Friday, April 19, 2019

Last Blog About Jinja

Last Blog About Jinja

April 19, 2019

Seattle. Washington


Well we have arrived home after three months in Jinja, Uganda.  We had a wonderful three months working with two very different organizations. One was Rays of Hope Hospice Jinja a palliative care program ministering to the sickest of the sick.  The other was St. Francis Health Care Services an organization providing health care, social services, youth program, a home for HIV positive children and maternity care along with health and immunization services to the infants and children of the area.

Both organizations serve the poorest of the poor in their homes and in the outpatient setting.  Rays of Hope sees patient in the very rural areas of Eastern Uganda.  They are people who have breast cancer, cervical cancer, tumors of all sorts as well as HIV.  Many of them have gotten to the last stages of life due to these illnesses. And if they had been diagnosed early could have survived. RHHJ provides end of life care keeping these patients as comfortable as possible.  They also advocate for care and intervention when they find someone who might benefit from that. Problems abound because patients, in most cases do not have finances to see help in the hospitals. We spent time in the field with some of the nursing staff and were touched by the caring attitude and knowledge of the staff.  They were always mindful of the patient and family needs and were ever caring individuals.

At RHHJ Hinda, worked on a data system which would go along with their medical records, unfortunately, this project is still ongoing when we had hoped it would be completed before we left.  Hinda also assisted staff with other small projects but mostly gave moral support and helped staff find their way.  Although she thought she was not doing a great deal, we have just learned that one of the nurses who was pregnant during our stay, delivered a baby girl and named her Hinda.  She told us that she felt loved and cared for while we were there and therefore wanted to always remember us and have her baby grow up with the tenderness and caring the Hinda showed to her. 

Peter helped RHHJ by taking lots of photos for them to use in their various publications and posters, as well as mentoring staff in photography.  He also helped the Executive Director with some grant writing skills. And provided expertise with their written and web materials, always providing a positive and encouraging sense of action for the staff.

St. Francis was a much larger organization with much larger issues.  Peter shared an office with Joseph, the Program Director, in line to become the Executive Director when the current Director retires. It was a thrill for Peter to work with Joseph, since we had met him in Uganda in 2004 when Peter mentored him.  Now the tables had turned and Joseph was the boss. Peter helped Joseph think through and develop action steps that needed to be implemented.  And they had a lot of fun together working and sharing.  It was a more informal mentoring.  Joseph was no longer a beginner, and Peter worked with him in a respectful manner.  They really got long well.  Peter was instrumental in providing access to a new type of Nutriflour for malnourished babies and adults living with HIV. Peter helped with redoing their web page, helping to choose a group to produce a documentary, assisted with renting a piece of property for the grandmother’s program to use for a craft store,  Finally, Peter took a lot of documentary photos for St. Francis which already are being used on their new web page and elsewhere. 

Hinda did an evaluation of the reception and triage area of the clinic making recommendations for changes in operation and design.  All recommendations were accepted and they are now in the process of making the changes.  She also worked with the Human Resources manager on a new HR Policy and Procedure Manual, which also is being adopted.  She also provided expertise and guidance in acquiring supplies that were needed but now stocked, for example oxygen masks in case the cannulas did not work and something called UBT’s which are used for women hemorrhaging after delivering their babies.

At the end of our stay St. Francis made a lovely dinner for us and gave us a book which many of the staff wrote in stating their feelings towards us and their appreciation for our help.  It was extremely touching and will be long remembered as a high spot of our stay.

We already miss the close relationships we developed, and from what we hear, they miss working with us also. 
And to our great delight, we had visits from our dear friends from Kampala:  Atyero Gertrude, Kyosiimye Esther, Eric Kamunvi, and PeterPaul Igu.  And from Kisumu, daughter "Sunday" Anne Otajah.
Glad to be home for a while (long while) and be with our kids, grandchildren, and friends.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Harriet Butsiba, RHHJ Social Worker

Teddy Candiru, Rays of Hope Accountant

Rays of Hope

Mentored Joseph Nkurunziza in 2004, Now He is Peter's "Boss"

St. Francis Medical Ward Patient

Fish Eagle In Our Moringa Treee

"As The Crow Flies"

