Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hello everyone!  I know it has been some time since my last post here.  So here goes

I'm starting to prepare for my next volunteer effort in Tanzania.  This will be my second trip and I am looking forward to getting back and doing some more work.  Most of my work will consist of HIV prevention education.  Last year I had the opportunity to work with schools (students ages 16-24) and it was amazing.  Here are the reviews from one of my classes and some comments from some of the students;

Out of 115 Students (50 male 65 female)
87% found the class to be satisfactory
13% found the class to be unsatisfactory
Challenges included a language barrier, religious beliefs, as well as denial with a couple of students that don't believe HIV is real (from comments provided on review form)
Here are a few comments from the students (there are 115 of them so I am not posting all of them) be aware it is written exactly how the students wrote them down
i have learned a lot of things from Michael because there are somethings I did know and some I didn't know but Michael open my brain he made me understand many things especially HIV and other transmission diseases. So I have learned a lot of things from Michael---
You have taught us nicely in this short time but we did understand much so! please continue with your heart so that next you can come back for volunteering thanks ---
Welcome another because you are very educated teacher and will understand societies---

I also encourage women's empowerment when teaching these classes.  I feel it is very important that women know how to stand up for themselves and to not be afraid.

I'm currently raising money to help out with some of my kids as well.  My goal is $5000.  The money will be used for food, medicine, educational materials (paper pens pencils etc.)  If you are able to help then please click the link on the side!

Thank You so much for your support and come back each week for an update on whats going on!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

This is a short video that I put together from my Journey to Uganda.  It was an amazing experience.  This video is about 13 minutes long.  I hope you enjoy it!  
This will be the last post I have on Uganda (at least for now)  I am gearing up to leave for Tanzania and will be posting while I'm there as long as I can get online.  So make sure you come back soon!   I will be in Tanzania for 10 weeks!  Working in the same field as I did in Uganda.  Please take the time to watch this short film and read up on my work in Uganda.  Thank You for visiting!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Last Days...

September 26, 2012

As my days are wrapping up here in Uganda I’m excited to be going home soon, but at the same time want to stay to keep helping.  But funds are running out and I need to go home.  I miss my partner, I miss my friends.   But one day I may return.  I have met many good people, and the Ugandan’s that I have met seem friendly and caring.  They have been so receptive and always say “welcome”.  They say that because they are happy that we are here helping, spending money and helping to create jobs here.  One of my favorite places that I did some shopping was a women’s co-op.  They go out buy handmade crafts from women around Uganda.  A lot of the women making the crafts are HIV-Positive or taking care of someone that is HIV-positive.  It makes me feel better knowing that the money I have spent there is helping people. 

I’m glad I got the opportunity to come here.  It has been one of my wishes to come and visit ever since I was a kid.  Now I have, I’ve enjoyed myself, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, and most of all I made a difference.  Even if that was just a little bit of a difference, it was worth every bit!

Thank you to those who helped get here, and thank you to those people in Uganda that welcomed me

To those who volunteer in the future, please remember,

“if you are faced with a million starving people, find the sickest one in the crowd, and help them first”

“You cannot change the world, unless you start with one person”

Michael Hand-

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Brian's Day...

September 22, 2012
Brian coming home after the neighbors found
him working the fields

Brian’s Day---

Today was an incredible day.  As I had talked about a young man in my previous post, I got the opportunity to spend a day with him at his home and in town.  Thanks to Richard, who works for Reproductive Health Uganda.  Richard took me to visit Brian at his home.  I was able to get rice, beans, flour,(enough food to last 2 – 3 months) socks, pants, shirts, soap, from the local market, as well as contributing the sleeping bag that I brought with me, and the best part of all a new pair of shoes!  He was able to go to the market with us to pick out the pair that he wanted the most.  It was a big day for him and he seemed so happy to get so much. 
Brian exited about all of his new stuff

