"The St. James School officially named their health center The ECHOES Around the World Health Center. Without your financial support, we wouldn't have the Center and wouldn't have our fabulous nurse practitioner. Without you, our students and families wouldn't have their very own school-based health center. The results of the Center have been extraordinary!” -David Kaseivich
When ECHOES Board Member Leslie Roy heard that Ugandan girls miss up to a week of school during their monthly periods because they lack sanitary supplies, she sprang into action. She raised funds, bought fabric and supplies, and enlisted a small army of volunteers over the past year to help create sustainable, hygiene kits (designed by Days for Girls International) for girls at our partner schools.
In September, Leslie, along with ECHOES advisory board member Cissy Claypool and ECHOES friend Kim Marren, traveled to Uganda carrying 515 kits in ten suitcases. The trio distributed the kits to girls at Trinity Children's Centre and Centenary High School and to women at Double Cure Medical Centre.
To say the kits were well received would be an understatement. Kudos to Leslie and her team for taking a simple, smart idea, Project Ensonga, and running with it!
We couldn't be prouder of the students and staff at Trinity Children's Centre!
The national test scores are in and the news is fantastic! Out of 12,000 primary schools in Uganda, Trinity ranked 110. Among Kampala district's 400 schools, Trinity was 14th. Woohoo!
The school's founders, Romans and Sarah, tell us they've been interviewed by TV, radio and newspaper reporters, all of them asking how Trinity students consistently perform so well with so little. Their answer? "We feed the children. Children can't learn on empty stomachs." So true. A huge thank you to everyone out there - ECHOES friends and Y.E.S. sponsors – for keeping Trinity's children nourished - body, mind and soul.
Sadly, some Trinity students may have to leave school if they don't find Y.E.S. tuition sponsors. If you haven't yet signed up to be an ECHOES' Y.E.S. sponsor for this school year, now's the time! For less than a dollar a day and up, you can keep a child in school and give him/her a fighting chance at a brighter future. Click here to say Y.E.S.!
Way to go, Conestoga High School ECHOES Club! The group sold $850 worth of Ugandan jewelry at a three-day sale in mid-December and hosted a successful charity night at Panera Bread Co. in Wayne's Gateway Shopping Center last week. We're thrilled to have the next generation of ECHOES supporters on our team!
We always knew that the short film we showed about Trinity Children's Centre at our 2014 fundraiser was a winner; now the documentary film world does, too!
We are thrilled to report that the film, "Trinity: A Story of Hope in Extreme Poverty," was awarded first place in the Humanitarian category at the 2015 MY HERO Film Festival in Santa Monica, Calif. Congratulations to filmmaker Ray Zablocki and a big thank you the Deahla team and Mel Bonder for making this film possible. Click here to watch the film.
Thank you to IMC Construction for stepping up as Presenting Sponsor of ECHOES 10th Anniversary Bash, celebrating 10 years of educating and caring for underserved communities.
Mark your calendars for this all new Call to Care fundraiser to be held Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 at the supercool flagship cafe/distillery of ECHOES' friend, La Colombe Coffee, in Philly's Fishtown neighborhood, featuring:
- Handcrafted food and spirits
- Live music with fabulous Haitian guitarist Moe Cadet (who donates what he makes back to Haiti!)
- A few numbers by singer-songwriter Lauren Hart of Flyers' fame
- Tours of La Colombe's on-site ("Different Drum") rum distillery
- Coffee art (those cool foam pics swirling atop your latte) demonstrations - some led by intrepid La Colombe owner Todd Carmichael himself
- A St. James School student art show and sale. Wait 'til you see what these kids can create!
- Raffle drawings and prizes
- Luxury motorcoach transport (by advance reservation) from the Devon Horse Show lot
- Presentations to honoree Kevin Mahoney, Executive VP at Penn Medicine and all-around community champ, and to Humanitarian Award winners: Todd Carmichael and J.P. Iberti, founders of La Colombe
Proceeds support vital medical/health initiatives at our partner projects in Uganda and Philadelphia. Look for an invitation in your inbox in early September! (Want to help or get on the list? E-mail ACunningham795@gmail.com)
The latest test results are in and we couldn’t be prouder of the performance of our Ugandan partner schools and ECHOES YES! scholarship students.
