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Rachel Ryan – Kenya

11 Jan 2019

Rachel Ryan recently went to Baringo County, 370 km North West of Nairobi in Kenya to assist with the Franciscan Missionaries of St. Joseph, who have been operating a dispensary in Salawa for the past 28 years.

She sent us this report from her outreach visit with the mobile clinic on 23rd November, just over 2 weeks after her arrival in the country.

“On Friday the 23rd November I accompanied the mobile clinic to Lake Kamnorok Primary School. A distance of only 20 or so kilometers from Salawa, it still takes over an hour to get there due to the quality of the roads – which are in a far better state than they used to be, thanks to recent government investment. All the roads around Salawa are currently being levelled and surfaced with single membrane tarmacadam, and already the road from Salawa to Ajnamoi is paved with an initial layer, the surface still kicking up pieces of gravel, as we wait in joyful hope for another layer of tarmacadam. Anajmoi is the village just south of Salawa where the road splits to go towards Kabarnet in the East or Eldoret in the West. Our hope is sustained by the sections of road still closed off for surface work. At these sections, the traffic simply finds its own way round, veering off to parallel roadways of well packed dirt that have been carved out while the work is ongoing. So far these are fairly smooth and useable, though often, only one car wide, requiring some backtracking and maneuvering when one meets a truck coming fast in the opposite direction. My clinic colleagues tell me that outreach used to be much more of an ordeal when the roads were all mud and there were no bridges – a scant 6 months ago.

Big Bertha mobile clinic Kenya

Outreach, or mobile clinic days, take place once a month for each outreach site. Lake Kamnorok is usually on the last Friday of the month but because of preparations for World Aids Day on the 1st December, this month it took place on the second last Friday. Most clinic staff start the day at 8:30am, so this is when the preparations for leaving began. The clinic’s driver, Jacob, had been on leave for some time and this was my first time meeting him. While others selected and laid out the equipment, supplies and boxes of medication that would be used during the day, Jacob was thoroughly checking the engine and undercarriage of our huge and faithful Toyota land-cruiser, which I have dubbed Big Bertha. Including the driver and myself, there were seven of us travelling – 3 nurses, a lab tech and our social worker.

Instead of coming out of the compound and going right and south towards Anamoj we went left and North towards the lake. At the far edge of Salawa village, we pulled into the Government clinic to collect more supplies. In theory, the Government clinic is better supplied than ours and open for 24 hour admission.

In practice, it’s hard enough to find someone to deal with during normal working hours and the service is perfunctory. After hours there is usually no one there.

Because the sisters live on-site at the clinic, people perceive Salawa PHC as a 24-hour facility and will come up and knock on the door of the house even if all the lights are off, and despite the large “working hours 8am to 5pm” sign over the clinic entrance.

Recently, a small maternity wing has been set up in one of the less-used outhouses, and so a system of night shift cover has been set up, but with a small staff there isn’t always someone available and if someone presents with a more challenging condition Head Nurse, Sr. Veronica may easily receive a late night call and end up working half the night.

Kerio valley is surprisingly populous and along the road we pass through many small villages and by many pedestrians, keeping to the verge, in the absence of anything resembling a footpath. Children who spotted me in the front cab, squashed beside Consolata, the social worker in the one-and-a-half passenger seat, waved enthusiastically and called out with the traditional Mzungu greeting: “How are you?” Towards the interior the houses we passed were traditionally made – what an Irish person might recognize as crannogs – low, round, clay walled houses with grass roofs.

Rachel Ryan's Crannogs

 

I would imagine these are far more comfortable than the common village alternative of shanty houses, walled and roofed in corrugated tin. The crannogs at least offer some insulation, and sometimes the clay walls are decorated with swirls of colour or pale carvings. Combined with the brightly coloured washing out on lines or fences to dry, it was a very aesthetic sight. One photo I missed was the grass-roofed house with solar panels nestled in the thatch and a satellite aerial jutting from the join between wall and roof.

 

When we turned off towards the lake we lost the good road surface. Slowly, lurching over stony ruts and crevices, we passed water carriers with their pale, yellow jerry cans and negotiated our way through a small herd of cattle.

