COVID-19 Home Stay: Child abuse and Intimate Partner Violence

By Dr. Pamela Mukaire

“Yes staying home will save me and my children from COVID-19 but not from the fits of my husband on my body and my children’s small faces.”

This is the story of a woman who has endured abuse for years. As she tells her story, she speaks of how her husband’s going to work has given her and the children a break from his abuse these past 7 years. A sweet man she says, but one who does not do well with anxiety. Now in the face on no income, three children and a wife to feed, curfews and no place to go, she finds herself “jailed” with a loved one unable to work through the mounting anxiety, … taking it all out on her and the children.

Women in abusive situations do an incredibly good job using a variety of methods in seeking assistance, halting or minimizing the abuse inflicted upon them and their children. In countries like Uganda, where court orders of protection do not do much, an abusive partners going to work, and the abused being able to get out of the house a few hours each day (for the children too – going to school), can be the only temporary relief. With COVID-19 in place, everyone is at home – the abused are having to stay in the same house with their abuser 24/7.

“When will this end?”, she asks. “When do you think COVID-19 will end?”

In Vienna Virginia, we are still able to take small walks here and there – get out of the house and take an exercise and mental health breather. As I did my routine walk today I prayed for this colleague of mine in Uganda, and thought of the women, children and men in America who may be kept safe at home from COVID-19 but not abuse.

I found myself singing that familiar song from Psalm 61: 1 “when my heart is overwhelmed hear my heart and attend unto my prayer. Lead me to the rock that’s higher than I.”

And would you know it, my walk got me past a very happy family, playing music and barbecuing, with a child in her mother lap. It is heart warming to know that some families are bonding during this time.

For those that are struggling, we have prayed for you, hope you find the courage to seek the help and support you need safely outside your home. As I pray for my colleague, Psalm 59: 9 and 17 “O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. God will go before me.”

In a time when our mental, social, financial, social, and physical strength fizzles, I am so glad that God is our Strength, and the One who has promised to go on ahead of us and ensure that tomorrow is a better day. It is a blessed thing to lean on a sure hope!

Digital Access and Literacy in COVID-19 Times: Who is missing?

Rural Uganda Church COVID-19 Community Needs Assessment Snippets – March 22nd to April 2nd, 2020

By Dr. Pamela Mukaire

“There are great COVID-19 resources online.”

“All our products and services have now moved online.”

“My child is able to continue school. All her homework is available online.”

These statements speak to the truth of the digital power and divide. For those of us who have the privilege of access to technology and the digital skillset, it’s hard to imagine the millions of people missing in our digital world. For all our sakes, and especially theirs, they should not be missing!

Like many nonprofits, we serve lots of people have never used a smartphone, touched a computer, sent an email, used Google to find information or buy anything. We cannot overstate the depth and breadth of the digital divide. Our low or no tech populations cannot access COVID-19 information via the internet, register for our online training course, access or use a mobile app, or our Facebook page, or your homeschool webpage resources.

On March 1st, we conducted our first no-tech and low-tech project sites survey. Little did we know that in just 10 days, COVID-19 would force us to think radically about our nonprofit technology use, and the truth that it’s no longer optional for even the most remote rural serving health, education, transport, economic (name it) program. The unthinkable alternative would be to suspend all our community services until May, June, July or whenever COVID-19 becomes motionless.

While technology has been a great tool and saver for us as international nonprofit health and development practitioners, it has also created this incredible and significant distance between us and our communities of service. With only 6 smartphones amongst our 35 Core Volunteer team, we simply can’t reach the communities and clients we greatly love and care about, let alone the dedicated Community Health Workers and Skilled Health Providers we serve alongside. Hundreds of our local partner patients and participants and local leaders fall into this category as well.

By Providence, we had a laptop donation campaign this February and we successfully obtained 7 of the 12 needed laptops for our major project site workers (thanks to our friends and supporters). We will at least maintain some continuity.

But what do we do for those who are missing? As a community based nonprofit RIBHO has monthly access to about 71 local churches, 200 youth, and over 600 households, yet this week alone, as we scrolled through our contact list to communicate COVID-19 resource availability to our church partners, only a handful of contacts could be reached via WhatsApp – an internet based communication app.

We do maintain vibrant community programs and events throughout the year. But all of this is made possible by a well-oiled word of mouth and in person systems of community mobilization that has remained more effect than digital announcements – until now.

As the everyday digital life sets a more central divide than the glaring COVID-19 life-changing events shaping our lives – we simply must keep nonprofit programs accessible to their no-tech and low-tech rural and urban population groups.

In trying to understand our low-tech challenges better, we have been on the phone with are rural watch volunteers daily (between March 22nd and April 2nd, 2020). This honest inside look at our loved ones on the other side of the digital divide, provides insights into the inevitable digital battles of our time, only hastened by COVID-19.

