Following the Fellows: Bringing soap to Uganda

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By Ilyena Kozain

Engeye is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide affordable, top-shelf healthcare and educational scholarships.

The Engeye Scholars Program funds local children in primary and secondary schools who are unable to attend on their own.

The clinic was founded in 2006 and has been partnered with Minerva Fellows since the program’s creation.

Engeye’s co-founder and extraordinary director, John Kalule is, simply put, the man.

He oversees all goings on at the clinic and is genuinely committed to serving the people of this community.

The health team is made up of six bright, selfless and incredibly sweet women.

Joanne, Brigitte and Tushabee are the clinicians who refer the patients to the lab for testing, preformed by Olivia and Ritah, and medicine is sold by Resty in the pharmacy.

The clinic’s incredible cooks — nay, chefs! — are Prossy and Susan (or fondly known as Mama Jackie and Mama Sean). The groundskeeper, and dear friend to all past and future Minerva Fellows, is our very own, Eddie.

There is no way we can ever properly thank this amazing group for accepting us into their family.

We live at the Engeye Health Clinic, which is located in the small rural village called Ddegeya. It’s breathtaking.

The village is spread out through the corn stalks and matoke banana trees. Everything is a musky, lush red and green. It’s easy to sink deep into the beautiful pace here and become  entrenched in this life.

People grow their own food, build their own houses and it can cost nearly nothing to live here.

Everything we eat is unprocessed and comes from within a ten-mile radius. The U.S. is a place of excess and stripping back is refreshing.

We’ve been involved in diverse ventures ranging from teaching English at the local primary school, exploring boreholes, managing the newly formed Engeye Artisans store, etc.

Yet what we’ve brought to Engeye has been soap making.

The idea stemmed from the observation that to conserve resources, soap is primarily used for washing dishes and clothing, not hands.

In an effort to improve the local sanitation situation the research began: How to make soap from scratch?

The basic ingredients to make soap include: water, oil or fat, and lye (aka caustic soda/NaOH/KOH). Oil is easily accessible and lye can be extracted from the ashes of hardwood.

After some time, the final product yielded a batch of soft soap. Despite it being a time-consuming, tricky process, it was a success!

This method is in the process of being taught to a local women’s group as a way of conserving resources and an opportunity to educate about the importance of hand washing.

With time, connections with fellow local soap-makers were made and we refined and optimized our process.

We were able to produce large quantities of hard herbal soap bars using purchased

materials, as well as liquid soap. Both the hard soap and liquid soap have low production costs and serve as a source of revenue for the clinic.

They are also being sold in the clinic’s craft store for volunteers and back in the states. Overall the project has been

successful in supporting Engeye.

Living within this community has introduced us to a life that is so incredibly different from back home. Honestly, it’s difficult to compare the two.

Things make sense here. Everything is simple. How

people live their life fits into this environment; the culture, the economy and the politics shape people’s life decisions.

The most treasured aspect of this fellowship has been the relationships we’ve made.

Shout-out to next year’s Uganda fellows: Joe Hinderstein ’15 and Charlotte Bloom ’15. Prepare yourselves for a life-changing year!

We are eternally grateful and humbly indebted to the Minerva Program for this incredible

opportunity. Thank you Tom and Hal for your unwavering support and encouragement. Being part of this program has been the

pinnacle of our time at Union.

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