Our first stop was by the lake itself, in the peaceful woodland surrounding it, so we could have lunch. The lake was beautiful in its greenness. Apparently, in years gone by, it was a popular watering hole for elephants, and crocodiles still live in some muddy stretches. I resolved to avoid those but I did walk down to the waters edge reflecting once again on how much beauty there is on offer in this part of the world.

Lunch was githeri and chai for the rest of the staff, hard boiled eggs and sweet bananas for me (my travel diet of choice). Githeri is a staple meal of Kenya, which I find far more appealing than the maize-meal porridge of ugali, the staple diet throughout East Africa. For githeri corn kernels are cooked, long enough that they become swollen and soft as chickpeas, then mixed with cooked kidney beans. It’s plain but tasty. The chai is generally a weak tea that consists mainly of watered down milk, which is boiled at some length together with the tea leaves. Lunch was eaten and everyone washed up afterwards – with the water that had been carried along for that specific purpose.

It was about 12:30 at this stage and patients had gathered on the grounds of Lake Kamnorok primary school, a few hundred metres up the road from the water’s edge.

This is always the site for the mobile clinic. We set to unpacking boxes and people while Ken Kirop, one of the senior nurses, walked the grounds and returned to discuss options for setting up stations. There would be four areas – one for outpatients, one for the weighing / growth monitoring of babies, one for immunization and one for antenatal care.

Ken and Fred Serem, the lab technician, each addressed the waiting patients, both able to speak the local language as well as Kiswahili. These short talks often address some health issue or point of advice and are generally an opportunity to thank patients for attending the clinic, advising them when to seek medical advise and urging mothers to pay attention to the growth monitoring results for the health and development of their children. They also simply introduce the format of the day and layout of the stations. Today, they also introduced me, explaining that I was mostly there to observe the work of the staff and that I may take a few photos – but that they were free to object to this at any time, and not have their photo taken. During the day one man and one teenage girl asked that their photos not be taken, but by and large people were happy with it. After I delivered a simple smile and wave greeting, I took a couple of group photos, and then the patients split into the various groups. It became immediately obvious that the weighing station would be the busiest – and so it remained throughout the day.

I moved from station to station, asking about common ailments and treatments, but I was brought back again and again to Growth Monitoring, since they were constantly swamped with people. Our driver had immediately positioned himself to help, which I learned was normal on these outreach sessions.

He started taking the height measurement of the babies and measurement of mid upper arm circumference (MUAC), which is a standard rule of thumb for nutritional monitoring. Social worker, Consolata did the weights and the bookkeeping.

Registering baby details

When a pregnant woman first presents herself to any health facility she is given a Mother and Child Health Handbook, in which, among other things, she is encouraged to track the growth development of her baby as well as record the vaccinations they receive. So, each measurement must be recorded in the mother’s book, along with the patient details. The corresponding record must be recorded in the Ministry of Health Patient Register, required by every facility. If the mother requires any additional or supplemental treatment such as Vitamin A or De-worming tablets, she will also pay for it at this time and be provided with a written receipt.

The scales and height board are brought in by the staff, the weighing scales is tied to any available cross beam with strong rope. Babies are generally tied to their mothers’ backs with a large swathe of cloth they call a “lasso” in this context. When they are called forward for the weighing, the mother will simply swing the baby round in front of them and pass the knotted cloth over their heads. The baby can then be easily hung from this functional sling. Given the physical work required to weigh and measure each child, and the administrative records required, it seemed impossible that two people could process twenty patients in two hours, let alone two or three times that, without a great deal of error and confusion. Certainly, there was an air of frenetic intensity in the work being carried out, but Consolata and Jacob proceeded with a systematic focus, born of long practice. I was willingly roped in to help with the recording of data, scribbling weights and measurements on mothers’ handbooks as they were called out and learning where to put the information required for the patient register books. Any time I left to see another station I felt a strong pang of guilt, since no other station was as busy as this particular one.

The vaccination station, manned by Ken, was set up around the corner from Growth Monitoring, for the convenience of the mothers, and I didn’t stay there for any length of time. It seemed cruel to compound the unhappiness of a child in pain with an audience. The mandatory vaccinations include TB, polio, whooping cough, diphtheria, measles, hepatitis b and yellow fever, and all doses should be delivered before the child turns two.

