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Episode 3: From Globalization to Gulu

 
This week, I felt comfortable exiting the hospital gates with my friends, and visiting ‘Gulu Town’ (the ‘downtown’ of the town of Gulu.
 
A short walk away from the hospital are the boda boda motorcycles, where for less than a dollar, you can sit behind a motorcyclist and he will take you to your destination – with no helmets of course. As soon as they see us, the boda boda immediately honk and call out “Sister! Sister! You want to go somewhere?”
 
My Canadian and Italian friends are all more adventurous and feel comfortable each taking a separate quick boda boda, but I will stick to the slow but very safe matatu! (12 people taxi)
 
It is very interesting to see how globalization has affected Gulu.
 
On one hand, as I pass by on my matatu, I can see farmers who have likely dedicated themselves to agriculture for generations.
 
On the other hand, there are at least two cell phone stalls on every single block where men and women of all ages sit patiently advertising airtime (minutes) and data for a limited cost.
 
At one cell phone shop, a young woman smiles peacefully and sweetly at me while watching her one year old daughter play in her lap.
 
It is this mix between technological advances , globalization and stark poverty that is so difficult to understand.
 
On one hand, there are so many children walking around in the red sand streets, giggling and staring and saying ‘hi!’ and ‘bye!’.
 
And on the other hand, right in front of the bus station or main matatu taxi stop is a branch of an organization that I haven’t seen for years since my time in England – Barclays Bank. The building looks so posh that it could have been easily placed in London.
 
Right next to the bank is a small stationary shop, where a shopkeeper sells me a notebook and some pens. He is very friendly, and proudly announces that I am the first Canadian that he has ever met. I know that I really should be bargaining, as all the shopkeepers all charge me ‘muzungu pricing’ (foreigner pricing – twice the normal cost).
 
But as usual, I automatically compare the still-very-cheap prices to Canadian costs, and just immediately pay for my items.
 
A few minutes away from Barclays, past several small pharmacies, clothes shops and tiny restauraunts is a coffee shop favoured by the muzungu (foreigners) selling everything from large delicious tropical and chocolate milkshakes to world class capucucinnos and mocha coffee for around three Canadian dollars each.
 
It is there that I sit and drink a tropical milkshake, wondering why a place that has so many familiar icons – can have drastically different opportunities for friendly people just like me.
 
———————-
Hello friends and family,
 
As some of you may know, I am in Gulu, Uganda for five weeks from the end of October to early December 2017, as part of my doctoral rotations, to work with St. Mary’s Lacor Hospital on their oncology/pharmacy program
 
Last week was my 30th birthday, and instead of giving me a birthday present, please donate to Teasdale-Corti Foundation which directly supports St Mary’s Lacor Uganda here:
 
 
Due to the extreme poverty determined by over 20 years of conflict which ended in 2007, most patients are treated for free or at very subsidized rates. Over 70% of the hospital’s operating costs must therefore be covered from abroad. Funds for development are unfortunately often tied to very specific goals like new buildings and activities, and therefore supporting the costs of existing activities is rarely taken into consideration.
 
Thanks to donors, the Foundation has played a key role in helping the hospital survive.
 
Every little bit helps – the average cost to Lacor Hospital for treating a child in the pediatric ward is 25 Canadian dollars, while the average cost to Lacor Hospital for a nurse’s monthly salary is only 250 Canadian dollars.
 
(Photos of cell phone stall, matatu example and Barclays taken from other public websites)
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Episode #2/11: The Ugandans

Episode 2: The Ugandans

 
Today marks seven days since I left Canada for the opportunity to work on an oncology program in Gulu, Uganda.
 
In these seven days, I have met some amazing people in both Kampala and Gulu; including two family friends who opened their hearts and homes to me in Kampala and two Canadians and Italians who helped me through my initial couple of rough days in Gulu .
 