Trinity Children’s Centre’s P7 test scores were the highest in their sub-country and among the best in the Kampala district. In addition, all Trinity YES! recipients scored in the 1st and 2nd division!
Centenary High School’s S4 test results (also known as O levels) were equally exceptional. The school placed second among four districts!
The Ugandan Ministry of Education ranked both Trinity and Centenary among the most improved schools in the country, according to the new three-year survey.
WAY TO GO, ROMANS, SARAH, LYDIA, TEACHERS, MATRONS AND STUDENTS!
Two thousand students and well-wishers gathered at Trinity Children's Centre Nov. 16 for the official opening of a new boys dormitory/classroom complex. Primarily funded by ECHOES and corporate partner La Colombe Torrefaction, the new, three-story building replaces the dorm that was destroyed by arson in 2013. In true Ugandan fashion, the celebration lasted eight hours and included a ribbon cutting, building tours, kindergarten graduation, songs, skits, and a banquet for all!
Thanks to our May "Building Futures" fundraiser, ECHOES donated $31,000 to St. James School, paying for the lion's share of the conversion of a former chapel into a fifth-grade classroom. To show its appreciation, St. James unveiled a plaque, officially dedicating the classroom to ECHOES (and two other donors) on Oct. 17. ECHOES' co-founders Nereida Gordon and Mel Bonder were on hand for the festivities.
ECHOES' small but mighty walking team didn't take home any prizes but finished strong in the Sept. 6 St. James School 5K & Kids Fun Run.
To show its support for its partner project middle school in North Philly, ECHOES was a bronze sponsor of the second annual St. James fundraiser. Four ECHOES board members helped with set-up and registration before heading to the starting gate.
Nearly 200 walkers and runners participated in the event on Kelly Drive and cooled off at an after-party at the historic Vesper Club on Boathouse Row. With 24 entries, St. David's Episcopal Church fielded the morning's largest team, winning a $1,000 sporting goods gift certificate which it promptly donated back to St. James.
Final figures are not in but planners hoped the event would raise $16,000 or enough to fund one full St. James scholarship.
Trinity Children's Centre's three branches have colorful new play equipment, thanks to money collected in honor of ECHOES' 2014 Humanitarian Award winner, Nereida Gordon. ECHOES' Board members and friends pitched in to pay for $3,300 in swings, slides and merry-go-rounds, which were installed this summer. Students are thrilled, reports Trinity co-founder Rev. Romans Serunjogi. In keeping with Romans tradition, he plans to name the playgrounds for "our beloved mentor, Mama/Jajja /Nereida."
Dr. Lydia Serunjogi Nakitende and her husband, Brian Kintu, enjoyed a delayed honeymoon in the United States (their first visit) in the spring of 2014. They attended ECHOES May 2 gala where Lydia was honored for her work as medical director of Double Cure Medical Centre in Mpigi, Uganda. Other highlights of Lydia and Brian's U.S. visit include tours of downtown Philadelphia, the headquarters of La Colombe Coffee and area hospitals; Sunday services at St. David's Episcopal Church in Wayne, Pa.; sightseeing in Washington, D.C. with ECHOES board member Jeff Kaiser; a reunion with a university classmate in Texas; and a Phillies outing!
ECHOES' partner project, Trinity Children's Centre, takes center stage in the TV show, "Dangerous Grounds," airing Tuesday, Feb. 25. at 9 p.m. EST on the Travel Channel. In an episode that takes place entirely in Uganda, host Todd Carmichael visits Trinity, the school he and his coffee company, La Colombe, have long supported, and vows to help build a new boys dormitory to replace the one destroyed by fire. He decides to source a Ugandan coffee for client Dean and Deluca to raise money for the project and journeys to coffee farms in search of the perfect beans.
And that's when things get mighty interesting. According to the Travel Channel's website, Todd will "run into cultural obstacles" that "confound all efforts." As a result, "he must enter a blood contract to sustain the school." Sure sounds exciting, folks! Be sure to tune in...