The schedule for these vaccinations is kept in the mothers’ handbook and health workers write in the dates for any follow-up required. At the outpatient station, a steady line of patients presented with various ailments for our nurse, Joan. Most were sent on to visit Fred, who had set up his lab, as usual, for outreach days, in the back of Big Bertha. Many common conditions can be screened for by a simple blood test, including malaria, hepatitis, typhoid and brucella. They will also often perform a pregnancy test, since some treatments are contra indicated for pregnant mothers – especially doxycycline for brucella. Fred sat in one of the two back seats, with sample kits and equipment on the other seat and test tubes lined up on Big Bertha’s spare tyre. beside him. Patients squished in with him which meant that at least they had the benefit of shade and privacy.

For the antenatal station, nurse, Juliette had set up in one of the school classrooms and a privacy curtain divided the patient’s bed – a folding bed brought in with the rest of the equipment – from the desk and two chairs where people could consult. Basic tests there included blood pressure, anaemia and foetal heartbeat as well as palpitations to check the baby’s head and position.

As the number of patients to be seen wore down, the Growth Monitoring station ended up with a stack of pink health handbooks, as transcription of full details into Ministry of Health Child Welfare Clinic Register lagged (understandably) behind. I joined in this effort and passed the books to Consolata as I was done.

Rachel Ryans photo

The mothers stood around, patiently, with babes in arms and some by the hand, waiting for one or other of us to call their child’s name and retrieve their books. When they had it back and were done for the day, the women and children retreated to the shade, at the edge of the school’s compound, where other mothers, patients and companions had set up blankets and cooking equipment. Some had brought fruit to distribute or to sell – to each other and to us. Some of the nurses bought tomatoes or pawpaw for their evening meal, even while we were packing up the land-cruiser.

Somehow, everything had taken place in less than 5 hours. More than 60 patients had been seen, more than 40 of them in the Growth Monitoring section. My colleagues informed me that this was a very quiet day – perhaps because we had come a week early or perhaps because a government clinic had recently opened in a neighbouring village. Attendance at the mobile clinics is always monitored, to be sure we are making best use of our resources. We arrived back to Salawa PHC at 18.30 and unpacked everything. I was tired, but had enjoyed spending the day directly engaged with the patients, rather than closed away in an administrative office. It was gratifying to see the appreciation of the people, on the ground, and the professionalism of our staff. It is always good to know that you are needed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick Mooney – Cambodia

19 Dec 2018

Orphans and Vulnerable Children receive support in Cambodia

Patrick Mooney has been working in Cambodia for many years. He is currently working for an organisation called Partners in Compassion which is a sustainable community based project working for vulnerable and orphan children including children affected by HIV/AIDS.

He sent us some information about the work of his organisation. This story focuses on a youth of 15 years, Hek Sammy, who shows much promise.

This young boy is bright and enjoys learning and hopes to be a lawyer one day. He is currently in 7th Grade. He has 3 siblings and is cared for by his mother. His father had a stroke and is paralysed on his left side and cannot work.

Sanny joined the Partners in Compassion project in 2017 and already has displayed very good leadership qualities; he was elected leader of the children’s club he attends by the other children, and has represented the 200 orphans and vulnerable children assisted by this project at a meeting of the National Task Force and at a meeting of the NGO Child Rights group. He has received training in Child Rights and Child Protection.

He received a bicycle from the organisation which motivates him to attend school more regularly and attends weekly art classes; he is a good artist. He also receives school and hygiene supplies when his case worker visits him each month and attends extra classes in Khmer writing and English classes, supported by the organisation.

His mother receives social supplies on a monthly basis which helps with daily living as the only family income is generated by her efforts in selling vegetables, snacks and cooking sauce in front of their home. They have no land for growing rice.

Sanny is only one of 200 children currently receiving support for daily survival from Partners in Compassion in Cambodia.

 

 

Here a young girl tells her own story:

(It was translated from the Kmer language by the project manager)

 

My name is Srey Sok (not her real name.) I am 12 years of age, I have 2 siblings. I live in  Batie District, Takeo Province. My mother is working as a farmer, and my father died when I was a child. My family has been recognized by the government as being poor and we received poor card number 1. Currently I study at Chhnath Primary School at grade 6. The distance from my home to school is 2 kilometers.

