Uganda is a stunning country with beautiful people. We go every June to work with the Muchiga People, Buhomans and the Batwa Pigmies in SW Uganda and those still in the IDP camps in Gulu.
Jonathan has been our guide since our first year there. He was a remarkable man who wanted to give back to his community by helping us with our needs. Like so many of the children we were caring for, he too grew up an orphan. He was found in a dump by an old woman who took him home and nurtured him until he was well enough to live in an overcrowded orphanage. Jonathan proudly mounted Smile Power stickers onto his vehicle and proceeded to perform miracles during our journey. He got us from gas station to gas station in areas where they were very sparse indeed. We were able to visit two extra and very remote villages because of his willingness to drive the tortuous roads and juggle fuel needs of the vehicles. Jonathan also helped us operate the generators for our clinics, and he took care of our fuel needs.We took portable dental equipment, our own food and drinking water, plus water for operating in the clinic. In the places we visited, most people had never seen any kind of dentist and none had any idea that a tooth could even be fixed! By the third day of our clinic, word had spread and people started pointing to their bad teeth asking for "cement."
People of all ages came to us for help. Mothers brought young babies with jaws swollen from infected teeth. Grandfathers came to us for relief from long-term tooth pain. People of all ages came, forming a long line. We worked from early morning until it was too dark to work safely. People continued to come. Many waited in line for three days to be seen by the dental team. Our efforts were rewarded with warm hugs, big smiles, and sometimes tears as our new friends left the clinic feeling better from our care.
In addition to dental care, and thanks to the generosity of our supporters at home, we were able to get food out to four children who lived very remotely and had nothing to eat. These kids had been sharing one tattered rag as a sleeping blanket on the dirt floor of their failing shack. We delivered blankets, clothing, and enough food to last three months.
One of Smile Power's endeavors is to train local people to take responsibility for continuation of the care that Smile Power initiates. To accomplish this in Uganda , Smile Power is sponsoring four local care takers in education programs. We have sent two students to a "dental boot camp" offered by a local dentist, and two young women to school to study nursing.
Preparing for travel to Uganda
Dental Outreach in Uganda
What follows are recommendations and observations to help you prepare for the outreach in Uganda. This information is based on Dr. Shinn's experiences during trips taken to Uganda since June 2005, along with advice from his Ugandan friends and personal guides.
For this reason you need to order new $100 bills in advance from your bank at home, and pick up the bills before leaving on the outreach.
Travel To The Clinics and Beyond:
Our Guide is Jonathan Nkojo, who is rated the #1 guide in Uganda, and is a dear and trusted friend of Jerri and myself.
After leaving Kampala, we drive 6 + hours to a house / hostile near Mweya, Queen Elizabeth Park. There are optional "game drive" and boat excursion safaris here that can be arranged by our guide. I have personally seen lions, leopards, elephants, hippos, wart hogs, baboons, and numerous amazing birds species all within 50 feet of me while in this park. There are fees to enter the park and participate in their game drives and the Kazinga Channel Cruise, which we highly recommend.
From Mweya we travel 5+ hours to Bwindi to work at the Buhoma community hospital run by Dr. Scott Kellerman and his wife Carol. He is one of the foremost tropical medicine specialists in the world. There are usually quite a few guest medical students and others staying with, assisting, and learning from him and the local doctors. This is real bush medicine and we will have the privilege of providing dental support to the people who live in this area. Accommodations here are unpredictable but will range from staying in individual Banda huts or tents to staying in a volunteer's quarters (like a dorm).
This is on the very edge of the famous Impenetrable Forest, home to the world's largest population of Forest Gorillas. An optional tour to trek through the jungle to see them first hand is available but passes need to be reserved far in advance. Permits cost $300 -$400 per person but are worth this once in a life-time experience.
It is our intention to introduce you to the wonderful people of Uganda and to give you a personal experience of the social and physical environment in East Africa. The only way to help out and truly understand what is going on there is to go there and see it with your own eyes, and be with the people one on one. Bring an open mind, a go-with-the-flow sense of adventure, and a loving friendliness toward everyone you meet. You will see and experience things you've never even imagined.