And don't forget to buy La Colombe's Afrique coffee (available at Whole Foods Markets) to help support Trinity!
Thanks to ECHOES’ longtime corporate partner, La Colombe Coffee (www.lacolombe.net), and our loyal donors, construction is moving forward on the the new boys’ dormitory at Trinity Children’s Centre. A new three-story dorm/classroom complex will replace the dorm that was destroyed by fire last year, leaving 150 mostly orphaned boys homeless. Boys from first grade through middle school-age will move into the first two floors by the time school starts Feb. 1. Much-needed classrooms will occupy the third floor.
In the fall of 2013, La Colombe challenged ECHOES’ supporters to match its $6,500 gift to the dorm rebuilding fund. Joyfully, we report that the challenge has been met! A huge thank you to all!
ECHOES' longtime corporate partner, La Colombe Coffee, will match all donations designated for the construction of a new boys' dormitory/classroom complex at Trinity Children's Centre (up to $6,750). The dorm was home to 150 mostly orphaned boys before it was destroyed by fire last winter. The first floor of a replacement dorm has been rebuilt but funds are urgently needed for construction of the second and third floors.
You can donate here.
After 36 hours without power, I'm happy to have my tablet charging its very dead battery, and to be able to type up this entry. This Wednesday seemed to be the agreed upon day for urgent situations in Mpigi. We were finishing with one of the first patients of the day, a man with a large growth on the sole of the foot that would require excision, when a large crowd appeared at the door of the clinic. The crowd parted to allow the passage of a man carrying the very limp looking body of a 19 year old boy. He rushed through reception and back to the procedure room, his passing marked by drops of blood.
The 19 year old had been in an accident involving two boda bodas, which are small motorcycles used as one of the primary means of transportation over rutted dirt roads and through snarled traffic. This boy had apparently been driving and collided with another boda. The driver of the other motorcycle was part of the crowd, and sank into one of the plastic chairs alongside the procedure table. His face was bloody and his lip clearly torn through, but he was faring much better than the 19 year old. The boy lay moaning on the table, one of his pant legs soaked through with blood. His head was also blood covered, and several large areas of swelling were visible.
By a stroke of extreme luck, both Dr. Faisal and Dr. Lydia were in clinic that day. IV fluids were started as Dr. Faisal cut away the bloodied pant leg to reveal boy's leg injury. Just below the left knee the boy had a deep wound, roughly the size and shape of a golf ball and bleeding heavily. Dr. Faisal determined that he would require stitches for the leg and head wounds. At that time, the boy seemed relatively stable. However, as the local anesthetic was applied and the stitching began, he became increasingly restless, first moaning and writhing, and then ultimately convulsing on the table. His pupils became nonreactive to light, suggesting that beneath the blood and bumps on his head there was a traumatic brain injury. Anticonvulsants were given, but he continued to grow more agitated and restless. Several of us were required to hold down his limbs to prevent him from moving too much during the stitching.
Meanwhile, the driver of the other boda had begun to slump in his chair, and he became increasingly less responsive. IV fluids were started for him, as well, but he continued to deteriorate, and soon could not sit upright. He lay down on the floor, which was splattered with the boy's blood, and stared vacantly at the legs of the procedure table upon which the boy still lay. A blood pressure check revealed hypotension, and soon after he began to shiver, concerning for shock. Dr. Lydia switched her focus to him as Dr. Faisal continued to stitch up the head wounds of the 19 year old, who struggled throughout the procedure. The stitches complete, he was carried by his family to the ward. He would be transferred to the government hospital later that day for a ct scan of the head to assess the extent of his head trauma. I winced to see him loaded into the ambulance, which was a pickup truck. He was forced to sit up in the backseat for the ride into the city.
The other man had suffered a laceration through the entirety of his lower lip and into the gum. He received stitches to his gums, where the root of a lower tooth had been exposed, and his lower lip. He ultimately was stable, and was able to go home that night.