Blog 4

Blog 4
Jinja, Uganda
March 17, 2019

Hello again from very hot Jinja, Uganda.  No rain in sight, and everyday is warmer than the day before.  Climate change?  It appears so, since this is the rainy season.
There are a lot of good things about Africa:  nice people, interesting cultures, food, scenery, fauna and flora, and much much more.
But in our jobs, we are seeing and learning about many bad things also.  In 2004, then President George W. Bush introduced PEPFAR to this continent and elsewhere.  PEPFAR (Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).  For the first time hope began to replace despair.  People with HIV/AIDS could live a relatively healthy and long life.  Even live to see their grandchildren be born and grow up. That was 15 years ago.
We learned in 2004 that in order to take the AIDS drugs, it was important to have food, or otherwise the ARV’s (anti retro virus) drugs would not work, make you sick and you wouldn’t take them.  Now we are learning that in certain parts of Uganda, around here, and probably elsewhere, where people are so poor that they can’t buy and/or grow food and don’t have money to buy food. Or, in very rural places, they can’t get to the places where the ARV’s are available, because they don’t have money for transit, and it is too far too walk. There are other issues as well, there is still a heavy stigma against anyone who has aids, so people hide from the truth and don’t get tested or medicated.  And last but not least there are many in Eastern Uganda who believe in witchcraft, so they may think their neighbor is making them sick, but it is not HIV. And now on top of all of that, our current president has made heavy cuts to the global health portion of his budget so ARV’s may not be as available in the future. (Of course, his budget will have to pass and that is unlikely). Unfortunately, many children who were born with HIV may attend boarding school where the teachers have too many kids to worry about and therefore, do not attend to the medical needs of the HIV kids, no reminders to take their meds and no food.
The other big health issue here is cancer.  The government is beginning to push people to get tested for cervical cancer and breast cancer since these are two that if diagnosed early can be cured.  Slowly women are being tested but there are many that it is too late for.
As someone at work told us just the other day, the world is going one way, and Uganda s going in an opposite direction.  And often, it does feel like that in many different kinds of ways.  Very unfortunate and sad!
So what do we do?  We need to find and develop new and different ways to solve these problems.  Work smarter!  And Harder!
The people that we work with both at Rays of Hope and St. Francis are not giving up.  They are dedicated and compassionate about solving these and other problems.  We are proud to be a part of these teams.
We have put a few photos on this blog of a few of our work colleagues.  We have met lots of dedicated people here in Uganda and they are trying as hard as they can to make changes and take care of the very sick as well as work with the younger population with education. 
We continue to work hard to impart some of our knowledge with the employees of these organizations, hoping that will assist to make their lives easier so they can continue to deal with the big problems.
Bye for now!  We’ll be home in less than a month.
Katende Peter and Hinda

Friday, March 08, 2019

I Love Watermelon

Youth at St. Francis

Sunday on the Nile

River Nile

Rays of Hope Staff

Maureen Who Does Our Laundry and Cleaning

Innoculation Time at St. Francis

Harriet End Stage Cervical Cancer

Hadada - Ibis at Home


St. Francis Doctor and HIV Patient

Cow, Flowers, Nile

Blog 3 From Jinja

Blog 3
Jinja, Uganda
March 8, 2019

We have been here in Jinja, nearly two months and in slightly more than a month, we will be returning home.  In short, all is well; with us, and where we work, and in our little cottage on Lake Victoria. The cottage often has a breeze coming off the lake and it is quite cool, worth the money we pay for it.  We also have delightful Danish neighbors next door who have been bringing us roses every week.  So nice to have in the house.
One of the photos we have posted here is the Nile River, or River Nile as it is called in this part of the world.  Very beautiful and powerful.  It starts just a few hundred meters/yards from our cottage and flows more than 4,000 miles to Egypt before finally emptying in to the Mediterranean Sea.  Longest river in the world!!
A couple of weeks ago, our Kenyan “daughter”, Sunday, came to spend a few days with us.  It was her first trip out of her native Kenya.  We all enjoyed her visit, and she will come again before we leave for home.
One of our bosses, the Executive Director of St. Francis Health Care Services is also the head of the Jinja Rotary.  So last week, all of the Rotaries of Northern Uganda were going to have a regional meeting in the town of Arua, Arua is about 530 kilometers from Jinja, about a 10 hour bus drive.  It took 12.5 hours to get there.  Flat tire along the way 11  And when we finally arrived at nearly 8pm, our reserved rooms were given to some other people – actually 4 women working for the US government.  Our double room had 1 towel and 1 pair of shower shoes.  In the morning, there was no hot water because the power had gone off during the night.  Anyway, after the Rotary meetings, we left on Sunday morning at 7am.  After about 2 hours on the road, we began to smell a burning odor, and soon after the bus came to a stop and refused to go.  We all got out, and most of the men began pushing the bus UPHILL, but it still wouldn’t go.  And it was hot as hell 35 (95).  Two hours later, the bus was still broken, so everyone began hitching a ride. Lucky us (and 2 others)  plus the bus mechanic who had to get a new clutch got picked up by a cotton farmer and another guy who took us all the way to Kampala.  Left Kampala after 7 pm and arrived back home at 11pm  Total time 16 hours!!! We have finished with bus trips!!!
At Rays of Hope Hospice Jinja, our other assignment, there are teams of clinicians who go out to remote villages everyday to see patients and provide them with palliative services.  Before they go each morning, the teams report on the activities of the day before.  All we can say is that this group of nurses and clinicians who work at least 10 hours per day are the most compassionate and caring people we have ever met.  They give hope to the hopeless, prolong lives of the dying, and treat people with huge tumors, HIV,AIDS, little to no food or money, sleeping on the bare ground in tiny huts.  Our hats are off to them, and we encourage you to visit them on the internet at and do what you can to help.  A little goes a long way here.
At St. Francis and Rays of Hope both, Peter has been taking a lot of good documentary photos.  He also helped develop SKYPE for inter-office communication.  Also providing fundraising mentoring, Hinda editing and writing brochures, and working on data collection and entry forms. As well as doing a review of the triage and reception area at St. Francis with the organization accepting all of her recommendations and beginning to make changes.
For the past several days we have had some big lightning and thunderstorms with extremely heavy rain.  It doesn’t last long but does cool things off.  The only problem is that the power usually goes off when there is a heavy rain, so then we are left in the dark.  Oh well, such is life in Africa.
Bye, talk to you soon
Love, Hinda and Peter