On Monday, we were told we would be helping out members of the community with small projects and home development type things. On Tuesday, we got up early and went with our friend, Fred (the handy man of House of Hope), down the road to get to work.
There are two main roads you can take to get to House of Hope from the central street of Kyazanga. These roads follow along a valley and have small brick houses located every several hundred feet away from each other. Their residents tend to sit in their front yards preparing meals, clothes, or mats; and they are always ready to greet people as they walk by. When we were told about the community work, I just assumed we would be working at one of these house, but that was a totally incorrect assumption, to say the least.
Fred took us to the the edge of one of the main roads and began cutting down bamboo-like plants from some farm–the farm that we are actually working on now :)– and throwing them to us to take the leaves off. These bamboo are often used in the building and stabilizing of houses here. Little did we know that we were about to be carrying these bamboo on our shoulders 1-2 miles up mountains and through plantations, and over paths, and down and around and under… and it just seemed to go on forever, basically.
Finally, we reached a house and stopped. We dropped the bamboo and laid on the ground to recuperate for a few minutes. We eventually discovered this was not our final destination, though. We got back up, but left the bamboo there, and kept going up the hills through the banana trees. We finally reached the house at the very tip top of the mountain. The view would have been AMAZING had we not all been dying of exhaustion.
Upon reaching the top, we each got a good swig of water and followed Fred back down the hill via a different path. We reached a pile of dirt, and it appeared to be what he was looking for. He began filling up baskets and jerry cans with dirt. We suddenly realized our task for that morning. We were going to be carrying this dirt up the hill to the house. They were then going to use the dirt to make a wall for their house.
We got ourselves together and started moving the dirt. After a few treks up and down the mountain, someone suggested an assembly line that made the work much easier, but still difficult. I actually got one of the women that lived there to make me a cushion out of banana leaves and started carrying the dirt on my head. We went back and forth for about an hour and a half to two hours before resting.
Upon creating a sizable pile of dirt next to the house, the family was incredibly grateful and made us matooke (bananas) and posho for lunch. We had run out of water, though, so we were beginning to get desperate. Luckily, Jenifer–the manager of House of Hope–showed up in her Prado off-road vehicle and saved us with water and sodas. She also gave us a ride back down the mountain and showed us another house we would be working at on Thursday.
The next day was fairly uneventful. We taught, we played with the kids, we brainstormed for the farm.
(One of the things that became frustrating right around this time was that World Action had still not transferred our money to us yet. Because of this, we were not able to actually start working on our project without any of our money.)
On Thursday, we went up the house we were showed and started to get to work. This work consisted of breaking down the dirt from a massive termite pile about 30 meters away from the house, moving the dirt to the house, wetting the dirt with water from a pool about 200 meters from the house, mixing the dirt into mud, and making bricks/throwing the dirt at the house to make walls.
As you might have already determined, this was incredibly tedious work. As we broke down the termite pile that was at least 6 feet tall, the termites would pile out from its core. Although all the mzungus (white people) were questioning the idea of using a termite-infested mound to build a house, we just went along with it.
After moving a lot of the dirt, a group of children from House of Hope came up to help us move water. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like without them. They were an immense amount of help.
After the whole moving process of dirt and water, the mud mixing and building of the walls was actually really fun. We all got down and dirty and the walls were constructed within two hours.
Looking at the house, it still was just four walls of mud. Sure, it wasn’t that impressive, but it will totally keep that woman that lives there and her five kids dry the next time it rains. I am pretty proud that I got to be a part of that improvement in their lives. I know the rest of the team is, too.
Later that night, two more mzungu girls showed up to volunteer at HoH. One was from GVN (Global Volunteer Network)–Danni–and the other was through a previous volunteer at HoH–Rakel. They were both 21-year-old girls. Danni from England, Rakel from Australia. We spent the evening getting to know them. It was a great end to an incredibly tiring day!
So, I had initially planned on filling the blog in on a day-to-day basis of what we were doing and how the progress with our project is going, but there is just too much happening too quickly to go back and do that for every day. I will try to give a brief synopsis of the last week below:
After the first days we have become more acquainted and comfortable with the kids. They are unbelievably sweet and wonderful to work with. Africa time is starting to frustrate a few of us because people and projects here just tend to move at a slower pace. Joy and I have been working with grades 1-3 and David and Mary have been working primarily with grades 4-7.
Wendy, an Australian woman we picked up on the way to House of Hope has raised enough money for the HoH to build two classrooms. The past Friday and Saturday we moved about eight tons of wood for them to cook with, as well as a similar amount of agrogate (really big pieces of gravel) and sand for them to make cement for the foundation. It was also a joy to carry up water in jugs up the hill for them to actually mix everything together–the children helped us immensely, though. They were all so willing to shovel and help us wheelbarrow everything up the hill.
After a full day of shoveling and wheel barreling and manual labor on Saturday we decided to head over the Kampala for the weekend to relax a bit. On the way, we paid about 6 bucks to get on a taxi meant for 12, that actually held 21 passengers. Luckily the surplus got off within the first hour and a half on the road, though.