Below are some snippets that we will elaborate on in real tech catch up time.

Social distancing and “doing fellowship”: Social distancing is harder for close knit societies where close physical space sharing is an essential part of the culture and a way to express commitment to each other. “This no touch, no shake, no hug, no closeness 6 feet rules is not working well for us. We have always shared clothes, food, beds, drunk from the same cup and dipped in the same plate, even when we are rich. We shake each other hands first then say, “we are not supposed to do this.”

Cell Churches – Small Group Church and related looming COVID spread challenges: As pastors and congregations seek new ways to serve and fellowship during these difficult days, some without digital technologies for live stream church services have resorted to small group church. “Cell group church is comprised of 4-5 people meeting weekly to pray together on Sunday for now. The challenge is that each of these people is coming in from “outside” and returning to their home. We do not know where they have been all week and if there is a chance they have been exposed to COVID. The church must go on but how? We need each other and we need our God, but very few of us have TV’s and smartphones. The radio stations help but they also give too much scaring information on COVID constantly. We will have to learn how to do only family church very soon.”

Emerging and evolving emergency preparedness for the rural church: As the local government issues additional guidelines on social distancing, for example discouraging gatherings of more than 10 people to prohibiting meetings (and using police force to enforce these laws), many churches have to change fellowship plans constantly. Something good has come of this scrambling in a quest to continue ministering and making disciples in difficult circumstances. Plans to provide low-tech pastoral care and establishing distribution points for print materials, hygiene practices and other basics like soap and food have materialized.

Daily hourly wage earners have no option for working remotely: Farmers, road side vendors, shop keepers, hair dressers, tailors, and food vendors make up the majority of our community population work situations, many of whom are in the service industry, self-employed and do not have the option to work remotely. “We have brought food home on a daily basis. Eat as you earn. Even during HIV/AIDS crisis we could still work. But to totally stop work for an unknown length of time, without any money coming in is the worst.”

Faith interpretations of COVID-19 that could create mental health challenges: “There is such a heaviness in my mind that this COVID-19 is a punishment from God. Even the pastors say so. We are pleading with God to end this soon. It is hard to breath fearing the future. Twelve days of no work and we already have not had sugar in a week. What will happen to us if this continues for 1, 2, 3, months? We are pleading with God to lift the judgment.”

Large family member homesteads and the COVID social distancing rules and guidelines: “Three of our bread winners have been working in the food market. We come home afraid of killing our family members … in case I was exposed to COVID-19. My family alone has 14 people sharing three rooms. The school sent them all back home. Which of my children or relatives am I supposed to send away and to who?. Some had come for a funeral and the travel curfew caught them here. Now how do we get them back to their homes without transport?”

Farming, enforced mobility limitations, and implications for household food security: “Some of us do not live where we grow our food. It’s planting season and without local transportation it’s becoming hard to monitor our gardens. We had not yet finished planting corn and beans but we also have grown matooke (plantain bananas) that we need to eat right now but can’t access. I know people around the garden will probably steal my ripe food while we have little to eat here at the house. For now some boda bodas (motor bicycle transporters) are helping us but for how long?” 

COVID-19 will continue to change how individuals, businesses and organizations operate. We recognize that individuals and organizations alike will need a long extra helping hand.

Our organization serves those individuals that need to be reached more than ever before. We need your help and creativity to reach them and continue putting our services, materials and products in their minds, hands, homes, and communities.

We have work to do, to drastically change our service delivery to address these technology gaps. Hope you can join us!

About the author: Pamela Mukaire is a Public Health and Development Practitioner. She raises funds for rural and urban low resource community based organizations, cultivates strategic partnerships and supports local leaders to implement health programs to enrich their services to the community.

Laptops open more windows of opportunity …

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Ms. Brenda – Youth Leader, Kyamagwa Project Site

The explosive innovation in technology has undoubtedly led to major developments towards the use of information technologies, … and we are not too far behind.  Late last year, amidst preparations to launch online training opportunities for our community members and partners, we identified technology challenges and opportunities for improving the health services they deliver to the communities we serve. 

We called on our support circle of friends and they responded with such generosity. Thanks to our friends, now our staff, local leaders and youth can keep up with receiving and delivering vital health information to continue solving the global and local health problems of our time.

We have designed a number of training courses to advance a broad range of health goals, particularly healthy lifestyles behavior promotion, chronic disease prevention, and NOW, the emerging COVID-19 and related emergency preparedness. In a time when most everyone has turned to the World Wide Web, these laptop gifts and Dr. Mukaire’s February trip to our project sites couldn’t have been timelier.

