U-gan-da Where?

June 5, 2015 • Uganda
U-gan-da Where?

Living and working in a country far from home

Leighton Norvell is the Global Public Health Intern in Kampala and Moroto, Uganda. This blog was originally published on her personal blog.

Sometimes, when I’m greeted by the family of cockroaches living in my kitchen, when I’m squeezing into a foul-smelling latrine, or when I’m dreaming of hot showers and ice cream cones, I ask myself what I’m doing here.

But in a place where 80 percent of households are in the lowest wealth quintile in Uganda, there is a great need for Christ and compassion.

U-gan-da Where?

We pulled up next to one of our care group meetings as the women were dancing and chanting before beginning the lesson.

Here in Karamoja, a region located in northeastern Uganda, years of drought, conflict, and poverty have resulted in a maternal mortality rate of 620 deaths per 100,000 live births (compared to 438 nationally) and 153 deaths per 1,000 live births among children under 5. The top causes of death among children are malaria, neonatal causes, diarrheal disease, pneumonia, and other, often preventable, infections.

The project that I’m working on, the Karamoja Integrated Maternal Child Health Project, or “Erot Ngolo Kitete” (meaning “The New Way” in the local Ngakarimojong language), aims to reduce maternal and child mortality. This project utilizes a framework called “The Care Group Model” to train “Leader Mothers” in the community on important health topics.

Every two weeks, our local health promoters host a care group meeting in which mothers, and often their families, gather to learn about topics taught from flipbook modules that were designed to reflect local culture. The meeting always begins with some dancing and chanting in a circle.

U-gan-da Where?

The children in the slum greeted Leighton with smiles.

My daily tasks have been varied and sometimes require office work, while other days I’m out in the field. This week I’ve been editing constitutions that were written for village savings and loan associations, which allow mothers who don’t have access to formal financial services to save money together and take out small loans. The groups write their own rules and agree on objectives and village activities.

Last week, I was asked to visit a tiny village and distribute insecticide-treated mosquito nets for malaria prevention. Each person signed with a thumbprint since most were illiterate.

Listening to Pastor’s Job speak, I was reminded that God loves using the willing. Pastor Job built his church here before his own home. He left everything he knew to follow the Lord and to start a church in one of the most dangerous places in Uganda. He picked up his cross.

As it has been said, God doesn’t always call the equipped, but He always equips the called.