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Online volunteers for Kitega Community Centre in Uganda

(Photo: Kitega Community Centre, 2011)(Photo: Kitega Community Centre, 2011)
15 December 2011

Sharing their diverse medical expertise, a team of twelve online volunteers* developed tools and materials that help the Kitega Community Centre sensitize the local community on health issues and good practices. The organization’s health education programme benefits the rural population of Kitega, located about 40km from the Ugandan capital.

It all started with the preparations for World AIDS Day 2010. Upon the community’s request, the volunteers developed informational booklets both for children and adults that the Kitega Community Centre used for an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. “Seeing pictures of the work you have done being used by people you have never seen in a place you have never been to” motivated Yann Say-Liang-Fat, who holds a Bachelor in Health, Safety and Environmental Management, to sustain her engagement with the community centre.

Coordinated by Bibiana Restrepo, a Colombian biomedical engineer, the team continued producing booklets and presentations on other health topics, including basic hygiene, nutrition and environmental health. Bibiana has been volunteering for the community centre since 2009 and calls Kitega “her community”. “Through this collaboration, we now have materials and tools for our health education programme that can be used to train community health education facilitators,” says David Clemy, the centre’s Public Relations Officer.

The team of online volunteers, which includes an Indian doctor currently pursuing a post graduate degree in Community Medicine and a Kenyan specialist in Toxicology and Environmental Health Risk Assessment is making a real impact in the community. ”Basic knowledge about hygiene, water safety, and proper waste disposal can prevent communicable diseases and dramatically improve living standards. Knowledge of HIV/AIDS and malaria can change worldviews by showing that these illnesses are not caused by curses or the supernatural, and as a result, those who are sick do not inspire fear and stigmatization,” David explains.

For Punam Chowdhury, native of India and living in the U.S.A., this was his first online volunteering experience. The physician who works as an Internist and Assistant Professor says: "It was wonderful to work with the Kitega community and the volunteers involved in this project. The other volunteers are from all over the world and are all dedicated professionals who have taken time from their lives to make other peoples’ lives better. I travel overseas on medical missions to provide help to other countries. Online volunteering allows me to help those countries and people I have not yet had the opportunity to visit. I feel it is important for everyone to volunteer and online volunteering brings the opportunity to everyone’s own doorstep.”

*Anup Tiwari, Bibiana Restrepo, Caroline Joseph, Halima Tahirkheli, June Aluoch, Kara Kristine Manso, Mona Saleh, Punam Chowdhury, Radha Taralekar, Reena Rae, Vy Nguyen, Yann Say-Liang-Fat
UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)