Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Uganda UGANDA! Exploring Kampala for a month...

Sunday, April 13th:  Arrival Day

Well, I’m here! I am finally in Kampala, Uganda…..UGANDA!  Wow, I thought it would never happen. But it did, and I’m here in this lofty, white-walled room with pale pink floral curtains.  I am currently sitting on my equally floral bed, but it’s blue, which is better than pink.  So much is going through my head right now:  where the heck am I?  Kat, you are totally alone! YOU have to depend on YOU.  But you know what? That is a good thing.  It is probably one of the best ways to grow, if not the best way.  **Side note: Music is powerful and with every new song that comes on my iTunes, my emotions fluctuate.  Problem or normal? Citizen cope, then Adele, then the Beatles, Paul Simon, Lana Del Rey, Beyonce, Grouplove, Bon Iver…one can only imagine the mood vagaries.  **Another side note: there's Islamic music playing right now outside my room, or in my guest house, the Makerere University Guest House. 

Monday, April 14th:  Day One

            Today was the first day of my internship with the Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence.  I was picked up at 8:30am by Charlotte, the executive director’s assistant of RECESVID.  She started as an intern for RECESVID, but she is now employed at this NGO and has been formally working there for two years.  From MGH, we walked to work, which is only about a ten-minute walk.  First, I met Sharon, the Executive Director of RECESVID, and she basically interviewed me, asking me where I was from, what I desired to do in life, why I wanted to intern for RECESVID, and what I would be able to offer.  I talked about my experience with Advocates at St. Lawrence, as well as my training as an AWARE Advocate.  She agreed that this was helpful background to prepare me for my counseling sessions that I may have with survivors this month.  Sharon wanted to know how we answered the “hotline” at my university and our style of counseling.  She was pleased with my answers and inquired if I ever spoke with international survivors, outside of the U.S.  Sharon then told me about the type of work I would be doing over the course of the month.  She said that it would mainly involve in-office reading reports of cases that made it to the courts, as well as ones where the survivors did not testify.  She then told me “you will be taking part as a passive participant in the counseling programs of clients of Sexual and Gender Based Violence with guidance and support from RECESVID staff, take part in outreach programs in the community, follow-up programs and attend network meetings.”  Then, I met Jennifer, the other intern!  She is interning at RECESVID, as well, and her name is Jennifer and she is from Sweden.  Jennifer has been with RECESVID for three months so far, so it was really nice having someone to tell me about their experiences at this NGO, and also about Uganda!  Basically, today I read reports, and newspapers stories involving a range of gender-based violence topics.  These included GBV cases of rape and defilement, domestic violence toward women and men, marriage and relationship stories, help/advice columns, women’s health, maternal and pre-natal health, and female leadership.  In conclusion, Charlotte informed me about a referral points meeting that we will be attending on Wednesday of this week.  The meeting is scheduled with another center for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Kampala.  I left at 4pm to walk back to MGH.      

Tuesday, April 15th : Day Two

             My second day in the office was a bit more eventful in that I learned more about RECESVID and it’s criteria.  I arrived at 9am again, and Charlotte took me through the report sheets that they fill out after a survivor shares his/her story with them.  I asked some questions, like “how do you differentiate between 'defilement' and 'rape'?”  The answer was good but not complete, I feel.  This is all a learning process for me and I certainly am challenged even if it is just through conversation.  We talked about abortion and the fact that it is ILLEGAL in Uganda, and in most African countries.  Charlotte did a great job at clarifying some things for me, and answering my many questions.  I was informed of a three-day visit to a school/home for street kids next week.  I am very excited for this!   

Wednesday, April 16th: Day Three

        Charlotte and I went to a meeting at the Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP), where several other NGOs joined to discuss methods of referring survivors to one another, and ways to improve their network.  This was very interesting and it was my first formal meeting as an intern.  We discussed several things, which included: the corruption of some police officers which makes the whole process more difficult for survivors, transportation for survivors to get to rehab centers should be FREE and provided by the police, the NGOs will find out who community leaders are in each district, and update the contact list in each office. During the meeting, it was decided that every person must have a copy of the referral list to other NGOs to give out these numbers for the survivor’s use.  Some issues that we discussed are: health workers tend to be biased based on their religion, survivors are afraid to speak out for fear of being believed by officers, some programs do not give out the drug PEP, and some organizations also did not know all the contact numbers, before this network was established.  Some accomplishments include: increased sensitization throughout communities and for health workers, people are becoming more empathetic, and improving their listening skills.  In the end, it was decided that Action Aid and CEDOVIP would work together to improve the network of referrals between all the NGOs, and these two groups were chosen mainly because of their capacity to provide, organize, and they have a budget!  Overall, this was a productive meeting for a number of small-scale NGOs.  I was humbled and impressed by the passion these people have – they will not stop for anything, and they are dedicated to this cause. 

I don't have any photos yet, because I have only been in UG for two three full days.  Tomorrow, after work, I take off for Jinja for the four day holiday to visit fellow SLU students who are interning for other organizations.  Rafting the Nile is number one on my list!  Happy almost Easter everyone!

                            "But who am I to blow against the wind…" -P. Simon

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