After talking with Brian, I got some clarification on a few things that were miscommunicated to me when we went on a home visit to see him the first time.  While I was waiting for the other people in the village to find him I had the chance to speak to his grandmother.  They both sleep in the same house, she is not afraid of her grandson or getting HIV.  She is 82 years old and has lost all 7 of her children.  She showed me the grave yard (her back yard) where they are all buried.  Most of her children lost their lives because of HIV.  Brian was born with HIV, and is 19 years old according to him.  Brian spends his days working in the gardens of other villagers to make money.  His daily income is 2000/- shillings per day (about $0.80 USD).  Brian spends most of his money that he earns to help take care of his grandmother.  She had to spend some time in the hospital because she is very sick.  She is home now but she doesn’t feel that she will be around much longer.  82 years old is very old here in Uganda.  She says that she stays alive because she worries about her grandson. Near the end of my visit with the grandmother Brian had been found and showed up at home.  The first thing out of her mouth to him was saying that I was his new father and I was going to take care of him when she goes.  I believe that Richard made it clear to him that I can help him right now only.
The shoes that Brian picked out

I asked him if someone could do one thing for him what would he like that to be, he told me he would like to have a house.  To buy land and build a house would cost around $40,000 USD.  I told him that I don’t think I would be able to do that for him, and then asked him if he would want to go to school.  He responded with no, he doesn’t want to go to school.  Richard asked him if he had a private teacher would he like that, and he responded with yes, he would work with a private teacher.  I think the reason he doesn’t want to go to school is because he is too old to go to school.  I understand that.  To get a private teacher to come and teach him would cost about 50,000/- shillings each month.  (About $20.00 USD) 

Richard has invited Brian to come live in his home, help him get a job that is not so labor intensive.  Richard will help him with his food, and a room to sleep, and be part of his family.  Brian will be able to use his money for his personal things.  I would like to continue to help this young man, and get him a private teacher to help him as long as he wants to have the teacher come and help him. 

Enjoying a Coke at the Glue Pot
I feel that what I have done to help this young man has inspired someone who is local to even help him.  I have asked Richard to check on him for me after I leave.  I am going to have an account set up to be able to put some money in each month to help pay for a private teacher, and some money to help him with getting proper foods, and to help his grandmother so we can relive some of the stress that he has every day to take care of her.

Richard, Brian, Michael
Finding someone that really does appreciate the help any place is not easy, but I have to say that G-d has led me to this young man, and my heart goes out to him.  I have had so many people here ask me to “sponsor them” or “can you give me money” and so on.  Brian has asked for nothing, but I have given him things.  What little I gave him will go very far here, and he will have less stress for some time.  Knowing that he has a clean home to live in now, and will be able to take care of his grandmother, and not have to work so hard for so little, and having an opportunity to get an education really makes my heart happy.

I don’t know what else I can say right now because I’m starting to cry about all of this.  I will be posting more about him soon.

Mood; Inspired

NOTE:  Brian has given me verbal consent to share his story.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Making a real difference

                                                   September 21, 2012

Wow, the last few days have been so life changing.  We have been doing some in home visits with HIV-positive people and there are so many that need help.  I found one person whom I feel needs help more than anyone else.  He is a 15 year old boy who was born with HIV.  Both of his parents died because of HIV related illness.  He currently lives with his grandmother who is in the hospital with malaria.  He is not allowed to enter the main part of the house because of the fear that his grandmother has about his HIV.  He is living in the “barn” where he sleeps with his goats and cows.  The smell you find when you enter his home is horrible. 

We showed up to his home to check on his health and making sure that he is getting enough food and taking his medications properly.  We also showed up with 1kg of rice, 1kg of sugar, 1kg of salt, soap and laundry powder.  He was so happy.  The only thing that he could say is

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, but why do I deserve to have mazungos show up to see me” (mazungos = white people)

He was so thankful for the gifts that we gave him.  In all my life I have never seen someone so happy about receiving what I thought was so little (about $5.00 worth of goods). 

