Volunteer Blog

9-1-2016, TeamMED from Melbourne @ Suubi

This entry by TeamMED representatives Emily, Kirby, Imogen, Milo, Bridget and Hayden (Medical students from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

A very busy past 10 days it has been at the Suubi Centre for all of us from TeamMED! We have been working in the health clinic with the Suubi medical team, providing clinician consultation and laboratory testing to locals from the Lubanda village and surrounding areas. We spent five days at the Suubi Centre itself, and did two separate trips out to more remote communities, Nakateete and Kyassonko, where we set up makeshift clinics for a day at each. In all of these locations, patients lined up from early in the morning to see Dr. Robert, have blood taken, which was tested on site, so that results could be interpreted, and treatment administered all on the same day. Patients were required to pay a small fee to ensure sustainability of the project. it was great for our professional development to see how healthcare in Uganda is provided, which is at once so similar to and yet so different from ours at home.

Patients at Suubi Clinic waiting patiently for their turn to be seen.

Once inside patients were accessed by a Suubi medic and TeamMed members. Bridget and Elias, from Suubi Clinic, worked side by side to decide on the testing and treatment required by this patient.

TeamMED students rotated throughout each area of the testing a treatment. Here Suubi student nurse, Deborah, and Imogen worked in the laboratory taking blood pressure and then bloods if they were required for testing.

With so many patients to be seen, another area in the Suubi Clinic was set up for blood to be taken. This was then sent to the lab to be analysed. Above Hayden and Bridget made the best of the alternative facilities that were available.

With the diagnosis complete patients were then sent to the dispensary to receive any medication they required. Emily and Alad worked together to make sure everything dispensed was well recorded.

Outreach sessions at Nakateete and Kysonko were conducted in the local schools. Patients registered as they arrived and waited for their turn to be seen.

Bridget joined Suubi Clinical officer, Robert, as he accessed one of the patients at the outreaches.

Milo made use of the desks in classrooms as he took the blood pressure of this lady.

While Emily used a pillow for support as she drew blood from a patient to be analysed.

Equipment was bought from Suubi Clonic to enable a temporary lab was set up in the classroom.

Other than the clinic, we conducted dental hygiene workshops to engage the local community in preventative healthcare. These health promotion activities took place at the Suubi Secondary School and Vocational College, with a morning session for children, and an afternoon one for adults. The morning session was great fun, with a focus on teeth-brushing technique, while in the afternoon, Dr. Robert went into more detail with the adults, describing the consequences of poor dental hygiene. The participants of both sessions paid avid attention; it was great to see such keen interest towards preventative healthcare practice. Each person was given a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste at the end of each session.

Some of the younger children were guided by Kirby and Imogen as they showed them the best way to brush their teeth.

While the adult participants learnt the additional importance of dental hygiene, not only themselves but also for providing it for their children.

All of the participants were happy to receive a toothbrush and toothpaste to take home so they can continue to take good care of their teeth.

Our time at Suubi provided us with a great opportunity to work with the local staff, as well as meet the people of Lubanda and surrounds. On our day off, we were treated to a performance of traditional Ugandan music and dance by the students at the school, and Kirby and Bridget joined the girls for some dancing lessons! The school put on a great show of their knitting and sewing and also performed their school anthem. Back at the Centre, Shanitah introduced us to the Suubi ladies’ craft group, where we all bought handmade jewellery and African-style clothing.

Kirby and Bridget were happy to join in with the students dancing.

Everyone was very impressed with the knitting and sewing being done by students in the schools new vocational training hall.

It has been so much fun for all of us, working with the Suubi team, with their informal language lessons and always laughing and having fun, all big smiles, even when faced with the week’s hard work! A million thanks to everyone at Suubi for welcoming us into their home, and doing everything they could (from tours of the village, to hunting down bread in Masaka for us) to make our stay as successful and enjoyable as possible. Thank you once again, and we hope to continue the strong relationship between TeamMED and Suubi.

Love the TeamMED Team

TeamMed 2016 and Suubi staff achieved great things as they worked side by side and formed lasting friendships. (L-R Back - Elias, Hayden, Zakah, Robert, Peter, Milo, Alad. Front - Kirby, Bridget, Imogen and Emily.

This project could not have been achieved without the generous sponsorship by the Rotary Club of Box Hill, Melbourne, who donated funds to cover the costs of medications, testing and laboratory equipment, and health promotion materials.