My family has been supported by Partners in Compassion for one year, up to now my family had social welfare support 6 times and myself I have received school supplies 5 times and hygiene supplies 6 times, uniforms 2 times, money for extra classes $5 monthly. I received a bicycle as well as I participate in child club meetings every time they are organized. I attend extra classes 5 days each week for 2 hours and pay with the $5 I receive every month for extra classes.

Because of the support my family and myself received our living conditions have improved. My studies have improved, I have greater commitment for my education, I now get better scores in my class work. In this academic year I have never failed in any subject. In May 2018 I received score number 4 and in June I was number 1 among 23 students in the class. The staff of Partners in Compassion and village volunteers check regularly that my education is improving and that I go to school every day.

I wish to study hard to become a well-educated student, a good child, a good friend, and a good student, especially in the future I want to be a teacher.

Before the support from the project I received scores from 20 to 25 among 30 students in the class, In the past I did not go to school regularly, I have no money for attending extra classes, my mother never showed the value of education and never encouraged me to go to school, if I did not have the support from Partners in Compassion my education would not have improved and maybe by now I would have dropped out from school. Now my mother can see the value of education and she is motivated to make sure I attend school.

Nowadays, my family has changed a lot such as my education & living conditions have improved because now my mother has greater understanding & value of education and takes care of me. She attends the literacy class & has received training in gardening, animal raising, and has joined the saving support group. For income generation she has a weaving machine and can generate income of $20 per month.

In addition to going to school regularly I have been participating in child clubs.

At the end, I would like to thank Partners in Compassion that support my family and me for improving our living conditions, our health is better and my education has improved. I would like to request Partners in Compassion to continue to support me until grade 12.

 

 

 

 

 

Sanita Lielbarde – Uganda

19 Dec 2018

Christmas in Moyo, Uganda

Sanita sent on a recent update of life at Weaver Nest ECD Teachers’ Training Institute in Moyo, Uganda and two stories from former students.

‘Since I came back to Moyo after my holidays it has been relatively ‘peaceful’ as students are busy with exam revision. The final examination began on December 10th and finished on December 18th.

Currently, we have 25 students but 18 of them will be completing their programmes this year (six students from CEC and 12 from CC programmes). Only 7 students will continue their studies in February 2019. We have started a recruitment campaign already – using local radio announcements and distributing leaflets in the area.

Thanks to the funding received from Trocaire in Uganda and  Misean Cara, we have purchased 4 new desktops for the institute a few weeks ago. The computers will be used to teach students and the staff, if necessary, ICT in the new academic year.

Also, in the new academic year, we are planning to focus on ECD promotion activities – radio talks, school outreaches etc. These activities will be incorporated into the work plan so that we can become more systematic and consistent in executing as well as in reporting on these plans.

There is a Christmas Party in the Irish Embassy tomorrow, so I am planning to attend that.’

Below are two stories of change from former students who completed their studies at the Institute in December 2017

 

Poni Betty (29 years of age)

Employed with international NGO – Save the Children in Morobi Refugee Camp in Bele 1 Primary School

Education: Certificate in Child Care (2017) from Weaver Nest ECD Teachers Training Institute

SAM_2951

Poni Betty is Sudanese by nationality, she is married and has two children. She remembers that it was her husband who encouraged her to join Weaver Nest and complete the childcare course. After they got married, she stayed at home for 8 years and had two children, so he suggested that it would be good to upgrade her education. Her husband was the one who paid her school fees and supported her in other ways too.

While talking about her time in Weaver Nest, Betty tells that she is still interacting with her classmates, they have very good relations. They are friendly just like in the school time when they were sharing all things and helping each other as a team.

Betty got a job with Save the Children recently. She is a teacher at Bele 1 Primary School in Morobi camp. Although she has ECD qualification she teaches Level 1 and Level 2 Primary School which deploys the Accelerated Learning Programme. This programme is specifically tailored for school dropouts aged from 10 -17. They are assessed and the classes are formed on the basis of the assessment results. So, sometimes even the youth aged 17 come in at Level 1. She gets paid 20,000 per day, which makes about 400,000 (~100 Euros) per month. And if she works at the weekends, it adds up to 480,000 per month. The contract is for 5 years.

