MPH student helps improve women’s health in Uganda

My name is Lauren Baur and major at OSU right
now I’m getting my master’s in Public Health, in International Health.

As part of the International Health program we do have to do an internship, and they prefer
it to be overseas since it’s international health and I decided to go to Uganda, it was
an opportunity that came up, it fit my interests and my desires and what I would want in an
internship. The organization I worked for is called Terrewode.
It’s the Association for The Re-orientation and Rehabilitation of Women for Development.
It’s a women’s rights and women’s health organization, and within my international
health track, my focus area is maternal and child health and kind of the interplay of
nutrition and disease. So this organization very much fit that maternal health aspect
of it. My work there to help combat obstetric fistula
was to work with Terrewode and to work on grant writing for them so that they can partner
with an organization called the Worldwide Fistula Fund and raise money to establish
a fistula care facility within Uganda, in addition, I was able to meet with different
volunteers that are going out into the field and actually going home to home and looking
for these women because a lot of times the women who are suffering from it are isolated
from their families, isolated from society as a whole. Obstetric fistula is a childbirth injury that
occurs when there’s prolonged obstructed labor. So what happens is a woman goes into
labor, the fetus drops down into the pelvis, but then because the pelvis is too small for
a variety of reasons the baby gets stuck. And it cuts off the blood supply to the tissues
which causes them to die and they sluff off and leave a hole, which leaves the women in
continent of urine and feces. And so that’s the problem that Terrewode is looking to address
in order to holistically kind of address the maternal and child health issues in Uganda
and poverty. While I was there I definitely met some amazing
people. The organization only has five full time staff and so it’s very small but they
have a network of over 1,000 volunteers. So I was able to work very closely with them
as well as get to meet some of their volunteers and go through training and workshops with
them. In addition, I lived with a family while I was there and so I think just living in
the culture was probably as much of a learning experience as actually working for the organization. It was eye opening in the sense that a lot
of the stuff that we talk about in our international health classes was reality for these people
every single day. And it came up in conversation just with the family I lived with and in the
experience that they were facing. It just brought it to a whole new perspective for
me. One thing I asked myself all summer long is
why are these 1,000 volunteers doing what they do? They don’t have very many incentives
for it, why are they doing it? And on the very last day of the workshops we met with
the fistula survivors themselves and I was not expecting the emotional reaction that
I had when they were just pouring in the room for this all day workshop and all of the sudden
I realized why these volunteers did what they did. Because the women with their smiling
faces and some of them carrying their kids, it was just, it was an overwhelming emotional
reaction from me that I wasn’t expecting just to see these women. I would definitely recommend other students
to go out into the field and get this experience. I think coursework and the classroom environment
is important for getting the foundation but I think you really develop the skills and
a greater passion for your work when you get to go out and you get to see the people that
you’re helping and you get to see the people that you’re working with. I’m definitely glad that I had this experience,
that I went ahead and I went to Uganda, I had some reservations about going and I was
very nervous but overall it was definitely life-changing and also just helped me confirm
that I am in the right place and I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.

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