyawara Women’s Collective headquarters.  The Kanyawara Women’s Collective is a newly formed organization aimed at empowering women. The economic involvement of women is essential for societies to realize their full potentials, especially here in Uganda which is undergoing rapid development. Many women in this community are involved in informal businesses, especially the creation and sale of handwork items. However, the time and monetary cost to produce such items is often high, and the returns marginal. Women, often working double-time as informal laborers, farmers, and home-makers and as such are unable to bring their goods to markets and travel to the city to purchase supplies. Thus, by working as a team, these women can overcome some of these challenges. When we entered the barren room, we envisioned the potential for these women and for the good they could do for their community.

Reflection 16 (4)