“So, like what exactly do you do?”
The infamous question that is sometimes hard for me to quickly answer.
If you do not know much about HEAL Ministries and the James Place in Jinja, Uganda where I have been living for the past three and a half months, go check out this link.
My job, as a social work intern, touches on almost every aspect of the James Place. Just like social work in America, we make sure people have what they need and are in a safe environment. If they are not, we do something about it. There are 42 staff members at The James Place, 68 children enrolled in our childcare program, and over 40 women and 1 man (can’t forget about sweet Abraham) in our artisan program. The social work department makes home visits to each of these homes and checks for overall safety of the home, mosquito nets for sleeping, the water source for the home, toilet and bathing area, and assesses for other issues or problems.
In Ugandan culture, if someone offers you something (like food or drink) it is RUDE to not accept it….even if you do not want it. Often times on home visits, the occupants of the home will offer something of some sort. During my time here, I have been given g-nuts (ground nuts- which are like a peanut), bananas, chapati (DEFINITELY did not turn that offer down ;)), soda, and water. It is naturally an uncomfortable situation when you are offered something that you do not want. So in the past three and a half months I have become very used to accepting any offer and just taking what is given to me.
Some other activities that the social work department does is three month follow-ups. We assess and evaluate the person’s overall goals and lifestyle they are living. Being that HEAL is a Christian-based organization, we also assess the client’s spiritual goals. This process automatically builds a relationship with the client because we ask so many questions about their life. It is one of my favorite parts about my job.
Everyday around 12:15pm is bath time. Every single staff member takes a part in bathing the 60+ children that we have in childcare. I LOVE BATH TIME. Bathing children seems like a chore to some, but it is such a special time for me. We bathe the children in plastic basins and are able to finish bathing every child in less than 30 minutes. WOW.
The children are put down for a nap from 1:00pm-3:00pm so it is usually pretty quiet on the compound for those two hours (except for when the staff volleyball game is going on at 1:30pm!).
1:00pm is lunchtime for the staff, artisan women, and interns. Here is what our weekly menu looks like- Mondays: rice, beans, eggplant, and avocado. Tuesday (the intern favorite): rice, beans, and chapati. Wednesday: posho, black eyed peas, cabbage, and avocado. Thursday: rice, beans, and a roll. Friday: Irish potatoes, green beans and peppers, dodo (a spinach type green), pineapple, and watermelon. Saturday: rice, beans, avocado, banana, and chapati. So, if you were wondering what the food situation looks like, there ya have it!
From 2:00pm-3:00pm everyday is chore time. Chores include washing tarps, diapers, diaper inserts, preschool and English class socks and uniforms, wash clothes from bath time, toys from the playground, and washing dishes in the kitchen. Chore time is such a wonderful time just to sit and talk with everyone, sharing stories, trying to learn Luganda, and laughing. You can learn a lot about a person in an hour!
HEAL partners with other organizations in the Jinja area as well. Ministries such as Jinja Pregnancy Care Center, Amani Baby Cottage, Abide Family Center, Sole Hope, and Ekisa Ministries. The social workers are often in contact with each other when one ministry refers a client to another ministry in hopes for finding a better fit for the client. I have gotten the chance to visit each of these organizations during my time here and love what each of them do!
If you ask any person at the James Place what Alexis’ favorite day of the week is, you will hear the answer “Saturdays, because of Kids Club!” Kids Club is my absolute favorite time of the week! The James Place opens their gates from 2:00pm-5:00pm on Saturdays for all kids from the local neighborhoods and villages to come and play, learn a Bible story, eat a snack, drink clean water, and just be KIDS for three hours. You will find children of all ages running down Kisinja Rd. holding younger siblings hands, carrying them on their backs, trying to get in the gates as fast as possible. I have built so many relationships through Kids Club that I absolutely HATE missing a Saturday! Actually, even when I am off on a Saturday you will find me out on the compound during Kids Club because I love it that much.
This place and organization have brought so many wonderful people into my life that I know I will never forget. Even though I only have two and a half months left in this joyous place, it will remain a part of me forever.