The Ugandans themselves are also amazing and particularly friendly. My preceptor is Janet (name changed for privacy) , a quiet and extremely intelligent senior pharmacist who spends much longer than her scheduled hours giving her heart in working for the hospital.
 
Robert , Victor, Corey and Carl (names changed for privacy) are all extremely skilled pharmacists/interns and technicians that work with me , each more different than the other. Robert is the intelligent joker who talks to all the nursing and pharmacy staff with a wide grin and laugh. Victor is the warm hearted, brilliant and straightforward one – asking quick questions without batting an eye, while Corey and Carl are more shy but also very intelligent and curious.
 
My new Ugandan friends are always very surprised when I tell them that my parents were born in Uganda, and I always get the same astonished pause and curious question – ‘…..are you sure?’
 
Over a cup of ginger tea and warm chapatis, they ask me whether I am going through cultural shock. I explain to them the wonderment of experiencing new food and watching new customs, but the real shock is the inequality in comparison to Canada.
 
In surgery, the ward which I just experienced today, twelve patients are treated in one room, each having their own bed. At night, visitors sleep on the floor. It is extremely common for a patient not to receive anticoagulation therapy, even for a clot in the lungs, because no hospitals in Uganda can provide heparin because of resource issues and most patients cannot afford to pay. It is extremely frustrating and heartbreaking that if my friends here became sick, they would potentially not get the same care that I take for granted.
 
People tell me though, that this hospital is much better than any other in the region, because most drugs including common antibiotics are free or heavily subsidized, doctors and nurses are actually in supply, students are plentiful, and patients do not sleep on the floors. This is because of the Teasdale Corti Foundation.
 
———————-
Hello friends and family,
 
As some of you may know, I am in Gulu, Uganda for five weeks from the end of October to early December 2017, as part of my doctoral rotations, to work with St. Mary’s Lacor Hospital on their oncology/pharmacy program
 
This week was my 30th birthday, and instead of giving me a birthday present, please donate to Teasdale-Corti Foundation which directly supports St Mary’s Lacor Uganda here:
 
 
Due to the extreme poverty determined by over 20 years of conflict which ended in 2007, most patients are treated for free or at very subsidized rates. Over 70% of the hospital’s operating costs must therefore be covered from abroad. Funds for development are unfortunately often tied to very specific goals like new buildings and activities, and therefore supporting the costs of existing activities is rarely taken into consideration. Thanks to donors, the Foundation has played a key role in helping the hospital survive.
 
Every little bit helps – the average cost to Lacor Hospital for treating a child in the pediatric ward is 25 Canadian dollars, while the average cost to Lacor Hospital for a nurse’s monthly salary is only 250 Canadian dollars.
 
(Photos of Lacor Hospital in this post taken from other public sites including International Surgery Canada, due to privacy concerns )

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Making some new friends and having some deep conversations

Enjoying some amazing hospitality

Tasting the best bananas and pineapples in history

Going to a Ugandan Greek restaurant with Alladin’s ‘Whole new World’ running in the background

Eating chocolate cake on my 30th birthday with great people

Watching cows cross the road

Watching monkeys cross the road

Watching about ten baboons study each passing car very carefully

Crossing a bridge over the amazing Nile river

Learning about the story of a Ugandan worker who has laboured very hard over the last forty years to send all of his six children to school, and watching his face glow with pride when he mentions his son – a school teacher, and his daughter – a nurse

Getting introduced to new colleagues

Hearing the beautiful church choir in my new room

Welcome to Uganda – the first thirty hours.

