January 27, 2010
January 05, 2010
Happy New Year! Thank you for visiting our blog.
The Poultry Project, in collaboration with The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) Mbale branch, is beginning its fourth year of operations in Mbale, Uganda.
Our organization helps families affected by HIV/AIDS start their own sustainable smallholder poultry businesses. The families we work with are comprised of children that have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illness, have HIV, and/or are being raised by an older sibling, a grandparent, or another relative.
Each family receives chickens, poultry vaccines, a bicycle, training and ongoing support from the Poultry Project and TASO. The chickens are raised as free-range layers and the eggs are sold and eaten. Families keep 100% of the profits from their poultry businesses. They use the money to pay for basic needs and school fees. We currently work with 26 families living in the Mbale region.
We are busy finishing our website and applying for 501(c)(3) charitable organization status.
Please visit our website (http://www.poultryproject.com) in February and become a fan of the Poultry Project on Facebook.
October 04, 2008
The Poultry Project
The Poultry Project is in it's third year and currently supporting over 20 families affected by HIV/AIDS in Mbale, Uganda through a sustainable agriculture slash microenterprise initiative.
We are currently working on our website, http://www.poultryproject.com.
We encourage you to take a moment to visit the Africa 101 Project website to learn about an amazing HIV/AIDS activist's heroic journey - Suzanne Engo is running from NYC to Chicago to remind people about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She stopped in Cleveland today to show her support at the AIDS Walk. Go to: http://www.africa101project.org
Oceans of gratitude to you and yours for your continued support of The Poultry Project.
When one is infected, we are ALL affected.
September 07, 2008
Praise the bridge that carried you over…
We want to extend a sincere thank you to our friends and family members who have given us support and love during our stay here in Uganda.
The donations raised this year were more than we ever anticipated.
With the donations we received, we were able to purchase goats, chickens, ox plows, add five new beneficiaries, fix leaky roofs, construct structures for livestock and continue the Poultry Project.
Above all, we were able to shine a light on the lives of many children who often go unnoticed. By sharing their stories, we have given them a voice.
But, we are mere messengers and you are the people who acted. It is because of your benevolence and generosity that anything has happened here.
Stelio and Katie Flamos
Susie and Dave Pavlick
Susie & Dan Lee
North End Yoga
Mary Jo Barr
Mary Grace and Bill Pavlick
We will be forever changed by this experience and ceaselessly grateful to our friends and family for being such good people.
Today we met with TASO’s Senior Management team at the Ugandan Wildlife Education Center in Entebbe.
During the meeting we discussed our work with the Poultry Project and the possibility of expanding the program to the other branches.
The meeting went very well. The board was so impressed by the growth and progress made and the many successes shared by the beneficiaries. They also expressed their deep appreciation and admiration of Kelly Flamos and Julian Harris for taking the initiative to implement such a program that has changed the lives of so many vulnerable children.
Lastly, they were equally grateful for the many caring friends and family members we have back in the states and thank you for your compassion and continued support.
Joe, Emily, Tina Achila (Dir. of Psycho-Social Programs), Juliet Tembe (Chairperson Board of Trustees), Harriet Wanyoto Mabonga (Dir. of Advocacy), and Rober Ochai (Executive Director TASO)
Fixing a hole where the rain gets in
Today was our last day in Mbale and we had one last stop to make.
We went to Hanania’s house to check on the new roof.
When we walked around the bend of the dirt path, standing out behind the thick green bushes, was a shiny tin roof glistening in the sun.
The family greeted us and proudly showed us their new roof.
Their happiness is attributed to our friends and family who have generously reached out their hands to help the greater good. Thank you all for you donations, you have helped this family, given them shelter, and renewed their hope in a better day.
The new roof is responsible for their smiles - and the glare in the picture.
The new roof.
As we drove away from the late Hanania’s home, we all felt at ease. It was a great way to leave Mbale and begin our next journey. We are in Kampala and staying at a magnificent hotel - it will be nice to relax after three weeks of hard work.
On our way to Kampala the driver stopped to buy goat meat kabobs. This billboard towered over the streetside food market.
We also got to see the Nelson Mandela Stadium, home to the national football team.
And –we saw advertisements that would get very few responses if posted in an American city.
The Workshop was today!! Every single participant showed up, some came with their aunts or uncles, some came with their siblings and few came alone. They all received a Poultry Project T shirt and they wore them proudly.
We introduced the new participants and the new organization model. There are now a total of 28 participants and they will be separated into divisions of 5-7, based upon where they live. The divisions are Bukedea/Kumi, Mbale 1, Mbale 2, Sironko 1, and Sironko 2. Each division will be lead by a chairperson who was chosen for their outstanding work throughout the first two years of the Project.
The divisional system is important for two major reasons. First, the beneficiaries are required to attend monthly divisional meetings, led by the chairperson. There, they will have the opportunity to discuss challenges and draw upon the experiences of their colleagues. Second, each beneficiary will be required to make periodic savings deposits to a divisional bank account managed by the chairperson and Peter (General Manager). Once a beneficiary has saved a certain amount, the Poultry Project will match his or her savings. Also, a higher bench mark will be used for a second savings match and once it is met, the participant will graduate from the Project. This sets up a savings culture among the participants and enforces the idea of taking ownership of their work and small-holder farming business. It also allows us to add new participants when the current group graduates.
We are very excited about the potential of the new organizational structure and hope it will increase independence and empower the children.
The Poultry Project
Kedi Ben, Jude and Charles: Three incredible boys who give strength to their families and carry on the memory of their parents.
After the workshop Jude, Christy, and Kedi Ben joined us for a traditional Ugandan dinner at the Mbale Resort.
Simple things like enjoying food and hanging out with your friends are luxuries we often take for granted. Watching the kids relax and not have to worry about their problems, even if for only a night, was truly rewarding. Seeing the boys act like children, being carefree and laughing, is a memory I will always keep close to my heart.
Christy shoots pool for the first time, he was a natural.
Today we made our way to Ikokole Esther’s home, a potential beneficiary. She was working in the field when we arrived, so we sat and waited under the shade of a large citrus tree.
Linda, a counselor who is notorious for stealing oranges during home visits, made use of her free time and large bamboo pole she found on the ground.
Linda had found the perfect apparatus for extracting the tiny green fruits (yes, the oranges here are green).
Linda at work.
After feasting on the stolen oranges, Esther and her family finally arrived. We carried out the typical assessment, viewed the home and talked about the many challenges the family faces.
We learned that Esther (15 yrs) lives with her five siblings and an aunt who is HIV+.
The aunt’s health is deteriorating, and as she grows weaker, Esther is beginning to take on more responsibilities. She is currently in S1 and excels in History, French and fine arts, but paying for school fees is becoming increasingly difficult.
When we asked her if she had any plans, should her aunt pass away, she looked away and began to cry.
This may seem like a harsh subject matter to bring up, but it is essential to survival that they prepare. The children will have to bear the burdens of caring for the land, paying school fees, managing their health and food -- all while providing each other with love and support.
It’s overwhelming, but this is the stark reality faced by many children here in Uganda.
So many children are living alone…
So many children are suffering...
The only thing we can do is to tackle the problem one child at a time.
Esther has been added to the Poultry Project and her 5 chickens, a bicycle and a chicken coop will be delivered to home within the next week. It’s a small offering of support, but the gesture seemed to brighten her spirits. Esther seemed genuinely happy and flashed us all a great big smile.
We then made our way over to Michael Wanabwe’s home to deliver the bulk food purchase we made at the local market. We bought Michael and his grandma 10 lbs beans, 10 lbs rice, 9 lbs posho flour, 1 lb sugar and a gallon of oil.
The food was purchased because earlier in our trip we learned that he had fallen ill due to malnutrition. He is HIV+ and on antriretroviral treatment, but the treatment is useless without food.
In the past, the family of two was receiving WFP food stipends, but with rising food prices and food shortages, the organization has withdrawn from the region and is giving support to internally displaced people in northern Uganda. Without that crucial dietary supplement, their current diet teeters between one bowl of porridge and going hungry.
When we arrived at their home, we were greeted by an overjoyed little boy who kept rubbing his teary-eyes, almost in disbelief that his friends had returned.
He was so grateful that we were there and for the food we brought that would enable him to have his first meal of the day (it was 7pm).
I tried to contain myself and not be overwhelmed. He was so thin, though. And as I stood there, looking at his little, bony arms and his stunted stature due to years of too little food, I no longer felt the weight of the bags I carried. Rather, I felt the weight of their destitute situation; the insurmountable poverty wreaking havoc on their lives.
Regardless, any pain they were experiencing was hidden behind smiles and to us they revealed only gratitude.
Right now, I hope that Michael and his grandmother are enjoying a big bowl of beans and rice, sprinkled with love.
A beautiful mind
Today we met Nekesa Florence (12), who lives with her HIV+ mother in a one-room, rented home. Her father died of AIDS and she has four siblings, but neither she nor her mother knows where any of them are.
Florence is in P4 and is ranked seventh in her class. We asked how they are able to afford school fees and learned they are often waived because the faculty sees what a promising young student she is. Given her life at home, it is quite remarkable she is able to do so well.
We want Florence to continue to follow her dreams and aim high, because a great mind is a terrible thing to waste.
With the support of our friends and family, Florence will join the Poultry Project and will receive five hens, a bicycle, and a chicken coop. You have all given Florence a chance to shine. Thank you!!!
August 28, 2008
Be good to your family
We mentioned a couple of blogs ago that we had negotiated with the Rashid’s great uncle for a plot of land in hopes of securing a place to build a home. We returned to his home yesterday and were overjoyed to learn he and his wife decided to grant his sister the land. We viewed the plot - it is located behind the uncle’s compound and it’s perfect! Now, we must get together with our friend Juma to start the plans/construction on Rashid’s new home. We are projecting the home will cost roughly 1,000USD to complete, but we’ll worry about that tomorrow…
For the time being, we’re happy to know they have land. Things are looking up for Rashid and his Grandma.
The man with the land.
Rashid and his brother Nick.
Rashid’s new backyard.
We have decided it is time for the Poultry Project to expand and hope to add 8 more families before we leave. In order to select new beneficiaries, we have asked the TASO counselors to compile a list of 12 or so clients who they feel are in the greatest need of support. After viewing the home’s, talking with the clients, and comparing the families, we will decide who will become a beneficiary. Today we visited the homes of Nakowonbi Annet, and Kitvi Caroline and Apolot Manuel.
Annet was our fist stop. She’s a beautiful 12 year old girl who is HIV positive. Margaret, a counselor, wanted to stop by because she has been skipping her treatment at TASO.
We talked with Annet and she told us of her challenges - she has no transportation to the center, she eats 1-2 very small meals a day, has a painful eye infection and can do minimal housework because she is too weak and experiences chest pains.
The family currently earns money twice a week from the mother’s efforts; she cook’s for pay on Saturdays and Mondays.
They have no livestock and small banana orchard.
When Annet has time to be a kid, she enjoys playing hide and seek with her friends and English is her favorite subject.
Caroline was the next client we visited, she is 7 years old, and HIV+. Her mother died of AIDS and she is currently being raised by her grandmother, while her negligent father lives next door and gives minimal parental support or love to his five children. The grandmother is raising thirteen children and is struggling to provide them with food, pay for school fees, and attend to their medical needs. She is furious with Caroline’s father for not taking her to TASO for her medication and also informed us that he has not had Caroline’s younger siblings tested for HIV. The grandmother supports herself and the children through various activities (digging, selling crops, eggs, etc); she has 22 chickens and 5 goats.
The next home we went to was horrible. I have no other words to describe it.
Apolot Manuel is the mother and is HIV+; she moved here from Western Uganda 5 years ago after the death of her husband and has no family support.
She has 4 children: Evelyn 13, Emanuel 10, Joann 7, and Isaac 2 months. None of the children have been tested for HIV, the mother stopped taking her ARVs, and continues to breastfeed for lack of a better option.
(She stopped taking her ARVs when she became severely anemic last week, which resulted in her having a blood transfusion)
Her children live on a plot of land that is insufficient for growing food; the son told us they eat porridge once a day. The family shares a 2 room home, the mother, baby and girls sleep in the same room, while the son occupies a shack behind the house.
All of the children are enrolled in school, Emanual and Evelyn are doing poorly, Joann is in p1 and receives fair-good marks.