26-11-2015, Omi's Time At Suubi

My name is Ryoko Omi (Nakiwala). I’m a university student studying environmental problems in Japan. I’m pleased to tell you about my experience at Suubi Centre. I stayed at Suubi Centre for 20 days in order to study their sustainable works and management, in addition to conduct my own activity – practical cooking and studying.

At Suubi, I found earth-friendly ideas like a purification water tank, biogas toilets and solar lantern. People at Suubi seems to benefit from their convenience. In the daytime, I often spent with no power, but it was available in the nighttime. However there is no power and water-tap in the room where I stayed at. So I made full use of the solar lantern. You know, Suubi Centre lies in a rural area. So compared to most rural area in Uganda, it was quite convenient. Yet I think it will be better when they can make use of their biogas in the new kitchen too, because people currently use firewood when they cook at Suubi Secondary School.

Suubi Centre has a lot of facilities, and one of them is Suubi Secondary School. There, I had my class and taught them about value of food, nutrition and environmental problems. To teach these things, I got waste of food from a market, which people sometimes throw away because of damage but we can still eat. Then I cooked with students. At first, students were not willing to cook damaged food, but at the end of my class they asked me to give them more and they seems to have interests in nutrition and environmental problems. In the world, especially in developed countries, people throw away a lot of food every day but we import food from far places, what’s worse, there are a lot of people who can’t eat enough food. I wanted students to understand these facts. I believe they understand the value of food. Although my way of cooking is not familiar to them, they seemed to like my cooking. So I hope they will cook like this at their house too now.

Students were hesitant to cook damaged fruit in the beginning but eventually they understood.

Omni showing some of the students information on the computer about the importance of caring for the environment. They too can have an impact by doing simple things like using not perfect food for cooking.

However, teaching something to students was really difficult for me because of my poor English and lack of teaching experience. So I studied from Suubi teachers by observing their classes and I communicated with students besides my class. Teachers are really energetic and interesting. I respect them. Students were sometimes stubborn but I liked visiting some of their houses and we cleaned together. 

Since Suubi Centre started, I’m the first Japanese to visit them. So all staff entertained me always and I could leave my Japanese handwriting on the handstamp wall at Suubi. Fortunately, I could join one of their big events, the finals of the music, dance and drama which was held at SSVC and played the piano in front of many local people. Through that event, a great number of local people recognize me. Thus, I could spend precious time at Suubi Centre. I’m still studying English, so it was sometimes hard for me to communicate with Suubi staff. Yet I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

Omi's happily added her Japanese message and hand print to the Suubi wall.

11-8-2015, First Week At Suubi from Setem & Kristie

We all arrived on the 31st July, and after navigating our way through Entebbe Airport, we met David and were on our way! We stayed the first night at Elite Backpackers in Masaka. It was a nice way to start our Ugandan adventure. On the day we were leaving for Suubi Centre, we stopped in Masaka Town for supplies and to go to the bank. When we were ready to leave the bank, we realized that the car had broken down. Uh oh. After lots of attempts to re-start it by David, the 6 of us girls (plus one helpful man) had to push it up a hill to jump-start it. It was a funny way to start our day. Finally, we made it to Suubi Centre, and after a quick tour we settled in for our first night.

On Sunday morning, we went to Mass at one of the local family’s houses. They were very welcoming and the service was very interesting. There was singing and some readings, and afterwards, an auction was held for everyone to buy fruit, vegies and other supplies. 

Joining hands

Monday was our introduction day, and we met the Suubi staff who are part of the Clinic and the Secondary and Vocational School. We were invited to share lunch with them and we had “posho” and beans. Later that afternoon we met the Suubi craft ladies who were hard at work knitting in the Training Hall. Over the first few days, we were really amazed by how excited and welcoming the children and local people were. Children call out “Hello muzungu! Hello muzungu!” and wave and smile!

Meeting the Suubi Clinic staff, L to R: Elvis, Andrea, Anna, Catherine, Pau-la, Anna, Bea, Elias, Alad and Kristie

Our week was spent keeping busy with many projects, including Catherine’s Clinic attendance survey and helping Emma with the filing system in the Clinic. We also helped out in the school classes, learnt how to make beaded bracelets, held a motivational talk for the students about the importance of studying and aiming for university or a vocational career, and attended a student debate practice.

