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!!
The Duke and Penn State chapters have returned to the states after an amazing and rewarding experience in Uganda. After six weeks working with Community Concerns Uganda, each intern has grown personally and truly made an impact. From traveling to schools to dancing with the group savings program women, there are numerous moments to treasure. We can honestly say a piece of our hearts were left back in the pearl of Africa.
During our time there we were able to visit close to twenty primary and secondary schools. We feel that each classroom we set foot in benefited from our presentations. The students were equipped with a better understanding of their bodies, disease, and sexual/reproductive health. We hope that we influenced them to make better choices, increase their knowledge, and in turn have a better future. For the women we worked with in the villages, the new skills we taught them will help to expand their businesses and savings. The new record keeping techniques and business strategies will ensure their success in the future. In the village of Nakalanga, the pit latrines will allow the community to be more sanitary and decrease the spread of disease. If used properly the pit latrines will be of service for years to come. Lastly we hope that each person that we came in contact with during our time in Uganda was somehow impacted by something we said or did.
We can definitely say our work in Uganda not only impacted the people there, but allowed us to be impacted as well. We were given the opportunity to experience a new culture, perspective, and way of life. We now have a better understanding of the conditions in impoverished areas and the best ways to address those issues. We have been blessed with a second family and numerous friends. Community Concerns and its staff taught us that a dream can become a reality. With passion and drive, we can help change the world.
It has been a little over a week since we have returned to our respective homes and routines. Adjusting back to our normal lives sure hasn’t been easy. We have all realized a new gratitude for the luxuries that we have. Running water, refrigeration, food at our fingertips, and constant transportation are all things that we don’t take for granted. The impoverished conditions that we came across each day of our stay in Uganda are etched in our minds. However the faces we saw weren’t marked by sorrow, dread, and misery but instead happiness, serenity, and joy. These are the faces that will flash through our minds when we think of our travels. The smile of the woman dancing. The smile of the student singing. The smile of the young boy kicking around a bird’s nest as a soccer ball. The smiles of the waving orphans that we passed each morning on our way to work. These are the faces that we will remember and treasure forever.
It’s been just over a week since we got back from our trip to Uganda and what an experience it was. For the Davidson-UF team this trip was unlike anything we had ever done. It’s much easier to talk about development and poverty eradication inside the walls of a classroom, but actually having those conversations while working in the region is completely different. We are happy to report that we were able to finish our project. We successfully got the goat house built, purchased a total of 55 goats, and distributed them to students and their families as well as members of the local community. We hope that the owners of these goats will be able to use them as a source of income and that the project will remain consistent with Nourish International’s goal of finding sustainable solutions to poverty. To keep the goat project going 5 out of the 55 goats will remain at URF. With this trip came a fair amount of challenges that were listed in one of our previous blog posts, but I am glad that I decided to go on this trip. Without it I would not have met my spectacular project team members, Mehrzaad and Cy or the Boston University/Hope College team (Kanoko, Brenda, and Blair). It was truly a pleasure working with all of them as we stumbled our way through learning Luganda, posho, and walks through Masaka town.
Although we were not as involved in our original project as we had hoped, we found we were able to work with URF in other ways. We worked on the debate system that the school used to help their students practice English and public speaking skills. We reworked the existing system and streamlined it to enable the students to truly focus on practicing English while not getting lost in the technical aspects of the debate system. In addition to tweaking the debates we also led weekly public speaking workshops.
Once a week we traveled to neighboring towns with one of Hope Academy’s teachers to speak with students about the importance of education. The area we were in was experiencing problems with students forming strikes and acting out violently in schools. Our role was to discourage them from doing so.
Overall this experience, although challenging, taught all of us a great deal about development and how to make it happening within a country’s cultural context. What struck me about Uganda was the willingness of the average person to help another who found themselves in a difficult situation. We were lucky enough to meet several people who were truly selfless. They gave everything they could while expecting nothing in return. One of the friends we made owned and operated a maize mill and would frequently give maize flour to Hope Academy free of charge and his family also sponsored several children who could not afford to pay their school fees. This friend just so happened to own the farm next to URF and we were able to visit him often and learn about the motivations behind his work. He explained that as an educated and fairly wealthy member of society he could have gone and looked for a job in Kampala (the country’s capital), but he chose to continue working in agriculture. When we asked why his response was simple, but it captures the spirit and strength behind the collectivist culture that exist in Uganda. He said, “If I went to Kampala I would be looking for one job, staying here I create many jobs.” With his high level of education and social status he could have easily pursued opportunities outside of Uganda, but he chooses to stay in the country to better the lives of the people around him. He continually told us, “Come back guys, in two, three, years things here will be different”. It is this kind of unwavering belief in change that will enable it to happen.
