Uganda blog four: medical science and Rubbish Science.

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We returned to Bombo for our second clinic on Tuesday – after too little sleep and too much traveling! Stopping for more footballs, a washing line rope to make more skipping ropes and a selection of sweets to pacify or persuade children who needed vaccination or blood test needles.

Stopping in the games field at the school we could already see a larger volume of people waiting for the medical clinic that the previous day and whilst the crying started after patients were admitted previously, there was already two or three babies crying as we set up the equipment and some of the youth leader / translators put up the tarpaulins to shade the prospective patients.

Starting at around 10am throughout the morning the medical staff saw people – numbered from 74 onwards (the first lady through the door had been waiting since 7 am) – some women, babies, children and a handful of men and by our lunchtime at around 1pm we had got through approximately 20 numbers, but because many of the families had 2, 3 up to 5 children, the process of moving people through the clinic was slow.

A second door had been admitting people with ‘handed-over’ tickets – as we would offer a car park ticket to someone – and a few children who went and joined patients, helped to reduce our stock of clothes and shoes to nothing.

After handing out some biscuits and water to the waiting patients, we adjourned for lunch and a regroup and assessment of process. With Peter the doorman and myself getting the remaining patients prioritized and moved across the playground and into groups – people with tickets and sick babies and toddlers, people with tickets and finally those who had arrived and had no ticket but who were willing to wait and be seen.

The CRMI’s very own ‘Mr Do-It-All’ Geoffrey spoke the waiting villagers and through a complicated show of hands and musical chairs-style logistics we had a double system of numbers and priorities which was copied out and handed to Margaret.

Translator Robert then went round and after careful negotiation was able to get names, children’s names and ages onto the back of the tickets so we would know exactly how many people we could see by the 6 o’clock deadline.

The logistics sorted, George and Adam set up their music studio in a 10 x 10 ft room and after football for an hour, music in the small room soon became a noisy sauna…basic percussion, tambourines, guitar and keyboard. I noticed that some of the bins were overflowing and that the clinic was looking a bit less than clinical so set to with a reed brush and box to collect the medical detritus from the floor, collect the plastic bottles and also refill the ‘sweet cups’ at each station.

The heat outside had become extreme and many of the children and parents were looking very thirsty…there was a fresh-water jerry can nearby but no one seemed to be organizing it amongst the visitors: putting it on the table in the centre of the outside waiting room with some plastic cups emptied 20 litres of water in around 15 minutes. We also handed out another round of biscuits.

Without a definite role, I seemed to be doing a few random activities which felt less that 100% productive. On reflection, if I was doing useful jobs – taking care of people, sorting rubbish and stacking chairs – which needed to be done then I wasn’t being wasted. Whilst we were tidying up outside I noticed a young woman putting her child into a pappoose to set off and they both looked dehydrated and tired. After supplying a refilled bottle of water and some biscuits, Peter took the lead in asking about the lady and her son and daughter…this was the opening she needed to discuss her situation with Geoffrey – and a submission was written to seek sponsorship from the project to help her son Ricky.

We kept tidying up as the clinic came to an end, George and Adam’s music session came to an end – after some ‘unique’/cacophonous tunes were created – when a blind man needed to be seen outside their music sweat box. I think the blind grandfather was thankful for the quiet!

For an hour in the afternoon I was hosted by the headteacher of the Salvation Way Primary School – Olivia (whose salary is funded by Peter G’s business) – and her 4 teachers, a committed bunch of ladies who all teach the sponsored children in different classes. Using our Your Enterprise Alphabet cards we explored some spelling games, Countdown-style anagrams, word of the week and how she could use the cards to enhance English lessons and other teaching.

Neil Atkin, science teaching guru and environmental campaigner, had given me ‘Rubbish Science’ his ideas for teaching science using rubbish and teaching environmental awareness at the same time. We went through the ‘bottle bank’ I’d assembled in the morning and developed bug traps, terrarium, plant irrigation, water bottle greenhouses, crow scarers and water collection systems…all with empty plastic bottles, reducing waste, teaching science and encouraging enterprise.

Back on the bus, after loading all the equipment and medicines on, all exhausted we got the final scores…we had seen and treated 156 people today. For free. Ruby saw a shop on the way into Kampala called Frugal Phamaceuticals…this about sums us up!

A good day.

Thanks for reading.


Today’s photo is the Teaching Team at the Salvation Primary School with our Your Enterprise Alphabet card set.