Under the Direction of Jonathan Stack, Co-Founder and Producer, World Vasectomy Day assembled a Team of Vasectomy Doctors and Support Staff from around the world to provide vasectomy training, services, and education in Rwanda before and during the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) from November 8 to November 14. Jonathan was in Kigali for a few weeks in April, again in July, and he arrived in Kigali on September 10 for two months of preparation for the big event. The support from the government and healthcare community was very encouraging.
Nine experienced vasectomists from six countries volunteered to provide didactic and hands-on training for Rwandan doctors at various sites throughout Rwanda. The participants all purchased air tickets and took time out of their schedules for this volunteer service.
The plan was to also provide a Vasectomy Symposium for interested doctors, medical students, and community health workers. Click HERE for the Symposium Schedule.
World Vasectomy Day (lower right) was even a Conference Sponsor.
On Monday October 15, barely three weeks before the event, Jonathan received a letter from the Minister of Health claiming that “some prerequisites still need to be done and this is a very busy period”. He was told that “no activity related to capacity building, awareness campaign or video filming can be implemented by your team without any accreditation and an MoU [memorandum of understanding].” An MoU had been submitted in July, but the Ministry of Health had stalled on making a final commitment to approve and support the joint WVD/NSVI endeavor. Jonathan and his Team returned to New York and made preliminary plans for a WVD event on Nov 16 in New York City or just across the Hudson River in New Jersey.
When the Program Director of the ICFP learned of the hasty departure of the WVD Team, she prevailed upon Jonathan to return to at least have a presence at the Conference. She offered WVD a booth and a presentation room with hopes that the Conference would “shelter” WVD from the regulations of the Ministry of Health. We would not be allowed to provide training outside the Conference, but we decided to take enough instruments and supplies to equip 4 operators to perform 20 vasectomies each. The hope was that, at best, the MOH might change its mind and allow the training, or at worst, we would still be able to demonstrate the ease and portability of vasectomy in settings with limited resources. The “original” team of 9 doctors was reduced to 4 (bottom row below). Renee wanted to enjoy the conference and Rwanda, Michel’s abstract had been chosen for oral presentation, and the abstracts of Charles and Doug had been chosen for poster presentation.
I prepared and packed 60 pounds of supplies, as well as anatomical training models, and promotional materials.
The Kigali Convention Center is a site to behold. Many booths, including that of WVD, were set up in the tent in front of the Convention Center.
We were assigned a single small booth, and hoped that we would have two open sides, but no such luck. We decorated it with happy images.
Within the Convention Center, we also had a nice large space which became our headquarters or “base”.
When it was made clear that the WVD staff would not be allowed to film or broadcast freely even within the Center (as WVD has done in other venues for 5 years), WVD magnanimously continued to prepare end-of-day videos summarizing each day of the Conference for the benefit of the Conference. Here Creative Director Nicolas Cuellar instructs his Rwandan Staff.
Michel Labrecque and I divided the NSVI supplies among 4 cases, each enough to perform 20 vasectomies with the addition of nothing more than alcohol and bottled water.
Young Rwandan Doctors were invited to a dinner at the hotel of the WVD staff. They were SO eager to learn vasectomy, but without clearance of the Ministry of Health, it was not to be.
The dinner was a nice opportunity to share ideas and figure out how to make the most of the next few days.
The ICFP was preceded by a Youth Conference on Reproductive Health. WVD presented one of their optional forums and was well attended. Some had no knowledge of vasectomy whatever.
Despite the fact that we were not allowed to live-stream via Facebook as planned, we did have our own opening ceremony with ribbon cutting by the Christopher Purdy, the CEO of DKT, WVD’s principal supporter.
At the Kigali Marriott, DKT sponsored a cocktail hour with guests from all over the world.
Here Michel and I are encouraged to bring vasectomy to Burkina Faso, a landlocked West African country north of Ghana.
Monday was Opening Ceremonies. Since we could not perform vasectomies (even though we had all obtained temporary licenses) we were prepared to present vasectomy in virtual reality, 360 videos made by Nicolas of my associate John Curington filmed from the perspective of the patient as though he were performing a real vasectomy. The line of eager viewers was 12 deep on Monday.
But on Wednesday, the Ministry prohibited even virtual vasectomies because the videos “had not been approved”. Our virtual reality “theater” was closed.
It seemed that all that was left was our booth, but it was one of the most popular booths at the Conference. We demonstrated every aspect of vasectomy using models …
… and videos. Audiences were fascinated by the ease of vasectomy and especially by no-needle anesthesia.
Guests came from all over Africa and took our contact info …
… with hopes that would be able to encourage their own health ministries to include vasectomy training and services in their own family planning programs.
Ethiopians were fascinated to learn how close we came to bringing our vasectomy style to Ethiopia back in April before plans were thwarted by civil unrest. They encouraged us to try again.
Representative from China knew nothing about a technique actually developed in China.
As the busiest vasectomist in Africa, Charles Ochieng was somewhat of a celebrity.
Michel gave an excellent talk on vasectomy techniques.
Charles presented his poster on The Determinants of Readiness to Undergo Vasectomy in Busia County Kenya.
And I presented a poster about the NSVI program in Haiti. Click HERE for a better view.
I was delighted to see Lydio Espanol, Regional Director of the Commission on Population in the Philippines, whom we will see again during NSVI’s annual February mission to the Philippines.
Kayemba Patrick is Chairperson of an NGO working the Iganga District of Eastern Uganda, the district with the one of the fastest growing populations in Africa. He will begin the process of organizing an NSVI mission in his district to provide vasectomy services and training based on the working model used in Haiti.
On Wednesday evening, at a dinner sponsored by Renee Johannensen, the WVD torch was ceremoniously passed to Marta Royo, the President of Profamilia in Columbia, the site of WVD 2019.
Friday was the official World Vasectomy Day, and we celebrated by greeting and supporting vasectomists around the world over Skype and FaceTime.
Before our departure, we were visited by Rushanika Christophe, one of the Rwandan doctors trained many years ago by Dr. Labrecque. His talent is underutilized in a country where so many men are still either unaware of or psychologically resistant to vasectomy.
Important WVD Team Members Jenna and Rebeca had departed before our final shot, but we captured the key players in next year’s World Vasectomy Day, headquartered in Bogota.