The family has three goats and the mother and children dig for hire to earn money.
Emmanual, Manuel (the mother), Isaac, Joann, and Evelyn.
Emanual sits in the families 2-room house. This first room is multi-purpose; it serves as the kitchen, storage room, and home to their 3 goats. The goats urinate on the floor and eat the family’s food, but are not left outside due to the fear of theft.
The two month old baby was asleep on the foam mattress he shares with his mother. Joann and Evelyn sleep on the ground next to the foam mattress.
After viewing the home, Emmanual walked us over to the shack where he sleeps. His bed is a bamboo mat that lies over a hard dirt floor and he has no misquito net.
He stood in the doorway as we walked into his little room and took pictures. He is a responsible boy, he helps his mother, he lives outside of the home to make room for his sisters, and he wants to get an education.
Although he has very little to call his own, he takes care of the few items he does have. His room was swept and his one dress outfit hung from a wire above the dirt floor.
Emmanuel’s bed is a bamboo mat.
This family has been selected to participate in the Poultry Project and measurements have been taken to repair their home. We are waiting for a quote from Juma.
We were all very sad on our way home and Margaret lightened the mood by telling us how she went to the bank the day before and unknowingly wore two different shoes - one had a really high heel and the other was flat.
This story made me think of my grandmother who once used red lip liner to fill in her eyebrows; my sister Theresa claims she did this more than once…
We have given Jude money to finish the construction of his shed where the goats and chickens will stay. The growth of their animal count has been stalled because the animals have been staying inside their home to prevent theft and disease. We anticipate the completion of this structure will allow the project to prosper and will alleviate some of the burden Christy will soon bear. Christy will be living in the home all alone while his oldest siblings attend boarding school; his sister Speciosa (15 yrs & 7 months pregnant) has been staying with Christy, but recently moved out and is living with her boyfriend.
Thus, Christy must maintain the entire household by himself - he’s 13.
August 27, 2008
A change is gonna come…
25 August 2008 (Day 13)
We will begin construction of Hanania’s roof today!
Juma, our contractor, is standing in front of the home after taking measurements. Juma works at CURE Hospital, where we are staying. He has kindly agreed to help us with the construction of chicken coops, livestock structures, and home repairs for the beneficiaries. We are so happy we met him!
This Is Uganda
Construction workers taking a break.
On Sunday, we also took a break from the Poultry Project and headed to Sipi Falls.
Our drive to Sipi Falls began with a brief 2-hour jaunt to the top of a mountain that was in the opposite direction of Sipi Falls.
Even if it was out of the way, it was well worth the drive and we were able to view the wonderful town of Mbale from up above.
Dr. Ngobi and a counselor, both from TASO, look down at their city.
Mbale from above.
As we made are way back across town, we stopped at 5 or 6 “viewpoints” where we would get out of the car and marvel at the land below us. At one of the stops we met some children and shared bananas with them.
A little boy enjoys his delicious banana.
Another stop was made not for viewing the landscape, but rather for purchasing meat from the local butcher. Unlike the typical meat and deli section Americans are accustomed to, Ugandans like to dangle their meat, under the sun and in wide open spaces for all to see.
Typical Ugandan meat stand. Yum.
After satisifying the meatlovers, we continued on our way to the waterfalls. As we navigated the red dirt roads with the windows open, a continuous blast of air muted everything but the striking landscape we passed by.
One of the TASO members looked out the window and stated, “God gave Uganda extra time when he was designing.”
We agree, but only second to the time spent on Ohio’s blueprints.
Above is the main event of the day, the majestic Sipi Falls at the foothills of Mount Elgon.
Mount Elgon is the second highest mountain in Uganda and is located on the eastern border between Uganda and Kenya.
After climbing to the top of the mountain where the waterfall begins, we found children and women using the natural swimming pool for playing and washing clothes.
I think we would do laundry more often if the washing machine was a gigantic pool/waterfall.
Laundry day at Sipi Falls.
Emily and Joe with the waterfall in the background.
August 26, 2008
21 August 2008 (Day 9)
We apologize for our brief hiatus from the blog - we experienced some internet difficulties and have been busy finalizing home visits and planning for the project. On Thursday we finished our home visits, ending with Michael, Rashid, Emma, and the late Jacqueline. This is what we found…
On our follow up visit to Michael’s home, we were expecting to learn about his health status and recent hospitalization. Unfortunately, we were met by a locked door and no sign of either child or grandmother. Their neighbor strolled over and told us how they had gone “digging” for the day.
Digging-for-hire is very common in the rural areas of Uganda. Children are sent to the field at a very young age to provide for themselves and their families. The pay for a full day of labor is roughly 1,000 UGX (approximately $0.70 USD).
Though 70 cents may seem insignificant, it is vital to Michael and his grandmother in order to feed themselves. Food is Michael’s main challenge, and without it, his ARV’s will not work, he will continue to grow weaker, and his health will continue to decline. We plan to use the money donated to improve their livestock count and provide temporary, but immediate, food assistance to alleviate their household food insecurity.
A child headed to the field for digging.
Although Rashid was not at home when we visited, we found a rather unique set of circumstances that he and his family are facing. Rashid and his six siblings live with their grandmother in a house lent to them by a relative. The accommodations are only temporary, as the relative’s own children will be occupying the house as of December, 2008. Prior to this arrangement, the group of seven was evicted from their land by another relative who wished to sell it at a profit. Essentially, the family will be homeless in less than 4 months.
Sensing the direness of the situation, Peter suggested that we attempt to negotiate with the land-owning relative to allow the group to build a separate, permanent, structure elsewhere on the land.
Where the negotiating went down.
Our next stop was to Emma’s home. Emma’s aunt, the main caretaker of the animals while Emma attends school, showed us the progress they have made with the project. They have turned their original 5 hens into a new roof, a larger plot of land, and are currently saving to purchase a bull.
The new roof purchased by money earned from the poultry Project.
Emma’s aunt was very grateful for the support the Poultry Project has provided her family and was so happy we had stopped by. She told us about their current challenges and their goals for the future.
Before we parted, she ran into the house and grabbed her pocket book where she keeps a handful of faded pictures of her late bother, sister-in-law, and nieces and nephews she raised until they passed away. She worries about Emma; he is also HIV+ and has lost both of his parents and his 4 siblings to AIDS.
The Family of Jacqueline
Our next stop was to the late Jacqueline’s home; she passed away in June. Although the family was absent when we visited, we were met by a thriving project and a large amount of well-kept animals. Her project has grown from the original 5 hens, to 11 hens and 14 goats - 7 of which were donated by the Heifer Project as a result of her displayed success with the Poultry Project. The Poultry Project will continue to offer support to Jacqueline’s remaining siblings, who are also orphans and are being taken care of by an aunt.
The impressive structure Jacqueline’s family constructed for their goats.
August 22, 2008
Natule John receiving ARVs at TASO in 2006.
I am sad to bear the news that Poultry Project participant Natule John passed away on August 17, 2008; he was just sixteen years old.
We visited his home yesterday to express our sympathy and pay our respect to his family.
As we were driving up the mountain Peter mentioned how he used to make the very same ascent, but on his motorcycle. We were all amazed, and kind of shocked that he would drive along those narrow and winding dirt roads. It would take nearly 45-minutes to make it to the top - if the conditions were good. I just assumed he was a secret daredevil and thought nothing more about it.
After reaching the top of the mountain, we began our silent walk to Natule John’s house. His aunt’s home, where he had been living during his final days, was beyond the dirt road, tucked into the side of the mountain among cabbage gardens, coffee trees, and miles of blue sky.
We met his family and they graciously took us to his grave where we stood over the freshly laid cement that was still drying in the sunlight. We said our prayers, made peace with John and bid him farewell. We all thought of his harrowing tales of life as an orphan, living with HIV, battling cancer, enduring the pain of neglect, and the isolation he must have felt when he was ostracized and stigmatized by his uncle (his former guardian).
Before we left, I asked his family if they wanted to say something special about John. They said he was friendly, a happy child, and that they will miss him very much. We then said our goodbyes and Peter and I made our way back to the car.
Peter then told me, “Natule John was such a jolly boy. He loved visitors so much and he would beam when anyone came to see him.”
I then realized that Peter had been making those long hikes up the mountain to see his friend. Natule John died knowing someone cared, he died knowing he had a friend, someone who supported him, and gave him love when there was nothing else to give.
Natule John will always be remembered and honored.
His untimely death will motivate us to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS and his memory will inspire us to share love with all beings, no exceptions.
Natule John, we wish you peace and everlasting happiness. May your memory live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved you.
The view from the mountain where Natule John rests
August 21, 2008
The Poultry Project went on the road today to lend support to another organization supporting orphans in Uganda. The Poverty Reduction Initiative for Development (P.R.I.D.) was created by residents of the sub-county of Sibanga approximately 35 km from Mbale Town. The Poultry Project first collaborated with PRID and its chairman, John Busulo, in 2006 when Kelly learned of the organization and its purpose while staying at Cure Hospital (John worked there as the security guard).
The Poultry Project and PRID are similar in that they each seek to promote sustainable income for orphaned families. Whereas the Project has focused on livestock, PRID has focused on other initiatives such as coffee farming. Currently, PRID provides services for 28 orphans and is led by a committee of elders residing in adjacent villages.
Above are John Busolo, Mzee Dasan and Mzee Boazi, the founders of PRID.
PRID meets in fields and the homes of the members to discuss organizational matters and they provide agricultural training on a small plot of land that was purchased in 2007 with the help of the Poultry Project donors. We spent the entire day walking through the participants’ coffee gardens and were amazed by how much wisdom the elders have and how deeply they care for their community.
Mzee Boazi stands in front of a growing coffee tree.
He is an elder of the village and is currently raising 10 grandchildren who are orphans.
Mzee Dasan, one of the chairmen and founders, is also the pastor at the village church.
After viewing the gardens, we returned to John’s home where we were greeted by women and children, many of whom are orphans supported by PRID. They were singing and thanking us for making the journey to their village. The children performed beautiful poems and songs about their struggles. The women then prepared a large traditional Ugandan meal.
The children and women performing a song and dance for us.
The people we met today are honest, hardworking and generous. They dedicate their time to helping those in need and unifying their community.
What a wonderful way to be.
Below are more pictures that highlight the development of PRID’s coffee gardens and the children they support.
Coffee seedlings in the beginning stages.
Once the seedlings have germinated and grown about 6 inches high, they are prepared in tiny, biodegradable baggies for each of the orphans. Each orphan receives 100 seedlings per year; the estimated time to harvest per plant is 3 years.
A coffee tree in the garden of a participant.
A full grown coffee plant that is ready to harvest.
Peter is a beneficiary of PRID and is very bright. He is 16 years old, in S-4 and he is ranked 4th in class.
Joe encouraged him to continue to work hard in school, but to also take advantage of the coffee farming opportunity. The extra time Joe spent with Peter made him feel special.
The orphans involved who are growing coffee and benefiting from PRID.
Thanks for reading and your continued support!
August 19, 2008
Into the Mountains
19 August 2008 (Day 8)
The country of Uganda is broken up into districts, counties, sub-counties, parishes or wards, and villages. Many of you are probably curious about where exactly we have been traveling to reach the Project participants. Just click on UGANDA MAP and use the key below.
29. Kampala District. We originally flew into Entebbe (40km from Kampala) and spent much of Day 1 in Kampala.
54. Mbale District. We are staying in Mbale and TASO is in Mbale. In addition, the following participants reside in Mbale District: Emma, Rashid, Jacqueline, Michael.
73. Sironko District. The following participants reside in Sironko District: Mimuna, Vasca, Violet, Protus, Yekosofat, Eric, Hanania, Shamim, Doreen, Jude.
45 (southeastern portion). Bukedea District. The following participants reside in Bukedea District: Peter, Betty, Agnes, Faith.
45 (northwestern portion). Kumi District. Engole Jude resides here.
Today we traveled to the district of Soronko. We visited with three participants: Doreen (county of Buluganya), Jude and Protus (county of Buyaga).
The county of Buluganya is a green, mountainous region with breathtaking views. Everywhere you turn, there is a waterfall.
The mountains make for a beautiful landscape but a challenging traverse for the families living among their slopes. When it rains in Buluganya, many families are trapped in their villages for days until the poorly kept roads dry out.
