August 14, 2011 | | Leave a Comment
It’s hard to believe that we have already spent seven weeks here in Uganda and that by this time next week, we will be on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, on our way home. I feel like I have just begun to become familiar with the surroundings and culture here, but there is still so much more to learn and experience.
The past week has been a particularly enriching one, through both our fieldwork and our cultural experiences. Now that Katie and I have finished facilitating focus group discussions about child health issues in Kashongi, we are conducting follow-up interviews with noteworthy participants whom we met during the past several weeks. The interviews have allowed us to delve deeper into child health topics such as access to medical services, attitudes about health facilities, and care-seeking norms. They have been extremely informative, though we keep on discovering essential details about our interviewees – for example, that one happens to be a member of the village health team – halfway through the interviews. These little surprises have definitely kept us on our toes and tested our improvisation skills, as we’ve had to modify our interview questions on-the-spot according to the interviewees’ roles in the community.
Over the past four weeks, Katie and I have also led focus groups to evaluate the impact of rainwater harvesting tanks installed throughout Kashongi in 2010. I have been struck by the correlation between the ability of a tank to deliver clean water and the effectiveness of the tank’s oversight committee, which is composed of community members responsible for the maintenance and usage of the tank. Through our focus groups, we have encountered communities where the tank committees successfully managed the provision of clean drinking water to a large number of nearby residents, but we have also visited communities where tank committees were inactive, tank water was wasted, and tanks were damaged, with no plans for repair. Learning more about the tanks has also helped to quell my woes about the dreary weather here in Uganda. With the advent of the rainy season this past week and the havoc that the daily rains have wreaked on my laundry-drying plans, I have found a silver lining to the storm clouds – at least I know that the rains are filling the tanks with clean water for the communities.
Katie’s and my time in Kashongi last week wasn’t been entirely devoted to our fieldwork; along with most of the other DukeEngagers, we did a homestay overnight in a village in Mooya parish. It was a nice change of scenery from our usual nights tucked away in Mbarara and a fantastic, though brief, opportunity to become immersed in rural Ugandan culture. Katie and I were hosted by Jennifer, an amiable drug shop owner who lives right outside of a trading center. During our stay, we searched for hyraxes in a stream, helped milk a cow, accidentally contributed to the untimely death of a chick (I’ll forgo the details), prepared matooke, and brought goats out to pasture. This has been one of my favorite experiences of the summer, as it has been such a pleasure to witness the daily lives of the community members with whom we do our work. With that said, I’ll end the post with a picture of Katie holding one of Jennifer’s baby goats. Let the aww’s commence…