A little knowledge goes a long way

“This is a community wanting to improve their lives and very willing and eager for our help. In a short time one volunteer can obviously do a limited amount but if you keep building on the previous work then hopefully much can be accomplished. Their needs are great and even small steps can make a difference”.(Sheri – Big Beyond volunteer Jan-Feb 2012) 

Uganda said a fond farewell to one of Big Beyond’s amazing volunteers but the community have been left with something seriously valuable. The locals have named it ‘Sheri’s Rules’. 

It really shows how a little knowledge goes such a long way, especially in the places we work. Sheri, a retired paediatrician from the USA joined Big Beyond as a way to use the knowledge she’s gained during her career and share it with people who may be helped by it… so she travelled to beautiful Uganda to spend a few weeks with the Big Beyond team and the “friendly, friendly, friendly” people of southern Bwindi.     

As a health guru, Sheri was involved in the beginnings of an exciting new project and spent her time talking with different households across the community to determine daily hygiene, sanitation and awareness around some of the key health issues of the area which helped us all build some incredibly valuable data and she begun to identify simple steps that can be taken to prevent diseases, rather than just cure them. Sheri told us how she really enjoyed being out and about seeing how people live here, and genuinely talking and connecting with so many of the locals. 

She was welcomed with open arms by one of the Batwa communities and warmly invited to their village true Nora style : ) 

Watch this video

“I loved the way that Big Beyond become part of the community and meet with all of the various community groups, listen to their needs and concerns and try to find volunteers to help improve in these areas instead of coming in with a preset agenda.”

Towards the end of her placement, Sheri met with community leaders to discuss some of the issues she was revealing thus far and recommendations for improvement that need to be in place, starting that day. Sheri commented, “I was overwhelmed by the reception to my simple ideas as a first step to better health in the area.” She explained that she was shocked to find out that even the most successful people from the area were not aware that they are supposed to be washing their hands after the toilet. Most people were not using soap or boiling their drinking water they get from streams that are shared with animals. Sheri expressed huge concern with the lack of knowledge of nutrition, disease prevention and sanitation and many of these issues will be worked on simultaneously with other programs. Sheri would like to see the hardworking women of Uganda empowered with more choices in life too. 

“It was great to be a part of some of these meetings and to see the enthusiasm of the locals and the hope in their faces of the help big beyond could provide. When I presented my own results and recommendations I was overwhelmed with the appreciation of the community and the enthusiasm for having concrete steps to improve their health. This is a community wanting to improve their lives and very willing and eager for our help.”

The community leaders are feeling the urgent need to move forward with these measurements to prevent diseases and are taking their first steps. They’re excited to welcome our prospective volunteers with open arms to help transform the health, economy and education of their community as they ask for advice in all areas.

Advice to other volunteers… Be flexible, roll with any unexpected changes and don’t be too rigid about the concept of time in Africa. She advises to just enjoy yourself, your work and the people you are with! For women volunteers, she felt people were more receptive to her in skirts (knee length or longer) and would suggest for people to wear them as long as they are comfortable. Try your best with the local language too as people love to see you try. 

Thanks Sheri!