Friday, August 3, 2012

Cate Lynn's Summer in Africa

OU senior microbiology major Cate Lynn spent four weeks this summer in Africa. In June she participated in a Pros for Africa trip to the Saint Monica's Girls School in Gulu, Uganda, which was founded by CNN Hero, Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. During her three weeks in Gulu, Cate participated in planning and supervising the building of an ecolatrine and worked in the free clinic at the school. In July, Cate returned to Africa as an intern for the ONE Campaign sponsored by Chegg. That trip took her to Johannesburg, South Africa and Lusaka, Zambia, where she visited several community centers, schools, and HIV clinics. On both trips Cate had the opportunity to interact with development and health professionals invested in water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Children playing on a water pump that supplies the a community center's water tower in South Africa.
 In the clinic in Gulu, Cate saw many patients who suffered from malnutrition and skin issues. She also saw many cases of malaria. Sadly many of the illnesses she saw could have been prevented by improved water and sanitation.

According to Cate, the most overwhelming part of her experience was realizing how understaffed free clinics like the one at St. Monica's really are. Given her plans to attend medical school, Cate is considering working in a developing country and donating some of her time to a local free clinic. Cate called the trip a unique opportunity to absorb the culture and the influence of everyday life on health-related behavior.

Cate and OU student Chris Breazile with a novice at St. Monica's and a University of Oregon student.
Unfortunately, Cate also had the opportunity to learn what many people in developing countries already know about the effects of contaminated water. She was sick five days of this three week trip from using tap water to brush her teeth. She learned from tests later that although water directly drawn from the well in Gulu was clean, storing water presented challenges for keeping it clean. She is depicted below testing water from the storage tanks at St. Monica's.

On her July trip to South Africa and Zambia, Cate spent a week traveling with eight other interns with interest in developing country work. During this trip, she was able to see a broad range of development and medical settings that will be very influential in helping her choose the type of work she wants to do after medical school. Of meeting the many HIV patients, Cate said she learned the invaluable lesson of the maintaining humanity, humility, and patience.

In addition to the clinics Cate visited, she also saw many community centers that provide a home for widows, many of whom are HIV positive. The centers often provide schools for the children of the widows. These centers are an impressive example of social entrepreneurship as they are sustained by the sales of craft goods produced by the women.

Cate with women at a mostly-female community center in South Africa. These women make their living by selling crafts like the bracelets Cate is holding.

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