Ms. Aki Takai -  JICA Overseas Cooperation Volunteers
Dispatched to Uganda: Nurse

1.How did you become interested in international cooperation?

When I was in college, a professor who worked in a developing country talked about the experience during a lecture. That was what first sparked my interest. At first I was interested in state-of-the-art healthcare in places like America, but when I became involved with community health as a public health nurse, I had the opportunity to learn about severe health conditions and maternal and child healthcare in developing nations.
I began to question why it was so different from Japan, and I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I started to think that I wanted to do what I could to help.

2.What kind of work are you presently doing in Uganda?

I am doing physicals for expecting mothers and physicals and vaccinations for infants at the maternal and child health division of Gombe Hosptial in the Mpigi District.
The other main part of my work is making a system and improving the hospital environment using the 5S (seiri- organization, seiton- orderliness, seiso- cleaning, seiketu- cleanliness, shitsuke- discipline) workplace improvement method started by Toyota in Japan.
I offer support and training to the staff, and I am working hard with the goal to eventually improve the quality of medical care and services for patients.

3.What has made an impression on you recently?

In the local language, there is a very popular pop song called “Basima Ogenze” that has the message “Once you have left, everyone will better understand your importance and be grateful.”
The staff and patients have told me, “This song is written for you. After you have returned to your country, we will think that way about you.” I have asked myself daily if I am helpful to the people of Uganda, so those words were very encouraging to me. I love the song and I will never forget it.

4.What has taken your greatest effort, and what has been the most difficult so far?

The differences in language and culture have been a big barrier, and I fully realized how important an attitude of mutual compassion and understanding is. I am striving together with the staff on the 5S activities, but there are many things about Japanese methods that don’t work in Uganda. I am thinking about how to make it so it can be accepted in Uganda, and working hard at having opinion exchanges with the staff and sharing information. A conclusion of mutual consent was not reached, and discussions were prolonged, but when we found a good solution, we worked together and the staff and I were elated.

5.Do you have a message for people who are interested in international cooperation?

I’m working as a nurse, but I think you don’t need specific skills or knowledge to work with the JICA Overseas Cooperation Volunteers. The sense and customs that any Japanese person will have acquired, the things you have done since you were a child, will be useful in Uganda and helpful to the local people. The 5S activities are a good example of this. Moreover, I came to understand that people in developing countries admire the technology and thinking in Japan and are interested in it.
Don’t think of it as difficult. I recommend thinking of your strengths and skills, and trying a new challenge.

(January, 2011)