Communication Workshop and World AIDS Day

Since my return from Jinja this past weekend, we haven’t had any more problems with grasshoppers. Instead, we just haven’t had power for three days. ┬áIn the past, power outages were usually intermittent, so although we would go for long stretches without it, usually over the course of the day the power would come on for at least a little while. Since Sunday morning however, it’s been out continuously. We’re a little worried that the problem might be something like a broken transformer – which would be bad news, since when Ali had a broken transformer near her house in Katikamu, they were without power for nearly a month! Luckily the birth house has solar power, so we are at least able to do computer work for a couple hours a day, provided there has been enough sun to charge things sufficiently.

UPDATE: Our landlords have just informed us that it is a transformer problem, and that power is out from here to Bombo – nearly all of Luweero district. Luckily we’ll be in Rwanda in a week and a half. Hopefully by the time we come back in January, all will be resolved.

This week we’ve been running another teen girls’ workshop. The schools in the area are on holiday until February, so it’s a good time to reach lots of area teenagers. Since we’re holding the sessions during the week, we’ve also been able to arrange to have different midwives assist each day, which helps tremendously since they can explain some of the more complicated topics in Luganda, to really ensure that the girls are understanding the material being covered. The centre has been a hive of activity this week, with the teen girls around, work getting underway on the safety fence that’s being built around the property, and the midwives busy painting garden signs and writing workshop outlines. Never a dull moment, to be sure!

The staff work to build the tallest tower they can, as part of an activity during the communication workshop.

The week before last, Kristen and I held a communication workshop with the staff. In addition to being a useful refresher on material that was covered during their training a while back, it was also a fun way to practice things like active listening and to remind ourselves about different communication styles and strategies for making sure that everyone is understanding one another. Rather than having everyone sit and have to listen to either Kristen or myself talk, we split up the day into a variety of different activities that helped to illustrate various positive and negative things related to communication.

Emma proceeds with much apprehension, after Kato accidentally steered him into a pole during the blindfolded obstacle course.

I led a bunch of activities in the morning, including one where the staff had to try to explain to their partner how to draw a picture that only they could see. The trick was that they had to do it without saying the name of any of the objects in the image (ie to draw waves they’d have to instruct their partner to “draw a wavy line, two-thirds of the way down the page, that goes from one edge of the paper to another”). We had them go through the exercise in both Luganda and English, and then talked about the results. It was interesting to see the differences between explaining things in one’s native and non-native language, and it helped give everyone a new appreciation for some of the challenges that come with working in two languages. I also gave the staff paper cups for a team cup-stacking challenge – it’s purpose was to have the staff reflect on how they act when working in a group, but it was also just fun to see everyone’s competitive sides come out! In the afternoon, Kristen ran through some more exercises with everyone, including ones that got brainstorming about active listening and what it looks like, and also how frustrating it can be to try to converse with someone who is blatantly not paying attention. The most entertaining activity for us to watch was the blindfolded obstacle course that we had everyone go through, which involved one person leading their blindfolded partner around the Maternity Centre site, using only verbal cues and one finger on either side of their back to direct them. Everyone did a pretty good job of getting their partner through it, save for one unfortunate instance involving the lab tech, Emma, and a pole.

Dancers perform in front of the large crowd assembled for a World AIDS Day commemoration in Bombo Town.

The next day Kristen was also at site with the staff, discussing ways to encourage new clients to come to the centre and going over other administrative topics, while I met up with Yvone, one of the women’s group leaders, at the Kasana Health Centre. She had invited us to attend a World AIDS Day Commemoration that she had helped to organize in Bombo, another town in Luweero district. We got a ride with some other health workers from Kasana, and headed over to the playground where the day’s events were being held. It was really interesting listening to the various speakers talk about what is being done to combat HIV/AIDS in Uganda, and what more still needs to be addressed. In between speeches, there were all sorts of performances by local drummers, dancers, singers, and, for the opening and closing anthems, even a military band. Yvone was busy much of the day helping to organize sports matches that were taking place at the end of the scheduled portion of the day, which meant that I spent the majority of my time sitting in the crowd watching the performances and speakers, and talking with other spectators. It was a great way to recognize the importance of the day, particularly given the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among those who access services at workshops at the centre.

For those who would like to see a tour of the Maternity and Learning Centre, I’ve added a series of photos taken by Ashley Barnes, Ali’s friend (the photographer whose photos of the Ndere dancers I posted a while back) to my Flickr site. You can check them out here.