———————-
Hello friends and family,

As some of you may know, I am in Gulu, Uganda for five weeks from the end of October to early December 2017, as part of my doctoral rotations, to work with St. Mary’s Lacor Hospital on their oncology/pharmacy program

Today is my 30th birthday, and instead of giving me a birthday present, please donate to Teasdale-Corti Foundation which directly supports St Mary’s Lacor Uganda here:

http://www.teasdalecorti.org/canada-en/donations

Due to the extreme poverty determined by over 20 years of conflict which ended in 2007, most patients are treated for free or at very subsidized rates. Over 70% of the hospital’s operating costs must therefore be covered from abroad. Funds for development are unfortunately often tied to very specific goals like new buildings and activities, and therefore supporting the costs of existing activities is rarely taken into consideration. Thanks to donors, the Foundation has played a key role in helping the hospital survive.

Every little bit helps – the average cost to Lacor Hospital for treating a child in the pediatric ward is 25 Canadian dollars, while the average cost to Lacor Hospital for a nurse’s monthly salary is only 250 Canadian dollars.

Hope of the Week #34: Some Awesome Things

—————x
So, I got inspired by the TED talk by Neil Pasricha and I decided to add some “awesome things” to this note.

Neil Pasricha recently did a talk on the 3 aspects of Awesomeness, which are include: Attitude, Authenticity and Awareness. By thinking of awesome small occurrences in your day, you are including all three:

– Authenticity: You are being true to yourself
– Awareness: You are being aware of small things that you usually take for granted
– Attitude: You have a great attitude in the face of hardship because of these small things, and you are able to approach life in a more positive manner.

So in a manner of speaking, HERE WE GO….

——————————————

I love it when… (this all happened this week!)

1. you see a bunch of ten year old boys in Sens jerseys clinging on to the front yellow bar of an OC transpo , so excited that they are on an adventure, and telling their Daddy excitedly that they won’t fall. AWESOME

2. when your own Dad doesn’t want you to step in a puddle when you come out of the car, so he turns the car completely so that you’ll be able to have the best walk towards the bus stop. AWESOME

3. meeting new people and laughing and learning from them. AWESOME

4. one of your all-time favourite singers replies to one of your post on Facebook (true story, true story!) AWESOME!

5. a bus driver gives you a Day Pass instead of a normal transfer because you had a friendly conversation with him, and you changed his fare sign from the express to the regular fare . AWESOME

6. when you try to not look at an attractive person because you think he/she might think you’re impressed, but you catch him/her looking at you, and you snicker gleefully to yourself. AWESOME!

7. when someone opens the door for you, or points out that you’ve dropped something valuable. AWESOME

8. when you see that your old friends are happy and confident. AWESOME.

9 when you get to giggle around with friends that you haven’t seen for years. AWESOME

10. The girl at Manch Wok charges you the price of a one item for a two item with coke, because you’ve been such a good customer over the years. AWESOME

11. The provincial government gives university students 30% of their fees back – including those who were on a full scholarship anyways. AWESOME – even though it doesn’t apply to me

12. When you had a great time at an event, and you weren’t expecting to find it so fun. AWESOME

13. when you have a random conversation with someone, just because he/she is from Britain, is Canadian, or is a Sens hockey fan. random, but AWESOME.

14. When you see all the Ismailis of university age so close knit and chilled out, that you admire our strength as a community. AWESOME

15. Watching six year old Ismaili junior volunteers wanting to clean the paats so eagerly, and having one of them come up to you and say proudly “Mowla’s house is SO CLEAN!” AWESOME (and really cute)

16. When a seventeen year old remembers the random advice you gave to her four months ago, and tells you that she put it into practice, and you feel like you’ve influenced someone slightly in a positive manner. AWESOME

17. when you get to talk to your little sister as an equal. AWESOME!

