Diaries From the Field Blog

It's All About the Partnerships

June 06, 2016
The 2016 SRT Uganda team at their first meeting with the village health teams (VHTs)

By the Student Research Training team in Uganda: "Bbossa" Nathan Lam,"Nanyonjo" Brooke Whitfield, "Nakaliisa" Noelani Ho, and "Nassozi" Kathryn Benson

When a greenhorn undergraduate student research team is on the ground in Naama, Uganda, about 7,400 miles away from their home institution, whom do they depend on while undergoing their research and service projects?

Their research mentors must be included in the answer, of course. Dr. Ariely and Dr. Kigongo have been infinitely helpful in the initial formation and planning of our projects, and they have continued to support us on the ground with Skype conversations, phone calls, and emailed advice as we progress in our work. Whether it is help with submitting an IRB amendment to allow us to address new challenges on the ground or negotiating a hiring contract as a face on a laptop screen, we appreciate their generous efforts.

Then, there are their translators, Robinah and Eddie. We would be unable to schedule any meetings with our study participants, nor would we have the knowledge of who was in charge of what institution in Mityana and Naama without their experience and wisdom. They are as helpful with navigating the rows and columns of the local outdoors market as they are in making sure our projects and meetings run smoothly. They have corrected us on our mispronounced Lugandan phrases, pronounced in a way only Americans could manage. As a plus, they have taught us how to cook quite a few Ugandan dishes thus far (matoke and g-nut sauce is a favorite of the team, along with chapati). In short, we would be lost in translation without them.

We are also thankful to the local health workers and officials of the district. Whether it is Dr. Lwasa, the head district health official, approving our projects and offering helpful contacts to consult with, or the nurses and workers of Mityana hospital offering to staff part of our Naama health fair on June 23rd (providing a wide variety of free health services ranging from malaria screening and treatment to HIV education to anyone who wishes to come; yes, we are advertising to everyone through a bunch of venues, including this blog!), they will be the ones who continue the work of creating and maintaining a healthy population long after our work on the ground is finished.

Finally, there are the village health teams (VHTs). Though they are also included in the above category, they deserve special mention for being the front-line for health in the villages of Naama and for aiding us tremendously in our research. They guide us through the villages when we seek specific participants for our study, walking for miles in the hot sun. They bear the brunt of possibly annoying our participants when they go door-to-door, requesting that some villagers fast for a night so that their blood glucose may be measured accurately the morning after. They joke with us while doing so and give us essential advice for what needs the community wants addressed. They are the eyes and ears for the health of the village and we would be unable to conduct our projects without them.

So, you can see that there are a lot of people our team depends on. And it has been and will continue to be a pleasure to work with them for the rest of our time here in beautiful Uganda.