Working with Catherine on her clinic survey meant we quickly got to know her well and were soon enjoying spending time together doing other things.

We helped out with the end of term exams that were being held at SSVC during our first week.

After class time we joined in with the students as they learned how to make beaded bracelets.

During the week we also visited Sharon Nursery and Primary School and played Spanish, Australian, and Ugandan outside games with the children. They performed a traditional Ugandan song and dance for us, which was a beautiful experience.

Playing games with the students at Sharon was lots of fun for everyone.

The Sharon students singing and dancing is something we will always remember.

Zac introduced us to the people running the coffee project and we learnt about the growing process, and helped them to pack soil into the bags for growing the coffee. On Thursday we spent the day in Masaka getting supplies from the markets. We were a bit overwhelmed by the process of shopping in the markets, so we were lucky David was there to help us! We had lunch at Plot99, which is our new favourite place to eat in Masaka.

Saturday was our family-visit day. We split into pairs and spent the day with a local family. Each pair participated in different activities. One group walked down to the well to collect water in 20L jerry cans, cleared the garden and peeled peanuts. Another group moved bunches of banana leaves on their heads, explored the family’s garden, helped to cook lunch, played with the children, and collected water from the well… twice! The third group peeled 4 baskets of maize (and suffered a blister!), collected and peeled lots of matoke, fed the family’s cows, went for a walk through their garden and played games with the children. We all had a traditional lunch with our family, including things like matoke and beans, peanut and fish sauce, pumpkin, and Irish potatoes. Afterwards we spent time playing with the children and watching the sunset.

Our day spent with the families was filled with lots of different activities than we normally do at home.

And there is always lots of time playing with the kids - so much fun and laughter.

Sunday was spent relaxing and reading and enjoying the Suubi atmosphere. Then it was party time! We organized a goodbye party for Catherine, which was a lot of fun. Zac was an awesome DJ and played great music to keep us dancing all night! Lots of people from the community came and joined in and Catherine had a really good time ☺

Kristie, Anna C., Anna F., Bea, Paula and Andrea

20-2-2015, TeamMED - Positive Impact Of Suubi Clinic

Having returned from spending time at the Suubi Clinic recently one of Monash University's TeamMEM group, Masad Alfayadh, has taken the time to write about the positive impact that Suubi Community Clinic is having on the surrounding community. We thank her for the recognition that the Suubi medical staff, and the services they offer, are indeed improving the living standards of those they come in contact with. Our aim is that we can continue the great work in Lubanda Village and hope that the outreaches into neighbouring villages will begin to have the same positive impact in these communities.

We volunteered in the Suubi Clinic, in a village called Lubanda in the Lwengo district, at the start of 2015. I was with a group of six other medical students, all of us studying at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. We went there as part of an organisation called TeamMed, which facilitates global health outreach for medical students. I’d never been to Africa before, and have never volunteered overseas before, so this was bound to be a very life-changing experience for me. 

The culture was really beautiful and welcoming and the people were all so kind, caring and patient! What stood out most for me during the trip, though, was the medical aspect. It was both really inspiring and really saddening to see, in such a tangible way, how the lack of access to healthcare impacts people’s lives. 

We worked for a few days at the Suubi Community Health Centre, collecting patient data, sitting in with the doctor during consultations, doing laboratory testing and dispensing medication. We were very impressed at the number of people who already knew their HIV status, did regular testing, used family planning and mosquito nets. It was much, much better than the official overall Ugandan statistics would have predicted! Almost everyone knew about the importance of risk prevention and implemented public health recommendations in their lives. It was very clear to us that the presence of such a basic clinic in this isolated village had really empowered and educated the locals. During meals, we joked [probably somewhat truthfully] about how the villagers implemented more preventative health strategies in their lives than the young people we knew back in Australia. 

We spent two of our seven medical testing days in villages other than Lubanda, where the clinic was situated. The inequity we saw was really disheartening. There was definitely a very stark difference in level of education about health, utilization of services and general health status. The rate of HIV was much higher in those villages, there was a higher percentage of people who’d never had their HIV status determined and many did not implement preventative health strategies in their lives such as family planning, clean water sources and mosquito nets. Needless to say, the quality of life was much lower, which we attributed to the lack of access to healthcare, as well as the lack of health education. 
There was one particularly heartbreaking incident of a 28 year old mother who had been enduring the agony of a fungal infection of all ten fingernails for two years because she did not have access to a health facility. When we gave her treatment, she started crying because she was so overwhelmed and excited at the prospect of getting rid of the pain. 

