Field Notes: Spreading light—and knowledge—in Uganda

Field Notes: Spreading light—and knowledge—in Uganda

Armed with 200 Luci lights, a YETI ARC, an abundance of pathology supplies, and her own personal belongings, Nichole Baker—an MPOWERD Brand Ambassador—traveled from Durango, CO all the way to Uganda this past January. 

She had a three main goals for her two-week journey:

First, Nichole wanted to continue building strong relationships with pathology residents connected with her non-profit Path of Logic. Second, she was determined to deliver Luci lights to individuals and families who live without electricity in Southern Uganda. And third, to explore the country and meet its people. 

    Ambitious goals for any group, but especially for an individual.

    First things first: Southern Uganda - Mbarara

    Nichole spent the first week of her trip in Mbarara the village in Southern Uganda, where the pathology lab supported by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital is based. She had previously spent time at this lab, working closely with four residents, and she was greeted by those smiling, familiar faces the moment she walked in.

    Thanks to Path of Logic, Nichole was able to give the residents stipends for their living expenses, which allowed them to continue working without a reliable salary while in the program. Throughout the week, Nichole and the pathology residents attended lectures in the mornings and worked in the lab in the afternoon, learning and growing with each other. Nichole writes in her blog, “All four residents were elated and excited to live with more ease while completing a rigorous residency in the pathology. I am so grateful to our community for helping Path of Logic exceed the goals to allow all four residents to receive that help.” 

    Next up: 300 miles of sweat and smiles

    Eventually, Friday arrived and it was time to set off west from Mbarara. Nichole planned out a 300-mile, three-day journey through the mountains and rainforests of southwest Uganda—all on dirt roads. And along the way, she would stop at villages and medical care centers without electricity and give Luci lights to those who needed power the most.

    With the assistance of a translator (who would meet Nichole at each location) she set off to her first stop: a small town called Mutara. Across the country, villages like Mutara are required to pay for amenities in advance—power is often unexpectedly turned off at the end of most months until a payment is received. What’s more, only parts of Mbarara have access to electricity, and in those places the access is sporadic, only working 50% of the time.

    Knowing all this, Nichole chose to give Luci lights to the local maternity ward in Mutara, where mothers were frequently giving birth in the dark. In fact, this particular facility hadn’t had electricity for 3 weeks.

    In total, across the three-day, 300 mile trip, Nichole visited 9 villages, 2 healthcare centers and met countless Ugandans along the way. Often children would playfully run next to her bike as she peddled up steep mountains, and she would stop and hand out Luci lights to them.

    One of the most incredible, yet challenging, experiences was working with her translators to explain how to use the Luci lights. Simply explaining the functionality of our little cylindrical light that charges in the sun was fascinating but frustrating. As Americans we take advantage of our understanding of technology and the ease to which we can understand it. The work it took to explain how Luci works, through a translator, was humbling for our Brand Ambassador.

    Finishing the trip at the lab

    Nichole’s trip ended how it began; back in Mbarara working at the pathology lab, collaborating with the residents. Together, the team set goals for the year, and began planning for her next trip. She is devoted to returning, at least once a year, to spread knowledge and light around the country.

    Learn more details about Nichole’s travels on her blog here.