Friday, December 30, 2011

Grow.Learn.Give. in Uganda

Marissa Patterson, a university student, worked in Uganda for several months teaching women and girls health. She used the Grow.Learn.Give. materials and graciously wrote about her experience for us!

My experience in Uganda: life-changing

In June, 2011, my husband and I embarked on an exciting adventure – the most adventurous thing either of us has ever done – we went to Uganda.

Backing up a little, Richard and I had wanted to do a humanitarian trip for years, even before we got married three years ago. We finally started doing research on where to go, and what organization to go with in the summer of 2010. In my research I came across the Grow. Learn. Give. blog, and as I perused its contents, I learned about a major problem that women and especially girls all over the world deal with: a lack of education and resources. The thing that really hit home for me however, was something I had never even considered – that most girls and women do not have access to clean, disposable menstrual pads.

The knowledge of this problem fueled my passion for women’s empowerment through education. It is what motivated me to put in all the time and effort in planning and fundraising to go to Uganda and work to change lives. It is what made me work so hard for two and a half months in Uganda to change the lives of the women there.

A few weeks before I left for Uganda, I e-mailed Patty Liston, hoping that I could get some teaching materials to take with me and use there. She more than came through for me – she brought a draft of the teaching manual that they are writing called “Health for Girls,” along with some other teaching materials, and we had a great talk about what I could expect when I went to Uganda. I never realized how useful the “Health for Girls” manual would be to me and so many of the people I worked with, but I ended up using it in almost all of the classes I taught, and other volunteers from my team borrowed it for their lessons too. It was a wonderful resource to have, and made it very easy to teach girls about important health topics.

The following is a summary of the groups that were impacted by the lessons in the “Health for Girls” manual:

I taught three women’s groups – one was in a rural village called Bunoboyoka, and the other two were women’s groups in Namatala (the largest slum in Mbale). In these women’s groups, we (a group of five other girls and I) taught about prenatal health, breastfeeding, and reproductive health/family planning. I taught the last topic – reproductive health and family planning, and used a lot from the manual, mainly about anatomy and the fertility cycle.

I was amazed at how many questions the women had, especially about things that I learned about as a 4th grader in elementary school. They had questions like “why do I feel pain when I bleed?” or “why do I bleed each month?” Most of them had no idea when they were fertile, and did not understand ovulation. I don’t share this to point out flaws in these wonderful women by any means. I simply share this to make a point that women in Mbale, much like the millions of women in developing countries worldwide, are in dire need of education. It is absolutely essential to their and their families’ wellbeing.

Additionally, I taught five different groups of pre-teen and teenage girls while I was there. Two of the groups were in rural villages, and the other three were in secondary schools. I focused on maturation and menstruation, and used a lot of material from the manual. I made different lesson plans each time, based on the needs of the groups,

Additionally, I met with different women who worked for local NGO’s and taught them the lessons we had been teaching all summer, and then gave them the lesson plans. This way, they can continue to teach the women they work with now that we are gone.

I have gained such a love for teaching girls and women about their health and their bodies; having that knowledge is so important for them, and can be life-changing. I truly believe that knowledge (whatever the subject may be) is power!