Anne Katz-Jacobson served as a health volunteer for six weeks in spring 2006 with the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda. She used her expertise as a nurse, midwife and teacher to increase community knowledge of health issues, as well as to develop and sustain the health education through the development of community health workers and a school health associate. In addition to providing health education to teenagers, women, and health workers, she also met with providers of health care and teaching and used resources in the larger community of organizations such as Mbale Hospital and the AIDS Information Center.
Returning this April to the Abayudaya community was such an exciting experience because we knew each other so well already.
I met first with the leaders of the Abayudaya Health Committee, Samson Wamani and Rebecca Nantabo, to develop a plan that would utilize my skills as a midwife with the needs of the Abayudaya community.
We thus began a series of meetings with women in Nabugoye, Namonyonyi, Nasenyi and Namatumba to discuss family planning, HIV, pregnancy and birth, newborn problems, menopause, and other women’s health issues. These sessions were delightful as we shared our life experiences with each other.
We also met specifically with men in the villages to increase their knowledge about HIV prevention, testing, and treatment.
Last year I taught for the Foundation for the Development of Needy Communities (FDNC), a local NGO that trains community Health Outreach Workers, including some from the Abayudaya community. I held a discussion with the Health Workers themselves to review some of the difficulties they had encountered in the past year when teaching in the communities. This was a very exciting follow-up of the information we had studied together, particularly issues of teaching/learning. I was also able to help with some upgrading of skills for the nurses who are maintaining the FDNC Clinic.
The highlight of our program was the four-day Workshop in selected topics of Home Birth Life-Saving Skills, in which we trained village guides to assist families during pregnancy and birth emergencies. We were able to accomplish this with the assistance of the Abayudaya Women’s Association providing logistic support for this intense program. At the conclusion of the Workshop, Abayudaya leader Aaron Kintu Moses and I presented graduates with certificates.
We were also able to have several sessions with teachers from Semei Kakungulu High School to review issues related to family planning and HIV.
On my flight back to London I tried not to cry but couldn’t help myself. I would like to be helpful to the Abayudaya and FDNC communities—more if my skill will allow. There is much to think about to see where I am going with this involvement. Meanwhile, I look forward to being with my husband, who has been such a support. I need to get back into my life again as wife, mother and grandmother. I am incredibly grateful for this miracle of being able to go to Africa and do the work I have always dreamed about. I shall never forget the people who have made my experience so rewarding. The kindness and generosity of Africa is beyond description. Hopefully, I can continue to give back a bit in one way or another in the years ahead.