I decided that I wanted to help this boy out.  So on Saturday morning I will be returning to his home with more food (15kg rice = 34lbs, 10kg flour = 22.2lbs, 15kg = 34lbs beans, soap, laundry powder, clothing, shoes) this boy has never even had a pair of shoes before in his life. 

I would like to be able to send him to school but that is far beyond my budget.  I could send him to school for a year or two, but if I were to do that I would feel obligated to send him to school at least until he had a chance to go to University.  I just can’t afford to do that out of my own pocket or with what money I have, not to mention it could take him many years to do so.  I think just making sure he has a chance to have what decent life he can have is important.

Because my heart goes out to this young man so much I canceled my safari and am using the money to help him out.  I’ll be able to feed him for 3-4 months, buy him necessity’s, and be able to give him some money to help him get to the clinic (a cost of only  $5.00) every 2 months to get his medication and do his checkups with the Drs. for the next year.  Some of the other volunteers will check on him over the next 4 months to make sure he is doing ok.  I may send some money to buy him more food and things if necessary.  I may even be inclined to come back to check on him myself in the next couple of years.  I wish there was more I could do for him, but I will be happy knowing that what I have done will make a lasting difference in the life of someone I never even knew.

Mood today; grateful for what I have

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teaching HIV to HIV-positive's

September 18, 2012

Today I got up early to go teach a class at the hospital for people that were starting there ARV’s (antiretroviral treatment) for HIV infection.  I spoke to them about the importance of taking there ARV’s exactly how the dr. told them.  I talked about what happens when they miss a dose and that they should never miss a dose.  I also spoke to them about preventing reinfection, condom use and nutrition.   I got the group involved and had them answer questions.  Getting the group involved seems to keep their attention a little more.  I also had the opportunity to let them know that they are ok, and not to be ashamed that they are HIV-positive.  Also suggested that maybe they talk to those people they think will listen to them and get there friends and family’s to come get tested. 

The youngest person in the group today looked as though she was only 12 years old with the oldest being in maybe her late 40’s to 50’s.  It is hard to see so many young people here suffering from lack of medical care, and forced sex.  There is a lot of prostitution here as well that is somewhat a hard subject to talk to people about.  Those I have talked to about it have told me that if they could find work and make money there would be less prostitution.  Most only do it because they have no other way to make income for themselves.  The hardest consequence of that kind of work here in Uganda is being infected with HIV.  Once they are infected they end up have to “work” harder and longer just to pay for food, soap, and other necessity’s that are needed to try and keep healthy.  That ends up causing more infections in other people and the cycle continues. 

I sat down with one of the people that works there and does the statistics at the HIV clinic at the hospital.  He told me that they have had 6450 clients come in just since the 1st of July for treatment.  From July 1 – July 31 they tested just over 700 people for HIV and 93 of them were positive.   They have more new infections here every year then the entire state of Montana has seen since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in 1981. 

Knowing that Uganda and Chad are the only African nations who have seen a rise in HIV infections in the couple of years has been attributed to “abstaince only” education.   The model they were using was teaching the ABC’s of HIV.  A-Abstain, B-Be faithful to your spouse or partner, and C-Condoms every time.  They removed the C, and that is when the HIV rates started to increase again.  In 2005 the rate of HIV was at 6.25% but has increased to 7.65% as of July 2012. (that is 7.65% of the nation’s population)  So all in all, if we want to really stop the spread of HIV we need to EDUCATE, TREAT, and HELP get people out of poverty.  Also try to get medical facility’s up to date so they will stop using the same needles and instruments over and over without them being treated first.  It is very hard to see the way things are here.  I do what I can.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 16,2012

September 16, 2012

So I’m back in Fort Portal after a 5 hour bus trip.  Ailsa, Mark, and I took the Link bus back from Kampala.  It was quite the trip.  Ailsa and I sat in the very back seats.  There were 6 adults squeezed in and 3 kids.  One a baby who sat on her mom’s lap being breast fed most of the way and the other two were standing on the floor most of the trip between their mother and the seat in front of them.  About 2 hours before the trip was over I let one of the kids sit on my lap just so it was so hard on them.  They were such sweet kids to.  I gave them some cookies and they were full of smiles. 

