We were in the beautiful, forested foothills of the Mountains of the Moon in South Ruwenzori, Uganda, near the Congolese border. Out of telephone or radio contact with the rest of the world, we were a team doing Organizational Development work in hospitals operated by North American mission groups and staffed by a few expats, but run mostly by keen national Ugandan trained professionals.
The ambulance, a rudimentary van driven by a fine young Ugandan, was our means of transportation, and it had taken us on a long journey through some of the most fertile, always green, beautiful countryside we could have imagined. We had done workshops in hospitals along the way and at each one we were able to encourage enthusiastic National staff members who were keen to learn new ways of dealing with administrative difficulties and establishing achievable goals for their units.
Uganda was recovering from the trauma of the Idi Amin regime. The revolutionary army had decimated the country. Many of the population, especially the educated, the professionals, the doctors, had been arrested, tortured, or assassinated. At every hospital, before we were able to proceed with our agenda, we spent time listening to people who had terrible personal stories to tell of loss, displacement, and suffering. At a Seventh Day Adventist hospital, the doctor had made a frightening escape from Amin assassins, and he and his family described the ordeal in colorful, passionate detail. When, after Idi Amin had been deposed, the staff came back to their beloved hospital and homes, everything had been looted. They were left with a baren, filthy facility that needed to be cleaned, disinfected, rebuilt, and refurnished.
We stopped at one small hospital, run by a very young, sad physician. The building had no water supply. Everyone looked, understandably, discouraged. It was a short visit but it made a profound impression on us
The Ugandans we met in classes on the next summer’s trip, where we led them in administrative problem solving, almost invariably, were bright, sophisticated, articulate, and caring professionals. When given a written assignment, without access to computers, they wrote thoughtful and insightful papers that showed clear understanding of the issues at hand. When I asked them, in role-playing, to demonstrate ways in which village elders dealt with community conflicts, they were so realistic that I could easily imagine this to be a verbatim replay of a village council of elders at work in problem solving. We could then adapt this to administrative organizations solving problems in hospitals.
Our efforts resulted in the establishment of a new program for hospital administration at a college in Kampala which is still functioning successfully.
But the beauty of the Mountains of the Moon of South Ruwenzori still have a hold on my memory.