This really made me realise how important even a small, simple primary health facility is. It makes such a tremendous difference to people’s quality of life. This experience really solidified in my mind the extent of the positive impact that public health campaigns and primary health facilities can have and how much of a tangible difference they can make simply by educating the community, let alone treating it. I really admire the work done at Suubi and wish and hope, from the bottom of my heart, that all people in Uganda, and the rest of the world, will be able to access at least one clinic such as this one. 

Masad Alfayadh

Masad working side by side with Suubi medical staff at Suubi Clinic (Top) and Kiwangala outreach (Bottom).

You can see lots more photos of TeamMED's trip and read more about their time working at Suubi in earlier blog posts: testing and treating / dental workshop

14-1-2015, Dental Workshops at Suubi

Following on from the hugely successful health initiative, which saw 246 patients tested and treated by the Suubi medical team and Team:MED over the past 9 days, today we saw the attention turn to dental health. Two very successful dental workshops were held; one for children and one for adults. Over 60 children and more than 50 adults turned up to hear about the importance of dental hygiene and to be shown demonstrations of the best brushing techniques.

Monash medical students from Team:MED had Suubi Clinician, Kayiira Robert, on hand to translate for the children who turned up.

With toothbrushes, toothpaste and cups provided by the team, the children were keen to learn the best brushing techniques.

The children were happy to be able to take their brushes, toothpaste and cups home with them so they can continue to brush their teeth at home.

Adult community members were also happy to participate and hear about the importance of encouraging their whole family to practice good dental hygiene.

Another exciting part of the day included the unveiling of dental equipment that was donated and brought from Australia by the Team:MED crew. An amalgamator, steriliser and mobile dental drill was sourced by 2013 Team:MED volunteer, Saada Malouf, who's father just happens to be a dentist. Via his dental colleagues and through Rotary he was able to obtain three important pieces of equipment that will help to kick start dental services at Suubi Clinic. Although this is a wonderful start, we are still looking for assistance to purchase a dental chair and compressor (which will help run the equipment) in Uganda, as they are obviously too big to send in volunteers back packs! If you know of anyone who may be able to help with this we would love to hear from you; either email Helen Brown in Australia or Ssemwogerere David in Uganda.

Dental equipment, which was brought from Australia, was much appreciated by the community. Everyone is even keener after the workshops to see dental services up and running at Suubi Clinic.

Those who attended the workshops showed their appreciation to Team:MED for bringing some of the much needed dental equipment.

By working side by side, the Suubi staff and Team:MED did a wonderful job to conduct 10 days of successful health and dental services to communities surrounding Suubi.

With dental workshops complete, and Team:MED ready to move on the following day, a party was held to say thank you to everyone for the great work.

A huge thank you goes to Team:MED and all their supporters for donations which made the health and dental initiative possible. Also many thanks to the wonderful Suubi staff who did a brilliant job of organising, co-ordinating and conducting all the sessions at Suubi, Kiwangala and Kysonko. It really is quite amazing what can be achieved when two teams, from opposite sides of the world, work side by side to help make a positive difference. It truly does provide hope, just as the Suubi name indicates! Webale emirimu buli omu!

5-1-2015, Free Testing and Treatment Conducted By Team:MED & Suubi Clinic Kicks Off

The beginning of 2015 has kicked off in great fashion at Suubi Centre. A team of 7 medical students from Monash University, Australia have linked up with Suubi medical team to conduct free medical testing and treatment for under-privileged people in Lubanda Village and surrounding communities. Although the provision of free services differs from the small fee that patients are usually asked to pay at Suubi Clinic (to enable the clinic to remain financially viable and avoid the hand out mentality) we also realise the difficulty people in the rural areas have to go through to access quality health services, and that some people simply do not have any money to pay even the smallest amount. With this in mind, the 7 Team:MED students had been busy preparing and fundraising for this free initiative for a number of months prior to their arrival. The money they were able to raise purchased all the testing reagents and medication that were used during their ten day stay at Suubi. An enormous thank you to the entire team and to everyone who supported them and donated to make this all possible!

