Melissa is a student Northwestern University on Global Engage Student Institute global development learning program who participated on FSD Fall II 2020 virtual internship. During the GESI 2020 Remote Internship, Melissa worked with the Jinja Organization of Parents with Deaf Children (JOPDC), an organization dedicated to supporting families of children with disabilities (CwDs) in Jinja, Uganda.
Through her community assessment, Melissa spoke to caregivers in the community and Sebastian, the Executive Director of JOPDC. Using direct observations, semi-structured interviews, additional literature reviews, and research, she was able to accurately assess the priorities and needs of the community. These included the caregivers’ concerns surrounding the COVID-19 lockdown, lack of educational access, difficulties in generating income, and healthcare inequity. The single mothers and grandmothers in the community reported loss of employment, increased expenditure and reduced savings, understaffed medical and educational facilities, high costs of health care, and overall stigmatization toward individuals with disabilities.
On the other hand, Melissa also noted the priorities of her host organization, JOPDC. These included sensitizing caregivers of their roles in supporting CwDs, empowering the community with basic business skills, identifying potential partnerships, promoting the organization’s media presence, and educating the caregivers of CwDs on assessing and treating potential and existing disorders.
With such a long list of needs set out by the community and her host organization, Melissa took the time to carefully analyze the situation and dedicate her efforts toward a sustainable project that would truly benefit the community of caregivers. In her project, Melissa decided to address the community’s need for financial stability and education, as well as her host organization’s need to expand its media presence.
As such, Melissa worked efficiently and cooperatively to develop a plan to generate a start-up business led by the community members. After a discussion of various types of potential businesses, the community finally selected a soap-production business in which they would produce, package, market, and sell liquid and soap products. Using the seed grant provided to each intern, the community was able to purchase raw materials for the soap business. In addition to empowering the women in the community to start their own business, Melissa also created a brand new website for JOPDC. Prior to the development of the website, JOPDC only had a Facebook page. The new website can be found at https://jopdcuganda.wixsite.com/jopdc. In hopes of increasing outreach for JOPDC, Melissa worked thoroughly and diligently to incorporate the most important aspects of the organization, including an additional page highlighting the efforts of the women to further their cause.
As a Communication Sciences and Disorders major at her university and aspiring audiologist, Melissa also conducted an educational workshop on hearing loss. The event was very successful with many engaged attendees from the community. Her presentation can be found at: https://prezi.com/view/gsqaDfMm007vHdbwuDbX/. Lastly, back at home, Melissa began a fundraiser with her organization. A member of the philanthropy committee in her home organization, she applied herself persistently to fundraise for JOPDC and the community. After less than three weeks of fundraising, Melissa successfully raised $700 USD, which would go to supporting the women further in their soap production business. Throughout her internship, she demonstrated earnest and dedication in serving the community in Jinja. The start-up business, website, and knowledge shared among the community will continue to be sustainable for years to come. In the future, others may continue to contribute to these former efforts and address the more pressing issue of healthcare and educational inequities amongst children with disabilities. With increased economic stability and confidence, the caregivers of the children will have greater capacity to seek better treatment and opportunities for themselves and their families.