In August 2016 we were approached by Dr Jackie Smalldridge, a New Zealand Gynaecologist who volunteers in Uganda. There she performs life-changing Fistula surgery with a skilful group of medical professionals, supported by Medical Aid Abroad. About 20 minutes down the road from the hospital in Kagando, where Jackie and her colleagues are based on their trips, is the Bukonzo Joint Coffee Cooperative. Jackie saw an opportunity to help the community economically and fundraise for her medical camps at the same time so she brought back 7kg’s of their coffee and asked if we’d like to try it. We did and we liked it.
We sat down with Jackie (above) to talk about the work she does on the other side of the world, how many patients she typically sees, Bukonzo Joint and what keeps her going back. We hope you enjoy the read below.
How long have you been a doctor?
I qualified in 1986 and have specialised as a Gynaecologist since 1993. I worked as a specialist at Middlemore hospital for 23 years. I spent a year volunteering in India when I was 18 before I went to Medical School and always knew I wanted to more of this type of work in the future.
How did you join the volunteer team?
We’re a group of likeminded people working in the same field. My colleagues had been going for a few years and I joined them in 2015 for the first time. Medical Aid Abroad are affiliates to our group that help facilitate the work.
How many patients do you usually treat on any given trip?
120 over a couple of weeks. The women we operate on would typically stay in hospital for anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks depending on their condition. They need to be cared for pre and post operation.
Some of Jackie’s team’s patients waiting outside the hospital.
The surgery trips sound really full on, what keeps you going back?
The huge difference the work makes to peoples lives. Eventually we’d like these trips to be obsolete as our key mission is to train up the local doctors and nursing staff to be able to do the operations themselves. Even better would be to prevent the problem happening in the first place. The obstetric fistula problem does not happen in developed countries because of better access to care in childbirth. There are estimated 5000 new cases a year in East Africa.
Some of Jackie’s team’s patients and one of the local nurses in the ward at Kagando hospital.
Is the community & hospital in Uganda supportive of your work?
Yes, they are very supportive of our work and the women are very appreciative.
How did you find Kokako? And what made you approach us to try the coffee? Through Debbie Wilson, of the Counties Manukau District Health Board. I was looking for a Fairtrade coffee roaster who would appreciate it, it was good luck that I found you.
Where did you buy the first bags of coffee you brought back to NZ?
Judith, our team leader, told me about the cooperative so I requested an afternoon off to go visit. We drove there in a rusty old Landrover and were greeted at their dusty old building - where the cooperative admin and roastery operate. Everything was done on paper and they were only selling ground coffee but I managed to get my hands on some (roasted) whole beans. The 7kgs I bought stunk out my suitcase! I had to keep it in the corridor because it was so pungent.
We didn’t visit any of the cooperative’s coffee farms. Most of the cooperatives members farm subsistently and only have a few coffee trees to create extra income for their families. They don’t drink coffee themselves.
What do you think of the taste profile of our Bukonzo Joint Single Origin?
It’s a much nicer flavour than the original beans I brought back, but I’m not the right person to ask. I just drink coffee for its effect!
…and lastly, how do you have your coffee?
Jackie and her colleagues pay their own way on their volunteer trips. Jackie’s team provide the hospitals with the appropriate finance to fund each operation and the local hospitals provide ward space, food, transport to-and-from the village, the nursing staff and extra theatre staff.
Thanks to Jackie, over and above the Fairtrade Premiums that go back to support the Bukonzo Joint Coffee Cooperative, we’re donating $1.00 from every 200g retail pack we sell to Medical Aid Abroad. Want to support the cause while enjoying a bright buttery coffee? Why not buy a box for yourself, or a mate?
Bukonzo Joint is best suited to non-pressurised brewing such as Pour Over , plunger or Chemex.