In July of 2017, Brick by Brick Uganda's staff was joined by two inspiring young women from the Global Health Corps Fellowship Program, Geraldine Kauma and Liza Magill. As their year of service comes to an end, we asked Geraldine and Liza to share some of their experiences of working with Brick by Brick.
BbB: What inspired you to apply to become a GHC fellow?
Liza: My undergraduate degree is in International Studies, focused on global health, and I always knew that I wanted to move abroad after graduation to experience the realities of global health work in a developing world context. For GHC specifically, during the summer of 2016, I interned at Partners in Health, which is a placement organization for GHC, and learned about the fellowship program. GHC could not have fit my interests more--its social justice emphasis, focus on the structural injustices that create inequitable health care, and health systems approach were exactly the types of values that I wanted to be surrounded by during my time abroad. And of course, the co-fellow model was pretty attractive too.
Geraldine: My undergraduate degree is in Mass Communication with a major in Public Relations,. Throughout school I had no desire whatsoever to do PR for corporate companies and was always interested in organizations that had an aspect of health and were in support of improving the wellbeing of communities. My past experiences doing communications had been working with HIV/AIDS NGO’s so when I heard about GHC, I felt like it would be a place to nurture my love for health communications, while interacting with other like minded young people from different walks of life.
BbB: What has been the most surprising aspect of living and working in Uganda?
Liza: There are so many; it’s hard to choose one. Now that we’ve been here for ten months, I don’t think about the surprises quite as much. But the first thing to come to mind is definitely how beautiful Uganda is--I’ve never been to a place more green, and I spent Christmas in the Rwenzori Mountains, which is one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever been.
BbB: Geraldine, you have been asked to work with a multi-national team, what have you learned from Liza and the rest of our team about working cross-culturally?
Geraldine: The co-fellow model has been an interesting one for me because as co-fellows, we live and work together. It’s always nice to hear her perspective on things and that has greatly helped me in working with other members of the team working outside Uganda. The diversity of ideas and experience makes the work experience a good one.
BbB: What have been your most exciting successes? Your biggest challenges?
Liza: My most exciting success has to be that we recently won funding for a pilot project from Grand Challenges Canada based on a grant proposal that I wrote earlier in the year. Grant writing is very arduous, with few successes, but the wins are very exciting when they do come! The opportunities that have presented since winning that grant, from presenting our project at the Ministry of Health to collaborating with our team of OB-GYNs and pediatricians working on the project, have also been some of my favorite moments. The challenges are more day-to-day and less memorable, but they mostly include living in a place where there aren’t any options to buy sweets or junk food. Losing internet everyday around 3 pm also isn’t the most exciting either.
Geraldine: My communications role has cut across the different programs and I must say that my favorite times are when I am out there in the community interacting with beneficiaries, be it pregnant women, men, or adolescent girls and boys and being able to write their stories, make videos and take pictures. I also went for training in Nairobi from one of the major funders of our DREAMS program and when I returned started a digital storytelling project with adolescent girls to train them on advocacy and support them to tell their own stories. The major challenge was the fact that it was my first time living away from home, and since it wasn’t just a 30 minute ride back home that has been stressful sometimes. I could no longer afford to crave for ice cream at any one point in Kalisizo because it doesn’t exist :)
BbB: What inspires you most about your work with Brick by Brick?
Liza: The people that we work with--no question. Our staff at Brick by Brick is collectively the most hardworking, dedicated group of people that I have ever met. They work long hours, on the weekends, with few supplies, but never, ever complain (I’m known around the office as the girl who reminds everyone that leave is important for self-care!) Especially since I’ve moved across the world, they’ve been the best support system I could have asked for.
Geraldine: The team that we work with has been amazing! In spite of the usual limited resource settings, everyone here works so hard and so passionately to see that the goals of the programs are achieved. When you go into the community you can just feel the impact, every staff member is called “Musawo” (meaning Doctor), and it is a joy to see that the community actually benefits and is appreciative of the services across all our programs. That keeps me going!
BbB: Where would you like to see Brick by Brick grow over the next 3-5 years?
Liza: There are so many grant projects that I’ve helped design that I would love to see implemented over the next few years. I think there’s tons of interesting growth to be done with technology, and how to better utilize technology to track the outcomes of our programs. Cell phone coverage is increasingly available at our facilities and schools, and I see that as a huge potential that we’ve just started working with this year.
Geraldine: This is an amazing organization and the work that it does is impacting so many people yet there is still so much need. I would like to see expansion into other districts to share the models of our work and support communities there as well. Improving the systems to track and monitor our progress at a national level would be a great addition.