Members of the Uganda Team at the Campbell River Christian School hand out goodies at their school’s Christmas market. The team of 12 students heading to Uganda includes (from the left) Heather Belanger

Uganda will change these students forever

A group of 12 Campbell River Christian School (CRCS) students are raising money for a mission

A group of 12 Campbell River Christian School (CRCS) students are raising money for a mission to Uganda that their vice-principal says will be a life changing experience.

The 12 students – along with four school leaders including Vice-Principal Peter Terpstra and local pediatric plastic surgeon Dr. Robin Evans – will spend 16 days in July working at the Soroti Regional Referral Hospital, a facility that is chronically overcrowded and underfunded and where the struggling staff serves an impoverished rural population that cannot afford even basic health care.

Terpstra says: “We will be going there to assist in the hospital where we are needed. These students will be encountering tough conditions, stuff they have never seen. They will be totally changed.”

Grade 12 student Oksanna Kindy-Olesen, 17, says it will be her first visit to Africa. “I’m expecting to find conditions I’ve never experience. I’m preparing to find conditions I will have difficulty getting used to. I am preparing for something I will probably never fully recover from.”

The CRCS team will be working with Dr. Sister Mary Margaret Ajiko at the hospital to provide humanitarian aid and assist with projects around the hospital and grounds.

The hospital is the main government referral facility for the mid-eastern region of Uganda.

It has 274 beds to serve approximately one million people in the city of Soroti and the surrounding rural area.

The picture Sister Mary Margaret paints of the conditions is not a pretty one:

“Picture if you will an operating theatre with cracks in the floor and leaks in the ceiling; single beds with many patients crowded in them with no bed linens; mothers delivering babies on the floor; premature babies with no chance of survival due to lack of incubators; patients wheeled into surgery with their plastic bag of rubber gloves, sutures and medicines they have purchased locally because the hospital has limited supplies; a virtually useless X-ray machine due to lack of film; sutures cut into small strips to use as many times as possible.”

CRCS Education Assistant Jessica Kelly, who is also going on the mission, says the process of preparing the students for the terrible conditions they will see has already begun. “We have a variety of documentary films they will be watching. And, we are slowly easing them in with photos Dr. Evans has taken when he has been on the ground there. We’ve shown them their first few pictures of serious burns.”

Terpstra says the school is currently fundraising $60,000 to cover the costs of the trip and the purchase of a generator. “The hospital is lacking in almost every medical convenience we take for granted in Canada.”