This past Saturday we went hiking at Sipi Falls and the excursion was unlike any other. Our tour guide first handed out hiking sticks and we all failed to see the importance in them. We had no idea what we were up against and figured they would just get in the way. We have never been so wrong. Within the first 10 minutes of the hike, we soon realized that the sticks would be used for far more than just a prop. I know I’m not alone when I say that this was one of the most physically challenging hike I have ever been on. We had to walk down steep and strenuous trails to get to the bottom of the waterfall. Here we are thinking we have reached our final destination, only to learn that this is just the beginning. We had to turn around and climb back to the very top of the mountain, which wasn’t that easy. It’s hard to explain in words the difficulty of this hike. It’s one of those things you just have to experience for yourself. At one point we had to climb up a ladder that was over three stories high. It was nothing but a simple wooden ladder leaning up against the mountain. This was an unexpected obstacle where many people were forced to conquer their personal fear of heights. Luckily for me this was not a problem, I loved climbing high into the mountain and being able to turn around and see how far I had climbed. We had to walk over a rickety bridge where only three people could be on at a time for fear that too much weight would bring it down. It goes without saying that this was no ordinary hike. However, the physical challenges of the hike were exactly what we were all craving after traveling such long distances in a little van. The challenges we faced with the hike were absolutely worth it. Words cannot even capture the beauty of the scenery [nor can pictures]. My favorite part of the entire visit was the rewarding feeling of standing at the base of the waterfall getting soaked from the spraying water. It’s one of those cliché moments that you can’t truly explain where everything in life, at that moment, just seems right. There is no better feeling than the feeling of letting all of your worries and thoughts go and just enjoying the waterfall crashing down all around you. And just as if the beautiful vegetation and breathtaking waterfalls weren’t enough, there was an unbelievable rainbow going across the entire falls to top it all off. Needless to say, our visit to Sipi Falls was by far one of the most amazing memories I have from this amazing experience.
Today, we went back to work after having Monday off due to the fact that it was a Ugandan holiday. The team broke into three different groups: Pit latrines, Sanitation and Hygiene, and Financial literacy. I for example was in the pit latrines group. This means that I am responsible for helping to build a pit latrine, a garbage pit, a drying rack, and a hand washing station. Each family that we are building a pit latrine for has been carefully selected. Each family chosen has a member with a disability. The first family selected has a baby that was born blind and out of 26 children born at the same time with the same condition, she was the only one to survive the surgery. The family has two other children whom they have adopted that also have disabilities. I could not be happier to be a part of making this remarkable family’s life a little bit easier. The muddy conditions in which they currently live prove to be too hazardous for the children so they are forced to move to a new lot. Although digging in the sun all day is hard work, it feels so rewarding to know that I am making even the smallest bit of a difference in these families lives. Without our fundraising and our collaboration with GHNU these vulnerable families may not have had the ability to start a new and easier chapter of their life. As our work on the pit latrines has just started, I am excited to continue with work throughout this up coming week and to finally be able to see our final project.
This week was week 5 on the project and with a week to go we were able to finish up our final visits to the remaining schools in the area. We visited a nursing school in the surrounding town of Kyetume, where we spoke to the students who had great appreciation for what we were doing for them and hope that we would return again soon.
We also continued working with the students at URF and helping them to prepare for the weekly debate. We were really excited to see the improvements that they showed this week. They conducted themselves a lot better, improved their English and had already showed major progress in their speaking ability. After that, Wednesday was a big day for the kids. We called their parents to URF and had a ceremony where the children we selected received their goats. Before we distributed the goats, a doctor from Masaka sprayed them all with disinfectant and taught them the best way to take care of them. It was really exciting for all of them and they were all optimistic for what they could do with them in the future. Though its just one goat per student, it is still enough to change their lives and give each one of them a source of income. Some of them didn’t even know in advance and they were so happy and thankful for our project.
As our last week is coming up, Isabel and Cy are continuing to work with the students in preparing them for the debates and Mehrzaad is still tutoring students in their classes. We also spend the nights with the students and watch the world cup games (which they all get really pumped about). We’re also making sure the goats get to the students homes who don’t live at URF and working with them in the beginning stages to make sure that they are handling their responsibilities properly.
UF and Davidson
We have been informed that the clearing of the site will begin this week. We know that when the project begins, it’ll pick up quickly.