Most of the population is under 35 years old because most everyone older (including leaders and much of the educated poplulation) have died from various diseases. There is a huge lack of financial resources and dependable infrastructure. There are many, many people in their 20s who have a basic education, working for 50 cents / hour trying to be self-sufficient. They are bright, motivated and capable, and have hopes and dreams for a professional career but have no means to get the necessary education. They are the current work force and future leadership hope for the country. They love their country and they know that they are its future. This is truly a developing country, and basic services and infrastructure are still being developed and refined.
To enhance your understanding of what you will see and experience, purchase a good travel guide and read up on the history, culture, and tour options.
Prevention of Illness
Do not go barefooted in the African countryside; there are several diseases that enter through your bare feet. Take sandals or flip flops to wear while showering.
Malaria carrying mosquitoes come out after dark.
Visas and Passports:
Altitude and temperature:
Check with a travel clinic about the vaccinations that are currently require.
We will be right on the Equator. Expect temperatures to be hot and humid. Elevation is 5,000 ft.
See the Consular Information Sheet for information about Uganda
What to pack and things to knowWhat follows are recommendations and observations to help you prepare for the outreach in Uganda. This information is based on Dr. Shinn's experiences during trips taken to Uganda since June 2005, along with advice from his Ugandan friends and personal guides.
Important To Know About Money:
In Uganda they will only accept US currency in $100 bills!
These bills must be 2003 series or newer or they will be severely discounted.
Bring extra money for tips, souvenirs, and gifts for local people.
Important To Know About Luggage:
Weight limit is 50 pounds for check through bags. Those of you from Washington State please, please try to limit yourself to one check through and one carry on bag so we can divide up the dental equipment we have to ship amongst you to save overage fees.
Put all your valuables in your carry-on bag, e.g., camera, binoculars, medications, extra glasses, tickets, purse, wallet, watch, and other things you don't want to loose.
Do not bring jewelry.
Water, Hydration, and Food:
- Do not drink any water except bottled water!
Pop and beer are also available.
Bring powdered Gatorade or other similar rehydration electrolyte replacement products.
- We will be right on the Equator, hot and humid at 5,000 ft. elevation with very limited resources other than the supplies you bring to prevent dehydration. Bring your own personal supplies of snacks and candies, power bars, et cetera (consider the nutritional value when choosing).
- Bring your own toilet paper and all other personal hygiene supplies.
- Hand sanitizer is necessary; often there are no other handwashing facilities.
Prevention of Illness
- Do not go barefooted in the African countryside. There are several diseases that enter through your bare feet. Take sandals or flip flops to wear while showering.
- Malaria carrying mosquitoes come out after dark.
Insect repellent (Be sure to bring enough!)
Use DEET for your clothes but not on your skin.
Use Ultrathon or other recommended repellent directly on your skin.
Keep your skin covered up after dark.
If you are going to travel beyond Mweya Lodge, not all places have it in the remote areas.
- Do not drink any water except bottled water! Pop and beer are also available.Bring enough to cover a single bed.
Clothing--Day and Night
Note: Pack everything inside plastic garbage bags and bring several extra bags to protect cameras, et cetera. When it rains there, the water comes in through the car roof and every other crack, and everything gets wet.
In addition to above lists, all dental professional need to bring:
See web sites for:
Bring an open heart ... and your sense of adventure!
| Dental screenings are often preformed outside where there is \good lighting
Dr. Reh with a line of students waiting for their oral exam
|Children help volunteers load food and supplies into a car to take to their families.||Orphans holding crafts that they make to support their schooling.|
|Stark classroom in a Pygmy village.||Lunch, a high-energy milk drink provided by doctors, is often the only meal of the day for many of these children.
|Tea Fields in Bwindi area.||Crater that is now a lake.|
|Cottage by the road.||A cottage in the jungle.|
|Tree where lions sleep.||A view from a higher elevation.
African Kob- an orange-brown African antelope (Kobus kob). Only the males of the species have lyre-shaped horns. More in depth information about this species can be found at:
Mountain Gorilla troupe in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. There are only about 700 gorillas left in the wild. For more information about this species, visit: http://www.awf.org/section/wildlife/gorillas