Sunday, June 1, 2008

Home Visits, Teaching and a bit of Sex and The City

Hello wonderful family and friends!

Where to start? So much has happened in the past week that I do not even know where I can begin! I guess I should start off where I left off...

Last Monday was my first time going into the rural villages near Kikaaya Village (where KACCAD is) to do home visits to people who are suffering from HIV/AIDS. Let me tell you, that walk or should I say crazy hike up a huge mountain is in no way my idea of fun. was rewarding after walking for 1/5 hours in the brutal sun to actually sit down with some of the most poor people I think that I have ever met.

The first house we stopped at was a family of 9. Both parents were HIV positive. The house (if you could call it that) of course had no electricity and was so dark inside. I remember that there were bugs and ants all over the floor. She offered us volunteers a seat on a bench but she sat on the floor and didn't seem to mind the fact that there were thousands of bugs all over her. She seemed so defeated. Her 7 children were all trying to look at us through one of the windows...even though it was the first day back to school none of them were learning and attending lessons because the parents could not afford to send any of their children to school because they could not afford the school fees. It was so sad inside that little house and it took me a while to fully understand that every day must be so much of a constant struggle for this family.

The second house we stopped at was honestly in the middle of the jungle (this description really doesn't do it justice but we were basically no where near modern day today). This widow lived with her two teenage daughters and had just found out that BOTH of her daughters are pregnant. Now, this woman who is not only HIV positive and can only afford the one room house is also having to deal with raising TWO more children as well as worrying about the fact that her family is trying to kick her off her land.

That day of home visits was a crazy experience and is something that I am going to have to get used to. We are going again tomorrow. However, KACCAD has run out of malaria nets and food (beans and rice) that we usually give out after counseling and updating with the families. Therefore, I am working on putting together some posters and handouts to give to the families when we go tomorrow that teach about simple things families we work with can do to prevent malaria (cutting tall grass around the house, covering their pit latrines, etc.), prevent water contamination (boiling water by leaving it outside in the sun for at least 6 hours) and etc. It is really fun researching all of these methods...I am learning SO much about HIV/AIDS, issues in developing countries that effect peoples basic living conditions, how exactly local NGO's work when there is little funding and the likelihood of our programs to be sustainable really depend on donors and money that might or might not come in the future.

Anyways, on Wednesday I met with the Headmaster of Kikaaya College to discuss KACCAD's proposal for the HIV/AIDS mural we want to implement at the secondary school. It was a bit intimidating meeting alone with the Headmaster...but he was totally for our project and we are good to go! I am so excited that I will be able to see this mural come to fruition during my time here in Uganda (as once we have finished the design contest among the students and selected the winner....who will not only be able to take ownership of the project but also receive one term of school fees paid for....we will be able to paint the design on the school walls for not only the benefit of the community but the students as well!). After meeting with the Headmaster, I also taught my first class in Uganda by myself! It was a bit nerve-racking to say the least! I had an interpreter (Nick from KACCAD) but it was crazy because there were about 60 students in this Senior Two class (who range in age from 10-14). I did a lesson where we spelled c-o-c-o-n-u-t with our bodies (as an icebreaker) and then a short game called Take A Stand to discover their base of knowledge on HIV/AIDS. It is going to be fun as I will return to this school every Wednesday to teach until I leave!

On Thursday we had a HUGE community HIV/AIDS testing event. We were expecting to host it at Lya Kawuuzi Medical Center in the Bulenga Trading Center but when we got there the owner said that we had reserved the grass OUTSIDE of the building. Amanda (Peace Corps volunteer at KACCAD) was furious and I was disappointed. So...we had our testing event outside and had to sadly deal with the rain showers when they came. It was a lot of sitting around but about every two hours I would help make presentations about basic HIV/AIDS information and about Positive Living (eating nutritious meals, mental health, etc.) to those waiting to see counselors or anxiously worrying about their results. One of the best parts was when the crowd would ask me afterward questions and I could confidently respond and answer them! I know so much more about HIV/AIDS and how it effects society here in Uganda at an overwhelming price and it is an amazing feeling to know that I am making a positive difference one Ugandan at a time! At the end of the event, which lasted from about 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. we had tested 185 community members! That was an amazing turnout!