We have been able to work with both the younger and older students of Hope Academy these past couple of weeks. We have joined the other Nourish Chapters in visiting local schools and giving speeches to encourage pursuing an education. It has been a great experience because not only have we been able to reach out to the students, but we have also helped with moving towards a more organized means of communication.
Additionally, Kanoko and I have been able to participate in the other ongoing project. We were able to attend the delivery of the goats and visit the families who would also be receiving goats. Visiting these families was definitely eye-opening, as they don’t have much wealth, food, or a sturdy home.
Happiness is a universal emotion that can be felt by all and reach across every boundary. This week, which marks the halfway point of our time here, has been full of happiness. We were all excited to begin our first full week with all of the interns. It was such a joy welcoming Lauren, Nicole, and their mother Carol to Uganda and to finally work with them. After a productive and rewarding office day, we traveled to Nakalanga on Tuesday to work with the Group Savings Program women and to see the pit latrines. Two weeks and thirty feet later, the digging of the pit latrines is finished, and after constructing a wall, they will be ready for business. We continue to see progress in the savings and success in the businesses the women in Nakalanga have. It is truly relishing knowing that we are apart of such a program that is bettering the lives of these women. Tuesday also marked Martyrs Day. Hundreds of people walked from all over Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and other surrounding places to Kampala in order to celebrate those who have fallen. Seeing the amount of people making the trek from their respective homes was truly beautiful. Ugandan unity is something that can be seen in many different ways. We have seen it among the villagers, among the school children, and now in this commemorative day.
We were also fortunate enough to be able to attend two schools to conduct presentations on health education. The first school we went to was Good Heart Academy, a secondary school (high school in U.S. terminology). Since these students were older many were well informed and inquired about some tough, but good topics. A few students even asked for one on one time in order to discuss personal questions and receive counseling. The second school we attended was St. Patricks primary school, an elementary and middle school mix. We could see how well connected the professors and the principles were to their students. The caring and disciplinary environment that the teachers provided, further enhanced the academic success of the students. As we attend more schools every week we are able to better understand the students more and improve our teaching and presentations to better fit their accustoms. This helps us to ensure we leave these students with the most helpful and accurate information that each students can implement into their daily lives.
This week we also had the opportunity of replanting some of the passion fruit in the garden and crafting with some of the GSP women. To physically help these women is a great pleasure all of us were able to share. Another highlight of this week was dancing with the women of Wairaka. This GSP location is always lively and happy. The women clapped their hands and sang as some of us took our turn at the traditional dance. Moments like these show that people can truly be happy in any situation and do not have to let their environment steal their joy. Uganda encompasses true happiness.
Christina Williams and Anika Javed
We are coming to the end of our third week here in Uganda. Nothing too drastic has happened since our last blog post. The goat structure is nearly complete, we were able to help with the construction yesterday by carrying water to the site to make cement. We are looking forward to purchasing the 50 goats for the students of Hope Academy. Last night we had the pleasure of speaking to the founder of Uganda Rural Fund, John Mary Lugemwa. Although he lives in the U.S. as a the URF representative there, he has been able to follow the progress of our project as well as the work that the chapter has been doing regarding public speaking, debate, and youth empowerment.
We plan on visiting more secondary schools tomorrow and next week to give a presentation on the importance of education. In addition to these school visits, we are attempting to put in place a weekly public speaking/debate work shop at Hope Academy as well as an optional English enrichment meeting where students can come and practice english with us and ask us any question they might have. Last night the Davidson-UF chapter, joined by volunteers from Boston University aided students in filling out applications for leadership positions at the school. We were able to assist John, the Youth Empowerment Coordinator, and other administrators in interviewing students running for positions. Today is election day and we are all excited to learn who the leaders of this school year will be!
In addition to connecting with the students at Hope we have also been able to get to know the URF staff very well. Through taking school trips with John to playing cards with Charles we have been able to gain a deeper appreciation for who these people are and what they do at URF.
Charles, the Volunteer Coordinator has organized a trip for all of the Nourish volunteers. This weekend we are planning to go with him to Murchison falls to see some of the beautiful landscape that Uganda has to offer and take a game drive through one of Uganda’s national parks.
We are excited to see what the second half of our trip brings.
Sincerely, faithfully, yours, (as said by one of our students)
Cy, Mehrzaad, and Isabel
The other day we were able to see where they are putting the new school building, and we hope that clearing and construction will begin soon.