18. When you hear a prayer sung so beautifully that really touches you. AWESOME

19. When you get a chance to make a presentation to highschool students (and therefore possibly influence in a positive way), and they actually pick something up from your presentation. AWESOME

20. When a family friend’s two year old son can name the players of the Ottawa Senators according to their jersey numbers. AWESOME.. (and very impressive)

21. When you buy something nice and wear it the next day and feel good because you think you look nice. AWESOME (and then you change into jeans and a sweatshirt that same evening and get to chill with your family – even more awesome)

22. When you see the cutest babies of all time, and even though you’re not sure if you are a fatherly/motherly person, you can’t stop smiling. AWESOM

23. When you realize that the chicken wings are only 30c! each because of a special deal at the restaurant. AWESOME

24. The way all the Ottawa fans scream happily at each other after a great Sens game. AWESOME

25 Watching your mom at Aquafit, and then going to Zumba with her. AWESOME!

26. When you get some quiet time to read and appreciate others’ philosophies and theories. AWESOME

27. TED talks. AWESOME!

28. counting down the days to an exciting event. AWESOME.

29. When your realize you’re going to see your best friend and some old friends in a country you’d never thought you’d visit. AWESOME

30. When you get to jack up the music and dance like crazy because no one is watching you… in your bedroom. AWESOME

31. When you get to have green peppers, pineapple, tomatoes, and chicken on a pizza with your mom and dad, and there’s nobody you’d rather have pizza with. AWESOME.

32. When you see sixty year olds boogying to Zumba and realize that they are more fit than you are. AWESOME

33. You get a great coupon on GroupOn, Dealfind or one of those random sites. Muhahaha YOU WONT GET MORE MONEY FROM ME THAN NECESSARY!. AWESOME!

34. You realize you did the exact right number of awesome things to fit Hope of the Week #34 (and you wonder whether any of your tagged friends read through the entire thing). AWESOME!
—-

Neil Pasricha:

Neil Pasricha’s original talk is here:

I’ve watched it three times already, and I definitely recommend it.

His blog is here:

http://1000awesomethings.com


Hope of the Week:

The purpose of Hope of the Week is to remind readers that actions of nobility do exist.

The profit-seeking-press exists to sell themselves and therefore commonly depict what is more attractive to the public, rather than showing an unbiased overview of individual occurrences.

Thus in order get a more realistic balance of positive and negative information, one must actively seek for positive information, rather than relying on the National Post.

Without a balance of positive and negative information, attitudes of fatalism like ‘heck, my actions won’t make a difference anyways’ begin to grow. These attitudes are dangerous, and limit one’s potential contribution to his/her surrounding society.

To summarize, Hope of the Week seeks to inspire others by the existence of good, allowing us to believe and follow it ourselves.

Hope of the Week #33: From Idea to Impact
By Sabrina Natasha Premji; Posted in Social Earth

For the last 6 months, I have spent countless hours looking at social innovations in primary health care settings in Kenya.

I have come across leading organizations harnessing the capabilities of entrepreneurs in rural communities. I have read case studies on the next ‘big thing’ in water purification, alternative energy and agriculture, and listened to hours’ worth of Tedtalks on the challenges faced by developing economies.

It is abundantly clear that there is no shortage in this world of brilliant people with brilliant ideas. Innovation and out-of-the-box thinking are common-speak amongst today’s generation of go-getters. But what is equally clear is it’s not all about the idea. Sure, a fancy new gadget can attract donor funding. Sure, a malnourished child holding a tech-savvy tool makes for a compelling photo on an NGO’s promotional material. But the stuff that really matters – the stuff behind the idea – is what defines the success of a project. Most of development work is uncannily unsexy. But that’s where you get to roll up your sleeves, throw yourself into the nitty gritty and do some real thinking. And that’s where I think the fun really begins.

But for most, the fun begins much earlier, in a well-polished boardroom table with suited colleagues who develop a product based on superficial notions of what a rural community in East Africa needs. An eloquently prepared PowerPoint deck showcases expected yields on a quarterly basis for the next 3 years, and suits adjourn the meeting visualizing this as the turning point for the NGO suffering donor fatigue or as the gold-standard in corporate social responsibility.

But then the innovation enters its implementation phase and things don’t seem to operate according to the colourful line graphs developed in a city thousands of miles away. Supply chains are faulty because of lack of maintenance of the one ambulance operating in the village. Male-dominated households prevent the product from reaching its target of women and children. People place more value on their chickens than a flashy device that holds no promise of putting food on the table or paying for school fees.

