United we stand: Adventures and education abound in Uganda | TheUnion.com

United we stand: Adventures and education abound in Uganda

Nevada City's Sadie Valentine chats with Batwa pygmy children about dental care on a recent visit to Uganda.
Submitted photo

Editor’s note: Scott Kellermann and his wife, Carol, started the Kellermann Foundation, providing health, education and economic aid to Batwa pygmies in Uganda. The following is one of Scott Kellermann’s blog entries while a group of Nevada County residents were visiting Uganda:

“Agari hamwe nigo agata eigufa” is an expression in parts of Uganda meaning “it takes all the teeth to break the bone.”

Metaphorically it denotes “united we stand” or the inestimable value of working together. Besides this expression of solidarity, adult teeth are vitally important to the Batwa and the Bakiga tribal group, less so the baby teeth.

Jean Creasey, a Nevada City dentist, friend and previous head of the Kellermann Foundation, recently visited the Bwindi. Jean came to assist Nevada County residents Sadie Valentine’s and Lauren Chang’s research on “ebino,” a practice whereby local traditional healers extract the lower incisors when the tooth buds appear.

The lower incisors typically erupt at 6-9 months of age, coincidental to when maternal antibodies wane. During this period the child has a propensity to develop infections which are blamed on the emerging teeth. The collateral damage due to this procedure, besides needless pain and suffering, is the potential of infections including HIV and deformities of the permanent teeth.

It appears from Sadie’s research the greatest deterrent to the practice of “ebino” is dental education.

Jean and Sadie teamed up to deliver informative dental talks to the staff of the Bwindi Hospital, the Uganda Nursing School-Bwindi and to local schools. Besides dispensing dental knowledge, lots of laughs and good times were had by all.

While headed to a remote dental outreach, the thermometer in our vehicle “red-lined.” A crowd collected when we raised the hood but they quickly dispersed when I opened the radiator cap and a geyser of boiling liquid spewed forth.

I spotted the frayed pieces of a severed fan belt and realized we were stranded on a relatively deserted dirt road. Shortly thereafter I heard the voices of kids gaily singing and along came a truck packed with familiar faces; Batwa pygmy kids were returning to school after the Christmas holiday and the driver of the truck was a local mechanic. Many of the children disembarked to greet their friend Jean.

Sadie and Jean are exceedingly active and a few days later suggested exercise would be a great way to decompress.

“Perhaps a climb to the top of a mountain will be fun,” they encouraged.

A short hike turned out to be laboring up a narrow, nearly vertical trail as the heavens released. Although the summit was never reached and multiple ants feasted on our flesh, and we inadvertently trespassed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it was a fine adventure.

Jean and Sadie’s research on “ebino” will pay huge dividends but the gift of their presence; building relationships and bringing good cheer define the true meaning of “agari hamwe nigo agata eigufa.”

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