By Eric Barigye
Welcome back to our weekly blog that explores a particular aspect of Uganda life, to learn more about the people, place, and this week – the projects that play host to our Adventure Like No Other!
We continue our series “From Your Projects!” where we share stories from the beneficiaries of our selected 2020 Charity Projects. This week, we go to Community Health Empowerment Relief Agency (CHEDRA) to meet Betty who is a Clinical Officer for this organization!
Nakiruuta Betty is a 25-year-old who was born and raised in Rakai which is about 51 kilometres away from where she works now. Having decided on a career to treat people when she was only 13 years old, Betty started looking for the best place to use her skills when she finished her studies last year. Having heard of CHEDRA from a friend, Betty got started ‘googling’ the organisation and found she loved everything she was seeing – so much so she emailed the organization immediately declaring her interest to join!
Luckily for Betty, the Director of CHEDRA (and Board Member for the Marathon), Mr. Kigozi Moses, makes it a point to meet everyone that approaches him for work. After their meeting, Moses told her sadly he had no job available for her. However, showing her seriousness for the role, Betty kept checking-in with him with friendly messages over the next three months until he gave her the opportunity she sought. He persistence paid off!
Her days begin at 6:30 AM. She gets up at that time to prepare and make herself breakfast before making the 10-minute walk to work before her shift starts at 8AM.
This Monday she attended a 2-hour staff team meeting with her colleagues, where the previous week was used for discussions and to iron out plans for the week. After her team meeting, Betty has to go to her station where her day-to-day work awaits. She uses a “Bodaboda”, which is a motorcycle taxi, to make the 15-minute ride to Masaka Regional Referral Hospital. There she works with a big local NGO, covering 22 districts, called Uganda Cares, which is a collaboration between the Uganda Ministry of Health and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (U.S.A) to provide free HIV/AIDS services; including antiretroviral therapy in resource-constrained settings.
On this day Betty is registering and screening people who have come in for an HIV test. She has other duties depending on the day but today this is her station. With a questionnaire on the desk between her and the client, she asks questions covering name, age, gender and address. The survey also checks whether they have been tested in the last month (which is key as the virus takes approximately 4 weeks to manifest symptoms), how many times they have been tested in the last 12 months, and also asks some further questions. She explains the questions and translates them into Ugandan when necessary.
Betty breaks for lunch at 2 P.M before returning to her station to continue her work.
Many local people from CHEDRA’s area of operations in Ssaza make their way over to Uganda Cares once they are made aware of the free services on offer, usually made aware through word-of-mouth from staff such as Betty.
“We extend our services to our level best but the challenge is most people in Masaka are not getting enough services. Masaka is a high-risk district in terms of HIV/ AIDs. A good sign now is more people are willing to go and get tested when they know the services are available. I pray we get our own facilities at CHEDRA because we have good standing in the community and more people will be able to come to us for help.”
CHEDRA at this time is raising awareness of the free services Uganda Cares offers, and that is the best they can do for now. However, with the help of International Runners like you, CHEDRA are hoping to start their own health clinic whose infrastructure can cover the Ssaza community. This will mean people won’t have to make the longer journey to access the services at Uganda Cares, and the process will become more accessible and convenient for all. Once completed, it will provide treatment for 1,800 people a year and run campaigns to actively prevent cases of HIV/AIDs in the area.
By 5 PM on this day, Betty has screened 50 people, which represents the average amount to visit the clinic on a normal day and demonstrates the high demand for the service. Only 2 people who visited the clinic were ineligible for further testing – this is because they were checked two weeks ago and it takes about four weeks for the symptoms of the virus to show. Therefore, they will need to return in a few week’s time.
Betty has very simple evenings. She makes herself dinner, then chats with family and friends, before heading to bed ahead of another busy day.
To end this week’s blog with Betty, she kindly took a quick break from work to send this message to all the runners joining us for the 2020 event:
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