We got to Kampala completely exhausted Saturday evening and got up early Sunday to eat a delicious breakfast at the Red Chilli and head out to buy some souveniers and experience the city a little more. Elise was the best tour guide we could ask for. We spent the day at a market, and then one of David’s friends who is also in Kampala this summer took us all out for Ethiopian food. We had so much food, and fun, and great conversation.
On the way back, we were forced to pass by these street children on the sidewalk. Some of them were literally infants, some had peed themselves. For me, personally, it was a moment that won’t leave me any time soon. We had been warned about this by Lee when we arrived, but tonight was the worst of it that I had seen. The parents or guardians will set their kids on the street and tell them to get money from muzungu.
When I saw that–children that couldn’t even walk yet, sitting on the street with their hand up for money– it was a true feeling of hopelessness. I cried all the way back to the Red Chilli and continued once we got back. At some point, though, I just realized that sitting there crying was not being productive at all. While walking past and ignoring them is not productive, weeping and being over emotional won’t do anything either. The group resolved to wake up early today, and we are going to buy bread and some fruits and vegetables for them. Although it seems incredibly insignificant, at least it’s something. That’s what we are doing this morning and then we are heading back to the House of Hope tonight.
After spending the morning in Masaka after the last post, we got a heads up of a demonstration to go on at about 5pm, so we left for the House of Hope at 3:30. Got on the main highway that goes all the way from Uganda and through Rwanda. We passed through numerous little villages with children shouting “Muzungu! Muzungu!” as we passed. It’s my guess that seeing a muzungu (white person) in Uganda, is something like the punch bug game pack home, because every child and a fair number of adults yell it every time they see us.
When we reached Kyazanga, (pronounced chee-ya-zanga) it was no different. As we made our way from the highway to the small back streets children would run from their houses to the street yelling “Bye Muzungu” and waving and jumping. Every once in a while there would be one infant that would start crying and screaming upon seeing their first muzungu, but the vast majority were extremely adorable.
When we actually arrived at the House of Hope, all the children ran to the vehicles, waving and yelling, “Hello!” or “How are you!” and hugging us with all their might as we stepped onto the dirt in front of the school. It was the greatest welcoming anyone could hope for!
We quickly met the headmaster and the volunteer, Elise, 18, who has been at the House of Hope through GVN (Global Volunteer Network) for the past month.
As we were shown the guest house and introduced to various staff, the children carried all our luggage from the vehicles to the porch of the guest house.
During our introduction we were given our basic weekly schedule, which is roughly: Monday: free, Tuesday: community work, Wednesday: teach, Thursday: project/community work, Friday: teach, Saturday: project/community work, and Sunday: free. We all volunteered to teach various subjects and classes and promptly had our first true Ugandan meal. Dinner consisted of rice, beans, and cabbage–which is to be our dinner every night for the rest of our stay at the House of Hope.
That evening the Nourish team, our Australian friend, Will, and our Canadian friend, Elise spent a lovely evening just talking, getting to know each other, and preparing for the following day.
The next day, we hadn’t had our official class schedule yet, so we just sat in a few different ones to see how they ran. It soon became obvious that the children were all incredibly well behaved and genuinely passionate about learning. It also became clear that the only real form of teaching here is rote memorization. As I sat in and listened, I attempted to formulate slightly alternative ways of teaching the same lessons.
At lunch time, we had the same meal as the children : posho and beans. Posho is a type of incredibly dense, flavorless, maize concoction. Although incredibly filling, the taste is amazingly similar to dirt. But, we all ate and remained satisfied until our next meal.
Our second day in Kampala, Lee took it upon herself to show us the ropes. First, she took us to a popular muzungu (white/wealthy person) shopping mall, called Garden City to exchange more money. Next, she helped us get a working cell from a guy working in a tiny open electronics store. One of the strange things for us to understand is that EVERYTHING is used. Almost nothing in Uganda is new- from the clothes people wear, to the cell phones they buy. So, we bought a relatively nice used phone for 70,000 shillings and went on our way. The craziest place we went was the open air taxi market. There is an area in the very center of the city with entirely gridlocked traffic and a maze of these taxi buses. People were shouting in every direction trying to sell things and get around the various obstacles. I imagine it is something like the stock market in New York only outside, with as many vehicles as there are people, and not much calculation at all. There must have been some sort of method to the madness, but I sure wasn’t around long enough to figure it out! On the way out, we bought some of the most delicious mangos we’ve ever had and spent the rest of the day relaxing at the Red Chilli.
We made our way to Masaka the next day. Jenifer came to pick us up at the Red Chilli around 10:30am the next day. She brought a 15-year-old girl named Sala and 2 drivers with her. They stayed and enjoyed some food there, as the food at the House of Hope is not as varied. We ended up staying there until about 12:30.
Next, we took a drive back to Entebbe to pick up two more volunteers from a different organization. I was assuming we would go straight to the House of Hope from Entebbe, but we definitely did not. We took the 1-2 hour drive there from Kampala, picked up the 2 volunteers, and went all the way back to Kampala. (I think this was one example of a communication problem) While back in Kampala, we went to Garden City for snacks for the road and started off for Masaka.
