July 2 – 3
Hello all! I just wanted to say that I have gotten home safely and without too much hassle. I am still trying to get used to some things such as it being light out at 10 at night and being able to use the tap water, but on the whole, I am not doing too bad! However, back to the good stuff J.
Today was my first day working with VWB! Yay! It started off with Steve, Jerome, Claire and I going to the FAOC office from which VWB operates in Mbarara. FAOC stands or Foundation for AIDS Orphaned Children; there are many people who work here, helping with projects to generate income to help children orphaned due to AIDS. VWB is kind of a sideline to their own projects. From what I understood, they are currently trying to find and grow plants that provide the optimum nutrition for the Ugandan people as well as using some of these crops, like chickpeas to roast and sell for money in order to keep generating income for their projects. Or something to that effect. The project that VWB is working on is called the Goat Project, a project that has been ongoing for a couple of years now ever since Dr. Claire Card came to set it up in Uganda a few years ago (feel free to correct me if I am wrong Claire!). Now, what exactly does this project do you ask? Well I am ready to tell you!
The point of this project is to provide means of income for impoverished ladies who have no other means of income (although they do give goats to some men too). The ladies (or men) get two goats, a male and female, of breeding age to start off. In order to receive the goats first however, they must first build a goat house, a structure made of boards that is raised off the ground in order to keep goats in. It should have enough room in between the boards to let feces drop through yet still close together that hooves don’t get caught. They also should have troughs for water and feed. In order to build these houses, seeing as most if not all receiving the goats in the first place are impoverished, they get a loan from the local revolving fund of money that was started by FAOC. The revolving fund is money that keeps getting added to by women who already have goats and have progressed far enough that they are able to sell their goats and goat products for money thus it is essentially women funding other women for goats. Make sense? Once the women have built their goat houses they are eligible to receive goats from FAOC. One of the jobs that Steve and Jerome have is to test and purchase goats to distribute out to these women. The first kid that is born is donated to another woman in the community so that she too can start her own goat project (I think). After that the ladies are to sell their goats and goat products and put some money back into the revolving fund (in order to pay back the money they borrowed to build their goat house) and so that other women who may not be as successful will be able to use that money for their own purposes as well. I think I have that right, if not I think I have it close enough. Now that you have the background, let’s go back to what happened today.
Mondays are apparently meeting days (or maybe every first Monday of the month, or maybe bi-weekly?) where all of FAOC gets together and shares what they have been working on, how it has been progressing, what were the goals since the last meeting…kind of like your regular staff meeting at work. At the meeting I met with the members of FAOC that helped out with the VWB. There was Vivian, a slim whisp of a young woman; there was Teddy, one of the translators with an extremely bubbly personality; there was also Joseph, another translator who was also in the process of building his own shop to sell goods in near his house. He liked to use phrases such as “okkkaaayyy,” and “yhesh” to answer everyone, even if he didn’t quite understood what you were asking. Most times you would ask him a question about goats and he would answer “yhesh” which was totally irrelevant to the question you asked. He was one of the nicest, giving, and friendly people I have met here. He had a very good heart even if he didn’t quite listen to you all of the time. I also met a lady named Skovia that helped run the demonstration farm that FAOC had set up in a nearby town for the goats. She had had polio when she was younger which caused her right foot to arch up into an improper angle however it didn’t seem to bother her in the slightest.
Okay. Now for the meeting itself. I am not going to lie, I didn’t pay very much attention to it, but I did manage to pick up a couple of things. The first topic was about chickpeas and how they were growing and how well the sales were going for the roasted chickpeas (which are very hard to chew but are quite tasty). The second was about the goat project and Scott gave a spiel about how to improve the revolving fund so that it worked better for the women. The main reason I wasn’t paying attention was due to the paravet manual that Steve gave me that I was reading at the meeting instead. It was 52 pages of how to train paravets, goat husbandry and usual goat illnesses and how to treat them. I learned a lot about goats in that 3 hour meeting reading that manual than I had learned in my life about goats. Once the meeting was over we went out for lunch at a place famous for its samosas (they were really good).
