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March 16, 2009


By Jessie Stone

January 19, 2009 marked the three-year anniversary of the opening of the Allan Stone Community Health Clinic (formerly known as the Soft Power Health Clinic) here in Kyabirwa village. It is hard to believe that three years have passed since we opened – the time has gone by so quickly. Team JK were gathered together for that big opening moment in Uganda and it was so meaningful to have that kind of support for such a big leap! Lots of changes and growth has happened with the clinic and our health outreach programs. At the clinic, we have gone from seeing about 8-10 patients a day to seeing anywhere from 20-40 patients a day. Often these patients have traveled a long way to get to us. This is a great compliment to us as the word has gotten to far away areas about our services.

In addition to providing primary and preventative healthcare, we offer family planning, immunizations, and sell mosquito nets as well from the clinic. ( This compliments our malaria and family planning outreach programs.) As of January ‘09, we conduct a dental clinic with local dentist Dr. Paul once a week. Dentistry is practically absent in Uganda and you can easily see that. I think Dr. Paul knows all the dentists in Uganda. It’s a very small club. We also have a group of kayaking Spanish dentists coming to donate their time to the clinic at the end of March. We hope it will be good exchange for Dr. Paul and that the dentists will have some time to play on the river as well!

Another treat for us this winter was having Polly Green, the maker of Nomads come back for another visit. Polly came back to make a follow up to Nomads and to see how our progress on and off the river has been. It was also great for Polly to paddle the Nile before the Silverback dam is finished. She managed to capture some beautiful footage of Silverback and the surrounding area so that we will have it forever. We loved having Polly back and look forward to Nomads, the next generation. Polly should have that finished later this spring.

Another branch of Soft Power Health that we have started is working actively with what we call field patients. These are patients with complex medical problems that need more sophisticated medical help than we can offer at the clinic. We partner with the International Hospital in Kampala and several other organizations to treat various patients that have different types of cancer, chronic infections, and genetic diseases to get them the care they need and would never otherwise have access too. More often than not, this has proved to be lifesaving for these patients. This has provided us with a very interesting and direct link into community health problems that are severe and often not seen. Just recently, we were able to link a cleft palate baby with a surgery program in Kampala that completely fixed this defect. Now, this baby that was formerly thought by the community to be cursed can grow up to have a completely healthy and normal life.

It has been really wonderful to watch everything grow naturally and in accordance with what’s really needed here. We also have the incredible good fortune to have Morgan Koons working full time in Uganda. Morgan has taken over Annie’s position and manages the day to day running of all our programs. Morgan is smart, hard working, and very capable, and she is a great kayaker too! Morgan volunteered with us last year for 6 months so she had good prep for the job, and Morgan has helped out with our Inner City Kid kayakers trip to the Rogue, so she has been connected to all parts of Soft Power Health.

After three years of trying, we finally did our first ever Soft Power Health rafting trip down the Nile. Morgan, medical student Ben, and I safety kayaked for the trip and everyone had a spectacular day on the mighty Nile. Our other volunteers, Kelly and John, and our DIG – development in gardening -partners joined in as well. This trip was a huge deal for many of our staff as there is a lot of mythology, not all of it good, surrounding the river – like many other things.

For those who did not grow up on the banks of the Nile, they have little interaction with the river and do not know how to swim. The river can seem like a scary and dangerous place. Luckily, curiosity and excitement won out and we had a great day on the river. It was very special to see local Ugandans enjoying the river as much as we muzungus do especially since so few actually get to make a voyage down. Everyone is asking when our next trip will be. We may have to do it sooner rather than later as the dam construction is coming along very quickly.

Life in Uganda has been very good and busy, and I hope anyone who has any curiosity about the Nile and/or Soft Power Health will make the trip down to visit, volunteer, and paddle – you will really enjoy it!

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