Thursday, June 26, 2008

Yikes...who stole the chickens?


I hope that I am finding you all well! I hope that you are enjoying reading my blog entries and that they are giving you a good idea of my amazing summer experience of service!

So, let’s see where I last left you all hanging…

Monday June 23rd:

This morning, we got up early to have our weekly meeting with the entire KACCAD staff which is below:

Derrick Luwaga (Director)

Amanda (Peace Corps Volunteer)

Sam and Nick (two Uganda staff members)

The Real Uganda Volunteers (me, Eri and Kylie)

We might be small…but we get a lot of work done! After the meeting, we left to do our Home Visit program. Today, we went around Bulenga and Bbira.

The first home that we visited was the home of a woman who was 83 years old (which is INSANE as the average life expectancy in Uganda is around 37). She had 12 kids, but 6 of them have died from AIDS. I was so shocked that half of her children died from this dreadful, incurable disease. She had no source of income because her age has prevented her from selling her avocados at a local market in Natete (where young kids would steal from her every day). However, she was so kind and did not speak very much English other than “Thank You”. I enjoyed talking to her and was so pleased that she gave us each an avocado for the road (they are amazing here!)

Our second client was a man of 36 years who had recently been tested as HIV positive in 2007. When his wife heard of his condition, she left him and took all of their things. Now, he lives with his uncle. However, he was not in good shape at all. My first image of him was when I was sitting on the steps outside of his modest home when I saw a man walking slowly towards us like it took all of his effort to move one foot after the other. It turns out that because of the HIV, he has developed a skin cancer on his legs that have left swollen and open sores with yellow pus coming out of it. It looked quite painful. On top of that, he has a mild case of Elephantitis, which means that his feet and legs have become very enlarged and his feet were bursting out of his tennis shoes. The guy was quite skinny too, but his lower body was huge because of the Elephantitis.

After our home visits for the day, which was quite exhausting because the heat was something awful so it took about 3 to 4 hours to walk around and visit our clients, we planned for our lessons at Kawempe Royal College. This is a new school that we are starting to teach at this week! I am so excited to see how it will go!

Tuesday June 24th:

Today we had a very BUSY day! So in the morning, we taught for the first time at Kawempe Royal College. To get there, we took a matatu (taxi) to Bulaga. When we got off the taxi, we went down this hill and took all of these crazy, weird small alley ways to where I thought was the school. Oh no. There was more. Once we got through the small alleys we came up to this ridiculously steep hill that overlooked a borehole (water well) where some local men were filling up jury cans (yellow water containers). After thankfully making it down the hill, we came across a mini forest that was overgrown with weeds and trees. We walked through the cool forest for about 10 minutes, where we had to jump a stream and then walk across a bridge made out of bamboo sticks. Then…we finally arrived. It was definitely an adventure to start off the day, but it was well worth the effort!

So here is what our time schedule looked like:

Senior 1: 9:20-10:20

Senior 3: 10:40-11:50

Senior 2: 11:50-1:00

So we had three different classes to teach this morning. It was quite busy but I enjoy that (as many of you all know, I am sure). The first class (Senior 1) was AMAZING! There were about 60 students who were so excited to have us. As an introduction lesson, we decided to let them know where we were from, what lessons we would be teaching and learning about during our weekly visits (which are life skills such as HIV/AIDS education, communication, team building, critical thinking, decision making, etc.) and some get to know you activities. With this first class, we played this fun game outside with them called “mingle, mingle” where they pretend that they are in a taxi park and when we shout a number such as “5” they have to find a group of 5 as quickly as they can and if you can’t find a group then you are out. They had a blast with that. We also played a game called “statues”, where we say a word or phrase such as “banana tree” and they have to create it with their bodies. They really enjoyed it, even their teacher was pretending to do the word “chicken” along with the rest of us!

Seni0r 3 was a bit different. The class was only about 15 and since they are older students they were more shy and less willing to talk. But after we did our lesson, they opened up a lot. We had them doing the “Macarena” as well as hearing how much they appreciate the opportunity they have to come to school and receive an education that is going to help them in the future.

Lastly, Senior 2 was about 35 students. They had so many questions for us, which is going to make lesson planning very exciting. They even gave us each Buganda names. For me, I already have the name of Babirye but in this class they want to call me Ssuubi, which means “hope”. I like it!

After we got back to KACCAD around 2:00 for lunch, Derrick decided to take us to visit a village where we are constructing a new spring well because of a donation that we recently received of $3,600.00

It took us about a 1 1/2 hour drive by car to get to this very, very remote village. The village is known as Bukaada village. On the way, we picked up the Chairman who goes by the name of Bukeya Fred. We had to park the car a bit away from where we were going to construct the spring well.

To get to the water hole, we had to walk through these bushes that were taller than me and down this valley where these gorgeously green mountains surrounded us. It was so perfect. I felt like I had been plucked out of the USA and put into the heart of Uganda in the middle of nowhere.

Once we got to where the new spring well was to be constructed, we interviewed some local villagers while I personally interviewed the Chairman. I found out that the spring well would benefit about 50 households in the area, which would be about 300 to 400 people. The new well is going to allow the people to have clean and safe water to drink from, so that they will no longer suffer from water born diseases such as stomachaches, diarrhea and bilharzias.

Also, the spring well is going to allow the local community to be a part of the change from the beginning to the end. A committee has been chosen from the local leaders to take ownership of the development of the spring well, which is going to start construction on this coming Thursday, June 26th. It should take from 2 weeks to 1 month to complete. Now, the 1/2 mile walk (for the luck villagers) will be met with clean water. I took some great pictures of the current water hole, which is so dirty and dangerous since many children have fallen in and died while trying to fill up their jury cans.