During the time we spent in Uganda we found that we had a surprising amount of downtime, which initially was rather frustrating. We arrived ready to go, get working on the project, lead it and make sure it was executed the way we envisioned it, but instead we were spending a lot of our time inside our host family’s house. As time went on I began to realize that I was just an observer, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Why did I arrive thinking I knew what needed to be done and that I could do it as well or better than the people that lived there? I was a guest who was able to get a window into the workings of this particular community and given a reference point from which to tackle the question, what is development?
It can be described as a progression from point A to point B, in other words a step up the ladder. The persisting problem with the term development is the inherent question it poses. What are we developing and where is the line between developing and developed? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but this trip really got me thinking about development on a deeper level.
It is a strange sensation to be so fully outside of ones cultural context that the only emotion that you can muster is inquiry and confusion, utter puzzlement of the situation at hand. Looking back I remember wondering why Uganda was in the state that it was. I felt angry and saddened when I saw people’s living conditions and heard about the hardships they had endured, but that right there was the problem. With my line of thinking, I seemed to be in the minority. Most people were reasonably comfortable and happy with the way they were living. As a friend said, “The problem is that people here are too comfortable in poverty”, but that is looking at Uganda through my lens, a western lens, which was shaped by my upbringing and experiences. The people of this country are not lost in poverty; they are simply living. Is it a bad thing to be content just living without the excess that we as Americans have grown so accustomed to? These are only a few of the questions I asked myself and continue to think about. I did not do what I had originally planned on doing in Uganda, but I have gained a completely new perspective on development. I am excited to continue working with Nourish and strengthening the newly founded Davidson chapter in an effort to further explore potential answers to these questions.
Hi, all! I’m the Chapter Leader for Nourish Penn State. I’ve been updating the interns’ blog posts with pictures from their emails/social medias because uploading on here is very slow and uses a lot of data for them. CCUg, our partner org, posted a bunch of great photos on their Facebook page about what they’ve been up to on their last week, and I had to share! Here are a few of my favorites and make sure to check out the other blog posts for more!
Final day of the pit latrine project; handing it over to the community:
PSU IP Director, Lauren, being interviewed by NTV!
We’re on to our 4th week here in the Oyam District. I finally feel that I have adjusted to living here and all the customs (such as “Africa Time”). So far this week I have worked on building the pit latrine for Leah’s family. Leah is a beautiful baby girl who was born blind. The latrine that her family has been using is not suitable for her and her sister (who is also handicapped). While building the latrine, the men don’t let us do too much of the important work because they fear we’re not strong enough/ we might mess it up. But, we still are very proactive. We have collected rocks, bricks, and sand for all three latrine sites. We also got to use a sledge hammer and smash the rocks into bits for the cement mix. The strenuous labor really helps get out your frustration. It’s been a challenging, but also enriching experience working on the latrines. I never was much of a “handy-man” at home so it is a new experience learning to use these tools and be able see something that I made with my hands turn into an actual project! It’s exciting! I also feel that I have grown closer to my fellow project interns and the GHNU staff. During down time, the GHNU staff talk to us about their upbringing and life in Uganda. It’s very interesting to hear them so casually open up about their hardships (especially about the impact Kony had on their community). I have also had interesting discussions with the project interns. Before every meeting, Joyce assigns us a partner in the group to talk to for at least thirty minutes and return with at least one interesting fact about their life. It has actually been really helpful with getting to know the rest of the team (even if it is awkward for the first 5 minutes). I’ve learned so much about the interns, their lives, and what influenced them to come on the trip. We also got to meet some other non-profit workers who work with musical therapy. It was fun to talk to people outside our group and hear about their project and why they decided to come to Uganda. This trip has been so amazing and as our departure date gets closer I realize more and more that I don’t want to leave. I’ve connected with a lot of people here, especially the little kids, and saying good bye is going to be very difficult.
On Monday and Tuesday of last week, all of interns at Community Concerns Uganda participated in very productive team meetings. We discussed all of the projects we have been working on – the Group Savings Program, health education at the schools, working on the community garden, and the pit latrine project in Nakalanga Village. Within this discussion, we talked about each individual project’s goals, the progress we’ve made throughout our time here so far, and new recommendations that we hope to implement within the near future and by the time Penn State’s and Duke’s interns are here next summer. We were successful in developing ways in which we can address some of the challenges we’ve faced, such as finding new ways to maximize productivity, new ways in which we can organize data, and training that would help us be more effective in working with children who are undergoing hardships at home.