Doreen is 15 years old and lives ¾ of the way up a 3,000 meter mountain with her three siblings, all of which are AIDS orphans. The living conditions for the family are very poor. Doreen is a few years behind in school but expressed a strong desire to catch up.
Waiting for Doreen, Emily passed out candy.
Doreen posing with her nephew.
The Project originally helped Doreen pay for school fees. However, due to the small amount of land occupied by the family and the challenges of keeping free range chickens in such an environment, Doreen’s chickens did not last. Doreen further explained that the bicycle from the Project has very little use since the road to her home is often fit only for walking.
We plan to explore various options including a sale of the bicycle and the establishment of an enclosure for poultry, goats, etc.
During the school term, Jude resides in Mbale with his uncle. During holidays (breaks between terms), he lives with his three siblings and grandmother at the home of his late parents in Buyaga (also a mountainous region).
Jude’s grandmother and her grandchildren.
Jude has maintained the Project in both locations. In Buyaga, he sold three chickens for a pig. In Mbale, he has kept one hen which has recently hatched chicks. The Project has helped Jude pay for school requirements and support his family. The siblings continue to struggle with basic needs, however, the grandmother appears to lack the necessary training for overseeing a successful poultry operation. So, both Jude and his grandmother will attend the workshop.
Protus and his five siblings (all AIDS orphans) live together with his wife and child in Buyaga. He and two of his oldest siblings have dropped out of school to perform odd jobs in the trading center for food.
Their land lies in a valley and is very prone to flooding. As a result, the family has retained one goat and has made very little progress with the Project otherwise. Protus is confident that his land is fit for livestock other than poultry (i.e. cows or goats). Until then, the family will continue to struggle and the younger siblings will risk dropping out of school.
Emily and Joe in Buluganya.
We have uploaded some of our pictures on the web. At this time, only half of the pictures have been uploaded and they are in no particular order. When we get more time, we will organize and label them to add context. Thanks again for reading. Click on GALLERY to view.
August 18, 2008
18 August 2008 (Day 7)
Project participant Michael Wanambwa (12 yrs), was admitted to the hospital a few days ago due to malnutrition. His grandmother became his guardian when his parents passed away, but is becoming too weak to care for him. They have very little land and her crop yield is almost non-existent. Until recently, they relied on stipends from World Food Program (WFP) to maintain adequate intakes.
With the increase in global food prices this life-sustaining ration has been taken away and replaced with nothing.
Over the past couple of months Michael’s health has plummeted and he has dropped out of school. We are waiting to receive word on his status.
Today we found a similar situation with late Hanania’s grandmother, who is raising 3 orphans (Hanania’s siblings) and is struggling to feed, clothe, shelter, and educate them all. She has very little land to grow crops and like Michael’s family, her WFP stipend has been retracted. When asked how she manages their food, she said they eat very little, when money is available they buy soya flour and maize, and sometimes they go hungry.
We were equally saddened when we learned that she sold 3 of her 4 hens and the donated bicycle from the poultry project in order to pay for a proper burial and a cement gravestone for Hanania.
We have been discussing options to help this family and feel the most urgent need is to fix the home. Below are pictures of the family, the roof, and the inside of the home. In order to fix the roof we will need $125 USD.
The remaining family: Brenda, Grandma, Isaac, & Simon.
Pictured above Hanania’s grandmother and younger brother, Isaac.
The yellow water can lies on the dirt floor - they don’t have the luxury of buying clean, filtered bottled water or Gatorades at the grocery store.
The family’s home consists of two rooms; this room is where the dishes and water are stored - and also where the two boys sleep at night.
A dirty sheet, foam mattress, two faded soccer magazines & a donated bag - these are the belongings of the late Hanania and his two brothers.
At bedtime, Simon and Isaac unfold their foam mattress over the cement floor and fall asleep, side by side.
On the left is the wall that divides the grandmother & Brenda’s room from the boys and above is the roof that is open to insects, lizards, wind, rain and dirt.
Walls and ceiling/roof in the boys’ room.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Goodbye!
August 17, 2008
A Day in Budadiri
17 August 2008 (Day 6)
One of the major challenges for Ugandans who reside in rural villages is the lack of infrastructure in their regions. There are very few paved roads and the dirt roads that have been haphazardly constructed are virtually impossible to cross. The clients we visit rarely leave their villages and often remain in isolation. They are blocked in by winding stretches of dirt roads that are filled with potholes, trenches, livestock and occasionally sludge from recent flooding.
Two boys herd their cattle in the streets of Budadiri.
Visiting Eric (6 yrs) and his mother brought us a little ray of sunshine. They have constructed an enormous house for their poultry and it keeps the chickens safe from theft and disease. She also opened up a bank account for herself and is saving up to purchase a cow. Eric is maintaining his health and has been stable since he began ARV’s in 2005. He will begin school in November and is the cutest.
Eric smiles for the camera in front of his family’s chicken pen.
Save the Children
16 August 2008 (Day 5): Agnes, Peter, Betty
Hello again. Today was interesting, productive, and at times emotional. First, a few general comments:
Ugandans are very kind. Since Emily and I arrived, we have been treated like gold. More impressively, Ugandans are nearly just as kind to one another. In Mbale (urban), the streets are buzzing with people and yet there are very few disputes. Friends are holding hands and helping one another with tasks. In the villages (rural), where land is wide open and crops and livestock are vulnerable to theft, people are generally honest and respectful of the property rights of their neighbors (with some exceptions - see Jude below).
Ugandans are unbelievably polite. Everyone is eager to greet us and welcome us to their country. Yesterday, I was greeted by a TASO staff member with perhaps the most courteous sentence ever constructed: “Hello, you are welcome, thank you please, goodbye” - as if it came out of a holster of kindness from her belt.
Ugandans have remarkable endurance. I began to detect that this might be the case when I learned that men, women and children from the villages often ride their bicycles uphill to Mbale for more than 60km, carrying produce, goods, or people on the back. The concept was fully revealed during my brief (45 min) stint as a member of the Cure Hospital fútball team. I was graciously asked to join by John Busolo, a security guard at Cure. Our first practice was on Thursday. I knew there was a problem when I was breathing heavily during stretching, after opening drills. Then the scrimmage. We had an even 8, so we split up 4 on 4. 15 minutes in, I was politely offered a “substitute”. Again, we had even numbers.
Enough with the comments. Today, we made field visits to the homes of three Poultry Project participants: Agnes, Peter, and Betty
Agnes is 17 years old and attends secondary school at an Mbale boarding school. She lives in a village in Bukedea with 10 siblings, her aunt, and grandmother. The children are AIDS orphans (parents died of AIDS). The grandmother is very old. The aunt is a TASO client on ARV’s and is not in good health.
Of the Project participants visited so far, Agnes’s family is perhaps experiencing the most hardship. There land is very small considering the number of inhabitants. Sleeping quarters for the 14 of them are split between two huts with one bed apiece. The Project has allowed the aunt to begin building a house while Agnes is away at school, but because of her health, the house remains only half built (unlivable by any standards).
The aunt is worried about what will happen to the children once she and the grandmother pass on.
Agnes with grandmother, aunt and Martha the counselor from TASO. The half constructed house is in the background.
Peter (Project participant, not Peter the manager)
Peter, 20, and his four siblings are also AIDS orphans. At the onset of the project, Peter attended secondary school. Since then, he was forced to drop out of school after getting married and having a child. The orphans, Peter’s wife, and the child (7 months old) live in a small house in Bukedea. 3 of the orphans attend a local school. The 4th was forced to drop out to help with generating household income. The family continues to struggle for basic needs.
Peter has been relatively successful with the Project. He has turned the original 5 chickens into 7 goats and 3 pigs. In addition, the family has a large amount of land for ground nuts, sugarcane, and cassava (among others). Currently, though, they are relegated to plowing it by hand. They could really benefit from an ox plow (approx. $150) as their neighbors have oxen. We will continue to brainstorm.
Betty, 17, attends secondary boarding school in Tororo. She has 5 siblings, all AIDS orphans. The children live in a small village in the Bukedea region with their uncle and his six children.
The progress of the Project for Betty’s family brought a smile to our faces. The uncle was eager to display the 5 goats and more than 30 chickens that the Project has reared. In addition, he explained that he had just come back from some early morning work - planting 100 citrus trees and digging a new well for the village - just a little light landscaping for a Saturday. This man is tremendously hard working. He will speak on behalf of his and Betty’s accomplishments at the Project workshop. Hopefully, his words will inspire.
Emily and I finished the day with a good Indian meal in town and watched the first Arsenal match of the season (English premiership soccer) with Peter. Peter is great. He wants to study in the U.S. He has completed his studies at the University and would like to pursue a master’s degree. Any suggestions are welcome.
Betty’s uncle shows Joe the chickens he has acquired through the Poultry Project.
Good Night from Uganda!
P.S. A flickr page with more pics coming soon!
14 August 2008 (Day 4)
The Angura family is a true child-headed home, meaning they have no other family members (aunts, uncles, or grandparents) to help with basic needs, such as clothing, food, shelter, education and transportation.
The 5 brothers have been getting by to the best of their ability. They are maintaining their health, trying to attend school, and farming their land for food. However, they suffered a great loss when their youngest brother James, who was six years old, passed away last year.
Their lives are so much different from anything I have ever known. Aside from the periodic visits to/from TASO counselors, their mental health goes largely unnoticed. They are together with each other, they smile and laugh like children should, but in the same breath they are dealing with extreme poverty, chronic malnutrition, and the traumatic loss of two parents and a sibling.
When the brothers led us to James’s grave, we could do nothing but bow our heads as we stood in silence. There in the middle of the garden, rests sweet little James. His brothers have lovingly carved his name into the stone and placed him alongside their mother and father.
After going to the villages, we were given a break and a chance to connect with some of the TASO clients back at the main office. While Joe spent the morning with Peter, I stayed with the female clients in the skill-building class for HIV+ women. There are about 15 women enrolled, most of them are in their 30’s, with children and have had very little education. TASO has created a program for these women in order to teach them a skill and empower them to start their own businesses - or at least sell what they make in the markets. The craft they are learning is raffia and sisal weaving. I may need some extra time skill-building, I was unable to make much more than semi-braided/deformed raffia stick.
Deena weaves a colorful raffia basket at TASO’s skill-building program.
Shamim stopped by to color, but found looking at pictures of Kelly more exciting.
Shamim happily looking at Kelly and Colin’s wedding album.
Christine Acan is the aunt and caregiver to 6 children, including Faith, who is 9 years old and the original participant in the Poultry Project. Christine is single and chose to remain unmarried in favor of raising her brother and sister’s children after they and their spouses passed away due to HIV/AIDS. With the lively Christine stepping up and taking over the poultry rearing, Faith and the other children are able to attend school and are improving. Ben is the eldest and is preparing to apply for college in November - he is also among the top students in his class of 400.
Joe, Ben, Emily, and peanuts.
From the original 4 female chickens and 1 male cock, they have acquired 5 goats and more than 20 chickens. Christine gave us a small bag of peanuts to show her appreciation.
Faith (left), Aunt Christine and brothers show off their new goats.
August 15, 2008
A Day with Jude
14 August 2008 (Day 3): To Jude’s
Today we visited with Engole Jude. For those of you who have just started reading this blog, he’s 19 yrs old and has lost both parents to HIV/AIDS. He has been the sole provider to 3 siblings (Christy 13, Speciosa 15, and Maria 17) and 2 grandparents since 2005, when his father passed away. Jude is a star participant in the Poultry Project and has excelled since the onset. He has turned the original 5-hen allotment into 2 Chickens, 6 baby chicks, 3 goats, and 1 cow.
The Engole Cow was purchased with 12 hens and 2 goats.
Jude’s family’s land: kitchen, house, bathroom, grandparent’s house (left to right).
Despite his successes, Jude’s situation has recently become significantly more complicated. First and foremost, Jude attends boarding school an hour away from his home in Mbale, and relies on boda boda (riding on the back of a motorcycle for cash) for transportation. He is away for the vast majority of the year and has only the cell phones donated by the Poultry Project to communicate with his family (and run his business).
Most recently, Jude spent three consecutive months at school. While away, several factors threatened the family’s sustenance that Jude had worked so hard for: Speciosa revealed to Jude that she was 7 months pregnant; various hens and goats had been stolen by a neighboring clan; the same clan asserted ownership of the land occupied by Jude’s family and threatened to take it back.
