Bridge of Life Up Close

How Providing Nutrition Education in Uganda Fed My Soul

I am living my life to the fullest! Bridge of Life (BOL) gave me the opportunity to learn, to serve and to grow spiritually during my recent volunteer experience on their chronic disease prevention mission in Uganda in March 2019.

Having access to health care is a right for everyone, especially for those with chronic illnesses. Many of the Ugandans we met had no access to health care due to the rural locations they live in and their financial situations. Many also reported not being able to afford necessary medicine. Our goal was to reach out to as many people as possible and to provide every individual with free chronic disease screening and prevention education.

Each patient we met had a story to tell, but one patient’s story in particular touched me deeply.

In a small village located near Lake Bunyonyi, we met a young man with type 1 diabetes and severe calorie/protein malnutrition. His fat and muscle depletion were clearly visible. He had traveled a very long distance by boat and came to us with the hope that we could help with his condition.

His story was hard to hear, let alone to live. He fully depended on insulin to survive, which required him to check his blood glucose daily. He had a glucometer at home but no strips to check his blood sugar. His daily calorie intake was estimated around 400 to a maximum of 600 kcal (the average for a male is 2,500 kcal!), and his only source of protein was half a cup of beans per day. He could not afford eggs or fruits and vegetables. For those of us in the dietetic field, we certainly understood the severity of his condition.

With the help of a local translator, we were able to educate him on the signs and symptoms of high and low blood sugar levels. The translator happened to have connections to local health care facilities and offered to refer him to a clinic in a nearby town. I felt so happy and fulfilled knowing that he was not returning to his village empty-handed! We were able to return the hope that he came to us with. And I now remind myself every day that this patient’s story could easily be MY, or anyone else’s, story.

This quote from Lilla Watson, an indigenous Australian, was presented to our team on day one of our mission, and it rang very true by the final day of the trip: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

I know we touched many people’s lives on this mission. But what is even truer is how much the Ugandan people impacted the core and souls of OUR beings. I hope that my story touches YOU to the core. And if it does, I encourage you to get involved, to get out of your comfort zone and to join BOL in serving humanity! 

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