While print materials are still very popular with our rural projects, the pressure to use online technologies is upon us like never before.

Thanks to our friends, we are a whole lot better prepared to engage online than we were in January of this year. We continue to be expectant and are confident that much good will come from their generous gifts.

Thank you friends!

Caring with a difference

Dr. Pamela Mukaire en RIBHO’s Senior ProgramDr. Pamela Mukaire with the beneficiaries of the RIBHO’s Senior Program

By Emmanuel Kasomba.

Life is all about loving, sharing, learning, smiling, caring, laughing, hugging, helping, dancing, healing, and even more loving in Christ Jesus. Dr. Pamela Mukaire, second from the left has chosen this very way of living. “Love is a Person, and that person is Christ Jesus. We are always excited to be in His fold.” is what she often says. In the photo above, Dr. Pam shares a light moment with some of the beneficiaries of the RIBHO’s Senior Nutrition and Health Assessment Program from Kyamagwa village, Mafubira Sub county, Jinja District in the Eastern part of Uganda, during the 2019 May Uganda Medical Mission trip. The trip organized by RIBHO and hosted by Anointed Prayer Tower Church, Kyamagwa. From left to right; Wotali Jesca, Dr. Pamela Mukaire, Mubaale Elizabeth, Nalugwa Florence, Kimpi Efulansi and Mugoya Aidah.

Growing our own food for transforming the communities we love

Emmanuel harvesting our corn crop.

A dream does not become reality through magic; neither does a harvest happen by a miracle. It requires planning, determination, physical labor and a lot more. Emmanuel, a RIBHO volunteer, at the Buyala garden during the January 2020 corn grain harvesting. As one of the initiatives of the Organization, growing our own food has become a strategic and practical focus of our efforts to sustaining the Nutrition and Feeding program for the infants and elderly in the communities that we serve. This is the second season of harvest and it has brought us increased yields, a lot of learning, excitement and the continued experience of God’s favor upon the entire RIBHO family.

Serving humanity: this is how I worship

By Sheila R. Misra, RN, MSN, ANP-BC, CNP

Imagine this. A room the size of a walk-in closet. A wooden table four feet off the floor with a mattress and sheet on top of it. No air circulation. No light except what comes in through the window, and a pocket flashlight. Metal speculums that have to be sterilized in between each patient, with successive dips into two separate buckets of bleach water for 1 hour each, then hot water with disinfectant. No stool to sit on. No sink to wash my hands, only gloves and hand sanitizer. 40 women from Uganda, South Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo who need cervical cancer screenings but want full physical exams. Ten hours of back breaking work. But I have never been happier. And I know I saved many lives today. My heart is full. Performing cervical cancer screenings on my knees, in the most austere conditions I’ve ever seen. Serving humanity: this is how I worship.

 

Experiencing God in Missions

By Fiona Lewis

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

My trip to Uganda with the RIBHO team was a trip of many firsts. My first mission trip, first trip to the continent and first time meeting another Fiona. If I could summarize this trip, I would use the phrase “we experience more when we plan less.” I don’t know who coined that phrase but it sums up this trip perfectly. Like many, I am a planner and want to know every detail before I agree to do something. Also, like many, I have a difficult time giving up control. I am glad that God used Dr. Mukaire to invite me to experience Him through less planning and more trusting. 

The nature of our trip was such that we moved from one village to another every day or every other day. Although we were given a schedule, the schedule could not capture the day to day activities and the real time adjustments our team was constantly required to make. As I reflected on the entire trip, I realized that we were privileged to receive on the job discipleship training that required us to set aside our preplanned lessons and teaching models. In doing so, we gave the Spirit of God free access to work through us.  God could use our health promotion, mental health, and spiritual care expertise in whatever way He chose. Oftentimes, God didn’t use any of those things.  Instead, a smile, a listening ear or the exchange of a warm hug was all God asked of us. The most fulfilling moments during this trip turned out to be the ‘in-the-moment” experiences during our service in the health promotion group classes and non-communicable diseases screening clinics. I also appreciated the unity that developed over time among our team as we all became more aware of God’s presence among us. To plan less and still experience more in proportion seems counterintuitive to being a professional but God’s ways are often counterintuitive.  

School Health Clubs

The 2019 Youth Society for Global Health Conference

This May, RIBHO and Mubeezi Community Health Resource Center (MCHRC) hosted the “2019 Youth Society for Global Health Conference: Assuring and Shaping Young Voices for Health and Development”, in Jinja District on May 28th, 2019.

The conference was attended by 102 students representing 5 Student Health Clubs from different secondary schools, school staff and administrators and community health professionals. Through dialogue, elocution, storytelling and dramatization, students reflected on and described community solutions for raising awareness and support for chronic disease management, control and prevention in their local communities.