About UNC Project-Uganda
In 2004, a group of UNC physicians established the Amal Murarka International Pediatric Health Foundation in memory of their colleague, Dr. Amal Murarka, who died unexpectedly in 2003. The foundation sent a medical team to Kampala to establish the country's first pediatric intensive care unit at Mulago Hospital, Makerere University, where Dr. Murarka had previously conducted research. Subsequent work in 2007 and 2008 focused on pediatric cardiac surgery. The foundation not only built a cardiac ICU, but also performed a total of 21 life-saving pediatric cardiac surgeries.
In 2008 the foundation partnered with the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases to establish UNC Project-Uganda.
MissionThe UNC Project-Uganda was established to support sustainable delivery of compassionate and competent health care to infants, children, and adolescents in Uganda; to improve the medical knowledge of the Ugandan health care workforce through in-country training and a physician exchange program; and to provide advanced medical equipment, medications, and services necessary for the delivery of compassionate and competent pediatric care in Uganda.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Last night the UNC medical team was able to get coverage in the ICU, and gather altogether for dinner for the first time since we arrived. It was a beautiful, starlit evening and we dined alfresco at the Emin Pasha Hotel. Though everyone was tired, spirits were high and we all toasted Pablo Durana, our team photographer, who was leaving today (Sunday)to go back to the States briefly before returning to Benin to finish his assignment with the Discovery Channel. Pablo has been a beloved part of our team as well as with the patients, their families and everyone at the Mulago Hospital. Stay tuned for the film...
It was great to celebrate together the achievements of 1 week and hard to believe that our trip would be wrapping up in the days ahead.
But what better way to end this incredible week than to attend church with Pastor Appollo of the Walls of Salvation Church in the outskirts of Kampala. The Pastor had been in touch with Dr. Kocis for over a year and arranged to meet us to take us to his church by van this morning. The roads--mainly clay--were muddy with many deep potholes and puddles from the storm last night. The fumes from the exhaust of thousands of cars and scooters in a "jam" were overwhelming. Thankfully, we finally reached the destination and were led into the service which was already vigorously underway.
The Sunday service lasts from 10am-1pm with revolving preachers and singing groups.
It reminded me of an evangelical tent revival except it was held in much humbler environs. As honored guests, we sat at "the front" behind the preacher with all eyes on us through the whole service. One little 3-yr old girl wandered over and just sat down beside me and took my hand. We felt the warmth and welcome of the entire congregation of approximately 45 colorfully-dressed men, women and children.
The music was performed by various performing groups of children or young adults accompanied by an electric organ complete with sound effects. In fact everytime that the preacher shouted "halleluia!" the whole congregation said "amen" and clapped with the electronic "tinny" applause machine. After two other preachers completed their orations, Preacher Appollo welcomed us and then asked Dr. Kocis to speak to the congregation. Keith was eloquent and sent a heartfelt message to them about our hope to help them with their new church faciities.
Of course, this was met with much applause from both the parishioners as well as the applause machine! Then Appollo asked me to speak and I found myself speaking with tears in my eyes as I gazed at this roomful of people with such expectant looks of hope on their faces that our visit might somehow make their dreams for their new church come true.It was humbling and touching as each person pressed to shake our hand as we left I was so glad that we had made the trip to this cheerful church where you felt religion more deeply than in the grandest cathedral. Somehow Dr. Kocis and I hope to help this church after we return home,and so far when we have put it out there, dear friends, family, and colleagues have responded.
Tomorrow, Debbie and I leave Kampala for Nairobi, Kenya, but the memories of this place are imprinted on our minds and hearts.