While we are waiting for construction on the new school building to begin, we went to a market over the weekend where the URF was selling some of its products, especially its soap and jelly. The President of Uganda made an appearance but turned around before reaching their booth. We were able to get some souvenirs from local craftsmen at the market though so that was good.
I got a first hand experience into Uganda medical practice when I became ill yesterday morning. The staff has been very helpful and comforting though which I have much appreciated.
Apart from that, we spend most of our time going between meals; reading, watching movies, avoiding getting sunburned, playing with the younger students and talking to the older students.
We have made many trips to Masaka to a place called Plot 99, which is a little piece of Muzungu (foreigner) heaven. The cab rides are not one to which we are normally akin to, even being packed 9 people to a 5 person sedan as well as being bartered off between taxi cabs. It is quite the experience.
Thats all there is for now, hopefully the project will start soon and my illness will cure.
Our first full week of work with CCUg was a huge success! Through leading GSP meetings and visiting schools to teach about reproductive health, basic hygiene, drug/alcohol abuse and life skills we can already feel the impact we are making within this community. We are welcomed with open arms to each GSP meeting we lead and greeted with bright smiles at the schools we visit. The support we feel from the men, women, and children we have met so far is more than we could have wished for.
Ashley and Vanessa led GSP meetings this week by creating templates for the women in each village to base their daily record books off of. Our hope is that through learning to write down and organize their spending and profits within their businesses the women will be able to better manage their money. They also taught about budgeting and how to create a manageable inventory list. We have made it mandatory that each GSP member obtains a record book by next week. The women seem to be excited about these new steps toward success in their businesses.
We visited two schools this week! For as silly and distracted as all kids are, the students we talked to were also eager to learn and asked valuable questions towards the end. The first school we visited was Jinja Preparatory Primary School. Our nerves were immediately calmed and taken over by excitement as they greeted us through song and cheers. Later that week we visited Bunya Senior School. Though it was a little more intimidating because each of us had to take on our own group of students, we still managed to overcome our doubts while bonding with and teaching older students. We had so much fun while providing potentially life saving information to the students. Anika focused on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, Christina talked about puberty and adolescence, Leanna focused on basic hygiene (hand-washing, dental hygiene, nutrition), Ashley spoke about self-esteem, Vanessa talked about alcohol and drug abuse, and lastly Madison focused on basic life skills. Most importantly, we made the value of education very clear to the students we spoke to.
Lauren Trinh, Nicole Trinh, and their mom, Carol, have just joined our journey. They are staying at a home not too far away with a loving woman named Sarah. We know that they will be a great addition to our team and can’t wait to show them around our new home. We love giving back to this BEAUTIFUL country. Thank you for all of your support at home! See you soon (but not too soon), America!
Leanna Glass and Ashley Cicero
We are writing you from Plot 99–an internet cafe that is home to many a Masaka-bound-muzungu–while electricity and internet at our host home is taking a break.
Quite a bit has happened since our last post, so we will try to get you up to speed!
Our intended main project is progressing well. The goat house now has a structure and a roof. Although we dug the holes for the tree trunk-frame, we have left the ladder-less climbing and roof construction to the professionals (local contractors hired by URF). The next step for the goat house is to attach more tree trunk supports, as well as aluminum siding. As we are still novices in Luganda, we will likely have to leave the finishing touches to the contractors. While we had hoped to be more directly involved in the construction, we have realized that as we do not have the skills, language, or local building knowledge needed to efficiently help the local contractors build the goat house. Once the house has been finished, it will be time to bring in the goats! We are not exactly sure what this process will look like, but we do know that our funds have arrived, and 40-50 goats will be on their way to URF.
So, we are not doing exactly what we expected, but are putting our ability to adapt in practice! Last week we attended a debate at Hope Academy (the secondary school supported by URF) and saw ways in which the system being used could be improved. Isabel has experience with debate and mock trial, Cy (your current author) is a public speaking tutor at Davidson, and all of us feel confident with helping the students with their English skills. Thus, we will be working with John Mbriizi (a local teacher and URF volunteer) to improve the debate system in addition to starting a weekly program where students will be able to ask us English related questions, and improve their public speaking skills. We anticipate that this program will be voluntary, and targeted towards students that are up for debate that week. We hope that this program will strengthen the students’ confidence in their English speaking, debate skills, and public speaking.
