This past week we’ve discovered the importance of taking the time to learn about your worksite community. Our living and working situation here in Uganda is rather unique — every morning we make a nearly 2-hour commute from our community partner’s village, Kaihura, to the village where we are constructing a maternity clinic, Kanyegaramire. We were told that there would be differences between the two villages, despite their location in the same region, but we did not realize until this week that the two communities are worlds apart.
Kaihura is located on the main paved road stretching through western Uganda, has relatively clean running water, and is on a large electrical grid powered by the running water of the Nile. Seeing as these characteristics have greatly catalyzed the development of Kaihura, we started asking questions in Kanyegaramire: Where does your water come from? Do you have electricity? How far do you travel to get to school, a clinic, or the market? The answer to the first question was perhaps the most startling. Upon inquiring about water access, we were promptly taken to see the borehole where the majority of the community gets their water, located at the bottom of a hill filled with latrines and the remains of fires used to eliminate waste. The water was far from clear: when poured into the plastic water bottles students take to school, it looked more like lemonade than anything else. We watched children, as young as 6 years old and not enrolled in school, make several trips up and down this hill with over 40 pounds of this typhoid-ridden water held delicately on their heads. It was in this moment that we think our entire team became instantly grateful for our living accommodations in Kaihura and in the States, as well as developed a new understanding of our community and its needs. We hope that in future summers we will be able to return to Kanyegaramire to address this problem that exists to a much greater extent than we could have ever imagined.