Amanda is second year Human Biology and Society Major. She is a member of the GROW team, the ghU committee, and will be heading up Partnerships on Executive Board next year. In her off hours, she works at the CLiCC lab and studies up on her three favorite subjects: botany, fermented agave, and lip tattoos.
So in sitting down to write this post, I came to the astonishing realization that in exactly two weeks and two days, I will be on a 16 hour flight to Dubai. In three weeks and two days, I will (hopefully) have finished unpacking and settled into our little room in the Nama Subcounty, Mukuno District in South Central Uganda. And in four weeks and two days? That’s what’s really starting to freak me out.
What I wish I could say, with the utmost confidence, is that in four weeks and two days, Ayesha, Pao, Tommaso, and I will have made some kind of tangible impact on our partner organization. In an ideal world, it would only take a couple of days to re-survey the five villages we’ve been working with on our two-year-long WASH project. Maybe it would take another couple of days to examine maternal health problems and malaria prevalence in the region, and perhaps we’d need a day to analyze our data and come up with a plan. I’m sure in the next week we could take some strides in the direction of implementing an outreach. Four weeks and two days from today we will have definitely distributed our newly edited WASH manual to every family in every village, and probably have made a video or two in Lugandan that can be played in common meeting places to make the sanitation curriculum more accessible. In an ideal world, by the time our seven weeks in Uganda have passed, our little team will have transformed life at Mpoma Community HIV/AIDS Initiative and the surrounding villages, making soap a household staple, stamping out malaria with nets that don’t trap heat or reek of insecticides, incinerating the maternal mortality rate with an army of well-trained, well-equipped midwives (and an unlimited supply of prenatal vitamins, of course), and eliminating any fears of water shortages or waterborne illness from living memory. After all, doesn’t it only take 30 seconds to foster a collaborative relationship based on mutual respect and a common goal?
The reality is that if in four weeks and two days, Peter (our main contact at Mpoma) feels comfortable telling us that the survey we’ve spent the last two and a half months developing is useless, and that we need to throw out all of our plans and start from scratch, I think we will have made some progress. While the goals I listed are almost laughable in the context of seven weeks, they aren’t impossible. They’re just going to take time. In ghU last week, we discussed the difference between a decent organization and a groundbreaking one. A groundbreaking organization focuses on sustainability– they have specific goals and they don’t accept donations that come with strings attached. The thing is, we can’t expect Mpoma to be groundbreaking without holding ourselves to the same standard. If we want to break the donor-recipient model, if we really believe in partnership, then we shouldn’t have to wait for our “groundbreaking organization” to reject our ideas– we should be listening to theirs. We Skype Peter (internet permitting) every other week, we’ve sent him drafts, and we have focused our research based on his suggestions. We are definitely trying our best. What makes our GROW team groundbreaking, however, is that all four of us understand that all of our plans might be thrown out the window as soon as we arrive, and we have to be okay with that. In nine weeks and two days, I would rather be struggling to find photographic evidence of our impact than looking through glamorous photos of changes destined to fall apart as soon as our plane takes off. GlobeMed has taught me that global health work doesn’t always involve a “sexy” project– sometimes it’s slow, and dirty, and frustrating. But it’s pretty groundbreaking nonetheless.