We travelled back to FAOC after lunch and started to clean up the office that was in the building and to take inventory of our supplies. All of the shelves were covered in mouse poop so I cleaned it all off and Claire and I also organized the supplies in the shelves. We also saw how many syringes and needles we had to see how many we had to buy for a vaccination clinic later in the week. I think I counted around 20 3mL syringes so needless to say we needed to buy more. Claire and I went out to buy syringes and needles and to price out vaccines. At one place where we stopped, a newer veterinary pharmacy, Claire asked the fellow about clostridial and brucella vaccines (2 diseases common in goats, clostridial diseases cause sudden death and abortions, brucella causing abortions and infertility in both males and females). The guy said they had neither of these vaccines as they weren’t common in the area. I just laughed as Claire straight-up told him they are the most common diseases and that they should get them in. You should have seen the guys face as he got schooled; the memory still makes me smile. Eventually we finished buying syringes and needles and pricing out vaccines.
It was an early end to the day; we went out for supper somewhere, not quite sure where, and it was early to bed for the next day. It was a good day to introduce me to the rest of the week. Yes I didn’t do much vet related stuff but that is alright. I got my fill the rest of the week!
Today was the day I first got to touch an animal and do vet things. And man did it feel good! The group of us went out to check goats to potentially buy at farm run by a fellow named Michael. You are able to tell those that are wealthy here in Uganda by the sheer size of the person’s body. And let me tell you, Michael was a very successful farmer. We were to check 10 goats that we were pretty sure Michael was trying to sell for someone else. They were all very young goats, under one year of age. While testing goats, we test for brucella (so we draw blood from the jugular), we check their teeth, their pallor by checking the mucosa of their eyes as well as to see if they have extra teats (if it was a female) which may interfere with milking. I got to take blood from them (cool!) and got very good at checking their teeth. Once we were done checking them out we spray painted a number on them and took a picture of them. This is so we know, when we finish testing for brucella, which goats are which to prevent us from buying one with brucella. While there we also treated a goat for pinkeye.
We went out for a quick lunch before going out the demonstration farm in the village of Kaberebere (kah-bear-a-bear-a OR cab-el-leb-el-lay, the “r’s” and “l’s” are interchangeable, fun fact). I got to see the demonstration goat house (which was huge) and I finally got to see what napier grass looked like. Also there, there were papaya trees, an avocado tree, a jackfruit tree and a mango tree not to mention the usual matooke and/or banana trees (I still can’t tell them apart). After that we went to go see a little boy named Brian. This was a boy who Steve and Laura had found in one of the villages they worked in the first month they were in Uganda; he was HIV positive, severely malnourished, ill and very weak, weighing probably about half of what a healthy boy his age (3 years old) would weigh (I am not 100% sure of all of the details concerning him). They brought him in to the hospital for treatment and periodically check in on him when they go to the village. He is a very cute, serious little boy who loved to play with our residence keys and Jerome’s license and debit card.
After spending some time with him we travelled on to another village to check on a goat who had delivered a kid the night before, but was still pushing. The paravet had helped deliver the kid and had checked to see if there was another inside and could not find one. When we got there, the poor girl was in obvious distress. She didn’t try to get up when we approached her and was not paying very much attention to her new kid who kept trying to nurse while she was laying down. She was very dehydrated and kept straining. While Claire went to see if she still did have another kid in there, I brought the kid to another female goat so he could get some milk. But let me tell you, females who have their own kids do not like to share their milk with kids who are not theirs. I had to hold the goat between my legs and try to stop her push the poor kid away so he could feed. Claire did end up finding a twin and pulled the poor dead thing out. We gave the girl a shot of antibiotics and were on our way out, after I held a few more baby goats of course!
On our way back home we stopped at Joseph’s place in Kaberebere to look in on his son. VWB definitely looks after its people and their families. Joseph’s son had had a rash for several months now; Claire took a look at it and took pictures. It was a progressive rash that had grown to cover most of his body over the past months. Claire was pretty sure it was ringworm; it was just odd that no one else in the family had it. The poor boy was itching himself like crazy and many areas were rubbed raw on his skin. We decided to take him in to the hospital as soon as we (or I guess Steve, Jerome and Claire) had time. Then it was time for home! I had a lot of fun finally working with animals today. Don’t get me wrong, I loved working in the clinic in Rugazi but here I felt like I was doing what I was meant to do, you know?
I be writing more about this week and try to post it soon!