As we head into our last week in Uganda, things are starting to wrap up. It’s exciting to see all of the projects that we’ve been working on so close to completion, but it’s sad to think that we only have a few more days to spend with the wonderful people we’ve grown to know over the past month.
The wells are nearly complete, both just waiting for pumps. Thanks to the unpredictability of Ugandan electricity, there are still a few parts that weren’t ready to pick up over the weekend, so we are waiting for them to arrive from Kampala in the next few days. Installing the water pump and purification system is the last step before both Kiseeza and Mazooba have fully functioning wells and clean water!
(Tarryn and Sarah helping lay bricks and rocks in Mazooba)
One inspiring moment from the past week was watching the community come together in Mazooba during construction. The well is at the bottom of the hill where trucks cannot reach, so we had to dump all of the bricks and rocks at the top. We spent one full day with community members helping shift the materials to the bottom, working alongside people of all ages carrying what they could manage, whether that was one brick, or eight.
(Children from Mazooba carrying rocks down the hill)
We also had the chance this week to sit down with Walusimbi Willy, one of the co-founders of Rural Health Care Foundation, to talk with him about all of the different projects the organization does. We realized that we didn’t know about much outside of our projects since we’d been so focused on water. After hearing everything, we were blown away by the range of projects and extensive involvement they have with the communities surrounding Mubende. RHCF started with a goal of improving the health of communities, initially leading to programs in HIV/AIDS treatment. As the organization grew, they added on projects for orphans, food and nutrition, maternal health, and other small projects. While water is their primary focus now, RHCF still runs projects in all of these other areas when funding is available.
While we have all been working very hard on completing the wells, we did steal a weekend to get away. Nearly all of the RHCF staff went with us to Queen Elizabeth National Park to go on a safari! It was really fun to hang out with the staff outside of work and get to experience something new for all of us. We saw lots of different animals, from water buck to elephants to hippos lounging in the Kazinga Channel. We also got to cross the equator!
It’s almost half way through our project and things are going well! Both of the water projects are underway. The first, in Kiseeza, should be working by the middle of next week. We helped to build the cement covering a few days ago and we’re waiting for it to dry before we can finish up. Yesterday, we watched the start of the second water project in Mazooba village – in one day the community dug 10 feet! It’s been really exciting to witness the construction of both projects and to see the commitment of the community.
These successes haven’t come without some slight setbacks. The weather, periodic heavy downpours, have definitely delayed the progress at Kiseeza. Many times, due to soil saturation, the sides of the well caved in. This destroyed the work on the day and the well had to be re-dug. The heavy rains also have been affecting our ability to get to and from the site. Our car has been stuck in the mud more than once, but thanks to the ingenuity of the villagers, we have been able to get it out and moving again. This definitely isn’t what we expected when we thought about complications, but thankfully nothing has been able to stop us from pushing forward!
In our free time, we’ve taken on a few more projects at the office to help make an even bigger impact. Tarryn has been working on helping create reports and graphs from baseline data, and teaching the staff how to use the various programs needed. We’ve also been helping to revamp their website to make it more user friendly and to hopefully help them attract more donors and grants! Check it out!
On our way back from Kampala last weekend, we had the honor to stop by another RHCF project – Rural Mama Children’s Home. We found out that it is an orphanage that was created as an offshoot of an HIV/AIDS program that they were running in order to find care for the orphans of the affected persons. While it is still largely under construction, the work that RHCF has done and what they hope to do is inspiring, and we can’t wait to see where it goes.
Probably the hardest experience we’ve had so far is visiting the only school in Kiseeza that services all children in a 6km radius. Being only 2 years old, it serves over 150 students from baby school (preschool) to primary four. Despite being on holiday, most students showed up to greet us and sing us songs. The headmaster and one of the teachers took us on a tour of the grounds and told us about how important education was to the village and the children. Unfortunately, even though there is a need and desire for education, only 100 kids were able to take their exams due to the high cost of school fees. When we asked how much it was, we were devastated to hear that one trimester only cost 15,000 shillings, the USD equivalent of $6. Needless to say, we were inspired to do something to help the children and the school grow, and hopefully we will be able to contribute in the future (keep an eye out, we’re working on a plan!!)
Here are some photos so you can see what we’ve been up to!
This is a kid getting water from the current water source. Not only are these local sources highly contaminated and shared with livestock, they also pose a danger to children who can fall in and drown.
Measuring how deep the well at Kiseeza is. You can see the flooding around the well that happened after a rainstorm.
One week since we landed in Uganda, and it’s been quite the experience! Everyone at RHCF has been wonderful to us and made us feel at home. It took no time for us to get settled before we were out in the field working along with staff members and the communities surrounding Mubende. One of RHCF’s primary goals is to make sure there is no more open defecation by December 2014 through teaching sustainable hygiene and sanitation practices to all. We went out into the field to do baseline studies in different villages to assess the extent to which they already follow sustainable practices, for example looking at whether they use latrines or have hand-washing stations (which they call tippy-taps). The point of this is to assess the potential impact that a well would have on a community; if villagers do not practice sustainable hygiene and sanitation, then the water will be contaminated and the well will become useless.
After doing studies in four villages, we analyzed our data and selected the two villages where we feel the wells will have the most impact, Kiseza village and Mazooka village. The community in Kiseza was so grateful and excited about the project that they started digging the next morning at 8am and have been tirelessly working since It’s been amazing to see their progress and to watch the community come together to oversee its completion.
Having the chance to experience and learn about a new culture has been great for all of us. Paige has been our leading language expert and we’re learning that simple phrases like “my name is Paige” and “I like jack fruit” go a long way with the children, though they rarely choose to respond and rather giggle and look away. We have quite a fan club of children anywhere we go, normally there are about 20 trailing kids on any walk. The company has been great, and despite the laughs, it’s helping us improve our Luganda.
One of the funniest moments of the past week has been introducing peanut butter to the RHCF staff, it was a big hit. It’s asked for at every meal and has been put on everything from potatoes to beans to egg sandwiches. We’ve gone through half of a huge jar in two days, and we’re expecting it to be gone in a few more. After trying so many new dishes made by the staff, it was nice to share one of our favorite foods with them too!
This weekend we will be in Kampala and hopefully we will be able to get up some photos!
It’s the last couple days before the UW group takes off for Uganda, and we couldn’t be more excited!
- 5 interns
- 5 weeks
- 2 clean water and sanitation sources
- 2 amazing organizations
- 1 incredible project!
After working so hard throughout the school year on everything from establishing our chapter, to fundraising, to spreading awareness, it’s hard to believe the project is about to start! It’s been an amazing process working alongside our partner organization, Rural Health Care Foundation (RHCF) and learning about their mission and the communities they work with. Our project this year is the construction of two clean water sources in the Mubende district, where currently two-thirds of the population don’t have access to safe water, and even less have adequate sanitation. It’s our first trip for the University of Washington chapter and we’re looking to start out with a big success. Good luck to the fantastic interns, and thank you to everyone who supported our chapter in having a great first year. Keep updated on the interns and our project through this blog to see all of the amazing things they accomplish while in Uganda this summer!!