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Teaching and learning: Unite/CPHVA members have been pivotal in establishing and developing a community development and public health project in Mityana.

In 1998, I was approached by some fellow Scouts to take part in a visit to Mityana, Uganda. Little did I know where this would lead me. Prior to this, my only connection with the country was a Ugandan Asian family whom I knew, who had been expelled by Idi Amin.

On my first visit, I aimed to teach first aid to groups including police, health workers, women's groups and the general public. However, as an experienced health visitor I could see that there was much more health education and promotion required than simple first aid techniques.

The community had basic facilities--no running water in the homes or schools, and a poor diet consisting mainly of posher (maize) and sugar cane. Tooth decay was prevalent, there was a high birth rate and a large section of the population was HIV positive. Primary education was available for free, but only for four children per family, whereas the average family size was 7.8. Free secondary education did not arrive until 2007, and then only for the brightest children. The standard of teaching in all state schools, the resources available and class sizes are unimaginable when compared with what we are accustomed to in the UK.

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While exploring and meeting with local public sector workers, I met Isaiah Wadriboh, a public health inspector with whom I discussed a variety of potential projects. Since the education system no longer provided a full personal and social education programme, and as I was aware of the excellent educational materials that CPHVA had produced at the time, I decided to develop a programme that could be used in schools and with community groups called 'Beat the bugs, stay healthy'.

Originally, this was taught using the minimum of resources--photocopied sheets and a few visual aids. On a subsequent visit, my colleague Tracey Young and I began to develop relationships with the local hospital, after donating a sterilizer and theatre instruments. It was obvious that the hospital needed a huge amount of support.

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Becoming a charity

By 2005, the original small group of volunteers had become a registered charity both in Uganda and in the UK, and could begin to apply for financial support. Our sights were set on working toward refurbishing the hospital and securing funds to provide a local community centre that would contain a lending library.

This work began in August 2006, when we repainted the paediatric ward and began to replace the old beds and mattresses. We were also fortunate enough to secure a meeting with the Ugandan government ministers for health and public health, who showed an interest in our work.

After a visit in August 2006, the founder of the original charity chose to separate, and at this point we were successful in our bid for 10 000 [pounds sterling] from the Amicus Foundation. This prompted Simon Dubbins from the union's International Department to contact us, as the National Print Workers' Conference was being held in Brighton and a representative from Uganda was to be present. Tracey went to meet her, and subsequently arranged to see her again on our visit to Uganda early in the following year.

In January 2007, the Mityana Community Development Foundation (MCDF) was formed. It was North-East England-based with eight trustees, and it also became a non-governmental organisation in Uganda with five Ugandan directors. On our January visit, we began the task of rewriting the existing materials, working with local health workers to produce more Ugandan friendly resources, translating the packs for the younger children and testing our artistic skills to adapt illustrations! We also produced a teacher's resource pack, and in order to ensure sustainability of the project a meeting with National Print Workers national secretary Christine Kavata enabled us to negotiate and develop printed booklets using Ugandan labour.

Since 2004, we have also been providing each child we teach with a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap, bought locally to support the local economy. We have also begun to teach the teachers to use the teacher's resource pack, which not only ensures sustainability but also goes some way to improving their teaching skills.

Community vision

The work of our Ugandan directors, supporters and the district council of Mityana has been overwhelming, and it has ensured that the 'Beat the bugs, stay healthy' project has continued even while we are not in Uganda.

Our vision for a community centre remained alive and well, and the Ugandan directors actively pursued potential sites. However, funds eluded us until a businessman became aware of our project. Richard Hames of M&DH Insurance Services was so impressed with our work that he agreed to provide funding to purchase a building.

In October 2007, he accompanied us on a visit and we purchased the building to be known as the Judith Hames Community Centre. Also on this visit, we continued to refurbish the hospital, painting the maternity unit, providing mosquito window protection, more new beds and mattresses. This was the first opportunity we had to use our new teaching packs, and they evaluated well.

Working for tomorrow

So here we are at the end of 2008, and the charity has gone from strength to strength. Tracey has joined us as a trustee, and we have taught more than 100 future teachers and over 1000 children on one visit in May alone. Our links with the International Department of Unite continue, and we now train trade union members in first aid and 'Beat the bugs, stay healthy'.

The Judith Hames Community Centre has had its official opening, and it is due to be operational in the new year. We continue to support three women's groups, two HIV/AIDS groups and three fishing villages by buying crafts to raise funds in the UK, providing workshops, and donating animals and vital life-saving equipment. In addition, we have set up a thriving credit union.

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We also support a community school, again with the backing of Unite, for which we have provided a new classroom, a water tank and pay the teachers' salaries each month, as most of the children are orphans or have parents who are HIV positive, and are unable to pay school fees. All of our fundraising is done through small grant applications, collections and a sponsorship scheme.
Box 1: Mityana, Uganda and the MCDF

Mityana town is two-hours' drive west of the Ugandan capital Kampala.
The surrounding district is a poor and largely agricultural area of the
country, with a population that is approaching 270 000. HIV/AIDS,
malaria and tuberculosis are all widespread, and for most people
educational opportunities are limited.

The Republic of Uganda is an East African nation bordered by the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Sudan.
The people of this former British colony have experienced much hardship
and conflict, not least during a series of coups and dictatorships
between the 1960s and 1980s. Uganda is now relatively stable, though
there are still rebellions in the north of the country.

The MCDF has developed a variety of community development projects,
working with local people in areas that focus on five themes of health,
enterprise, education, scouting and community.


Further information

For more about the MCDF and to support its work, see: www.mityana-communitydevelopmentfoundation.org.uk or email: carolyn@taylor9299.freeserve.co.uk

It is also possible to donate to or raise money for the MCDF via Justgiving--see: www.justgiving.com/mityanacf

Carolyn Taylor Specialist practice mentor (health visiting), South Tyneside Primary Care Trust
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Author:Taylor, Carolyn
Publication:Community Practitioner
Article Type:Personal account
Geographic Code:6UGAN
Date:Dec 1, 2008
Words:1252
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