From a personal perspective, the whole process was frightening, impressive, and confusing. My training didn't include emergency care or procedures, so I just tried to help where I could. In addition, the conversation in the room was in lugandan, and therefore passed by me completely. I was able to appreciate the confidence and calmness with which the staff treated both patients, even in the face of declining physical conditions.
Though that case was the most dramatic, several other urgent situations made their way to DCMC's door that day. The morning patient did have his foot growth removed, and even after removing it seeing the tissue underneath, Dr. Faisal was unsure of the etiology. A 2 year old girl came in with a bean stuck up one nostril, and she managed to fight, twist and scream through its removal even after receiving sedating injections. A woman was rushed in by her friend, appearing at first to be soaked with water. The wetness was actually cooking oil; she had sustained burned to her face, hand and chest while cooking over the stove. Fortunately, the burns proved to be superficial. A 6 year old girl came in with severe malaria, and began having febrile seizures on the exam table as her mother anxiously sponged her forehead with cool water.
At the end of the day, Dr. Lydia bought the staff sodas and cookies as a thank you for working together through a frantic, chaotic day. Dr. Faisal was all smiles, as always, most of us were ready to fall into bed. It was a crazy, but successful, day.
Last Thursday, all members of the Double Cure Medical Centre team save two were loaded into the ambulance and driven approximately 45 minutes along a bumpy, single lane dirt road to the village of Bubebbere. The village had been previously notified that DCMC would be performing an outreach today, providing residents with dental care, immunizations, HIV testing and brief medical consultations free of charge. With geographical isolation and poverty as limiting factors, this outreach was offering many villagers the only medical services that they had received in years.
The village of Bubebbere is comprised of a few small buildings lining both sides of a dirt road. Some of the residents sat waiting for us under an awning made of dried cane, more gathered as the DCMC staff set up their tent and equipment. Separate stations were created for for dentistry, HIV testing, immunizations and family planning, blood pressure screening and medical consultations. Ther was also a small "pharmacy" from which magnesium tablets, paracetamol (tylenol) and two antibiotics could be dispensed at no cost to patients.
Once everything was in place, the team was introduced to the crowd, and the services to be provided were outlined. Dr. Lydia gave some general counseling about preventative health measures, Dr. Moussa did the same for dental health. Patients were then asked to visit the various stations in whatever order they chose.
With the exception of a midday downpour that forced staff and attendees under cover for a while, the outreach went smoothly. Mothers lined up with their babies to get immunizations; a large crowd gathered outside of the lab area, awaiting HIV testing. Moussa, the dentist, later estimated that he performed more than 20 tooth extractions over the course of the day.
I was paired with a (very patient) translator, and sat underneath the medical consultation tent alongside Dr. Lydia and Frank, the clinical officer. The lists of problems that patients presented with often seemed overwhelming- lists of 5-10 chronic issues that had gone untreated for years. Many of the complaints stemmed from issues that we could not address that day: cataracts, hearing loss, neuropathies, chronic back pain. For some complaints we were able to offer advice or treatment, and many patients were advised to seek additional medical care or testing in a clinic.
Towards the end of the day, a large group of children in various school uniforms gathered at the periphery of our set-up; I was told that they were there to receive deworming tablets. Throughout the day, many of the adults that I saw told me that they had "worms in the stomach", as well as burning and tingling in their arms and legs. I later learned that chronic parasitic infections can result in such neuropathies if left untreated. I asked DCMC's clinical officer why we didn't provide deworming tablets to adults, as well, in light of the potential consequences of chronic infection. He explained that the deworming medication is provided to clinics by the Ministry of Health for free, but in limited supply. Clinics therefore have to prioritize when dispensing the tablets, and children and pregnant women are at the top of the list.
We left Bubebbere at around 6 pm. There were still patients waiting for tooth extractions and HIV testing; a large number had been advised seek further evaluation and treatment at a medical facility, DCMC or otherwise. For reisdents with limited resources and living a significant distance from such facilities, the services received during the outreach could be the only care they get for some time. Another outreach is planned for this week, this time the village is located on 15 minutes fro Mpigi. It will be interesting to see if the needs of these villagers, who live so much closer to medical facilities than the residents of Bubebbere, have different health care needs.
