Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Where to begin?

Having written less than ever in my Peace Corps service, and having more to write about in my Peace Corps service, has rendered me feeling quite overwhelmed by the prospect of trying to publish a post on this blog.  It feels as though it has expired, like it is something of a distant past that no longer belongs to "me," but rather a former being of a long-forgotten self.  That's extremely dramatic---what I'm getting at is that it's been quite awhile, and to be honest I have almost no idea how I'm going to cover the ground lost.

I think maybe the best idea is just to throw some thoughts out there and let the process of unfolding the past couple of months unfold organically, through tangents and stories which have to be explained.  Perhaps this will be a good filter, as it will be only the important acts and events that happened in the past which I'll have to talk about in order to to where I am today.  You'll be spared, perhaps, a bit of the saturated fat of the blog.  Hopefully that wasn't the best part of the blog?

So here I am.  March 6th, a couple of months back into my service after a glorious 30 day break from Uganda for the holidays.  Peace Corps provides 30 day *recommended (pretty much mandatory) breaks to go back home and unwind for Volunteers who have completed 2 years' service and are looking for another year.  They cover the transport and give a modest per-diem allowance (about 15 bucks a day, all totaled) while you are back home.

I can't believe it has only been two months that I've been back in Uganda.  I have hit the ground sprinting, trying to make an impression on anyone and everyone who has been in my track, both in order to do my job currently, and also to try and open up as many doors as possible down the road.

My job currently:
1) I am a Field Coordinator for Abt Associates, an implementing partner of the Presidential Malaria Initiative (U.S. Funded and run in coordination by the CDC & USAID out of the U.S. Embassy here in Uganda) who is working on the Indoor Residual Spray Project in Northern Uganda.  Largely I am working with two different teams; James Kirunda & I are working on being able to judge the capacity at the district level of doing the job of IRS without Abt Associates---judging to see if they could do it without the support of a supervisory organization watching and guiding them through the process.  On the other side, I am working with a partner organization of Abt Associates to develop SBCC (Social & Behavioral Change Communications) throughout the 10 districts, through all kinds of different mediums.  We go to radio stations, we pass out flyers, we work with VHTs, we deal with locally elected officials.  We develop the messaging, are responsible for the sensitization of the community of when these sprays are coming around, why they are important, and what to do to prepare.
2) I am acting as the Malaria Coordinator for Peace Corps Uganda; I am technical advisor in malaria to the PEPFAR (Presidential Emergency Plan For Aids Relief) Coordinator under Peace Corps Staff, who handles all of the malaria-related grants.  I'm also the go-to person (or am trying to be) for any Volunteer with malaria-related questions.  Everyday I get emails from Volunteers all over the country (and even a few across Africa who have seen posts on the Stomp Website) asking about various degrees of projects, statistics, or more general questions regarding malaria in Uganda.  It has been something extremely rewarding for me, and indeed it is an honor to have earned the respect of my peers to a level where they feel confident having me be their source for such an important topic in Uganda.  I'm the chairperson of the Malaria Think-Tank, and have created and am spearheading the first annual World Malaria Month Competition among all Volunteers in country for the month of April.
3) I am on the board of governors for the Ngora Parish Harmack Company.  The kids are running the company by themselves!  This comes with a mostly expected amount of trouble, and many times I find myself working 3 times as hard doing 1/5 as much as I used to within the Company.  But the kids are really learning, and we've got a truly amazing boy who is currently leading the charge in all kinds of new and exciting ways.  Our building is being completed this week, we are hoping, and after approval from our grant supporters we will start furnishing the building with sewing machines, tables, computers, and solar panels.  It is certainly an exciting time.  It is also certainly tough, being so busy and therefore unable to sit and bask in the success the NPHC is having in Ngora.  7 hours journey makes it nearly impossible for me to make it down on a consistent basis.

If this sounds like it is too much to humanly do, I will admit that it sometimes does feel like it.  But to be honest, most days I'm really quite relaxed.  Much more structured, and seemingly much more predictable days than I had while in my first 2 years of service, but largely under control and within a reasonable amount of workload.



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