And that’s when you rely on the unsexy stuff. That’s when you admit to failure and spend a day in the field with a farmer understanding his major challenges. That’s when you shadow a nurse at a village dispensary to observe her overtaxed task-list and obstacles of providing good quality care.

It’s not just about the idea. It’s about the ability to listen to what people really need and understand how that idea fits into their values, their cultures, their lives. It’s about having the tact to observe inefficiencies and suggest simple, practical, cost-effective solutions.

And once you begin to understand the gaps and potential, that’s when you engage with the government to brainstorm how that idea is aligned with their strategic plan to ultimately ensure community ownership and sustainability. All too often, we judge governments in developing countries as corrupt and revert to creating our own parallel structures. Granted, parallel health structures for example, are necessary to prove the efficacy of a new innovation, to take a risk in a generally risk-averse area. But they are only sustainable if at some defined point, they merge into the infrastructure that currently exists.

The infrastructure that we as aid organizations should seek to improve, rather than developing new competing structures. And that requires talking. That requires listening. By observing, by conversing, we begin to shift the focus from a ‘donor agency-implementing agency’ feedback loop to an ‘implementing agency-community’-centred feedback loop. A structure that puts the beneficiaries back in the driving seat where they belong.

What I’ve learned is that even when you have the idea, the one that’s going to get you on the cover of Times magazine, the potential for change is limited unless you sit back, shut up and listen to what communities really need. Sustainable development requires engagement with communities beyond the surface-level, it requires the building of mutually-beneficial relationships and asking critical questions about the underlying system in place.

Because at the end of the day, an innovation is just a nicely packaged idea, unless it goes beyond the glamorous surface of cover photos and success stories and tackles the messy, muddled matters at the core of the issue.


Hope of the Week:

The purpose of Hope of the Week is to remind readers that actions of nobility do exist.

The profit-seeking-press exists to sell themselves and therefore commonly depict what is more attractive to the public, rather than showing an unbiased overview of individual occurrences.

Thus in order get a more realistic balance of positive and negative information, one must actively seek for positive information, rather than relying on the National Post.

Without a balance of positive and negative information, attitudes of fatalism like ‘heck, my actions won’t make a difference anyways’ begin to grow. These attitudes are dangerous, and limit one’s potential contribution to his/her surrounding society.

To summarize, Hope of the Week seeks to inspire others by the existence of good, allowing us to believe and follow it ourselves.

Hope of the Week #32

Hope of the Week #32: Neil Pasricha -1000 Awesome Things
The THREE As of Awesome – by Neil Pasricha

Please see:
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/neil_pasricha_the_3_a_s_of_awesome.htm

1000 Awesome Things is a regularly updated, Webby Award winning blog written by Neil Pasricha, that posts one awesome thing in life each weekday.

The site was launched on June 20, 2008 and is counting down until it hits #1.

The topics covered on the blog are varied, and range from #981, Wearing underwear just out of the dryer, to #858, The other side of the pillow, and #773Watching your odometer click over a major milestone.

An awesome thing is posted every weekday and thus #1 will be posted on April 20,2012

The website has a live stats counter on it and has approximately 30 million hits

——–

Hope of the Week

The purpose of Hope of the Week is to remind readers that actions of nobility do exist.

The profit-seeking-press exists to sell themselves and therefore commonly depict what is more attractive to the public, rather than showing an unbiased overview of individual occurrences.

Thus in order get a more realistic balance of positive and negative information, one must actively seek for positive information, rather than relying on the National Post.

Without a balance of positive and negative information, attitudes of fatalism like ‘heck, my actions won’t make a difference anyways’ begin to grow. These attitudes are dangerous, and limit one’s potential contribution to his/her surrounding society.

