By Quinten Dicken
Lions, and elephants, and hippos, OH MY! For the weekend of 7/15-7/17 Akash, Shivani, and I went on a safari to Murchison Falls, the oldest and largest national park in Uganda. Unfortunately, the other half of the team couldn’t come because they are scared of animals.
During the safari, I got to experience nature and wildlife like I have never experienced before. We first drove to Kampala on Thursday night and stayed at a hotel. The next morning we departed for Murchison Falls, which was a seven hour drive. When we got to the national park, the first activity we did was hike around the falls itself, which was beautiful and majestic, and after the hike, we headed to our campsite which was very cool. We all got to sleep in tents, and I originally was going to share a tent with Akash. However, another girl that came with us was a little baby and was too afraid to sleep by herself. So I switched spots with her and got a tent for myself. There was also an interestingly large amount of people from Ireland at the campsite so we got to listen to Irish campfire songs during the night.
The next morning, we left for our game drive at 6:30 am. We had to cross the Nile on a ferry to reach the area that the animals are in. Unfortunately, some people in our group were late so we weren’t able to make the first ferry of the day and lost some time. The game drive itself was amazing though. We saw giraffes, elephants, wildebeests, hippos, lions and everything else you could think of, even penguins. I had never seen such amazing creatures in my life before. Being able to sit on top of our safari van and see all the animals was incredible. Later that day, we went on a boat tour of the falls on the Nile. We saw many more animals including a copious amount of hippos and water buffalo. My favorite part was seeing all the pretty birds. We even got to see some crocodiles for a hot sec but they dove under the water quickly.
On our final day of the safari we went on another game drive at 6:30 am. It was just as incredible as the previous day and we got to see a stunningly massive number of elephants as they walked around our safari van. Akash was scared of the large number of elephants but I was there to hold him tight and comfort his poor soul. After our game drive we drove to Kampala and from there drove back to Iganga. The entire day consisted of ten hours of driving and we were all exhausted when we returned.
Admittedly, having to return to work at the UDHA office the next was difficult after such a fun excursion, but alas, our Peer Health Educator training was imminent and work needed to be done. Going into the week, it was unclear when the training was going to start due to problems in getting the finances approved. Since we have had problems with transferring our main funds to UDHA, we have had to use money that Akash’s brother has directly donated to UDHA to fund our immediate needs such as the PHE training. However, there have also been problems with receiving those funds. A lot of red tape and bureaucracy had to be navigated throughout the week to finally have the money be approved to be used for the training. Because of that, we were unable to start the training until Saturday (7/22). Throughout the week we had a lot to do such as preparing the sections we each were going to teach during the training and do other preparations such as putting together paperwork and tests to be administered during the training.
The first couple days of the PHE training have gone great. Even though we have to do the training through the weekend, the training is well worth it. So far, we have taught about male and female reproductive systems, menstruation, safe sex, healthy relationships, and sexual violence. Today I just presented my sections on STIs and HIV/AIDS. The PHEs are very curious about things and ask many questions, which is good to ensure they have complete understandings. The different myths and beliefs the PHEs have heard from others are all very interesting. There are many rumors about the origin of HIV and theories that there is a cure for HIV being withheld. I’ve learned about such beliefs in classes and it was interesting hearing these rumors in real life.
Overall, the PHEs are engaged and the trainings are being effective in imparting knowledge into them. I am confident that the rest of the training will go well and the PHEs will be appropriately prepared to spread their knowledge to their schools.