The work sometimes is challenged by lack of learning resources and materials. To overcome this difficulty, the teachers work closely together, they share knowledge and skills and help each other as much as possible.

Pony Bettie teaches Science in level 1 and level 2. The classes are large, over 80 children. Thankfully, the students’ English level is okay which makes interactions dynamic as well as interesting.

Overall, the qualification of ECD has been beneficial, she acknowledges. Besides doing a rewarding job as a teacher, she also is able to help the family with the salary she receives. Looking into the future, Pony Betty would like to go for a diploma in ECD.

Finally, Pony Berry encourages the young people to choose the ECD course, to learn and to put in more effort, so it will help them in the future to become independent and self-sustained. Additionally, ‘there are these nursery teachers who are not trained and I would encourage them to go and get a qualification so they will be the right people to teach the right things to our children’ she concludes.’

 

Christine (21 years of age)

Qualification: Certificate in Childcare acquired at Weaver Nest ECD TTI in 2017

Employment status: Employed by Windle Trust International to work as a nursery teacher in

Iboa Nursery School in Palorinya refugee settlement


SAM_2955

‘Christine was brought up by her elder sister, who lives in a nearby village located 10 kilometers from Moyo Town. Life was not easy for them as her sister had to take care also of her three children. The only income was from subsistence agriculture.

Despite financial constraints, Christine finished secondary school and joined the newly opened Weaver Nest ECD Teachers Training Institute in April 2017. The fees, compared to other academic institutions were more attractive and affordable. Also, the environment was really supportive and she cannot recall any serious challenges during the one year she spent at Weaver Nest.

After finishing her studies in December 2017, Christine found a job in Palorinya Nursery School. This was a community school supported by the parents, which means that the salary she received was low – only UGX 90,000 (just over 20 euros). After some time she responded to an advertisement from Windle Trust – International NGO – who was recruiting nursery teachers to teach refugee children in settlements. The application was successful and Christine was invited for the interview, and later selected for the job.

“They chose me because they need people with qualifications. There were 27 applications for this post, but only 8 had a certificate in ECD. So they invited those 8 for interview and picked 6 people to work at a number of their nursery schools,” she recalls.

Christine acknowledges the importance of having a qualification – if she had no certificate she would not have got the job that pays her UGX 300,000 per month (20,000 goes to pension fund) now. Also, her accommodation is paid for.

Christine is teaching top class children. There are only two teachers for 150 children. It is challenging at times, she acknowledges, because of the children’s language barriers – they do not speak the local language and have very limited English. However, she enjoys her work which also involves mentoring her colleagues as she is the only one among six nursery teachers with the qualification in Childcare. For example, the current teachers, on the ground, did not have any daily routine established for the children as they did not know how to do it until she introduced it. Additionally, her untrained colleagues did not know how to do scheming/planning lessons, so she is the one who mentors them. Even more, she has been approached by UNHCR to mentor untrained teachers in the camps. “Our officers see that I work well, so they are thinking of giving me a scholarship to proceed further with my studies to obtain a Diploma,” Christine reveals.

Christine is very proud of her experience and success. In comparison to her life before this, she now has her own money to cater for herself. Before, she had no means to afford basic necessities. Her advice to her followers at Weaver Nest is to take their studies seriously and to listen to the tutors as the knowledge and skills gained will help them to improve their own lives and the lives of others.’

Margaret O’Regan – Uganda

19 Dec 2018

New Elder-care Facility Brings Happiness to Elders’ Lives

They sing, they dance, they don’t want to go home!

 

Update from Margaret O’Regan in Fort Portal, Uganda

 

I feel there are so many stories in eight weeks about my experiences here, I don’t know where to start. First and foremost I must say I am enjoying my placement and find it both rewarding and exhilarating and feel so privileged to be a witness to the enormous challenges of peoples lives. 

That is not to say I am not fit to pull my hair out at times! Primarily at the confusion that can arise over meeting times, date of meeting, plan for the day, having enough fuel in the car, having enough airtime!!!!! The list is endless but I have learnt to take a deep breath and remember the moral of Chicken Licken and that despite the fluster, the sky didn’t actually fall down! 

