KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
KIHEFO’s approach to delivering effective health services in Kigezi involves partnering with many community groups and institutions. One of those unique partnerships is with the Kabale Institute of Health Sciences, and more specifically, over eighty nursing students whom have volunteered their skills and experience at the mobile health camps organized by KIHEFO and TO – the WORLD over the past week.
The nursing students rise early in the morning to mobilize at KIHEFO’s outreach camps, including the clinic that was organized in the Kigongi neighborhood of Kabale town-centre on Thursday, March 7, 2013. Through an agreement between KIHEFO and the Institute, a group of ten students were chosen to participate in the clinic. These eager students were easily identifiable wearing their grey and maroon school uniforms. Students were paired with TO – the WORLD’s team of Canadian doctors, dentists and dental hygienists with the goal to both offer their skills and assistance and benefit from practical learning experiences.
“We are learning and experiencing a lot,” explained Daniel Otwani, a student leader appointed to help organize the nursing team throughout the camps. “In class, they just teach you through lectures…but here we get to see everything up close.”
Daniel explained how he had the chance to learn about patient cases of elephantiasis and liver disease – health conditions he had never encountered before.
Peninah Kyoyita, one of the students assisting in the dental clinic, was excited to see the Canadian and Ugandan dentists and hygienists using many of the tools and instruments. Some of the equipment is not readily available in the area, not even at the regional hospital – so the exposure for nursing students through the clinics was impressive.
“We are seeing first hand how they use the different tools to clean and extract teeth – and we’ve never seen this before,” said Peninah, who added that the practical learning opportunity has motivated her to potentially specialize in dental health in the future.
But nursing students are not only soaking up hands-on learning experiences through the health outreach camps. Rather, they have played a key role in delivering effective health services to hundreds of patients in the Kigezi region, especially when partnered with Canadian and international health professionals – who don’t speak Rukiga, the local language, and often lack important cultural knowledge and context.
Students serve as the cultural translators between Canadian health professionals and their patients, translating patient history, symptoms, conditions and ailments; and then helping the Canadians to best communicate to patients to help them understand their conditions and available treatment options. This is no easy task.
According to Olivia Nabaasa, who was working with a Canadian doctor in the medical clinic, it can be challenging to quickly translate medical terms from English into the local language, or explain a patient’s personal interpretation of their illness back into English.
“It was difficult to translate the word “ekyishonga” (the condition of feeling coldness all over one’s body) because there isn’t an English word for the same situation,” said Olivia, offering an example of how facilitating health services across the ‘cultural divide’ can be quite challenging.
Even so, Olivia and her fellow classmates were ecstatic about the opportunity to participate in outreach clinics, and learn from both the Canadian and Ugandan health professionals.
“As nurses in Uganda, we interact the most with patients,” Daniel explained. “We are nurses because we’ve been chosen to love and serve people…and so these opportunities to build our skills are really important.”
Daniel, Peninah and Olivia all expressed the hope that the “friendship” between KIHEFO and the Institute would continue to offer nursing students with more hands-on volunteer and learning opportunities into the future.
“We really pray that it continues,” said Olivia.
To learn more about KIHEFO’s dental and medical outreach clinics, please visit our website.