Having worked so hard in the lead up to their trip, the team were excited to finally arrive in Uganda on January 2nd. Before heading to Suubi, they toured one of the countries largest hospitals, Mulago, in the capital city of Kampala. This was certainly an eye opener for the students as it gave them a first hand view of the difficult conditions faced by medical practitioners, even in city based hospitals in Uganda.

(L to R) Team:MED students Erin, Masad, Annie, Chloe, Clare, Fraser and Madhu were happy to arrive Mulago hospital in Kampala

The team visited many different departments of Mulago hospital and were able to interact with staff who told them of the day to day challenges they face.

But is was the ten days they would spend working side by side with the Suubi medical team and interacting with the rural community that the students were really looking forward to. Learning from each other is one of the many benefits of the entire initiative and something we wish to expand on as the annual Team:MED visits to Suubi continues in the future.

Arriving at Suubi, after hours of travel from the city, was a welcome sight. Unpacking all the medical supplies and luggage from the Land Rover was quite a big job.

Suubi ladies were on hand to preform a very special welcome for the group.

After a good nights sleep, the following day saw the big job of unpacking all the supplies, formally meeting the Suubi medical team, setting up and preparing for the testing that was to begin on Monday the 4th of January. The students and Suubi staff also took the preparation day as an opportunity to discuss procedures and how everything would run so that the whole exercise could be the most successful.

Medical supplies that Team:MED had bought from Australia and those purchased in Uganda for the exercise were unpacked and sorted.

Suubi medic, Elias, explained to the Team:MED students about some of the difference they would be confronted with and discussed how things would proceed once patients began to arrive the following day.

Monday morning saw patients starting to arrive early. Though-out the day 60 patients turned up and patiently waited to be seen. As the two medical teams got to know each other and worked out the best way to deal with so many people, only 30 could be treated on the first day. The remaining patients gladly returned over the following days; 37 were seen on 2nd day and a further 47 on day three of testing at Suubi Clinic.

The large number of patients were happy to be waiting in the shade for their turn to see the medical team.

Patients were first consulted by Suubi clinician, Kayiira Robert and a member of Team:MED (Annie at this time). Speaking luganda directly to the patients and then discussing in english with the Australian medical students was the procedure that worked best for everyone.

Patients were then directed to the Suubi laboratory where vital statistics and the appropriate testing was carried out by one of the Suubi medical staff and a Team:MED member. (Masad and Alad at this time.)

With the large number of patients to be seen, blood tests were also taken in other areas of the clinic. Chloe draws blood from one of the many patients seen during the first three days of testing at Suubi Clinic.

Once patients were diagnosed they went to the dispensing area where medication was distributed by a member from both medical teams (Suubi student nurse, Nanyunja Deborah and Madhu at this time.)

Although every patient who was seen at the clinic was extremely grateful for the opportunity to see the medical team, one man in particular had a very touching story. Godfrey had been sick for months but had never managed to be able to raise enough money to get treatment. When he heard about the free testing and treatment at Suubi he realised that this was the only opportunity he would have to get the treatment he had been missing for so long. He thanked everyone enormously and said he had no right words he could use to thank Suubi Centre for doing such a wonderful job for unprivileged people, like him, in the community. 

After months of sickness, Godfrey was enormously grateful for the treatment he received at Suubi during this exercise.

But it was not only the people of Lubanda Village who had access to the testing at Suubi Clinic. Outreach services were also held in other communities including Kiwangala and Kyasonko. At Kiwangala the mobilisation was done by COTFONE, an organisation that works with local people in this particular area. COTFONE was happy to be part of this Suubi Centre's exercise and appreciated the services offered to its members. The Director COTFONE, Kayinga Yisito, pledged to always encourage people from his community to visit Suubi Community Health Centre for quality medical services in the future.

Setting up for the testing at Kiwangala proved to be another challenge.

Patients waited patiently to be seen by the medical team at Kiwangala.

Masad and Robert may not look like they are in a clinic, but the 47 people of Kiwangala that were tested and treated were enormously grateful that an outreach session had been conducted in their area.

So as you can see the Suubi motto of "Suubi Centre-Creating Hope in the Community", has really been in action - Seeing healthy, smiling faces certainly creates hope in some one. A huge thank you to Team:MED and Suubi medical staff for all for their wonderful work and commitment.

We look forward to the last few days of this 10 days exercise and are excited that it will culminate with a dental workshop on 14th. This will be inauguration of a dental clinic at Suubi Community Health Centre; another very exciting step forward! 

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