Jude has many remaining needs and the Project can help. We have allotted time with TASO workers to brainstorm Jude’s options.
Beautiful Speciosa cleaning cassava.
So long for now. We will blog again soon as we now have a fairly consistent internet connection. Sorry about the delay.
15 Aug - 22 Aug: Field visits with remaining 20 Poultry Project beneficiaries
23 Aug - 24 Aug: Field visit with P.R.I.D. (orphan support organization - will explain later)
25 Aug - 29 Aug: Planning for Project workshop, donation distribution, meeting with executive director of TASO in Kampala
30 Aug: Poultry Project Workshop
We Love Uganda :)
12-13 August 2008 (Day 1-2): We have arrived!
We spent our first evening sleeping at BOMA Hotel in Entebbe. Considering our 17 hour trip, neither of us had the energy to be frightened by the five lizards that were stationed, motionless throughout the hotel room. We both decided that lizards are better than hairy spiders and slept peacefully until the morning sun shone through the window and the music of the birds filled the air.
In the morning we feasted on delicious bananas and coffee as we waited for Peter (director of programs at TASO) and Saulo - they graciously offered to transport us on the 4 hour trip from Entebbe to Mbale.
When they arrived at BOMA, they told us they had to pick up medications on the way back to Mbale. To make a long story short, we ended up waiting for 3 hours in a car at the Joint Medication Store; this is where TASO purchases their antiretrovirals. And then we then had to make a quick pit-stop and purchase a refrigerator.
Purchasing a refrigerator in Kampala.
The road trip lasted longer than 4 hours (11 to be precise), but along the way we were given a glimpse of a world that is so different from anything we have ever seen. The landscape is magnificent - vast, lush, and flourishing with sugar cane, tea and matoka trees. Periodically the driver would pull off to the side of the road and get out of the car - we met these children during one of the driving-breaks.
Today we learned that we will spend the majority of our time here with Peter Wenlikhe. Peter is the director of programs at TASO, Mbale branch and has devoted his life to helping orphaned & vulnerable children and fighting HIV/AIDS. He oversees the Poultry Project and ensures the participants are given the support and resources they need to be successful.
Yesterday, after leaving a village that is completely isolated from the world we began discussing the many challenges faced by children who live in these environments. Peter also grew up in a similar village and when asked if he was personally frustrated with the lack of support and access to the outside world, he said “No, I am not frustrated because I know that if I work hard and struggle, then I will make it.”
Peter Smiles for the camera as we drive through Entebbe on our first day in Uganda.
August 11, 2008
Saving the Planet One Ziploc Bag at a Time
Hello all. It’s Sunday and Emily and I are preparing for our trip to Uganda. We fly out of Boston tomorrow and arrive in Entebbe, Uganda on Tuesday evening. From there, we will travel to the Cure Hospital in Mbale, Uganda on Wednesday.
We have been advised by the Poultry Project’s founder and our lovely sister, Kelly Flamos, to keep our expectations to a reasonable level. So, after a long a conversation, Emily and I have decided that if we accomplish nothing else during our stay, we would like to, at the very least, save the planet.
In furtherance of that humble goal, Emily has come out of the gates firing on all cylinders. She is applying a machine-like methodology to her packing. Each of her bags is exactly fifty pounds, perfectly square, and consists of individually numbered one-gallon baggies filled with clothes, toiletries, and gifts. I cannot be sure why the bags are numbered, but like an Enron shareholder I will blindly trust the legitimacy of such a complicated system.
Emily and I are very excited for our trip. We are both very thankful for the contributions that have made it possible. Most importantly, we would like to thank Kelly and Colin for paving the way and making everything so easy. You guys are the best and we love you so much. Second most importantly, we would like to thank mother Kathleen Flamos for cleaning our room yesterday despite the fact that we are full grown adults.
We look forward to sharing our experience with you all. Please make it a point to read the blog on a regular basis so that you can see the profound impact that your support is having in Uganda.
August 07, 2008
We are entering the third year of The Poultry Project, a program that has provided twenty-one families of HIV+ children, AIDS orphans, and single mothers living HIV with an opportunity to be empowered through education and training to make money from smallholder poultry farming.
This project began with a collaboration of minds (Julian Harris, MD, Kelly Flamos, Robert Oluka, Charity Abude, Margaret Muzaki, Sarah Khanakwa, and several other TASO Mbale staff) and a generous contribution from John and Dobbie Luppino of Philadelphia. The Luppinos responded to an email that Julian Harris sent to family, friends, and colleagues asking for assistance to help the children Julian met during his visit to Mbale, Uganda. The Luppinos responded with a large donation that made the implementation of The Poultry Project possible. Without their compassion, generosity and empathy The Poultry Project would not be. Their donation motivated Julian, Kelly and the TASO Mbale team to move forward with their dream. After the Luppinos offered their support, other family and friends of Kelly and Julian donated their hard-earned dollars to keep The Poultry Project going.
On behalf of The Poultry Project participants and the staff of TASO Mbale, we extend our sincere gratitude to the Luppinos for making The Poultry Project a reality.
Stayed tuned to the blog. Emily and Joseph Pavlick will be in Mbale from 13 August 2008 through early September working with The Poultry Project. They will update the blog with photos and stories about their experience.
We are saddened by the loss of three of our project participants to complications of HIV/AIDS. This summer, Jacqueline and Hanania passed away. Last summer, we lost James. Please keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
November 27, 2007
Our new name.
After months of searching for the perfect name for our organization, we have decided to keep it simple and call ourselves "The Poultry Project". The Poultry Project is in the process of applying for status as a 501c3 non-profit organization. Plans for the near future include:
Accepting online donations through PayPal
Launching a REAL website
August 30, 2007
James Angura, 2001-2007
James sitting in the TASO Mbale truck in June 2007.
It wasn't the kind of email I expected or wanted this morning. I don't think I'll ever rid my mind of the image of my Yahoo~Mail inbox and the subject line stating simply, James is dead.
Sweet James. Only 6 years old and the youngest of six children living alone in the rural landscape of Uganda with no parents, and too often, no food. Sweet James. I remember when I met James back in 2006; he contracted HIV from his mother at birth and was at TASO Mbale for a routine checkup. He was clinging to the leg of his oldest brother, Charles, also his mother and father since the death of their parents. James became my buddy that day and he loved my camera. He also laughed at my weird, deep voice and foreign accent. Charles humbly accepted compliments regarding his superhuman courage to assume such major responsibility at such a young age. That night I cried for hours trying to write a blog entry about James and his brothers. Their loss and suffering eluded me. I've always known comfort. I have never gone to bed hungry or slept on a dirt floor or walked to the hospital or walked a mile to get water or watched my parents die. I wrote something anyway, I wrote something from my heart. It was important to let people know what life is like for the millions of children affected by HIV/AIDS. That blog entry sparked a flood of compassion and goodwill flowing from friends and family back home, and their friends and family, and even people in Mbale, Uganda...all signing up to help in some way. Money, prayers, gifts, and love poured in to help James and his brothers.
James' story even reached all the way to Kampala, prompting the Executive Director of TASO to travel to James' home. During that visit, a US citizen pledged to support the family by hiring a full-time nanny/maid for them. Another visitor sent suitcases of clothes.
Despite all the support, the family continued to struggle, especially with food - there was never enough. And mosquitos would bite little James and give him malaria, something his compromised immune system wasn't able to handle all the time. And then TB would come. And the sun would be hot. And there was no sink for drinks of clean water and hand washing. And the flies were everywhere, all over James' body. And mom and dad were gone. And school was a dream. And there was no money. And playing with friends? And being a kid? And having fun? But there was lots of love. Brotherly love. Family love. Love from TASO Mbale. Love from Martha. Definately lots of love around. And James knew about all the love he had from his friends in the US. His counselor, Martha, told me and Colin that James would say proudly to his village friends, "Do you have friends in the USA? Because, I do!"
Sweet James. His soulful eyes and delicate smile softened so many hearts.
June 13, 2007
We can be heroes...
A TASO Mbale counselor visits Vaska, a young mother and poultry project participant, at her home. Her shirt conveys a powerful message..."Stopping AIDS begins with YOU."
It's ten o'clock in the pm, and we're in Kampala, preparing and packing for our flight home. I have a terrible urge to write everything we've done since that last posting, so I will. Colin's post is below.
On Friday, we finalized our memorandum of understanding with TASO regarding the poultry project. The participants will receive their hens in July at the next training workshop. We hope to continue fundraising throughout the year to meet project costs ($3600 total), and provide additional support to the children.
Young women outside of shops in the trading center near Kimaluli, the village where PRID serves children like Wycliff and Peter.
PRID has identified a piece of land to purchase for the coffee project demonstration farm, and we've already contributed enough money for that purchase. PRID's chairperson and our dear friend, John Busoolo, offered to provide Wycliff and Peter with additional support.
A farmer holds a ripe arabica coffee bean, reading for shelling and then drying in the sun.
We gave John money to pay for Peter's school fees for the remaining two terms, and for milk, eggs, and a mattress for Wycliff.
John is a good man. He works five 12-hour shifts a week, spends time with his four children and sweet wife (Gertrude), and uses every spare second to help the orphaned and HIV affected children of his village. Colin and I have been fantasizing about drinking PRID coffee in couple years...we hope the coffee project is a success!
Sipi Falls, where water drops about 50 metres from a steep cliff in the northern foothills of Mt. Elgon. The surrounding area, rich in fertile volcanic soils, is heavily cultivated; major crops include arabica coffee, bananas, and maize.
On Sunday, we took a trip to Sipi Falls. We followed an enthusiastic guide down to the base of the waterfall. He told us that if we stood directly under the waterfall we would die, after the water washed all of the hairs off our heads. We didn't test his hypothesis.
Colin and Kelly admire the majestic Sipi Falls on the foothills of Mount Elgon.
Monday brought tears. We began the day at TASO where we each gave short goodbye speeches at the staff meeting. This time, I didn't buckle and weep uncontrollably. I heard one of the counselors tell Colin, "Don't let Kelly cry." I think I made people feel uncomfortable last year when I wept like a newborn baby. I guess now, I know that I'll return to Mbale.
Colin and a few TASO counselors sing folk songs together.
At the guesthouse that night, Colin played guitar for Muzaki (Margaret), Charity, and Rachel, while Miriam and I peeled carrots and potatoes. They sang old American folk songs. When the mosquitos joined the sing-a-long, everyone left. Jude and John Busoolo arrived soon after the TASO crew left. We laughed and ate together. Colin walked into the room with a dark brown mullet wig. Jude went outside because he was laughing so hard.
Jude laughs at Colin's new look.
Emma played on the internet. He was looking confused, so I asked him if he needed some help. A detailed map of St. Petersburg covered the screen, but he was looking for Nevada. I asked him why he wanted to view a map of Nevada - Las Vegas? Reno? Carson City?. He said, "I'm looking for Area-51." Excited about the topic of UFOs and E.T.s, Colin assisted him and ten minutes later, I see Jude and Emma horrified by the alien photos Colin was showing 'em on Google images. He took them outside to look at the stars and contemplate the vastness of the universe. I walked out to join them. I heard Colin say, "The next time you look at the stars, know that I'm looking at the same stars...the same stars!" Jude and Emma liked the concept of sharing the night sky with Colin; it makes them all feel closer, and safe. Then we had to say goodbye.
We repeated the process this morning. Bye again to Jude over the phone. More goodbyes at TASO. More goodbyes at CURE. But not as many tears as last year. This time when I leave Uganda on a huge plane, I know I'll be back and I believe that all of our friends will be OK.
Oh, and everyone kept asking us, "When are you coming back?" and we replied, "We'll be back soon, but my sister, Emily, and her husband, Joey, will come next year."
****pictures of downtown Mbale...
A vibrant purple logo for a Ugandan cement manufacturer; Wanali Ridge and a shoe store in the background.
The Mbale clocktower marks the center of town; like many historic buildings and structures, the clocktower is a billboard.
Boda-bodas rest against brightly painted buildings on Republic Street.
On the last night here, we could write about any of our experiences. I imagine it will take a long time to process the experiences of this journey. There's too much to comment on to attempt to summarize. So this will not be the last blog posting.
What has grabbed me the most on this visit is the striking intelligence of the children we have encountered. Their grit and determination is awe-inspiring. While LeBron James is a hero to many, Jude Engole, and other children like him are my new heroes. I couldn't begin to imagine what it would be like to raise a family at such a young age.
