“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.” C.S Lewis
Earlier this year, Danielle, Jenna, Joe, Tomo & I visited Kihembe health centre during our stay in Uganda. We met with Raymond, an affable, intelligent, overworked nurse, who was putting so much effort into keeping the health centre running. It was a tough task. During the tour Raymond gave us of the facility in which he works, we were all moved to tears by a centre that lacked ceilings, windows and safe flooring. The medicine stocks were depleted, the furniture was sparse, and the consultation room had blood splattered up the walls. There was nowhere for the staff to rest during or after shifts, with nurses often sleeping on the ward with no alternative available. The area that was designated for a kitchen was over run by goats and chickens, and there was limited equipment and food in the stores. Given the ease at which we can access high quality, comfortable, free and safe health care in the UK, we were all shocked at the deplorable conditions that people have to endure when receiving comparative care in this corner of Uganda.
During our visit, Raymond did not once ask us for any support. He didn’t bemoan the conditions in which he worked. He didn’t complain that his wages are regularly paid late, or the fact that he often has to buy medicine from his own salary to ensure it can be provided at a subsidised price to the local populace. He wasn’t angry that there was nowhere for him to sleep on site, and that he had to walk long distances home after a tiresome shift. I was so inspired by Raymond, so moved that someone was willing to do so much for others, when he had very little to work with himself. For me, this exemplified human decency. Raymond is representative of the altruism that lies within us all, and I figured that to support him to continue to improve people’s lives, we could help to make his working environment a little more comfortable.
There and then, we decided that we wanted to raise money to support the improvement of the health centre. In keeping with the participatory ethos of The Zuri Project, we organised a meeting with our Ugandan partners and representatives from the staff and management committee of the health centre. We heard all about their present challenges, as well as their aspirations and dreams for the future. They presented their five-year strategy to us, and highlighted key areas in which they were seeking support. Together, we decided to raise money to support the completion of the staff quarters, which will allow Raymond and his team to continue to provide care to the people of Kihembe.
We needed to raise £3000 to deliver this project and to begin our working relationship with the health centre. A month and a half after returning from Uganda, we had hit our target. And it was all down to our wonderful team of volunteers. Chris & Becky arranged a football marathon in Euxton, Anne & Dayna completed a 160mile bike ride across the UK, Fin completed a half iron man in Staffordshire, and Joe organised a 40mile walk across the Warwickshire countryside. Every time someone offers their own time or money to support The Zuri Project, I get a real buzz; I’m moved that people are willing to try to improve the lives of people half way across the world. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m so proud to be part of an organisation where people are willing to do so much to help others.
The next three months are incredibly exciting. The money that has been raised will be spent on the re-development of the health centre. By Christmas, we hope that Kihembe Health Centre will have completed their staff quarters and will have somewhere for the hard-working staff to stay at the end of their shifts. This is only the start of our work with the health centre. Once the staff quarters are complete, we will revisit the five-year strategy and look at other ways in which we can support their development.
Raymond inspired me in a way that I have never been inspired before. The fact that we can support him and his staff to continue the wonderful work that they are doing is a way of saying thank you to him for his service and the care that he provides to those in need. We’re thanking him for being a brilliant human being.
Keep up the good work Raymond.