Getting around Juba

Sunday 21st October

I am a volunteer with VSO but all entries on this blog are my personal responsibility alone and do not represent the views of VSO.

My second week at work! Still feels fairly slow with a lot of time spent reading and working my way into things. However during the week I met some useful contacts including the project manager for one of the 3 big initiatives rolling out standardised health care across the country. This one involves two of the Northern states and this led to a meeting with him and senior representatives from the 2 states. This was very helpful in identifying the real practical difficulties of delivering the planned model of care at local level. I think I will be able to do some useful work with them.

Also during the week I had a good discussion with another volunteer who is based in a county health department. She has been here over 6 months and is clearly very involved and doing great things. There has been a project to bring over 70 people with cleft lip and palate from all over the place to Juba for surgery by a specialist team who have come in for the purpose. Most are children but there are also adults including a 55 year old lady who has spent all her life shut away from society. The surgery will transform all their lives.

This week I have been getting to and from work by bicycle. The route is slightly complicated because it is better to keep riding on the main roads to the minimum possible. So I go on the side roads which of course are much quieter but the hazards there are different – negotiating the bumps and pot-holes, not to mention the goats and ducks (and children) which are frequently in the way. Still I much prefer it to riding on the boda bodas.

Together with the other recently arrived volunteer I am having lessons in Juba Arabic, the local language; they are on Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning and are held at a secondary school by a teacher at the school. The first Saturday it was very quiet, just us and the teacher but this week when we got to the school it was a hive of activity, lots of children and adults, a big marquee and lots of chairs. It was the Annual Prize-giving and there was no way we would have our lesson that day. But everybody was very welcoming and we met the Head, Deputy Head and a lady from England who had been involved in UK Church funding for the school. It’s clearly a very good school with tough admission criteria and very good results. The prize-giving was due to start at 10.00 and we were invited to stay but while it was due to finish at 2.30 we learnt that last year it went on until 6.00pm so I am afraid we declined and spent the day exploring another part of the city.

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