On Friday, it was a pretty low day for me. This is because it was the day that Stu and Karoline left Uganda. They had been here for one month already and were heading back to Canada. They both attend Carleton University in Ottawa. Anyways, it was sad seeing them go and knowing that their company was a great transition for my two month adventure in Uganda. After they left, I went to a women only vocational school that I teach at every Friday. I lead a lesson on rape and the dangers of it and was surprised at how well the lesson went! We had about an hour discussion on how women can protect themselves from rape, how to deal with rape in the Uganda society and the power women have to make positive decisions on their own! I was so impressed and excited to be talking with them (most of them understood English but Nick was translating most of my lesson and answers to their questions into Luganda.)

*By the way, at this lesson they were very curious to hear if I had a Muzungu brother (I had to tell them no and that I only had a sister Nakato (twin sister)...and they were very disappointed!

Anyways, to cheer me up a bit Amanda took me into town (Kampala) to see the opening night of Sex and The City with a bunch of her Peace Corps friends! We got very dressed up and had a blast...we went to dinner in Garden City (the only American style shopping mall in the entire city) and went to see the movie! While I had never seen an episode of Sex and The City before...I LOVED the movie! After that, we all went dancing a bit in the city and slept in a hostel that believe it or not only cost me 5,000 shillings for the night (about $4.50)!!! It was a very fun time and on Saturday Amanda and I took a late breakfast in Kampala at a local cafe and then we went to Nakasera (which is a HUGE open vegetable/fruit market) to buy some stuff for the week! We went to her favorite vendor who is called Amos. He was so helpful...he even helped carry our goods while we went shopping for some fabric that I wanted to buy. I am going to get Adjit (the headmaster or the women's school that I teach at on Friday) to make me some skirts for gifts for family and friends! The material is very pretty and I can't wait to see the Ugandan skirts/shirts that come out of them! it is Sunday and I am exhausted! The days start off really early around here (6:30-7:00 a.m.) and then it is go go go! But...I am having so much fun. The culture shock is setting in a bit though. It is hard not having appliances and materials that you take for granted in the United States....such as a refrigerator, stove, constant electricity, air conditioning, etc. really isn't too bad once you get used to it all. The only thing I am still working on is the food. Sadly, the bread here is no where near delicious (it breaks apart so easily) and the traditional Ugandan food is an experience (I think I mentioned some of it earlier). But I am enjoying it all and am practicing Luganda as much as I can! I think that I will be quite good by the time I leave. It is kind of disheartening though when you say something in Luganda and they laugh at you...but I don't really care too much!

Well, I just finished cleaning up the volunteer room for about 3 hours and am quite happy that most of my stuff is out of my suitcase! It was good for my mental health to clean up a bit and to organize...just like what I love to do! Anyways, I am off to make pasta and veggies with Amanda for lunch and then am going to finish up "The Other Boleyn Girl" which is an AMAZING read! I will try to write more often....but I can't make any guarantees! Tomorrow it is back to work and I am ready for the challenge of another week!

I miss you all and hope that you are finding my blogs insightful and interesting!

Love you!

Babirye (Beth's name in Uganda which means first born twin)



Christine said...

Beth, What an adventure! I know that the health issues and poverty of the Ugandans must be getting to you. Keep up the great work! I can already tell that you will be back next year to continue on your work! Take care.

Anonymous said...

WOW Beth (or should I say Babirye? :) )! You really are making a difference working with the HIV/AIDS program! I know that I can't even begin to imagine the poverty. I think that you will be fine by yourself for a few weeks, you'll make it. That's so AWESOME that you're teaching your own class! Keep writing, I always look forward to reading your blog. I'm glad you're having fun! =D

Allison said...

Beth, thank you so much for writing to us about your experience. I am really enjoying reading about all the great things you are doing. It sounds like the classes are very rewarding - I'm sure you are an excellent teacher. I may have to steal the coconut icebreaker this semester. (:

Take care, Allison Crume