A series of unexpected coincidences brought me to meet Anne in November 2013 and get to know the amazing story of her life and work in Uganda. As soon as I heard about the projects carried out by the association I immediately became very curious and interested.
I am a development cooperation student so any issue concerning developing countries is highly attractive to me. This is why I decided to offer myself as a volunteer for “Help for Old People in Uganda”.
I arrived at the beginning of January and Anne first took me to Nyamakukuru in order to show me how the project has been implemented there and I immediately realized the hard work and the strong dedication Anne and the sisters in charge have put into these activities. The Community Based Health Care is well organised and perfectly operational.
We then moved to Kabale district to start the new project there. When we arrived at the motherhouse of the Daughters of our Lady of Fatima we found many old
sisters in need of basic care.
The convent presented a room in which some basic drugs and geriatric equipment were stored. We realized that the drugs were not enough to treat all the old sisters, that the majority of needed drugs were missing and that many were expired. We started by rearranging the drug store and buying a stock of new essential drugs and basic medical equipment in order to fulfill all kinds of basic need treatments for the old sisters and the elderly in the nearby villages.
Two young sisters, Sister Gloria and Sister Fausta, together with me, have been attending a training on Basic Elderly Care and Basic Health Care on a daily basis and are now capable of taking care of the old sisters and visiting and monitoring the old people in the villages. The classes carried out by Anne are straightforward and useful. In order to organise her courses, Anne compiled two books on which we worked on all along my stay. These books have now been binded and are ready to be spread around. Together with the books we have created a detailed project description and some information leaflets and posters. These create a start-up packet that gives all the required details to have an idea of how to implement this project elsewhere.
As the next step, we contacted the community health workers and chairpersons of the different cells in the surrounding area to introduce the project and propose a cooperation. Anne gave them a free basic training in elderly care and they are now able to help the old people in their cells and will continue the project with the young sisters.
We have arranged a meeting with each Community Health Worker to visit their cell and went there with the young sisters to identify all the old people, to assess them and to give them a basic health check-up and keep record of their condition. We started advising them on hygiene, nutrition and exercises.
The condition of the old people is not good - as we expected. Many of them are taken care of by the family members, or helped out by the neighbours and a lot of them are simply left alone because the relatives moved to towns. Actually many are left to take care of the grandchildren as well. Many old ones belong to the very poor.
They present age-related problems that need to be specifically treated, but most of them present consequences of wrong daily practice. These are caused by a lack of information on simple issues such as hygiene and nutrition. Another aspect that is underestimated is mobility. Old people present physical pain that can sometimes be partially released through exercises, and most of the patients we visited do not move much.
In total we covered 8 cells in 1 parish and visited about 120 people and their caretakers. The average age of our patients is 80 years and 69% of them are female; about 20% of them live alone and with noone to take care of them.
The project is now implemented and is in the hands of three resourceful Sisters who are responsible for its continuation. They shall continue monitoring the old people in each cell once a month with the presence and help of the respective Community Health Worker.
My experience in Uganda has been more than unique and this is all thanks to Anne, who has introduced me to a new reality and who has found a sustainable and efficient way to improve things where one would think it is unlikely to happen. Her commitment in this mission strongly impressed me and highly motivated me in trying to give the best of my abilities. We created a great team and worked together side by side with such a nimbleness as I had never experienced before.
I found a great teacher and collegue, but, most of all, I found a good friend. I am very proud of what we have achieved and I hope that the project will spread over in as many areas as possible because it really does make a change.
Thank you Anne!
Francesca Paticchio, 14.3.2014