Investing for a Healthier Uganda

10 months. I can’t believe I’ve been here for 10 months, it’s been possibly the fastest 10 months of my life and I have loved every second of it.  Although it hasn’t always been easy, as the nurse for the James Place I see people at the worst, most vulnerable moments and sometimes there is nothing I can do but wait for the medication to start working. 

The past couple of months it has been rainy season and with that comes an increase in malaria. One thing I have learned is there are multiple strands of malaria and with that comes increased visits to the doctor's office. While volunteering at the James Place, I have become incredibly grateful for the priority we put on the health of those I work with.  Malaria can be deadly if not treated and then add the difficulty of strands that are recurrent, or parasites that live in the liver and need different types of medication, or strands that don’t show up on the normal diagnostic test. All of this means more trips to the doctors but the James Place does not bat an eye because the health of those around us is a priority.

These different types of malaria make me feel incredibly useless because nothing helps until the medication kicks in. But the Lord has also taught me something in this season. I am more than just the person who helps get the patient the right medication.  I’m the person who hugs the child while they get their blood drawn, or makes the adult laugh while the IV medication is given, or rubs the back of those laying in bed getting IV fluids because they are dehydrated.  In the last 2 months, I’ve spent more one on one time with people at the clinic than the rest of the time I’ve been here. And it’s honestly my favorite part, not seeing people as sick and vulnerable, but being able to meet them there and providing what they need. 

I wish that people didn’t get sick and I didn’t spend my time taking people to the doctor’s office but that’s life and I’m grateful for this ministry because they realize in order to run an organization properly, they have to help people when they are sick.  It also means there is a lot of trust put in me to help properly assess people so that the ministry doesn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars each month on colds that will pass in a couple of days or headaches that are due to not drinking enough water.  I spend a lot of my days in simple 5-minute education sessions on why we need to wait a little bit before rushing to the doctor.  Which not only educates that person directly but once they have a knowledge on when they need to go to the doctor and when they need to wait, they pass that knowledge along to their friends and their children which help change the entire culture. Without education, everything stays the same and here at the James Place we want to see a difference, we want to see a healthier Uganda.

A healthier Uganda starts with the stance HEAL chooses to take on health.  They could choose to not help at all and just tell people to go to the free clinic down the road but instead, they invest in the people and work alongside a respectable clinic where the doctor not only provides quality treatment but takes the time to educate on prevention of diseases.  Everything I participate in here is to better the people of Uganda and it takes a team.  I am thankful to have the opportunity to be a team member at the James Place and cannot wait to see what my final 2 months have to offer.

-Lindsey Sletner, Volunteer Long Term Intern