I have had no great challenges in adapting. I was well prepared both by the VC Venture course and the long deliberation I took before taking up this post. In addition, I was fortunate to have my VC colleague, Brian Lynch carry out extensive research on the project I am assigned to; thereby, not only creating a sensitisation amongst the project recipients  i.e. the elders in Fort Portal, Uganda, but also sensitising the project team to the aims of the project. 

I know it is no news to you reading this that the poverty amongst the community and especially the elders is immense. At times, I find the level of it overwhelming. There are stories of tragedy, after tragedy; such as death of all nine children, death of grandchildren, land grabbing, sexual exploitation, accusations of witchcraft, police called by neighbours after a grandchild’s funeral accusing the elder (grandmother who reared the child) of child sacrifice and demanding the body to be exhumed; and that is all in one person’s life. The frequency of these kind of stories, combined with extreme poverty is astounding. To see the graves of adult children as mounds of earth in the gardens outside the mud houses, to see the tears of women as they speak in Rotorra, to feel the bones on the shoulders of their emaciated bodies….that is what leaves me speechless. Words somehow cannot express the enormity of it.  

Least these expressions cause you to worry that I might be traumatised, I want to reassure you I am OK. In the midst of such suffering there is also joy and the good news is that the elder care project IS bringing happiness to elders’ lives. I know it is early days, and that I am again referring to poultry (it must be my agricultural background)! but I am slow to count my chickens before they are hatched. However, thus far the day centres have been a great success. 

Hati (now), to explain the day centres. These are loosely based on what a day centre for the elderly in Ireland might look like. We are in the process of setting them up in each of the three divisions in the municipality of Fort Portal. Two divisions are up and running and the third is planned. Apart from the Faulty Towers approach to organisation at the first event in the East division, it still turned out to be successful, with a turn out of 56 elders (our aim was 50). The second day centre gathering (West division) attracted a similar size crowd and was better organised. 

What was really impressive and satisfying was that, when we ran the 2nd day centre gathering in the East division, the vast majority who were at the previous “Faulty Towers” session were present again for the following month’s gathering. In addition, this gathering was better organised in terms of the talk given on human rights and the way the group was subdivided into smaller groups for discussions. The best part however, was that on the second day in the East, the elders did not want to go home! This was in contrast to the first day when they left for home almost two hours before we expected. On the second day the majority of the elders got involved in the singing, dancing and playing drums. Even men, who were barely able to walk, were standing and moving rhythmically to the wonderful, African music. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to see the smile on some of those faces, some who surely have not smiled for years. 

Also, care-giver training is up and running and so far, so good; albeit, it is rather costly and the budget for this section needs to be closely monitored so that it doesn’t compromise the operation of the core element, i.e. the day centres. Team members and I have taken part in radio shows and Fr Paschal and I attend the Toro Elders Forum to highlight the project and increase awareness of elders needs. Networking is ongoing and the team and I have several more ideas on how to advocate for the recipients of this project. 

Click the link below to enjoy these photographs, which have been taken with the consent of those in the pictures. In many ways pictures say more than words can ever do.

https://viatoreschristi-my.sharepoint.com/:v:/p/communications/EajHIZgQHKhIrzD3N0slxpkBoDfEA9ZkRN7kK7_j9CH-uA?e=fS9Qpe

 

Breda Sammon – Haiti

19 Dec 2018

Always a Warm Welcome for New Volunteers

 

Breda Sammon from Co. Tipperary is currently volunteering in North West Haiti, in Jean Rabel. Her latest report explained how with the help of Foi et Joi she has managed to deck out the newly dedicated computer room in Colette school with 16 computers using N Computing. A further 16 computers are earmarked for another school in Acadien. These will be in situ once the new IT classroom at the school is built.

Here’s a sample of ‘A Day in the Life of a Volunteer’ living and working with RJMs in Jean Rabel, NW Haiti.