Side note: I just wanted to provide an update on the infant that I wrote about last week. After discharge from DCMC, she had her wound dressing changed at a local clinic. Her mother brought her back to DCMC on Saturday for evaluation. She continues to be free of fever, but there was new necrotized (dead) tissue that had to removed. Dr. Faisal, the physician who saw her, was concerned that as an outpatient, the baby couldn't receive the sort of aggressive therapy that this bacterial infection required. He referred the family to the government sponsored hospital in Mulago, where she could receive IV antibiotics and daily wound dressing changes. While this hospital does provide services at no charge, Dr. Faisal explained that it is extremely busy, and is often viewed as a "last stop" by Ugandans. The mother agreed to go; we will hope for the best.
Hello from Mpigi, Uganda. My name is Mandy Gordon, I am a 33 year old American nurse practitioner who arrived in Uganda two weeks ago, with the intent of volunteering for a number of months at the Double Cure Medical Centre (DCMC). I learned of the DCMC while fulfilling clinical hours requirements for my family NP degree with Dr. Stephen Gluckman at the University of Pennsylvania. He subsequently introduced me to Nereida Gordon, the tireless founder of the ECHOES foundation, and the Serunjogi family, who are the Ugandan founders of the clinic and three schools in the greater Kampala area. After a rather breathless stretch of months in which I finished my family NP program, took the certification exam and prepared to live abroad for a while, I am here in Mpigi at the DCMC.
The clinic is staffed by two physicians, Dr. Lydia and Dr. Faisal, a clinical officer (less time in medical school than the full MD's, as I understand the position), as well as a midwife, nurses, a pharmacist and a dentist. The scope of what they all can do and what they have witnessed clinically is incredibly impressive, and I am in constant awe of the way in which they handle the challenges of medical practice here in Uganda.
Yesterday evening, a 20 year old mother presented to the clinic with her 3 week old daughter. The baby had developed a pimple on her leg about a week ago, followed by fevers. She was seen at a local health clinic and was prescribed antibiotic syrups. Her mother brought her to DCMC because despite this treatment, the baby continued to feel hot to the touch.
Upon examination, the infant was indeed feverish, as well as lethargic. Unwrapping her blankets, we discovered a 3x4 cm blackened patch of tissue on the side of her very swollen right thigh. Immediately below this gangrenous area was a deep sinus tract, which was draining a small amount of pus. The baby's parents had reportedly noticed these lesions, but didnt recognize them as significant. The fever that they had noted was symptomatic of the baby's systemic infection. Dr. Lydia determined that the gangrenous tissue would need to be removed in order to determine how deep the infection went, and thereby whether or not the leg could be spared fro amputation. Dr. Lydia placed an iv in the baby's tiny arm for infusion of antibiotics and sedatives prior to the procedure. There was a bit of scrambling prior to the procedure, as only a few rooms in the clinic had overhead lightbulbs in place, and the procedure room was not one of them.
Once a lightbulb had been brought in from another room, a small amount of valium was given to the baby. The infant lay quiet as Lydia repeatedly squeezed the leg to force pus to drain from the sinus tract. Once finished with that, she cut away the black, leathery patch of gangrenous tissue from the baby's leg. The infection did not penetrate muscle or bone; Lydia was optimistic that no amputation would be necessary and that the baby would recover. The wound was packed with gauze and wrapped; the baby and her mother were sent to the pediatric ward for observation and treatment throughout the night.
This morning, the baby was without fever and was appropriately fussy. Dr. Lydia changed the wound dressing and washed the exposed tissue with an antibiotic solution. She suggested that the family would be able to go home for the night, and return to DCMC tomorrow so the baby's progress could be monitored.