To summarize, Hope of the Week seeks to inspire others by the existence of good, allowing us to believe and follow it ourselves.

Hope of the Week #30: Five Everyday Heroes

Hey guys, these are just five examples of hope from a site I discovered recently called “The Forgiveness Project”.

The Forgiveness Project works at a local, national and international level to help build a future free of conflict and violence by healing the wounds of the past.

For other stories, please click: http://theforgivenessproject.com/

1. GHAZI AND RAMI (Israel)

Ghazi Briegeith, a Palestinian electrician living in Hebron, and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli graphic designer from Jerusalem, met through the Parents’ Circle – a group of bereaved families supporting reconciliation and peace. Ghazi’s brother was killed at a checkpoint in 2000. Rami’s 14-year-old daughter was the victim of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in 1997.

“If Ghazi and I can talk and stand together after paying the highest price possible, then anyone can.”

For Ghazi and Rami’s story, please click

http://theforgivenessproject.com/stories/ghazi-briegeith-rami-elhanan-israel/

2. ARNO MICHAELS (USA)

From the age of 17 Arno Michaels was deeply involved in the white power movement. He was a founding member of what became the largest racist skinhead organization in the world.

He now works with a group of former US gang members and white supremacists to produce Life After Hate, a monthly online magazine dedicated to basic human goodness, and has developed Kindness Not Weakness, a character development movement which addresses bullying and other destructive behaviour. In 2010 he published his memoir Life After Hate.

“Forgiveness is a sublime example of humanity that I explore at every opportunity, because it was the unconditional forgiveness I was given by people who I once claimed to hate that demonstrated the way from there to here.”

For Arno Michael’s story, please click : http://http://theforgivenessproject.com/uncategorized/arno-michaels-usa/

3. JUDITH TOY:

On October 15th 1990, three members of Judith Toy’s family were brutally murdered in Pennsylvania, USA by Charles Grand. The perpetrator was the boy across the street, a family friend, 19 years old. Five years after, through her newfound practice of daily mindfulness in the Zen Buddhist tradition, Judith spontaneously forgave Charles. In 2011 she published Murder As A Call to Love which tells the story.

For Judith Toy’s story, please click: http://theforgivenessproject.com/uncategorized/judith-toy-usa/

4. JEAN-BAPTISTE NTAKIRUTIMANA (Rwanda)

Jean-Baptiste Ntakirutimana is a Tutsi whose family were murdered in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. In April 2008 he met the man who killed his mother.

“He was expecting me to want to kill him, which he said would be justice since he had killed my mother.”

For Jean-Baptiste Ntakirutimana’s story please click: http://theforgivenessproject.com/stories/jean-baptiste-ntakirutimana-rwanda/

5. Kemal Pervanic

Kemal Pervanic is a survivor of the notorious Omarska concentration camp, which was set up by Bosnian Serb forces in the early days of the Bosnian War. The camp, nominally an ‘investigation centre’, was uncovered by British journalists in 1992, leading to international outrage and condemnation. Kemal now lives in England and is the author of The Killing Days: My Journey Through the Bosnian War.

“I didn’t decide not to hate because I’m a good person. I decided not to hate because hating would have finished the job they’d started so successfully.”

Hope of the Week #30:

Hope of the Week:

 

The purpose of Hope of the Week is to remind readers that actions of nobility do exist.

The profit-seeking-press exists to sell themselves and therefore commonly depict what is more attractive to the public, rather than showing an unbiased overview of individual occurrences.

Thus in order get a more realistic balance of positive and negative information, one must actively seek for positive information, rather than relying on the National Post.

Without a balance of positive and negative information, attitudes of fatalism like ‘heck, my actions won’t make a difference anyways’ begin to grow. These attitudes are dangerous, and limit one’s potential contribution to his/her surrounding society.

To summarize, Hope of the Week seeks to inspire others by the existence of good, allowing us to believe and follow it ourselves.