ARVs to be taken for the younger siblings with HIV; meals to buy; meals to prepare; school to attend; books and pens; transportation costs; lack of clothing; leaky roofs; another case of malaria; walk a mile to get water for the family; walk miles for anything at all; It's real here.
Without sounding too much like a late-night TV pledge-drive for Africa, these child-headed-family teenagers face a host of struggles, including paying school fees for themselves, and their siblings. Primary (elementary) school has no costs (for most students), but secondary school (high school) is very costly -- up to 100,000 Ugandan shillings ($60) per term -- with three terms per year. To put that in perspective, a solid meal for six, prepared at home (meat, potatoes, rice, vegetables) costs about 60 cents. And that's still expensive for many.
The sadness I felt saying goodbye to these kids was, in part, because some of this country's brightest minds may go to waste. We were able to identify some of those neediest families within TASO and PRID and help with school fees. One of my worst fears is leaving the next Albert Einstein in a field of crops to raise, with no outlet for his/her genius.
But these kids don't complain. They don't throw pity parties for themselves. They can be found in Mbale, Uganda on the streets; and in the villages, always trying their best. They just do the next right thing, and we can't ask anymore than that from our heroes.
Candles burn in our hands at the TASO Mbale AIDS Candlelight Vigil to honor and appreciate all the individuals that have been affected by HIV/AIDS, those that have passed on, those that live positively, those that serve to treat and prevent HIV, and all those that have been left behind.
June 10, 2007
Pool and prevention...
Clouds float in the sky, kind of like the cartoon clouds on the TV show, The Simpson's.
Linens and fresh flower filled vases adorned our dinner table. It was a special night. Jude Engole, Ben Kedi, and Emmanuel,our friend from a bus ride to Kampala, joined us for a night on the town.
They were all smiles as they feasted on a buffet of local cuisine. After all the plates were cleared, I launched into a lecture about safe sex, decision making, condoms, and HIV prevention. Surprisingly, their eyes didn't roll. Ben and Jude assured us that their TASO counselor, Robert Oluka, talks to them about HIV prevention all the time. I admit, it may not have been the best timing for such a discussion, but I wanted to start the dialogue. Colin rescued them from my "let's talk about sex" lecture and challenged them to a game of pool.
Jude and Emma watch carefully as Colin teachs them about the mathematics of pool.
What an amazing man...
They love Colin. Watching the four of them play pool, laughing and shouting, hugging and giving high-fives - unforgettable. Colin and Emma played against Jude and Ben. A couple weeks ago, Colin taught Emma and Jude how to play. Ben is a seasoned pool player. They played best of five; Jude and Ben won. But really, everyone won.
Colin was able to bridge language and culture barriers with a simple game of pool. Ben, Jude, and Emma look up to Colin. They trust him. They can confide in him. And he makes them laugh. When Jude would line up his cue for a shot, Colin would start doing his interpretation of a traditional Bugisu dance. Jude laughed uncontrollably. I, on the other hand, am the boring teacher figure that wants to talk about feelings, condoms, and bad grades. It's so cool to have Colin balance it out. His gentle tone, patience, and incredible sense of humor make him a friend to anyone and everyone he meets. Jude thinks of Colin as a father; they all know him as a friend.
June 08, 2007
The day of brotherly love...
The family: Back from left: Robert, Joseph, Charles.
Front from left: Reuben, Charles (yes, there's two Charles'), James.
On this day, Charles, James and their brothers have a place to sleep. All six boys share a house together, and Charles does his best to look after them, after their parents died from complications due to HIV. But after receiving support from TASO and a few folks back home, the boys are all smiles.
Last night we were taken by a TASO vehicle, with Charles’ and James’ TASO counselor Martha Okweny, to purchase three mattresses and two bed frames so all the boys have a comfortable place to sleep. Some of the six boys have been sleeping on old worn mattresses, and some on the floor. These boys are bound with cables of love that are unbreakable, so sharing mattresses together isn’t unusual.
When we arrived at their house, Charles was plowing the land for planting crops. The other boys were scattered around and James was sleeping – on an old, beat-up mattress on the floor.
James is in his glory -- in front of a camera, where he belongs.
The boys have had many hardships as a family of orphans trying to survive. But they have received plenty of help, and their lives are improving.
Charles has truly assumed a parental role in James life, and loves him as much as any parent could. Raising a younger brother is struggle enough, but James also has HIV. Their brotherly love has captivated many people’s hearts, including my own.
After Kelly’s visit last year, a few miracles have given these kids some hope. With help from our families in the US, Kelly built the boys a home; the boys built a chicken coop for themselves for the poultry project; a woman from the US (we can’t find out her name) hired a maid for the family to look after James and cook and clean for them; the executive director of TASO Uganda donated clothes; Martha and Kelly set up a bank account for the family; and now the boys can sleep easier because they also have beds, thanks to the caring and generous people in the USA.
Robert and Charles assist TASO counselor Martha with unloading one of the boys' new beds.
Martha said she feels full of joy.
“God is great,” she said as were driving with bouncing beds on the roof. “Just a few years ago these boys were helpless. They were wearing tattered clothes, they had nothing to eat and their house was falling apart. They were hopeless.”
Martha was there when the boys’ mother died, one week before she was set to begin her ARV treatment. She swore she wouldn’t abandon these children. For these counselors, it’s not a job, it’s a passion.
James curled himself up on his new bed frame and mattress and smiled.
Some people in Uganda have difficulty showing emotion at times, but Martha assures us that the boys are truly happy. This support helps to give them confidence.
The boys will continue to grow and become strong men – strong for each other with brotherly love that inspires us all.
Happy birthday Scott
June 07, 2007
I could hear Colin laughing really hard as he read the "Roosters" blog entry. He said, "Kelly, do you know what the National Football League is? Dr. Wonekha was not a recruiter either, he was a recruitee of the Ugandan national football (soccer) team." I'm not into sports, except basketball. Go Caz (short for Cavs)!
June 06, 2007
Vaska's younger brother boldly selects the most intimidating, brightly-crowned rooster of the bunch.
Last week, I developed a peculiar rash-like, pus-filled, reddish infection on the inside of my elbow. From the start it seemed weird and I wondered about life without a left arm. It puzzled the doctors at CURE and TASO, but they reached a general consensus that it was the work of an insect, probably a Nairobi Fly. I took some antibiotics, and I am happy to report that I will keep my arm, the pain is gone, and the scar is beautiful. Now, poultry project business...
This week we set out on Monday to deliver exotic breed roosters (note: to satisfy Colin, we will start referring to male chickens as roosters instead of cocks) to 15 of the participating families that lost their roosters to sickness. Our journey began at 8am, but we didn't leave TASO until noon. We planned on picking up the birds and our project consultant, Dr. Wonekha, at his office in Sironko. When we arrived, we learned that over the weekend his stock of roosters was sold and he was out looking for replacements. Our deliveries were postponed to Tuesday. We were bummed. I worried because I wanted an opportunity to visit the children once more before we leave next week. Muzaki and Charity reassured us, telling us that we could complete the deliveries in one day. We went home disappointed, but with a sprinkle of hope.
We got a much earlier start and left TASO at 9:30am sharp. Dr. Wonekha waited for us at his office in Sironko with a handmade wicker basket full of roosters. We loaded the vehicle, and by noon we delivered 5 birds. The families greeted us welcoming arms. We visited families living in the foothills of Mt. Elgon and families living north of Mbale.
The family of 11 orphans gathers with their new rooster. (Not pictured: Apiot Agnes, the eldest sister and primary participant of the project)
Dr. Wonekha told us more about himself too. Turns out, he is a veterinary surgeon. Once, he operated on a lion. He said he prefers general veterinary medicine to those high-risk surgeries. A self-proclaimed man of the people, he has dedicated his life to helping his fellow Ugandans out of poverty. We thought he was solely employed by FARMAfrica, buy he works as a consultant with several other sustainable agriculture development organizations, mainly in the field.
Colin and Dr. Wonekha are awed by Christy's soccer talents.
A former football player at Makerere University and National Football League recruiter, Dr. Wonekha used his soccer skills to engage and entertain some of the children. He took a special interest in Jude Engole’s younger brother, Christy. He told Colin that Christy has a rare talent as a left-handed player. He promised Christy he’d put him on a team We are really excited that Dr. Wonekha is working on this project.
Dr. Wonekha plays a traditional Ugandan instrument at Charles and James' house.
It was so refreshing to deliver birds with someone that actually understands poultry farming and is able to give quick, useful advice. And, he let each participant select their rooster of choice. Which brings me to Shamim…bright, rambunctious, shining Shamim. When we pulled up to her house, she ran out screaming. She ran back inside soon after realizing she was only wearing her underwear. I came to the rescue with the special rainbow dress that Theresa (my sister) sent for her. With her new dress and her vibrant personality, she hopped into the TASO vehicle to greet everyone. She selected her rooster with a quick scan of the birds in the basket; she chose the most unique one of the bunch.
Shamim makes everyone feel good. She's like a rainbow.
After handing the rooster to her granny, she leaped out of the vehicle and started running towards the road. Everyone called out, “Shamim, where are you going…come back.” She just smiled and kept running, on the lookout for her favorite person, her grandpa. Although she couldn’t find him, she was determined to keep us there until he came home. Colin and the TASO counselors had to pry us apart. After a brief song session and several hugs and photos, we tried to leave. Shamim ran out in front of the TASO vehicle for one last handshake and goodbye smile.
Shamim and I are kindred spirits (as my mom would say).
By 8pm, we finished all the deliveries. Rashid and Emma got their roosters in the dark. The family with 11 orphans brought out their soccer ball from last year to show off their new skills. Speciosa wore the necklace she made with the beads we gave her. Charles and James joined the rest of their brothers for a long awaited photo (my mom and sister Emily kept asking, “so, where are Charles and James’ brothers that you always talk about?!. Unfortunately, this photograph can be viewed on Colin's next blog posting. Stay tuned...
Speciosa looking beautiful in yellow rain gear.
Lona and Yekosophat send their love to everyone in Ohio. Violet and Vaska missed the opportunity to handpick their roosters, but their brothers were around to do it for ‘em. Hanania still has his rooster from last year, but we gave him a special visit – he’s doing well and TASO is trying to get him back in school.
Yekosophat smiles at Colin while they play catch together.
Akido Betty left school to get her rooster. We delivered 12 roosters, drove hundreds of kilometers, crossed terrible roads, and suffered whiplash from driving fast over lake-sized pot holes. It’s not over yet. The project is just beginning, and it’s off to a great start. Dr. Wonekha will purchase 63 hens (3 for each of the 21 participating families). During the first month of the hens’ lives, he will administer vaccinations, parasite control meds, high quality feeds, and special care to ensure the longevity of the hens. Next, Dr. Wonekha trains TASO staff on effective poultry management, monitoring, and evaluation. On Saturday 7 July 2007, the 21 families will meet again at TASO for another workshop on hatching, egg handling, record keeping, and disease management. After the workshop they will receive their 3 hens. A final workshop will be held in September. For the remainder of the year, TASO staff and Dr. Wonekha plan on visiting the homes often to assess progress and address problems and needs.
Hanania models his new raincoat. TASO plans to place him in school next term.
As our time here comes to a close, we are a bit overwhelmed with all the commitments we continue to make – school fees here, medical expenses there, food all the time. We can’t possibly help everyone, but we’ve gotten a lot done. We’ve strengthened relationships with folks at TASO and project participants. It is evident that these are lifelong relationships. Mbale is another place like home. People keep suggesting we make it our permanent home. That won’t happen, but I do want to see how all these children progress through life. I want to hear about their graduations, first dates, university acceptance letters, job offers, babies…we’ll come back. My sister and her husband will visit. Other family and friends will visit the next year. TASO staff and project participants will have the opportunity to visit the US...these are our dreams.
I hope to grow our efforts in Mbale into a foundation by January 2008.
Colin and I enjoy some food at Nurali's after a long day.
June 05, 2007
Christy, Speciosa and Jude huddle around the goat they purchased with poultry project profits.
