Midshipmen Contribute to Improving Ugandan Hospital
POSTED ON: Thursday, March 27, 2014 8:00 AM by Naval Academy Public Affairs
First-class midshipmen from 23rd Company recently gathered at the Annapolis Yacht Club for a night of dinner, fundraising and celebration. But what seemed from the outside world to be merely the merriment of first class year was in reality much, much more.
Thousands of miles away, in the tiny village of Uganda, a small medical clinic was also celebrating the generous donations of 23rd Company, a product of Midshipman 1st Class Eric Davids’ summer experiences and hard work.
“There is a clinic in Patongo, Uganda, called ‘Rwot Telo Yoo’ which supports basic health needs for the village and surrounding area,” said Davids. “The village, which is home to Acholi people, is located in a remote part of northern Uganda that was severely affected by the prolonged conflict involving Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
Rwot Telo Yoo, the clinic for which 23rd Company raised funds, is home to two of Uganda’s most prominent doctors, Dr. Alex and Dr. Francis Layloo. Davids had the unique opportunity to meet these doctors and see the work of the clinic first hand when he spent six weeks in Uganda this summer.
“During my brief stay, I witnessed the clinic’s staff treat children for malaria, care for a man after a traumatic motorcycle accident, and save a suicidal man’s life after he poisoned himself.”
Davids went on to speak about how the remarkable work of the staff was done under the most primitive conditions without proper beds, running water, or electricity.
“At night, I would stand beside the nurses holding a cellphone light so that they could see where to inject the IV.”
Davids experience was completely funded by the Naval Academy through a generous donation from Robert M. McKinny, USNA Class of 1947, enabling him to craft and fulfill a service project. Davids spent six weeks in Uganda and worked primarily on an education initiative in Gulu for a group called “The Child is Innocent,” but also had the opportunity to visit Patongo and Rwot Telo Yoo.
The experience impacted not only Davids, but also the members of 23rdCompany who were eager to get involved.
“When I returned from Uganda, company mates would frequently come by my room to hear stories and see pictures from Patongo and Gulu,” said Davids. “Everyone was incredibly supportive, and I could sense a particularly deep empathy towards the medical plight of the Acholi people in Patongo.”
23rd Company’s contributions to Rwot Telo Yoo helped the clinic’s staff purchase a large supply of medications, buy materials for much-needed renovations, and bring electricity to the clinic. These are huge advances with incredible implications for the clinic’s ability to deliver effective healthcare to people of Patongo for years to come.
Davids believes that his involvement’s will shape him as a more dynamic and effective officer. He has come to appreciate two aspects of low-level civil-military relations.
“First, I believe there is a need for strong lines of communication between the Marine Corps and humanitarian personnel,” said Davids. “The key to using these resources sustainably is seamless communication with aid organizations and institutions that will remain long after the Marines depart.
“Second, individuals’ perceptions of militaries vary greatly,” he said. “Recognizing preconceived notions of fear harbored by many people around the world will be a key to positive engagement and mission success.”