  • Up for Mass (Sometimes)
  • Breakfast
  • Work = Training, Creating Manuals, Sourcing Equipment
  • Dinner
  • Siesta (love this part of the day)
  • Training or Creole Classes
  • Prayers
  • Evening Meal
  • Social Time – A Film or Cards 

Breda lives with a number of Spanish Sisters and Sr Rose from Ireland. The Sisters are members of the Religious Sisters of Jesus and Mary, RJM; some of them have been working in Haiti for 20 years, building capacity in healthcare and education. The congregation shared its two hundredth year anniversary in 2018.

Since the installation of computers in the local schools set up by Castlebar RJM Sister, Sr. Rose, progress has begun in bringing technology to this remote area, with the aim of increasing opportunities for what can only be described as a ‘forgotten’ people. Lack of infrastructure and amenities in this area of the North West of Haiti has meant that without the presence of missionary groups such as the RJMs, the people living locally would remain on the margins of Haitian society, as little governance from the capital of Port-au-Prince impacts them, as they eke out the semblance of a living from the land.

 

 

 

Philip Donnelly – Haiti

18th Dec 2018

 

Philip Donnelly, on assignment with Gena Heraty in the NPH Kendscoff Orphanage in Haiti sent us an update:

For the first six weeks of my assignment, I was based solely in Kay Christine where I addressed the serious condensation problem which was causing mould growth. I stripped and repaired all walls, installed fans in the kitchen, bathrooms and dining areas, and installed air vents in bedrooms.

I then repaired and fully restored 30 tables and chairs (which would be thrown out, if in Ireland)!

A consignment of hospital wardrobes came via Espwa from Ireland and I repaired, customised and installed these in the children’s rooms.

I also repaired/replaced drainpipes around the residences which were incorrectly installed in the first place, causing issues.

The Espwa team from Ireland visited for 2 weeks in October and we constructed 3 extensions on to the children’s residences.  I’m now taking on the second fix period for these and will complete all works.

I find Monday – Friday go fast but weekends can be lonely. I  time to go hiking or running on Saturdays.  I’m also teaching some children boxing and Espwa are going to supply kit for this. I also try to keep busy by taking 5 Creole lessons each week!

 

Annie Mc Mahon – Bolivia

18 Dec 2018
map bolivia

Annie Mc Mahon recently took up her post in Bolivia. She sent us on this update:

“Things are slightly tense this week in Bolivia as there has been a lot of corruption uncovered in the recent elections for a referendum and the people have been  protesting – peacefully I might add, all week. It’s very interesting to hear what is happening and the thoughts/fears of the people here.

Apart from this it is the end of the school year so I am currently getting the kids prepared for the summer break and being that teacher that gives homework over the holidays. I am also arranging times for some of the children to come to the clinic as well as having parent teacher meetings.

We have done 3 huge outreaches over the last few months; 2 in the jungle, where over 300 people attended in two and a half days; the other one, in the mining area of the country, where over 70 people attended. Great turn outs!

I will hopefully start a course soon to learn some Bolivian sign language. Apart from that it’s just typical end of school things, parties and parades etc.”

Annelies Baneke – Uganda

18th Dec 2018

Annelies with Rose coordinator

 

 

 ‘Two Months in Mityana, Uganda’ 

I’ve been living in Mityana, Uganda since August 2018, working within a diocesan education department. My assignment is nine months long and aims to establish an inspection programme for use across the 220 registered schools in Kiyinda-Mityana. 

When I arrived, research had been carried out by a previous VC development worker, inviting schools in the area to voice their priorities and provide input for inspection initiatives. This was a really helpful starting point and reflected the VC ethos of running development programs in response to local need and opinion. 

Since August, I have built on this research to create an inspection tool centred around school management, academic and co-curricular opportunities, facilities, and pupil welfare. Together with the Education Secretary and a former head teacher, I visit schools twice a week and write inspection reports; which allows us to pilot the tool and make necessary changes. 

In early 2019, we plan to hold a workshop for chaplains in the diocese, where those linked to education will receive training to inspect schools in their parishes. We will monitor these

inspections, and will make recommendations to local government based on the inspectors’ findings. 

Child protection has also become a key priority of the project. Whilst there are laws in place, a discourse on safeguarding is not present in most schools. One of my tasks has been to write a child protection policy. This focuses on alternative behaviour management to facilitate an end to corporal punishment, awareness and external reporting mechanisms for sexual abuse in schools, and the presence of trusted figures within schools with whom pupils can share concerns. In the coming months, the policy will be introduced to schools and we will begin to monitor its implementation. 