Wednesday June 25th:

Today, I taught a lesson about Rape, Sexual Abuse and Defilement (rape of a child under 18 years old) to my Senior 2 class at Kikaaya College. I really enjoy teaching that class. They are so full of life and ready to learn, even if they can be a bit rowdy at times.

They were very receptive to the icebreaker I played with them to start off the lesson…which was the boundary ball (I made one here in my spare time with a beach ball and a sharpie) and also with the lesson where we listened to a short story that I read and then came up with the dangers of rape list as well as what action steps we can take if we are raped or sexually abused. They had some great answers that even I did not think of! After the lesson, which ran about 30 minutes over, I answered countless questions that they had about rape, sexual health, HIV, their bodies, problems with their boyfriends, etc. It felt so good to answer their questions and to know that they trust me enough now to ask them.

Later in the evening, the power went out and it was another night of playing cards by candlelight and eating dinner in the dark. I actually enjoy it and find that when the power comes on, it is more of a distraction than a necessity…weird, huh?

Thursday June 26th:

Today I woke up to terrible news. In 2006, KACCAD started a chicken project in order to generate an income for 10 local women who were all HIV positive. The project started off with 250 chickens and was a product of thousands of dollars in donations. Last week, the women came to the KACCAD offices and told us that the chickens had stopped laying eggs. In the past, they have laid 115 eggs a day, but now they are only laying 25. They did not know what to do so we came up with an action plan. We would try and mix the chicken feed ourselves, since the quality of the food has gone down in recent weeks. If that did not work, we would maybe buy a cock so that 1/2 of the chickens would breed and the other 1/2 would continue to lay eggs. If that did not work, we would begin to monitor the project a bit more and to find out why the egg production has decreased so severely.

Well, that was the plan last week. But this morning, we woke up to find a distressed chicken farmer at our offices saying that last night nearly 150 chickens were stolen. Apparently, the locks had been cut and in the middle of the night almost 150 chickens simply disappeared. It is so frustrating and sad that these factors that are out of our control have lead to the termination of this project. Now, the 10 women are going to sell the rest of the chickens, because the project is no longer profitable and are going to have to find work in other ways. It is so frustrating that there is nothing that I can do about the situation and that these women were taken advantage of when they were just trying to get buy and provide food and a home for their children.

We also did our Home Visit program today. We visited two clients in a very far away village that I can not pronounce the name of.

So this brings me up to date! I am doing good but am not looking forward to the day that my plane leaves Uganda (which is Tuesday, July 15th). I have about 2 weeks left here and am trying to enjoy the rest of my time here and get my hands dirty until the very last minute with my volunteer work. This experience has truly been priceless and will be a journey that I will never forget. I can not wait to get back to Florida State University and to share my experiences with my fellow students and faculty and to continue to create positive and sustainable change in Uganda and the rest of the world.

Oh…a side note. So I am still having trouble with some of these Uganda men. My personal stalker, who is called Arthur and is a proud member of the Monkey clan (all Ugandans in this area are a part of a clan that is named after an animal), dropped off a mango that he bought for me a few days ago. This, along with a short story that he wrote for me and a picture of his family, is a few of many gifts he has tried to give me. But, last night when I tried to eat it…I found freaking maggots and a gross brown spot inside! I think it is a sign that our relationship is not meant to be. Ha Ha Ha.

Well, that is all that I have for now. I am going to leave you!

Nkwagala nnyo (Love you all very much),

Babirye :)

p.s. Mirembe (peace)

p.p.s. Jillian I looked over my Learning Outcomes and am doing well on accomplishing them!

  • I am learning to speak/communicate in Luganda
  • I am maturing my life values
  • I am definitely learning how to take challenges head on and to rely on myself and knowledge to overcome them
  • I am forming a strong family of Ugandans among my KACCAD staff (Sarah, our cook, is like a mom and Sam and Nick are like brothers that I never had as well as Amanda is like a great older sister)
  • I am working through the unexpected every day…you really never know what you are going to get when you wake up every morning. Each day is a new challenge and a new opportunity (my volunteer work has definitely allowed me to experience personal growth with my lessons on leadership, HIV/AIDS, sexual health, rape, etc.
  • I am hosting health seminars and leadership workshops with my students every week
  • And…I have definitely become a traveler more than a tourist (life in the village has helped so much with this change…I have a great story about my white water rafting trip that explains this perfectly…but that is for later).

Jebale Ko! (Thanks for your hard work) Weraba (Good bye!)!


Christine said...

What a surprise a blog update on a Thursday!! I am so glad that your classes are going so well. Are the 2 new girls going to take over your classes when you leave? As usual you describe things so well that I can almost visualize things. I can't wait to see the pictures and hear the stories. Stay safe. Love you.

AmyLeigh said...

Well hello Ssuubi! :)
I was just catching up on your last few blog entries, and I am just blown away by your entire experience. This is incredible. I am so so happy for you and cannot wait to hear more stories when you come back to FSU. Seems like this is a LIFE CHANGING adventure. I really have no idea what to even say to you at this point...I am just SO happy for you. Much love, Ssuubi. Much love.

Anonymous said...

You have the MOST amazing stories, Babirye :) I cannot wait to see all the pictures and videos that accompany all of your adventures! Enjoy the last two weeks - I know you will make the most of them!! Te extrano muchisimo y cuidate!!!!!