Snapshot of Uganda

December 07, 2008

Megan Yarberry is Project Coordinator in Africa for RMF’s Team Whole Health, and has been facilitating acupuncture trainings in East Africa since 2005.  She shares her experiences here.

We’ve been here in Kiryadongo for a few days now, but as most of us agree, it feels like much longer. Our days are full, and the stories, sights, and experiences are potent.

We first went to the camp on Thursday; driving down the dusty orange track through maize, sunflower, and bean fields. Charles gave us a rundown of the people living in the mud, thatch-roofed houses we were passing, and there are still plenty of folks living in their UNHCR tents.

We got to one of the sites where the acupuncture trainees have been offering treatments – a large building they had constructed to be used as a church and a treatment site. The community had gathered to greet us with many warm hugs, songs and huge smiles. They sat us down under a tree, along with a few hundred people from the surrounding area, and different community groups presented songs, dance, poems, and drama for us. My favorites were the traditional dancing (for which some of us were pulled into the circle to share in some booty-shaking rhythms), and the dramas about acupuncture.

Both the youth team, our acupuncture team, and a secondary school team put on plays about the effect of acupuncture on the community. All of them had characters going through stressful times – lack of money, domestic abuse, general unfairness of life – and then these characters being introduced to and finding relief from acupuncture. I found it interesting that there were several story lines about the head of household abusing members of the family, receiving acupuncture which relieved their stress, and ceasing to be an abuser.

We began the acupuncture training later that day. We have 7 trainees: 4 are already "NADA specialists," proficient in the auricular acupuncture and with 6 months of experience giving thousands of treatments. Two are also from the Kenyan refugee community; nurses that were not able to attend our last training because they were providing services through PLAN International. The last one is a health center nurse who is not a refugee, but rather an Ugandan government employee providing services through the healthcare system.

Jane, Wen, and I are doing the acupuncture training, and both of us are impressed by the pace at which the trainees are able to absorb the information they are receiving. We hope to offer clinic hours by next week, and already have members of the community coming in to ask for services. The regular NADA style treatments are continuing, and it was great to see how many people are able to benefit from the 3x weekly auricular treatments being offered.

Meanwhile, Beth, Joan, and Susan are doing various projects and information gathering in the camp.

Yesterday they attended the school report meetings and distributed toys and supplies to the top students (that RMF has been providing school fees for). In the afternoon they met with staff at the healthcare center to discuss supplies and services. They also visited the malnutrition ward. Beth talked about a 5 month old child who weighs no more than 3.9Kg (under 10 pounds), and I think it is with this particular child in mind that she is off to Masindi – the district capital today – to get some malnutrition formula to restock the health center.

There’s so much more to write, but I have to leave shortly for the camp to continue our work here. The plan is that Beth will take this blog via flashdrive to Masindi an hour away and try to get it online.

Hopefully there will be more time to write when I reach the coast at the end of next week.

Megan Yarberry is Project Coordinator in Africa for RMF’s Team Whole Health, and has been facilitating acupuncture trainings in East Africa since 2005. She is currently in private practice in Hilo, Hawaii and Academic Dean of the Traditional Chinese Medical College of Hawaii. With degrees in Oriental Medicine and International Affairs, Megan now develops collaborative healthcare projects with educational intent.

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