Before I came, I worked as a secondary school teacher in Cambridge and had also taught in France and Thailand, which has given me confidence in making recommendations from an international perspective. That said, the level of responsibility I have here has given me exposure to such a range of educational issues and has allowed me to challenge myself professionally in a way I wouldn’t have been able to in the UK. I am really grateful to VC and to the partner in Mityana for all these opportunities. 

Outside of work, I’m living in a house on the office compound and sharing meals with the priests who work in administrative roles for the diocese. I didn’t quite know what to expect before I arrived, but the priests’ cheer and wonderful humour has been one of the best parts of living here in Mityana. With some, I have had interesting discussions about differences in belief and these co-exist respectfully: I have not felt pressured in this regard. I have been to two Mass services in the compound chapels, to a wedding, and to other services as part of school ceremonies. These are often lively occasions with dancing and beautiful music. 

Apart from compound life, I’ve been enjoying runs and have just about made it through the altitude barrier! I’ve met others who have recently moved to Mityana, who, alongside the priests, have led the path of discovery to Ugandan lager. Family and friends have also booked to come and visit so I’m looking forward to some trips around Uganda next year – hopefully featuring safari, gorilla tracking, and seeing the Nile at Murchison Falls. 

Annelies' office

There have been some definite lifestyle changes during this time. A thirty-minute cycle has been replaced by a thirty second walk to the office, my neighbour the history professor replaced by a herd of cows, and plantain trees stand in for my old classroom view of the canteen queue.

I’ve even temporarily betrayed my dog loyalty to adopt a kitten that the priests gave me!

It’s been two months of new experiences to which I have been so warmly welcomed: all this has made for a very happy time here so far.

 

 

Join our Training for Development Course this Spring

Venture Training For Development 

Module Dates
Global Awareness, Health 9-10 February 2019
Community Development and Leadership 9 -10 March 2019
Project Cycle Management, Monitoring & Evaluation 13-14 April 2019
Cultural Adaptation, Challenge & Conflict, Research Methodologies (New module) Please note some modules including Research Methodologies have an online component using Moodle. 11-12 May 2019

Please register for the course here

About

VC offers an excellent training programme called Venture, delivered twice a year which aims to prepare prospective development workers, missionaries or volunteers for working and living in a developing country.

The programme is conducted over four intensive weekends between February and May and September and December each year. While providing a grounding in practical overseas development it will help participants to discern if a long term volunteer commitment is for them.  It is vitally important that development workers, missionaries or volunteers are well prepared; this helps ensure that they can remain committed to the challenges of living and working overseas.

The programme is delivered by facilitators who are experts in the sector.

“What I am very favourably impressed by is not only the specific training programme but the general atmosphere created by the VC staff and volunteers during the various occasions when I have been there; this atmosphere is probably even more important as a ‘training’ than the elements in the formal training programme.”  Donal Dorr –  Venture programme facilitator

Who can join

The VC Venture training programme is open to everyone, not just those wishing to be considered for a VC placement.  It is however, a prerequisite for our vacancies unless the volunteer has considerable previous overseas experience.  It offers people an opportunity to make an informed decision on whether overseas volunteering is for them.

Applicants from England and Wales are very welcome.

Content and delivery

Our course is entirely participatory – the idea is that all have something to bring to the table.

As well as good basic grounding on the development sector it also offers participants an insight into working with and within the faith-based sector. VC also strongly encourages participants to become involved in voluntary work at home as a practical learning addition to this course.

Fee

A course fee of €400 for the training is payable in advance. Meals and refreshments are included, accommodation is not included.

Click here to register

Boardroom for hire

Board room/training room for hire: The meeting room called VC Board Room Style at VC Venture Training Centre is located 500 metres from the Phibsborough Greenline Luas station and minutes from central Dublin. The centre is located in a wheelchair accessible ornate high ceiling double room in a beautiful Georgian building close to Phibsborough’s day car park. Centre has limited free on street parking. The venue can be configured for training and boardroom meetings. Book here