When I received the first letter from Jude, I wept. Grateful, good Jude wrote about his struggles as a teenage parent to siblings, about the hard work of subsistence farming, and about his dreams to become a doctor. Jude Engole was the only poultry project participant that wrote me. (NOTE: sending a letter to the US costs 2000 USh; many poultry project participants may lack stationary and/or transport to the post office...etc.) Jude continued to send updates throughout the year and I was so anxious to get back to Uganda to visit with him. The letter sent in December had messages from Jude, his sisters Speciosa and Maria, and his brother Christy. They wrote, "you are our mother and father."
On Sunday, Jude invited us to visit him at his home in Ajuket. Currently in secondary school in Mbale, Jude only goes home on weekends when transport money is available. He was so eager to get back to the village to see his youngest siblings, Speciosa and Christy. Maria, the second born, is also away at secondary school.
Driving along the main (paved) road near Jude's home, we got a phone call from one of Jude's late father's colleagues, Alex. He assured us that Jude would meet us to direct us to the home. Alex is a father and a teacher, but he finds time to assist Jude in so many ways. Alex helped Jude write me letters. Alex helped Jude open a bank account. Alex is a good man.
The peaceful, spacious front porch of Jude's home.
Jude's house is really nice - front porch, great view, four large rooms, and spotless. A crucifix hangs on the living room wall, adorned with the St. Theresa prayer card my mother, Kathleen Flamos, gave them. There are photos of Jude and his siblings. A teddy bear hangs by a string on a nail, as decoration. The girls share a bedroom; so do the boys. Their pet dog sleeps on the porch, while Christy feeds millet to the pigeons he keeps. Speciosa helps an auntie prepare lunch. Jude cuts and slices the juiciest, most delicious mangos ever for his guests. Colin and I indulge. Then comes the pineapple. And some roasted corn cobs. Organic food at it its finest.
Speciosa and Kelly.
After some chatting and a tour of the property, we sat in the living room and enjoyed the fruit and conversations. Jude showed us photos of his late parents. His mother died "when we were young". His father died just recently in 2005. (Ages of the children: Jude,19; Maria, 17; Speciosa, 15; Christy, 13) Jude's father used to sit them down in the living room each night and share his wisdom and guidance. He told them that no matter what they should always be together. He charged Jude with the responsibility of keeping the family united. Jude said that he advised him to be weary of aunts, uncles, and others trying to take them in. One day, Jude went to an aunt's house and before he got through the door she asked him to fetch water. According to Jude, that example illustrates exactly why his father told him to focus on work that will benefit the family, not an aunt only. A priest from the UK built the family's home a few years ago. Their parish priest assists with family counseling, school fees, and other various needs. Their network of support is strong and reliable, yet Jude continues to bear the burden of being a mother and father to three, making good marks at school, and being the main provider.
Jude can't stop laughing when asked to smile for a picture with his sister, Maria.
I noticed Jude's black watch band and I wondered if it was the watch I wore last summer; I had forgotten who I gave it to. Well, hours later, I asked Jude for the time. He turned over his arm to reveal the face of the watch and I knew it wasn't my old timepiece. The digital watch showed the time and a flashing "I love (something written in arabic)" over the face of Osama Bin Laden. I chuckled and he asked me what was funny. I asked him if he knew the man on his watch. He said no. He did, however, know about September 11th. He said he borrowed the watch from a friend at school for the weekend. He seemed embarrassed. We told him that such a watch could bring terrible consequences to someone in our country. For him, it's just a watch with a random man on it. He only wanted to look nice for us.
Jude's accidental accessory.
Before we left, we gave the family some gifts: clothes, books from Colin's mom Loretta, beads for jewelry making, soap, magazines, calculator, bookbag, and some special gifts for the baby-Christy.
First, Colin handed Christy a brand-new socceer ball. Christy flashed a huge smile and ran outside to play. We called him back in to give him a harmonica. We figured he, like Peter, didn't know about harmonicas. He opened the box and smiled again. Jude started laughing really hard. He told us a story...
Christy stands proud next to Colin. Christy, Jude, Maria, and Speciosa love Colin...they told him so.
One day, some boy in their village was playing a weird instrument and all the children gathered around him to get a peek at the shiny music-maker and hopefully give it a try. Christy, among the crowd of curious children, took a special interest in the strange noise machine - a harmonia. But the child playing the harmonica was greedy and mean and he refused to share. Christy devised a plan. Christy is a star socceer player and everyone wants him on their team, so he thought he would call a game. He kept an eye on the harmonica hog to see where he set his belongings before the match. Once the game was in full swing, Christy tip-toed off the field to the tree shading the precious harmonica. He was a natural. He loved this cool instrument, but knew his playing time would be stopped once the harmonica hog heard the music. But now, Christy has his own harmonica. And he's good. He also said he'll share it.
Christy beams with joy, happy to show off his socceer skills to his new friend, Colin.
Jude travelled with us back to Mbale. He asked us to help him with purchasing two cell phones, one for him and the other for Speciosa. He wants to keep in contact with them in case of an emergency or minor problems that he could help them with over the phone. He said he worries too much about them and he can't wait two to three weeks without knowing if they're ok. We can get them both nice Nokia phones for $60 each. There are no Sprint or Verizon monthly service plans here; rather, you buy airtime (minutes) on the street, in shops, anywhere. Jude loves his brother and sisters. They have so much fun together and their bond is unbreakable.
Jude is fulfilling his promise to his father everyday...he's keeping his family together no matter what.
June 02, 2007
Reunion with Peter & Wycliffe . PRID meeting
Mzee Boazi extends a compassionate hand to sweet Wickliff. Boazi cares for his son's 10 children. Boazi finds himself caring for toddlers again. Boazi is 78 years old.
To follow up with the PRID (Poverty Reduction Initiative and Development) and the current coffee project, today at the rooster’s call we left for Kimaluli to sit in on a PRID meeting. Kelly, Miriam from the CURE Hospital, John and his wife Gertrude and I piled into a mini-van taxi that John found for hire. When we arrived, we parked and moseyed down a path toward the coffee plants which had been started nearly one year ago.
Miriam displays a fresh pod of beans. These beans beat canned kidney beans anyday.
A short, pudgy and cute young boy appeared from around one of the bends in the path, and I heard Kelly shout his name in her excited voice. “Wycliffe!” He cautiously walked toward us with his grandmother, Alice, behind him. Wycliffe is the young boy that Kelly and John met last year, when he was dying from malnourishment and anemia. John hurried him to medical assistance, and he survived.
Wycliffe is four years old, and looks like he is two.
Wycliffe enjoys a ride on Colin's shoulders.
He doesn’t speak much, but he loved the fact that I carried him all day. In fact, he clung to me, and this was among the few times I saw him smile.
Wycliffe is caught smiling and playing with pals during the PRID meeting.
We made our way to a church, where the PRID meetings are held, and where Mzee Dasan is the pastor. Kelly rolled out a soccer ball and the more than 50 children in attendance went nuts. The meeting began with everyone, including children, introducing themselves. John then explained to the orphaned children and village members that PRID was beginning a new and invigorated coffee project that would have long-term benefits to the community. HIV/AIDS is a problem here, and one of the main reasons that children are orphaned, and one of the concerns is how will children raise coffee without parents.
Alice is Wycliffe's grandmother and sole caregiver. She tries her hardest to care for Wycliffe and his older brother, but aging bones and diminished energy levels seem to get in the way.
One of the mzees, Dasan, reassured boardmembers that PRID will not simply act as cash crop, but as a way for children to receive guidance. “If parents died from HIV the clan will not perish,” he said. “The father will die, the mother will die, but the children will inherit this land. We can be the guardians of these children.”
PRID: a community based organization!
It is completely obvious that the boardmembers of PRID have their soul invested in what they are doing. They have made a life’s effort to care and love for impoverished children. Mzee Boaz is raising 10 of his grandchildren orphaned by AIDS, so he can empathize with the plight of the villagers. Mzee Dasan also has taken responsibility for many of the village’s orphans.
Peter tells Miriam and Colin that his favorite school subject is English; his superb command of the English language, and his wide vocabulary make it obvious.
During the meeting, Peter, one of Kelly’s efforts last year, came in wearing a giant smile. Last year, Peter – who John said will someday be “king of the village” because of his incredible intelligence – missed months of school because of an infection on his leg that prevented him from movement.
Colin teaches Peter about the harmonica.
Kelly and John saw to it that his leg be healed and he received medical treatment. He now is the fourth in class rank for his amazing grades. Kelly gave him some gifts, including a harmonica, and he received them with grace and appreciation.
Wycliffe is introduced at the meeting as a potential PRID beneficiary and a dear friend of the visitors (Kelly, Colin, and Miriam).
It is children like Wycliffe and Peter who will benefit from PRID and the coffee projects. There are 10,000 coffee plant seedlings, ready to be planted to assist some needy families. PRID is investigating the purchase of land – for a headquarters and demonstration farm to plant coffee seedlings, before being given to needy families. Kelly and I hope to provide some assistance to PRID, which includes the land purchase of an acre; quality top soil; bicycles and additional coffee plants.
John Busoolo exhibits the premium potting soil destined for use in the coffee project.
We will do our best to help getting the project off the ground. "At PRID, we thought we had to do something,” John said during the meeting. “We are fighting poverty, but we are also helping these children’s minds – PRID fights by planning ahead.”
June 01, 2007
The Ballad of the Mzee's, Kelly and Colin
This road is closed, but another one is open.
Today, after hours of attempting to negotiate a bank account for PRID, we were finally successful.
Our day started at 8:30 a.m. John Busolo woke us at the CURE Hospital guest house. (Kelly had actually been awake for more than an hour)
8:45 a.m.: We were elated to learn about our triumphant Cleveland Cavaliers' resounding victory in the drag-em-through-the-mud motor city of Detroit. I danced around the guest house.
8:50: We walked to the gate to meet John and a couple of the PRID Boardmembers, who John refers to as the mzee's. (Mzee means "old man" in Swahili (pronounced moo-zay) and is a term of endearment and respect for elders.) These men had come the day before, but discovered they needed photos for an account, so they slept at John's house because the distance to their home is too far. These guys are cool; they dressed in their nicest business clothes, and they carry themselves like men who have worked hard their whole lives. Kelly and I walked through downtown Mbale (one mile) with John, Mzee Dasan and Mzee Boaz.
Colin stumbles upon a long lost cousin from Louisiana; cuz offers to give Colin his cool track-suit.
9:00: Boaz and Dasan needed to pick up their passport photos to present them at the bank to start a bank account, which we would find to be a more difficult challenge than we expected.
9:15: We arrived at our first choice for a bank, Centenaray Rural Development Bank, because of its local roots in the community -- and access to Western Union.
9:25: We wait to speak to someone -- the lines to speak to a bank representative are unusually long. Things in Uganda take a long time to accomplish, I just learn the hard way.
Boazi and Dasan travelled many miles to Mbale to further the growth and impact of the community-based organization (PRID) they helped found.
10:05: John and Kelly approach a banker, who gives a list -- as long as the bank lines -- of requirements to open a bank account. Requirements included (but were not limited to) a letter of recommendation, a formal resolution seeking to acquire a bank account and lists of people who approve of PRID having such an account. It seemed like a lot to ask for a bank account. Kelly and I suspected conspiracy.
10:06: It was agreed that we would try another bank.
10:10: We arrive at a neighboring bank, Stanbic Bank, a South African bank. Stanbic is popular among the local Ugandans, because of its accessibility to local farmers and working-class people. Another plus for Stanbic is that they have sister banks all over the world. And, most importantly, its list of demands for membership were not nearly as long, or scary, as Centenaray Rural Development Bank. The line to speak with someone was scary; but we patiently waited.
10:20: I share my excitement about "King James" and the Cavaliers with an unequally amused Kelly.
11:00: We learn that we do need to find the mzees' photo identification in order to open account. John decides it best to travel alone back to the village of Kimaluli to retrieve the IDs. Dasan and Boaz are tired from standing all morning and proceed to find some shade and a bite to eat. Meanwhile Kelly and I decided to make our way to TASO to see what is happening.
12:15 p.m.: When we found an empty TASO (because everyone was at community outreach), we decided we would go our separate ways; I would go and continue working on a column (and reading Cavs columns) and she would pick up some items for PRID and some of the children at TASO.
Colin takes a sip of the best Ugandan coffee ever!
1:30: Kelly and I were reunited at Nurali's, a local restaurant and cafe. We walked back to Stanbic Bank to finish the process. Mbale is booming.
2:00: The five of us are reunited at the bank and we proceed to wait in line for a very long time.
