Dr Ross White Chief Executive Director of Mildmay was recently in Uganda, accompanied by the Country Manager for Kenya, Elizabeth Oluoch, for the official launch of Mildmay Uganda’s visionary 30 Year Master Plan.
The following is taken from some reflections from the visit:
Today dawned bright and beautiful on this very special occasion for Mildmay Uganda. Guests began to assemble before 9am waiting for the guest of honour who was to arrive some hours later. The entertainment during the day was spectacular, uplifting, powerful and often deeply moving and included tribal dancers and drummers who came from many different parts of Uganda.The Mildmay children’s choir brought about a happy and emotional response as they performed songs about their experiences of living with HIV. The nursing and midwifery students who are six months into their course also performed a song.
Then the moment had arrived – the official cars swept past as we welcomed the Vice-President of Uganda to Mildmay Uganda. He was presented with his copy of the Thirty Year Master Plan and took part in a tree planting ceremony. I was reminded of the visit just last week made to Mildmay UK by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who spoke so movingly at our service. He reflected that humanity could be likened to a tree with branches that reach out bearing fruit and goodness. The roots push deeply into the earth and need to be nourished to feed and sustain the tree. I thought of how Mildmay Uganda has grown from the strong foundations of faith and mission, nourished by the Mildmay Family with branches that reach out to so many people. A new seed is being planted in Mildmay Uganda today as they plan to grow to become a teaching hospital, branching out towards the future as well as impacting so powerfully today.
It was a joyful day and one filled with meeting new people as well as saying hello to many familiar faces including those who had played a pivotal role in Mildmay Uganda.
This was a wonderful and truly inspirational day, a day of remembering the journey to this point and of looking forward to a great vision, a day of pride and of being together.
A perfect day.
Day 3 : The Day before launch
The day before the launch of Mildmay’s Uganda’s 30 year plan. Tomorrow is such an important day, the culmination of all the preparations and hard work towards the public presentation of this visionary plan for the future. Everyone is excited but there is also an air of anticipation, pride and joy which I share.
As always I join the Mildmay Uganda team at 8am in the packed on-site Chapel known as Suubi(which also means Hope) for a morning service. There is something about the harmonies that are particular to Africa and I am honoured to have been invited to drum with them. The voices fill the space, the songs in English, Lugandan and Zulu and the atmosphere is incredible.
As we mark such an important moment in Mildmay’s long history and celebrate Mildmay Uganda’s vision for the future, it has never seemed more appropriate to talk about our strong roots. It’s a long way from Shoreditch in East London to the beautiful site where Mildmay Uganda’s hospital rests, but this is how far Mildmay’s vision and faith has travelled. From those early days in the 1866 when our founders the Revd William Pennefather and his wide Catherine responded to a call for help during the cholera epidemic that swept through East London, to our pioneering work today. I feel humbled to be standing here at this moment in time.
As I speak about the Mildmay Deaconesses who were among the first trained nurses in the world, I am aware the congregation is full of student nurses who joined Mildmay Uganda for their nursing and midwifery training just six months ago.
My final message after talking about our history and our journey is that we can all join together to play our part, make a difference and ourselves go forward to become the history makers.
We then run through the briefing for tomorrows’ ‘launch’ and the Presidential visit.
There is much to do but the sense is that it is all coming together.
We have also been joined by Dr Jane Griffiths from the University of Manchester here with her team to revalidate the Mildmay degree and diploma programme. It’s all happening on the day of the Presidential launch!
I am really looking forward to tomorrow – such an important day for the Mildmay family.
Day 2: A Trip to Entebbe to hear about some of the work supported by Mildmay Uganda
On Tuesday myself and Elizabeth ( Mildmay Kenya) went to Entebbe with Fiona who heads up one of the eight districts that Mildmay operates in – Fiona is in management and is a cross between a nurse and doctor. We head to a government health facility not far from Mildmay. We meet the wonderful staff who although working in challenging conditions remain deeply committed.
Reaching Men to encourage HIV testing
We meet two male Mildmay volunteers who are part of the team who work to to reach and encourage men to test for HIV. This is a group that is hard to reach, there is so much stigma and a lack of information and knowledge. Education, encouragement and support as well as sustained reinforcement of healthy messages is vital. The volunteers go to boda-boda (taxi) ranks, to bars, to fishing villages, and places they know people who are vulnerable will be. They talk about many subjects and then they bring in the discussion about HIV. They talk about how important it is to find out your status, that if your HIV test is negative, how to stay negative. If your HIV test is positive they talk about how you can still lead a healthy life, that medication not only saves your life but can prevent you passing HIV on. This opening up of the discussion around HIV is so important to change minds and fight stigma and to encourage HIV testing.
Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission
We heard about the work at the clinic to address Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission. With technical input from Mildmay Uganda and around eight deliveries a day, they have a 100% success rate for delivering HIV-negative babies. They also follow the babies through with regular health checks until they are 18 months old.
Know Your Children
We heard about a programme called Know Your Children which focuses on the fact that if a mother is diagnosed with HIV, there is a likelihood that one or more of her children may also be too. This project works to reach mothers who have tested positive for HIV to encourage them bring their children in for testing.
We met with Christine who was diagnosed with HIV aged 15. She tells us of her struggles at that time with depression and poor adherence and that life to her seemed hopeless. Then she decided to become a volunteer for Mildmay Uganda and a peer-mentor for adolescents. Through her training and work towards this goal her own struggle with adherence to her medication became something she was motivated to address. Part of her work involves following up adolescents who have begun to miss their treatment and encouraging them to get back on their medication.
Age 20 she now has an undetectable viral load and is happy and well. She has grown in confidence and is about to settle down with her boyfriend who is HIV negative. Her story is one of hope and one that she tells to adolescents that she aims to inspire.