All of the interns attended Walibo Seed Primary school on Wednesday morning as well as Hands of Grace Primary School in the early afternoon. At both schools, we gave our usual lessons on proper sanitation and hygiene, drug and alcohol abuse, and sexual health, and it was a success. The children were all very engaged in our lessons and were quick to raise their hands to answer questions we posed for them about what they’ve learned. A teacher at Hands of Grace came up to one of our interns at the end of the lesson asking her if she was a professional speaker, for he learned so much during her lesson and was very appreciative of Community Concerns Uganda taking the time to help educate not only the students, but the teachers as well. It made us appreciate the work we do here all the more, and we were so glad that not only were the children learning, but so were the teachers.
On Thursday, we had our Group Savings Program. We were able to implement some of the recommendations that we discussed earlier in the week on how to improve the program to make things run smoother and to utilize all of our interns to their full capacity. Although it took us a while to get used to the new method of record-keeping, we are optimistic that it will help CCUg be able to be more successful and potentially be able to reach out to more communities with an increase in efficiency. On Friday morning we traveled to Lwanyama Primary School and Greenfield High School. This was a special visit for us, for the father of the CCUg coordinator, Nakirya Brenda, is the headteacher there. As we drove up to the school in the pouring rain, hundreds of children were outside in the grass smiling and clapping as our van pulled up. We gave our presentations to the four classrooms there, and afterwards were treated to a few pleasant surprises!
The two school choirs entertained us with joyful songs of welcome complete with several traditional dance performances. We were all amazed at how talented the children were, and some of us were even given the opportunity to stand up and join them in their dancing! Afterwards, we were presented with many gifts of maize, papaya, avocado, sugarcane, and eggs that the students brought for us as a way of thanking us. This generous gesture made us feel very appreciated, for we knew that such kind gifts were given in such thankfulness. Our last surprise of the day was a great feast in the headmaster’s home – matoke, rice, beans, chicken, pork, beef, fish, pineapple, mango, and much more! We ate platefuls of the delicious meal, and were very full by the time we loaded back into the van to head home for the day. It is days like these that make us truly thankful for the opportunity we’ve been given to interact with the community here and know that what we’re doing is positively impacting those we’re working with.
As the weeks go by we feel the air get cooler and the rainy days come more often. As the storm comes kids run home and people lock up the doors to their stores and head home. There isn’t a person, a goat, or cow on the road. When we walk outside to head to the office, the sky is clear, but as we look ahead we can see the rain gushing and heading our way. So we start to head back home to wait out the storm. You might say it’s just a little water. But it’s not the water people dread, it’s the mud. When the storm passes and we start walking, we see it is not an easy task but more of an obstacle course as we try to make it to work without falling in the water or even being stained by the reddish mud. We get used to waiting out the storms before we continue our work or before we head home. It came as a bit of surprise for me, in Uganda rain is seen as good luck or blessing. Natives actually want the rain to come during funerals and marriages.
This week we went to Nakalanga Village and we were divided among each other to educate students on Sexual Health and to aid the workers on the pit latrine project. During the health education, students welcome us by singing their national anthem and saying a prayer. We felt their appreciation deep inside, we were really fortunate for the opportunity to teach the students. The students asked a variety of questions and we were glad to answer them all. Some of the interns even helped the workers build the pit latrine.
We attended three more schools, Bunyas Secondary School, Good Heart and Wabulungu. This was our second time visiting the schools. Our last teaching sessions involved teaching the younger students, but these next teaching sessions involved teaching the older high school students. As we are constantly switching between these different age groups we find ourselves having to adapt our teaching methods to apply to the students. We find that older students have a better grasp on the material and we spend more time answering their questions and giving them one on one personal time. During one of the school visitations, we had to depend on an interpreter as the students did not fully understand English. We were happy and fulfilled when the students left with all the information they wanted. As we talk to more and more students, we empathize with them as we listen to the troubles they face in school and outside.
During the GSP meetings we were able to implement a better and more efficient way of transcribing all the data so it is organized enough for everyone to understand and access in the future. As the days pass we continue to change our methods and better our efforts to help the people around us. As the end comes, we get excited knowing we are getting closer to accomplishing our goals. At times we might find it difficult to continue our work but we remind ourselves the reason we are here and the impact we are trying to make on these people and their communities.
Anika Javed, Nourish PSU