At about the half-way point the bus pulled over for “snack break”.  No one could get off the bus, it was more a matter of 50 people waking up to the bus windows open and selling meat on a stick.  Not exactly sure what kind of meat it was, but I wasn’t having any of it.  The entire bus started to smell like some sort of meat on a stick.   It was a rough trip.  The speed bumps are insane all the way near every village they have sets of 4 bumps right next to each other and then a giant hump.  I’m surprised I didn’t hit my head on the roof of the bus!

Just as we left Kampala it started to rain and it rained until I woke up this morning.   We had to walk back from the bus station in Fort Portal to the house we are staying in.  It was ok because all I wanted to do when I got off the bus was take a shower.  When we arrived at the house the power was off so I ended up taking a cold shower.  It’s a good way to wake up after a long trip.  

We had a lot of fun while in Kampala.  The place we stayed at called the “Red Chili” only cost shillings 20,400/-.  That’s 8.00 USD.  It worked for us.  I wish we had more time to spend with the kids at the RUHU Children’s Home.  But was happy to at least see a place that was so grateful to receive the donations we had to give.  Ailsa said that she had given them some money last year when she left to buy the kids some mosquito nets for their beds and she was so happy when she saw that they actually did.  They also had the toys that were left there still.  It shows me that they are actually using the money they receive and donations for the kids and not just putting money in their pockets.    

I feel that some places around here just pocket the money and that really bothers me.  Those are the places that I am not giving donations to.  I’m just afraid the kids won’t actually get any of it.  So giving the stuff to the RUHU was great. 

Later today we will be doing a presentation to a school with kids ages 14-20 about HIV.  The class should be fun and interesting.  I’m sure they will have lots of questions. 
Tomorrow I am going with Dorothy to the market to buy food for some of the HIV-positive clients.  Making sure they have food is important for their health.  I am hoping to buy lots that can be used over time.  We are looking at buying flour, salt, rice and sugar.  Hopefully enough to keep them going for a while even after I leave.
Mood; Still waking up, and just used the rest of my battery on the computer and phone….

September 16, 2012

Ok so we went to a private catholic school today to teach about HIV/AIDS.  We first had to sit with the Head Master of the school to discuss what we were going to discuss.  The Head Master actually asked us to leave, which was to be expected at a catholic school.  But after a few minutes they talked to him and he agreed we could teach the class.

The class went well and there were a total of 78 men present, ages 14 – 17.  They asked many questions about what we were teaching.  I’m glad we got the opportunity to teach the class. They told me the class they did on Friday was closer to 300. 

One of the big things that got me was more than half our class thinks you can tell if someone has HIV/AIDS just by looking at them.  Trying to dispel the myths about it is probably one of the hardest parts of the job here in Africa.  The other big myth they have here is that HIV was brought to Africa by white people because it wasn’t until later in the 80’s that it was made public in Africa. 

The only way we are going to have an HIV-Free generation is by education.  Education about HIV and how to prevent HIV needs to be taught in every school, in every country.  We need to get the ministers to also understand HIV.  I understand that abstaining from sex until marriage is an important issue in the religious community and I respect that, but the reality is not everyone abstains, and not everyone is faithful to their partners.   Sometimes when a spouse has sex with someone other than their spouse they can be infected with HIV or other STD/STI’s and then brings that home to their spouse.  Teaching about correct condom use and dispelling myths about them is really the only way we can end HIV.  Having people say that “condoms are bad and against god” or “condoms cause cancer” and many other things they say about them is really the biggest reason that HIV is being spread in Africa, and around the world. 

Mood; Good