My Internship Experience at Solar Health Uganda
Author: Immaculate Amperize
Early this year I and my close friend Lusia were accepted to have our internship at Solar Health Uganda (SHU) and Kyosiga Community Christian Association for Development (KACCAD). We both were in our second year eagerly waiting to start our final year at Kyambogo University. We should have started the final academic year in August 2020 however due to the lockdown instituted on schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to wait patiently until the situation would come back to normal.
Interning at Solar Health Uganda and KACCAD (www.volunteerkaccad.org) was a lot more than we both anticipated in the best way possible. It was our first internship, I had not worked in any formal arrangement and my colleague Lusia had worked as an enumerator during the previous national population census in her village.
At University, we both pursue a Bachelors' degree in social work and social administration and we were privileged to be accepted and placed in an organization that offered learning and mentorship opportunities to both of us and helped us fulfill our internship goals and objectives.
Solar Health Uganda a subsidiary of KACCAD is more engaged in addressing climate change and combating energy poverty.
At the time of our internship, I was not so much familiar with the Sustainable Development Goals and why it was important for CSOs to align their programs with the SDGs. From my interning experience, I learned that every change agent, individual, CSOs, the government should be responsive to the SDGs. I learned about the interlinkages of the SDGs for example the SDG 7 on energy access, linked to SDG 3 on health and well-being, SDG 13 on climate change, SDG 4 on quality education etcetera.
On our first day, we were oriented about Solar Health Uganda and KACCAD’s programs and we walked with George Mike who took us to spring wells constructed by KACCAD, Good Hope Children Foundation, Faith Children Foundation, and to Bbira Health Center where we would return every Wednesday to hold health talks accompanied by Caroline and at times George Mike.
Bbira health center is a community-based health care facility affiliated to the St Mathew Church and supported by the local government and partner local NGOs. The facility provides subsidized and free medical and maternity services to the local population, every Wednesday they have moms bringing babies for vaccination, and other services are rendered throughout the week. While we talked to the in-charge, we learned that the administration had made some reforms, hired a doctor and that they had hired staff to operate the ultrasound scan donated by Atlantic Philanthropies through KACCAD. The in-charge talked about the plan they have of building independent maternity on a piece of land they had obtained, however, they had not secured funds for the construction. We enjoyed talking to and interacting with the new mothers and the health staff at the facility.
Our daily work at Solar Health Uganda involved performing clerical and administrative tasks; such as sorting out files, typing reports, and social media posts, phone follow-up on solar electrified health clinics, and collecting pre-electrification data from rural health centers. Solar Health Uganda consultants conduct monthly follow-up phone calls to solar electrified clinics, there are by now 54 health centers situated in rural off-grid Uganda. These follow-up phone calls to clinics are intended to collect data about the changes in service delivery and to also ascertain whether the solar systems are still functional and also to remind the in charge about the proper use of the systems.
I worked with Caroline, Siriman, and George Mike to analyze data coming from Safe Births + Healthy Homes (SB+HH) project sites. The Safe Births + Healthy Homes is an innovative maternal health program developed by Let There Be Light International (www.lettherebelightinternational.org ). The program donates pico solar lights to every mom who delivers at the staffed health centers, this is intended to increase attended births and to encourage moms to shun away from delivering with help traditional birth attendants. There are 5 SB+HH project sites in Uganda located in 3 districts. I and Lusia had a chance to reach the two project sites in Kyankwanzi when we traveled to deliver solar lights for the moms.
Once every week, we would transverse the villages of Gogonya and Kikaaya to follow up on the solar recipients and we would collect some notes about the benefits they have realized from their solar lights and would remind them to keep their lights safe to ensure long term use and also we would assess energy needs of some off-grid homes and donate pico solar lights to them. Eligible solar recipients are off-grid households of new mothers, Orphans, handicapped, homebound elderly, and students. It was interesting to learn firsthand from previous recipients during home visits about how the MODES solar program helps decarbonize their houses and the benefits which included improved respiratory health, eye health, financial saving, and reduced risk of accidental house fire etcetera.
If there is a single project I missed engaging in that could have been the Lights for Literacy pilot. Due to limitations on the carrying capacity of vehicles, I and my colleague missed traveling to the second Light for Literacy pilot. Lights for Literacy project donates study solar lamps and books to children. The solar lights are donated by Let There Be Light International and the books are donated by Uganda Spelling Bee (Enjuba). The first pilot was launched in October 2020 and there have been three Lights for Literacy pilots to this date.
We also participated in food relief distribution to households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown. That project is implemented by KACCAD and the Rotary Club of Buloba with support from the Rotary Club of Needham.
I was thrilled to be learning more every day. I worked with very talented people, and I know that I wouldn’t have gotten as much experience as I did if I were to be in a bigger organization where usually interns are not offered a chance to be as hands-on as I was able to. That internship gave me even more skills than I had before this experience. It also gave me the chance to learn more about different best practices and how I could use my skills to help in various ways.