2:15: Inside the bank, I noticed the NCAA lacrosse championship between Johns Hopkins and Duke Universities on the television in the lobby.
2:30: Duke lost and I returned to find the group still waiting to speak with a bank representative. I wonder if LeBron were here, if he would make this process quicker.
Boazi pushes through the thick crowd of eager Friday bank customers to flash me a smile.
4:00: We began our business of setting up a savings and a checking account, with the bank's financial advisor, Ismail. At first, Ismail was telling us that we didn't have the proper credentials, sending fear through us, because he was starting to sound like the other bank.
Colin tells Dasan about the Cavs. Dasan tells Colin about his disdain for long lines and banks.
He appeared frustrated by the hundreds of other patrons waiting to speak with him, and literally throwing money at him. But after things settled down, he reassured us that we could begin a bank account today, but first we needed to change PRID's consitution to include the words "Stanbic Bank." He was serious. So we took him seriously. We were worried because the two "old men" had to travel hours to Mbale to do this business, and wouldn't be able to make the journey again any time soon. Ismail collected their signatures and allowed them to travel back to their village.
A smart sign promotes smart business services.
5:00: We set about changing the wording on the documents and finalizing the account. The secretary/copier/typist person Ismail had sent us to was supposed to be "quick" and "reliable," but took an eternity to finish to reword two documents. No worries, Kelly had her camera.
5:45: John, Kelly and I grabbed the completed documents and we ran to the bank before Ismail left. I felt like LeBron James dashing to the basket for the game-winning lay-up. We snuck in the doors. Slam dunk. We did it. We started a bank account for PRID. And since my bank will only let me take out 200 Ugandan shillings ($100) per day, we will have to be busy withdrawing money for PRID for a few days to help them with the coffee project. Wickliff and Peter will be among the many children benefiting from PRID projects!
Colin meets Protus, a poultry project participant, on the streets of Mbale.
During the day we walked and encountered many people on the crowded streets of Mbale that we know from our short time here. Among them was Protus, one of the poultry project participants; Ajit, the owner of the Landmark Restaurant; and Sarah, one of the TASO counselors, who has been very supportive of the poultry project. We feel as if this is our second home, and we are welcomed.
May 30, 2007
Sunday-Tuesday: An overview
Colin makes James laugh while they play with a little toy car.
As we walked down the hall of TASO's medical wing on Monday, we could hear the screams and crying of young boy. We peeked through the window and saw the doctor taking James' blood for his regular check-up screening (CD4 count and other vitals). Charles held tightly as James tried to wiggle out of his arms and escape the procedure. James cheered up when he saw us, but he was still gasping for air after all that crying. The doctor said his last CD4 count, taken six months ago, was still high. James is not yet on ART.
Martha, Charles and James' TASO counselor, sat down with us to discuss ways to further empower Charles to care for his brothers. We agreed to open him a bank account with Martha as co-signer to ensure the money is spent appropriately. Hopefully, we'll get this worked out before we leave.
On Tuesday, we visited Charles and James at their home with Juma (the CURE employee that oversaw the reconstruction of their home last summer). We walked to the front door calling the childrens' names, but the place seemed empty. A young mother and her child sat quietly on the right side of the home watching groundnuts dry in the sun. We found James fast asleep on the foam mattress. Flies congregated atop the untouched porridge his brothers prepared for him. James obviously didn't want to eat porridge again. It took him a few minutes to wake fully. He sat up and began to smile.
James, still half alseep, rests near his bed.
Charles arrived, and then two of the other brothers filed in. Charles stopped going to school awhile back. He is 17 years old and he has not finished Primary-6 (5th grade). We talked to him about what he wants and he said school would be ideal but it's impossible. Juma told him that he could manage to go to school and still care for James. Colin's mother, Loretta, sent a huge package of gifts to Charles and James last summer, including a 300 page coloring & activity book. Charles gave us the completed book and asked us to present it to Loretta as a gift. Charles enjoys creative expression...he decorated that chicken coop and turned it into a grand village suite, he colors, he draws. School could be his safe haven. It could be a safe haven for so many children here. We give Charles and James and other children some chickens and bicycles so that they can make money, but the real money making comes with an education. The chickens and bicycle will turn profit, but not nearly enough to feed, cloth, transport, and educate a family of six boys. Katie and Stelio Flamos made a recent donation intended for school fees for some of the children; we plan on supporting Charles with some of those funds.
When we left, Charles was coloring and James was sitting on the front stoop playing with his toy car. Later that afternoon at TASO we learned that a suitcase full of clothes for James had arrived from Kampala, supposedly from the American woman that pledged money for their maid and six months of food.
We'll see Charles and James next week when we deliver the replacement chickens to most of the participating families.
The bride and her attendants sit under the decorated canopy during the ceremony; neighborhood children watch curiously from afar.
Michael, a driver at TASO, invited us to attend his daughter's Kwanjula on Sunday afternoon. A Kwanjula is a traditional Ugandan engagement/wedding ceremony that involves the formal introduction of the groom and his family to the bride's family. There are processions of gifts and payment of dowry. An emcee officiates and entertains guests. Music plays, aunties and friends howl, and the bride and her attendants sport custom Ugandan dresses, the gomesi, in every color and pattern imaginable. We sat with some TASO staff and they translated for us and helped us understand what was going on. Colin held Charity's sweet daughter, Melanie.
Melanie soaks up the love and attention from her new biggest fan - Colin.
May 28, 2007
Poultry Project Workshop
Shamim shines at the poultry project workshop.
After travelling on rough Ugandan roads from remote distances, the participants were mobilized and the workshop finally took place. And it was a success.
Sara Khanakwa, TASO Projects Officer, invited Dr. Wonekha N. Deogracious of FARMAfrica to facilitate the workshop, and he was fantastic, empowering participants with knowledge and confidence to continue a successful poultry project.
To begin, Wonekha insisted on hearing from the participants, wanting to discover what they learned at the workshop last summer. The participants also shared their challenges and successes as Wonekha and Charity took notes.
After hearing from the participants, Wonekha began his lesson...everyone was engaged, except the little ones. About 10 of the younger children drew pictures of buses, the sun, flowers, and the Uganda flag on large pieces of newsprint taped to the floor.
Colin chats with Dr. Wonekha about poultry project management.
Wonekha emphasized the importance of participant ownership over the project. He said that too often participants in projects like this fail to fully invest in the project, because they believe the project belongs to the donor or organization. He implored them to take responsibility for the project, reinforcing that this is their business- their livelihood.
The focus this year was a continued effort "to keep the birds alive." Wonekha said marketing strategies are useless if the chickens are dead. He showed participants, in immaculate detail, how to feed and house chickens to ensure success. He spoke about the importance of many aspects of the birds health. Nearly half of the birds were lost last year; Wonekha said this would not happen again.
"These are hard-working people," Wonekha said. "They just need to be given a chance."
Wonekha has agreed to conduct the follow-up visits to each family and to hold three more workshops. He said that while hosting workshops is positive, the real learning and progress takes place at the farm. Wonekha said he is committed to visiting participants throughout the coming year to evaluate poultry management practices and offer technical assistance -- something that was not available for participants last year.
Michael Wanabwa takes notes; last year he was so ill he could hardly sit up or speak.
So, while the sweet babies colored, the older children and guardians focused their eyes and full attention on Dr. Wonekha. Michael Wanabwa's pen never left his hand; last year he could barely eat or speak he was so weak from TB. Emmanuel (called Emma) took breaks from note-taking to draw elaborate depictions of Ugandan public transport, the matatoo. John Natule also relaxed with some drawing and coloring, but took notes most of the time. Jude Engole, Ben Okedi, Peter Okevi, Jacqueline, and Hanania impressed the TASO counselors and Dr. Wonekha with their maturity and discipline...they took notes too. And Charles came to the workshop. We missed him last year, so we were so excited to see him walk through the door. He too absorbed every word Dr. Wonekha spoke, while James sat quietly in the chair in front of him. James didn't want to color. He was sick. Charles said he'd bring him to TASO this week. Sweet James...
Shamim glowed, as always. She wore some of the clothes my sister, Theresa, gave to her. She looked so cute, and she knew it. Towards the end of the day, Yekosophat asked to sing a song for Colin. She was visibly annoyed as she watched another child take her spotlight. As soon as Yekosophat finished singing, she stood up for her stage time. She sang the same song. Aha. The song: We are the Pillars of Tomorrow.
Margaret ended the workshop with a brief presentation on nutrition, one that my sister Emily (the nutritionist) would have approved. She spoke about the importance of eating proteins, carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables; drinking water; and mixing things up. It was cool.
Margaret talks about the importance of eating a balance diet, especially while taking ARVs.
This year, we will give each of the families money to purchase 3 hens from their village. Dr. Wonekha will assist each family with their purchase to ensure that healthy chickens are bought. The families that lost their exotic breed cock will get a replacement. In the next two weeks, we will draw up a contract with Dr. Wonekha and a memorandum of understanding with TASO for the future of the poultry project.
Yekosophat sings "Pillars of Tomorrow" for Colin.
May 27, 2007
The kids are alright...
Sweet James rests his cute face on his hand after eating some porridge. James loves the camera!
I remember talking with the TASO counselors last year about the immense challenges that children affected by HIV/AIDS face, most notably the death of parents. We were fortunate to have the will and the ability to start the poultry project as a small solution to some of these childrens' problems. The project has been successful in many ways, but the I can look back now and see where we went wrong. Our biggest failure was the naive purchase of 84 hens from a smallholder poultry farmer. We know now that most of those birds were sick and many died. Some families were able to find solutions, other remain without any chickens. Here are the rest of the updates on the poultry project participants (some families could not be visited b/c of time and transportation constraints).
John Natule: John is a total orphan (has lost both parents to complications of AIDS) and he lives with his uncle. When I met John last year, he reported maltreatment and neglect at home. His TASO counselor, Charity, mended his problems at home after she wrote John's uncle an honest letter urging him to take responsibility for John, to show empathy and compassion, and to be grateful for the support that TASO gives their family. Today, John is back in school and things at home are improving. He in P-3 (like 3rd grade) and he recently ranked 4th in his class of 176. John lives on the outskirts of downtown Mbale, so the chickens are kept by family members in the village. Two chickens died, but the remaining hens and cock have been productive; they now have 5 hens, one cock and two chicks. John said he eats the eggs when he visits the village. The bicycle is used for personal transport.
Charles and James: Charles is the mother and father to his five younger brothers; the youngest, James, is about 6 years old. When we stopped by their home, James was eating porridge and the other boys were tending to the garden. All their chickens died. The bicycle is used for personal transport. Charles seemed stressed. The TASO counselors reprimanded him for not having a mosquito net over James' bed. Then they yelled at him for leaving James home alone during the day. Apparently, TASO Mbale took TASO Uganda's Executive Director to visit Charles and James' home as part of a tour of the poultry project beneficiaries' homes. When they arrived they found James alone. An American woman was along for the visit and she pledged money to pay for a maid/nanny and food for six months for the family. Charles could use the extra help. He loves James and its obvious; he doesn't intentionally neglect James. With all the work he must do to provide for his siblings, it's inevitable that James is left alone. Charles didn't attend the poultry project training workshop last year, so I urged him to attend this weekend. Although most of the birds we distributed ended up dead, most of the families were able to find solutions. Only two families lost all their birds. Colin and I plan on visiting Charles and James again next week, probably for a whole day. James is so precious. Hopefully, they will hire the maid/nanny soon. They have no support from family - no uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins are around to assist.
Charles' brother sleeps in the former chicken coop, which he redecorated with newspapers and magazines.
Jude Engole: Jude is also a total orphan and he is the mother and father to two younger sisters, Maria and Espiosa, and one younger brother, Christy. Fortunately, Jude and his siblings get tons of support and guidance from their church. The priest built them a house and other parish members support Espiosa and Christy while Jude and Maria attend Secondary School (most Ugandan high schools are boarding schools; day schools exist, but are not practical for students from the village). Jude started writing me letters last year about his successes and failures with the poultry project, the transition to secondary school, the challenges of raising a family, and his hopes for the future. Jude wants to be a doctor. He is very bright, but he is struggling in school. Textbooks are not provided and he can't afford them. Secondary school fees in Uganda keep millions of children from ever going onto high school. Primary school is free (UPE-Universal Primary Education), but secondary school can cost anywhere from $150-$250 each term. I've met so many people in their 20s that tell me they dropped out half way through secondary school because they could no longer afford it, and if they did graduate, how would they pay for university?...