Masaka ended up being about a 5 hour drive. It was a full taxi with our packs, but it ended up being a good opportunity to converse a bit. We passed tons of little markets and got a little bit more into the jungle/forest area of Uganda. One of the coolest things about the trek, was that we actually crossed the line of the Equator on our way from Kampala to Masaka! (Or, at least that’s what somebody told me.)
We wanted to get all the way to House of Hope, but it started to get too late, so we had to stop at Masaka and stay at Jenifer’s house for the night. I cannot describe the maze of forest, small houses, and muddy roads to reach her abode. As we went around corner after corner, we just kept thinking- “this must be it.. no? okay.. wait.. this one.. it must be… okay.. maybe not.”- When we finally arrived, we were welcomed by a man with an AK-47 guarding the her house. I m just glad that he was on our side. We spent a great, relaxing night in her house and woke up the next morning to head into the town for internet and to get a few more random bits of supplies. We will be heading to the House of Hope later today. We will probably not be able to update the blog again for about a week.
We arrived in Uganda Friday, May 20th at the Entebbe Airport around noon. A volunteer coordinator named Lee came to meet us at the airport. She was holding a sign with our names on it and wearing a bright blue dress and an even brighter smile. She helped us exchange some cash, and we promptly found a taxi to take us to Kampala. Taxis here are basically vans with 16 seats for passengers. The one we got into had half of the seats folded down for our luggage. The words, ‘THE GUNNER,’ were splashed across the windshield. The two boys driving appeared to be in their teens, and both had big smiles on their faces, as we attempted to say, “Ki kati! Oli Otya?” (Hello! How are you?). The first thing we passed as we left the airport was field filled with retired airplanes and a fenced in area with UN boxes piled high. As we kept driving, we passed numerous pedestrians walking along the roadside, tons of bota-botas (motorcycle taxis) flying past us, and a number of other taxis like we were in. Surprisingly enough, the most common business along the main road was the sale of paint. (I know, it surprised me, too!)
As we got closer to Kampala, the roads became more crowded and the land surrounding the roads became more clustered as well, only with homes and shanties and such. Within Kampala, there are three main roads and a slew of smaller roads that appear to be spread out in chaos around the main roads. When we were paused at stop lights, boys would run up and attempt to sell us maps and other merchandise through the windows. We worked our way through the city until we reached a slightly less crowded road with an arrow pointing to some place called the Red Chilli Hideaway.
We entered the Red Chilli through a guarded gate and made our way to our home for the next two nights. This area was pretty much a safe haven for the muzungu (white people) coming to Kampala. It was such a strange sight to see so many outsiders in the one little area. After getting settled, Lee brought us to a table outside and we discussed more details of our upcoming time at the House of Hope. We discussed bugs, clothing, cleanliness, expectations, and so on. After our talk we had an excellent dinner at the restaurant located within the safe haven of the Red Chilli. I promptly fell asleep afterwards at around 8pm and didn’t wake up until it was necessary the next day.
Friday, May 9, the Nourish team met up at one of the best places in Knoxville to learn about living sustainably: Beardsley Community Farm. Beardsley is primarily run by members of AmeriCorps and various volunteers around the community. The food that is harvested there is nurtured by dedicated hands, sustained by rainwater, fertilized with the community’s compost, and eventually given to various non-profits around the area.
Upon arrival at 1:30 in the afternoon, the sun was shining, bees were buzzing, and the AmeriCorps members were scattered around the farm in their sunhats performing their various duties. Rachel was kind enough to show us around the farm, illuminate us about the dangers of growing female asparagus and introduce us to their chickens, which I believe were named Sandra Day O’Connor and Hilary Clinton. After giving us the tour, we spent the majority of our time picking chamomile flowers for tea and hammering nails out of wooden boards.
Although this experience is undoubtedly different from the experiences we will be having in Uganda, it was a great opportunity for us to get hands on, get a little dirty, and communicate with a group of incredibly knowledgeable people. Thank you so much to Lauren, Rachel, Katie, Liz, and all the folks at Beardsley for showing us the ropes around Beardsley and making us feel welcome!
For more information on Beardsley Community Farm, check out: http://beardsleyfarm.org/
Welcome to the official blog of Nourish International’s 2011 Summer Project in Kyazanga Village, Uganda, also known as Ugandan House of Hope! This blog will document the experiences of our four-member team at the House of Hope, an orphanage and school located in Kyazanga Village. House of Hope partners with World Action for Humanity to care for roughly 100 orphaned children. The goals of the project include cultivating farmland for nourishment and income of the House of Hope, as well as, building a new classroom to expand educational resources. While in Uganda, you will be able to follow along on our journey through this blog. We are really excited to share our experiences with you and hope you enjoy hearing about them!
For more information about the House of Hope, check out their website at: http://worldactionforhumanity.org/projects/house-of-hope/