Following the Fellows: Ben Weiner in Uganda

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By Ben Weiner

My time in Ddegeya has consisted of many different activities, from teaching at a few local schools to distributing medications at the pharmacy.

Although I love being at the schools and teaching the students, I noticed early on that, if we improved the clinic, the community would directly benefit.

I have no education in or experience with health care, but I knew the clinic was where I could make the biggest impact.

After accompanying the clinic manager and our head clinician on an outreach trip to a nearby rural village, I saw the need to bring quality healthcare to rural villages, even villages just five or 10 miles away from the clinic.

There is virtually no infrastructure here, so a 10-mile trip could take close to an hour on a bad road. On this particular outreach trip, we were treating a group of 12 elderly women. Even though they were only about six miles from our clinic, they would have had to travel all day on a roundabout route to get to and from our clinic.

Another thing I noticed was that there were no emergency vehicle services, even for pregnant mothers.

Too often, we heard of mothers dying in childbirth because they could not reach the proper facilities in time. I thought that if the clinic had a vehicle that it could use for outreach and emergencies, lives would be saved and healthcare delivery would improve. The clinic manager and I wrote up a proposal for the vehicle project and submitted it to Engeye’s Board of Directors. After three months of back and forth with the Board, the project was approved.

We raised the money to purchase the vehicle in only 34 days and, within a month, we purchased a vehicle.

We have already transported multiple patients to the hospital in Masaka, the closest small city to us, for further treatment, and we are in the process of expanding our outreach from one location each month to five locations each month. The vehicle has also made easier the delivery of large orders of medicine and clean water to the clinic. With this new vehicle, the clinic can take the first steps toward becoming an inpatient facility with a maternity ward.

I hope this vehicle will be a catalyst in expanding Engeye and improving healthcare in Ddegeya and the surrounding villages. I have six weeks left in Ddegeya, and I will surely make the most of them.

Congratulations to all of the new Minerva Fellows! I cannot wait to meet you all when I return.

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