A related development that we are excited about is John’s invitation to aid him in a traveling lecture program on education and leadership skills. This past week we visited five schools (including Hope) and added our own experiences and perspectives to John’s presentation on leadership as a student. While we had to adapt to waiting for John to translate and clarify our thoughts, the experience was both positive and challenging. Visiting schools around Kyetume allowed us to see the range of educational environments in this rural community, and hopefully contribute concepts that have developed our educational experiences. We will be visiting 8 more schools in the next two weeks.
This weekend we were able to attend a Business summit Exhibition in a local village showcasing URF and many other socially-focused business ventures in the surrounding villages. The summit was an opportunity for the local villages to spread word about their organization and Ugandan President Museveni also made an appearance. We were able to see him, but unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures.
We are continuing to adapt and help URF in any way we can, and will keep you updated on our progress!
-Mehrzaad, Isabel, and Cy
or, as they have been adapted here in Uganda,
Zahd, Eesabear, and Shy
Its been almost one week since we have arrived in Uganda. Besides that global time difference, we have discovered a cultural time difference as well. Americans tend to hold tight to schedules and hours while we have noticed that in Uganda, the concept of time is much more lenient. When asking the time of the meeting or the day of starting work, we have become accustomed to the response of the time or day, plus or minus an hour or a day.
We haven’t began working on the project yet, but when the project does start, it appears to be headed by local, contracted workers. To pass some of the time we have played with the kids during their breaks from class, watched a student debate, went to a church service, bottled some of the soap they sell for school funds, and made a trip to Masaka.
We have become friends with the other Nourish group here working on a project and often do things together to help pass the time while we wait for another thing to do or for the project to start.
Uganda has some very beautiful wildlife. The surrounds are that of which you would see in photos. Very lush, very green and very natural. If only we could see more wild animals. There are many animals at the compound; turkeys, a cow, goats, chickens, ducks and pigs. We are often awoken by one of the many roosters in the morning as well as the calls of some of the local birds.
We will keep you all posted!
Hello Nourish Family!
Our week has been nothing far from amazing. The ambience here is so lively and the people are so grateful and happy despite all their hardships. We all had our own personal fears and reservations coming here but the minute we arrived to our host family’s house all those fears subsided; not only did they welcome us with open arms, but they assured us that at that very moment we would forever be part of their extended family, and that we would not have to worry about anything while we were here. We have been given two rooms behind the main house on the compound, each room containing 3 girls sleeping on bunk beds. Originally we were to be split 2 girls to a host family but circumstances had us all living at this wonderful compound all together; I have to say this ended up working a lot better for us.
WiFi has been quite difficult to get and I apologize we have not been able to post much on this blog, as we are trying to settle our parents’ fears of all of us being overseas and in Africa. Despite the news and everything going on, I feel extremely safe in Uganda. Brenda, one of the main coordinators of CCUg, has already become like a sister to us. She and her family are so well known and respected within our village of Maga Maga. Even the men who transport us daily on what they call here bodabodas (motorcycles) know exactly who Brenda is and where her family lives. It feels good knowing we are living in the presence of such loving and community-driven people.
Our first week has mainly been about getting to know each other, as well as our host family. It is very comforting to know that I have girls by my side who all share the same interests and goals, and whom legitimately care about the community we have just gotten thrown into. Despite it only being a week in, we have fallen in love with the people here, especially the children. Personally I know that when I leave I will be bawling my eyes out saying goodbye to my new house sisters and brothers, as well as our house mom and dad whom we already have gotten quite attached to. And then of course our wonderful CCUg staff members who are so dedicated to this organization that they have built from the ground up; they are all under the age of 30 and make us feel as if we all have a lot of catching up to do.
I am really excited to see what the next couple of weeks will bring. To all the parents reading this- there is absolutely no need to worry; we are in great hands! I cannot wait for you all to see all the great progress we make! Stay tuned!
Here are some pictures from our ground breaking ceremony of the pit latrine project in Nakalanga Village, a meeting of the group savings project with women in Wairaka Town, us going to a wedding in traditional clothing, an adorable little baby rocking the shades, and a guy we spotted wearing a PSU shirt on the streets of Jinja!!
Vanessa and Leanna
Penn State/Duke Chapter