In the summer of 2010, I traveled to Uganda to witness first hand the work of the Double Cure Medical Center. The first thing you have to know about Uganda is how friendly the people are. They definitely believe in the adage; if you see someone without a smile, give them one. Throughout my stay, everyone greeted me warmly and welcomed me to their country. The second thing you must know about Uganda is how colorful a place it is. The ground is an orange/red color. The foliage is bright green. The buildings are all painted bright vibrant colors. As I approached the Double Cure Medical Centre, the brightly colored buildings let me know this is a place where wonderful things are happening. This medical clinic was built from nothing in just a few short years. Now the clinic is a hub of activity in the rural town of Mpigi.
At the clinic, the doctors and staff see patients of all ages. During the time I spent there, I saw numerous people treated for everything from the mundane to the extreme. Patients presented with routine head colds and others with malaria. There were mothers in childbirth and numerous new mothers with their babies for vaccination. There was a road accident with severe injuries. The clinic also serves as a regional HIV center for the treatment of patients with HIV/AIDS.
In addition to treating all manner of medical and surgical problems, the clinic also has dentist who treats patients from near and far. There are very few dentists in Uganda. The medical center’s dental clinic serves an area which includes several million people for just this one dentist. The medical center functions as a walk-in medical clinic, dental clinic, pharmacy and emergency room all rolled up into one. Needless to say, it is a very busy place.
What does the future hold for the Double Cure Medical Center? The clinic has plans for an operating suite which will be capable of handling complicated childbirth and major surgical procedures. There are also plans for an ultrasound and x-ray and an in-patient men’s ward.
We are grateful for our partnership with the University of Pennsylvania and our relationship with Dr. Steven Gluckman, specialist in Infectious Disease with a wealth of knowledge and experience in Sub-Sahara Africa. Dr. Gluckman has agreed to join the ECHOES Advisory Board and has volunteered his time and advice to make the Double Cure Medical Center a better place for the people of Uganda. The medical center is a great asset to the people of this rural province in Uganda and we look forward to the continuing strong partnership between Double Cure and ECHOES.
On a dirt country road along a verdant hillside near Mpigi, Uganda, a cluster of brick and stone buildings nears completion between the broad banana trees on the terraced land. The Double Cure Medical Centre, its name emblazoned in bright red letters over the main entrance, is the latest project of Reverend David Serunjogi, also known by his Biblical passage name, “Romans 8:1”, and was opened to the Mpigi community with great fanfare December 3, 2007.
Serunjogi, an Episcopal minister, and his wife Sarah, have spent the last twenty years developing among their “Romans 8:1 Ministries” the primary Trinity School in Kabowa (a neighborhood of Kampala), the secondary Centenary School in Nyendo (nearby, in the Serunjogi’s home district, Masaka), and most recently the busy maize and rice mill just down the road and around the corner from the Double Cure. Now their attention has broadened from education and commerce to the health of their flock; and as the name reflects, it is both their physical and spiritual health they hope to nurture.
Ugandans suffer enormously from the triple infectious scourge of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, while little maternal care exists, and childhood diseases continue to flourish in the absence of fundamental nutrition and immunization. The Double Cure Medical Centre, when completed, will be a thirty-bed general medical centre treating obstetric, gynecologic, surgical, orthopedic, general medical, pediatric, and trauma patients. It is anticipated that physicians and nurses in its clinic will see between 350 and 400 outpatients each week, while there will be inpatient wards with 10 beds designated for children, 10 for female/maternal adults, and 10 for male adults. Rev. Serunjogi describes its mission as, “to bring affordable services to the needy people in this area and improve the scarcity of health facilities in the district.” In addition to the clinic rising in Mpigi, the Centre will operate a mobile unit to bring medical care to the bedridden and home bound, and to deliver comprehensive public health educational programs directly to nearby villages. As in the Romans 8:1 Ministries’ schools, people of all faiths and tribes will be welcomed.
Having demonstrated over more than two decades their extraordinary devotion to the educational and spiritual growth of the people of their community, Rev. David Serunjogi and Sarah Serunjogi look forward to linking those efforts to the medical needs of their charges. With assistance from many sources, including ECHOES Around the World, the Double Cure Medical Centre is on its way to becoming a vital resource for the Mpigi people.
Joseph Bonn, M.D. ¨The Lankenau Hospital, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, January, 2008