KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
At the very end of June I embarked on a journey that I knew would be difficult, yet rewarding. On June 28th at 5:00 am I left the comfort of my childhood home and traveled 20 minutes to the nearest airport. I was beginning a 25 hour journey that would culminate in Kabale, Uganda. After a few incredibly long flights, I arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, in an airport that seemed quite hectic. With my past travels to other countries that resemble Rwanda, this chaos didn’t faze me. I gathered my luggage – I was quite relieved when I saw my bright blue overly stuffed suitcase roll down the carousel, losing luggage has always been an overwhelming fear of mine. I wheeled my two suitcases out the exit doors to be welcomed by a CFHI sign, held by a woman with the brightest, happiest smile I have seen I quite a while. Carol introduced herself, and directed us to the vans which would take us to a hostel where we would spend the night, before venturing into Uganda where we would spend the next four weeks.
The next morning, we were back in the vans, headed for Kabale, Uganda, the home of the Kihefo Clinics. Upon our arrival, we were given a quick tour of the apartments, and settled in for a quiet evening. Around 8:30 pm we were served our first Ugandan meal, and were introduced to more staff.
First thing Monday morning, we began the short downhill, dusty walk to the clinics, where Carol met us to begin our orientation. During this time we learned about Kihefo as a whole, and the populations they serve. This was an incredibly informative orientation, that allowed us to get a better understanding of the types of patients that are seen in each clinic. After getting a tour of the different clinics, we were able to return to the apartments to reflect on the information we had just received. Our next task in the days to come was to sit though lectures given by Dr. G. These lectures are not like a typical University lecture. Instead of focusing on the science behind each disease he comes across, he focuses on what he describes as the “reality” of the disease. This is how the disease actually affects a patient, their family, and their community. It is important in an area like this to include these thoughts in your patient analysis, because so much of their care is based on how a patient interacts with their family and the others in their area.
After gaining the appropriate knowledge needed, we were ready to begin our clinic observations. For myself, this began at the maternity clinic. While this clinic could be considered “slow” based on my American lifestyle, it was a nice change in pace, and allowed me more opportunities to gather information from the midwives. I personally feel that I gained the most amount of knowledge from this clinic. The midwives were incredibly insightful into how health care for pregnant and laboring mothers changes from that in the States. During the time that I spent with the midwifes both at the maternity clinic, and on the outreaches, I was able to gain a better understanding of how important Kihefo is in Kabale, and the surrounding districts. These women are instrumental in preventing maternal deaths during pregnancy and during child birth. During my four weeks in Kabale I gained a huge appreciation for midwives, and the care they are able to deliver.
I am excited to take the information and knowledge I gained from this experience back into my final year of nursing school. I feel that this trip has forced me into some uncomfortable areas in my own life, and pushed me to see that the degree I am pursuing is where I truly want to be. I am hopefully that this experience will open many doors in my future to return to the Kihefo Clinics, and continue to learn from these amazing people in years to come. I truly believe that one never stops learning, and this could clearly be seen by the amazing staff at the Kihefo Clinics, as well as the CFHI leaders. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity, and will never forget my time in Kabale, Uganda.
By Clarissa Davis
Student Intern (CFHI – KIHEFO)