In his own words, Ker & Downey’s Greg Jackson shares his experience from traveling to Uganda with the Ker & Downey for Africa 2019 team.
For several years, Ker & Downey has been going to Uganda to assist in efforts to fight malaria. When the company offered to send an employee, I jumped at the chance. My African exposure had been a couple of business trips to West Africa three decades ago, but ever since then, I had wanted to go back for a missions trip. As a friend of mine said after two such trips, “You’ll leave a piece of your heart there,” and she was absolutely right.
On the face of it, our primary function of handing out mosquito nets does not sound terribly significant, but considering that malaria is the leading cause of death among children in Africa—over a million a year—the long-term impact will be significant. One net can cover four children sleeping together, and is effective for up to five years.
One lady we worked with mentioned that she used to get infected on a regular basis, but since she has been sleeping under a net she had not had a problem in 17 years.
In addition to passing out the nets, we had a team of nine doctors and several nurses doing basic medical screening, providing blood and HIV tests, and writing prescriptions. We had a van outfitted as a mobile pharmacy and were able to provide the basic drugs prescribed—primarily broad-spectrum antibiotics—on site. And a final gift, we gave each person a pill to rid them of parasitic worms, another major and very common health issue in the region.
This year, the team was based in Soroti, the major city in east-central Uganda. Over the week we were there, we spent two days in each of three churches in outlying areas around Soroti. Every day, there were crowds already waiting when we arrived, and the flow of people never really slowed. Over the course of six days, we passed out 7,200 nets. The doctors and nurses saw over 6,000 patients and administered approximately 600 tests. We dispensed $14,000 of prescription medications, 625 pairs of reading glasses, 400 toothbrushes, and 200 tubes of toothpaste. Six patients were referred for surgery; our budget will only cover one or two of these, but there may be resources to cover the others.
The warmth of the people was almost unanimous, and the gratitude heartfelt.
The appreciation was not a servile thanks that we would get from an abject beggar, but more of bonding in appreciation for the fact that we made the effort to come 8,000 miles and share our time and resources with them.
A number of people have asked what the highlight was for me. I really can’t point to a specific moment, simply the entire week of serving and seeing the joy in the people we were able to serve, all the way from young children to a gentleman who is 109 years old. As a Christian, the most rewarding service was the opportunity to pray with people who requested prayer. The fact that they could share their burdens and we could join with them was an overwhelming and rich experience.
Overall, the Ker & Downey for Africa 2019 trip was an intense experience, but one of the most rewarding weeks of my life. My friend was correct, and I will make the trip again given an opportunity.
Ker & Downey has made it our mission to give back in tangible ways in the areas we travel. Learn more about our Ker & Downey for Africa project or to donate to our ongoing efforts here. You can also purchase a shirt in support of the project here.