Jude succeeded with the poultry project and proved to be quite the businessman. When his birds got sick, he sold them before they died and purchased a goat. His goat just birthed 3 kids. The surviving hens are productive, laying eggs and hatching chicks. Jude saved money and opened a bank account. The bicycle is used for personal transport.
Jude shows Robert, his TASO counselor, his bank account information.
Ben Okedi: Ben is in his last year of secondary school. He lives with his aunt. He and his two brothers and young sister are total orphans. Faith, the youngest, is a client at TASO. Ben is fortunate to have the generous support of his auntie, which allows him to focus on his studies. The chickens faired well; in fact, none of their birds died. The hens hatch and lay eggs. They purchased a goat with egg and chick sales. The bicycle is used for personal transport.
Ben and his aunt feed their chickens and prized goat.
Hanania: Hanania, 17, is a total orphan. When he joined the project last year he was living with his maternal grandmother in the foothills of Mt. Elgon. He told his TASO counselor, Charity, that he feared his grandmother would sell his chickens or eat them. Hanania didn't like living with her. She said mean things to him and didn't care about his ARVs or getting him to the TASO clinic for check-ups. So, when we went to visit Hanania, we were so pleased to hear that Hanania moved to his paternal grandmother's home, closer to Mbale. We found Hanania playing with friends, laughing and smiling. His new home made life so much easier and better. He showed us the hens and cock that he carried with him. The TASO counselors were so amused that he traveled to a new home with his chickens. One of the hens recently hatched 5 chicks; the other hen lays eggs for sale and consumption. The bicycle is missing, but we promised Hanania that we would help him get it back from his grandmother.
Hanania (center with hat) smiles proudly for a photo with his new friends.
Lona and Yekosophat: We haven't been to Lona's house yet, but we've seen her at TASO twice already. Lona and her son are both TASO clients. I remember when we delivered her chickens last year - we found her putting the finishing touches on the chicken coop she built. Some of chickens died, but she was able to purchase a goat with the sale of eggs and chicks from the remaining birds.
Lona and Yekosophat light up the room at TASO with their powerful smiles.
Sophie and Eric: Sophie and Eric are also both TASO clients. We saw them at TASO and got an update on their poultry project. Sophie has assistance from her father and they've purchased another bicycle with profits from the first bicycle (boda boda) and the sale of eggs and chicks.
Protus: Protus is a total orphan and he cares for his two younger sisters and youngest brother, Timothy. Protus lost all of his birds and uses the bicycle for personal transport. He recently got a fulltime job in sales at the Mbale Sports Club! Protus is also a new father and husband. We're proud of him.
Protus at the poultry project training workshop last summer, 2006.
The rest of the families were not visited, but were sent messages about the workshop on Saturday.
May 25, 2007
Doctor, astronaut, folk-singer....
Yesterday (Thursday) we spent the morning at TASO's children's clinic finalizing the arrangements for the poultry project workshop on Saturday, and we also met the cutest baby.
Kelly enjoys Sarah, while Grace looks lovingly at her beautiful neice.
Six-month-old Naluwende Sarah came to TASO with her aunt, Namarome Grace. Sarah's mother died from complications due to AIDS, and she came to TASO to be tested. She seemed like a perfectly healthy baby; smiling, bouncing her hands and even peeing on those who held her (Kelly). She looked around at everything with wide-eyed curiousity, just like a six-month-old baby should.
As we visited with Sarah and her aunt, the results of the test were unknown. Grace told us that her sister was taking ARVs when she died, which greatly reduces the risk for mother/child transmission. It won't be known conclusively whether Sarah has HIV/AIDS until she is 18 months old.
Sarah looked as if she had been taken care of - and in fact, when Grace looked at her, it seemed like pure parental love. Sarah receives utmost care from her auntie - even the cute fold of her socks is something that would be done by only the most attentive parent.
We both became so full of hope for Sarah's future, and made us wonder, 'What will become of sweet Sarah? Will she remain healthy? Perhaps she will become a folk-singing astronaut.' (okay, that last thought was purely my own)
....We know one thing for sure: Sarah will be loved.
Sarah, feeling a bit nervous, relieves herself on Kelly as they share a sweet moment together.
May 24, 2007
Children color a "Stop HIV/AIDS Stigma" poster at the TASO Children's Clinic.
Colin's second column documenting our experience in Uganda is now available online at StowSentry.com and in print (pick up your copy of the Stow Sentry today or subscribe)!
On Monday, during our home visits, a woman on the side of the road flagged down the TASO vehicle. This happens quite often, TASO giving random people rides. This woman was holding her child in a blanket. She was barely a woman, only 19. We picked her up about 3km from the main road she was trying to reach. She was on her way to the Busiu clinic. Her son was dying in her arms. A baby of 1 year, he looked like a 2 month old baby with the face of a 100 year old man. The TASO driver remarked, "That child has no life in it..." The woman told us that she was released from the hospital 3 weeks ago because she could not afford the treatment or transport to Mbale. The child's condition continued to deteriorate. The boy layed nearly lifeless in her arms, eyes rolling in the back of his head, struggling to breath, unable to lift his head. It was horrifying. The TASO counselors asked her where the father was. She said he was looking for money for the child's treatment and they were to meet at Busiu hospital. We reluctantly dropped her off at the clinic and gave her money to pay for transport to the main hospital in Mbale, as the Busiu branch wouldn't be able to treat the child's severe condition. She promised to manage the money herself. She promised to take the baby to Mbale. Today, Colin and I went to the Mbale hospital to look for the woman and her child. We had her name jotted on a small notebook. We handed the notebook to a young doctor. We searched through the wards and he looked through the hospital log books. No trace of her. He said that if the baby died at Mbale hospital the death would have been recorded at Busiu rather than Mbale. It's hard not knowing what happened. It's hard to see a dying baby. I wonder if her husband took the money and spent it elsewhere. We will follow-up further. It's so sad. The TASO staff kind of shrugged off the tears...this is not unusual. They've seen it before. Not me. I don't have a backbone for this kind of thing.
You know, before we came to Uganda we celebrated the 1st birthday of Colin's nephew, Cass. He is a vibrant, curious, active, loved, and perfectly cared for baby boy. He has everything he needs. Not spoiled. Not deprived. Just the love of two parents, grandparents, and family friends, food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and the freedom to grow and live. He walks and plays. He waves and laughs. He can open and close. He can even eat on his own. Cass is a normal 1 year old. Why can't every sweet baby boy be like Cass? This single scenario sheds light on the struggling, inadequate health infrastructure in Uganda; poor transportation plays a part; lack of prenatal/antenatal care; lack of education...so many factors. The young mother is trying so hard. This isn't the first time she has struggled with a sick infant; she lost her first baby. The TASO counselors asked if she'd ever been tested for HIV and she said no. In many parts of the US, prenatal HIV testing has become routine. An HIV+ woman can prevent transmission to her child with some ARVs prior to delivery and careful, exclusive breast feeding for the 6 months. Such treatment and education is available to women in Uganda, but not on the scale needed. And the mother's HIV status as cause for baby's ill health is speculation...the TASO counselors were just doing their jobs. It's so confusing, all this poverty and suffering. I see it here. I see it in Ohio. It's everywhere. I feel so helpless, but not hopeless. Things will get better. That sweet baby will be okay...
May 23, 2007
Blog entry for you
A palm tree sparkles under the Ugandan sky.
Colin is getting better and I am so happy because everyone keeps asking me, "How is he?", "When is Colin playing music again?", "Why aren't you with him, taking care of him?", "Where is your companion?", "Where is Colin?", "Where is the other muzungu?".
Everyone will be happy to see his face tomorrow!
We've been preparing for the poultry project workshop on Saturday, visiting participants, and evaluating the past months of the project (and consoling people saddened by Colin's absence and ill health).
What we've learned from home visits and conversations with participants is that our major mistake was distributing birds to the participants. We believe many of the birds we purchased were either not vaccinated or sick or both. Many birds died before the families even got them home. This year, we'll do it better.
According to TASO staff and several of the participants, purchasing hens locally protects against the sale of sick birds. In fact, there are legal repercussions if an individual is caught selling sick birds, as such sales pose enormous threats to local food supplies.
Last Friday we began mobilizing the participants to come to the poultry project training workshop on Saturday, May 26. We finished today! The TASO staff planned beautifully. There's been a vehicle and counselors ready to go everyday. Sarah Kanakwa, the Projects Officer, is busy making arrangements for Saturday (food, facilitator, etc.). Everyone is on board and working together. Last year, I didn't trust that things would get done without my incessant pestering and hovering and now-now-now mentality. This week, I've just been along for the ride and everything is working out very nicely. Colin is playing guitar right now, singing St. Jame's Infirmary - my favorite.
Anyway, we got the poultry project invitations out and I was able to visit several of the participants' homes.
I will list the participants and a brief update (some participants were alerted by local messengers, so detailed updates are not yet available). Here are the participants I saw on Monday...
Rashid smiles proudly for the camera after showing me his school report.
1. Rashid is back in school, and his eldest brother, Izma, has returned to school also. TASO supports Izma's secondary school education by paying school fees. Rashid and Izma's mother registered at TASO in 1995 and she is still alive, but aloof. She abandoned her children years ago and is nowhere to be found. Grandmother has graciously taken care of the children with help from her son, who lives next to her. The poultry project has been successful and profitable. The hens have layed eggs for eating and hatched chicks have been sold. Proceeds from chick sales helped them buy a goat. The bicycle is used for personal transport needs, such as fetching water, market days, TASO clinic visits, school, etc.
Michael leads us along a path through maize fields towards his home.
2. Michael Wanaba
Michael's health has improved immensely...he looks like a different child. TASO is supporting his return to school. They remain with 2 hens and 1 cock and one hen recently hatched 11 chicks. The other hen lays eggs for Michael to eat. Two weeks ago five of the chicks were stolen from the chicken coop. The grandmother explained her plans of moving closer to Mbale town. The bicycle is used as a boda boda and also to take Michael to TASO.
Michael laughs at my weird muzunguness with his cousin.
Jacqueline recently recovered from serious ARV side-effects. She reacted negatively to Nevirapine, but her regimen was changed at her last clinic visit to prevent further harm. She is doing well and her skin rash is also healing. She is active in school and getting good marks. When we arrived at her house we found her dying her hair black. School resumed for Ugandan students on Monday after a long holiday...Jacqueline decided to take an extra day off.
Nabude Charity, a TASO counselor, and Adobi, a Nigerian TEACH participant, tease Jacqueline about skipping school.
The TASO counselors scolded her, but laughed about it soon after. It was cool to see Jacqueline acting like a typical teenager - concerned with her appearance, being rebellious, and ditching school to play beauty shop. We told her not to do it again, though. Poultry project news: Three of Jacqueline's hens died on arrival and she was left with one cock and one hen, which are still living. They were productive enough to enable Jacqueline to purchase a goat which just gave birth to a kid. The bicycle is another source of income as a boda boda.
Jacqueline's goat kisses its kid. Kids are so cute!
I will add the rest of the poultry project participant updates later.
THANK YOU so much for taking time to read this blog and learn about some of the challenges that children face in Mbale, Uganda. Your awareness is a step towards change.
May 22, 2007
Under the weather....
Kelly has generously allowed me to write a solo blog entry (she's actually sleeping, so this may be edited tomorrow). Here goes:
When we returned from our sightseeing in the city of Entebbe, I was not feeling well. In my mind, I was suffering from ebola, malaria and a poisonous bug-bite -- all at the same time. Nearly the entire medical staff of CURE Children's Hospital has assured me that what ails me is a simple case of sun poisoning, and expect a full recovery within days.
Nambozo, as Kelly has been affectionately named, has been working steadily with TASO; I, on the other hand have been steadliy active with a toilet and a book.
However, we also began working with John Busolo, a guard at the hospital who co-founded a non-profit organization - Poverty Reduction Initiative for Development (PRID) - to benefit children, many of them orphans. At first, we decided we would build John a self-sustaining fish farm; until after further research, we realized this is something we could not possibly accomplish in our four-week visit (although this is still among plans for PRID).
The Boardmembers of PRID currently possess a small plot of land in Kimaluli, where John is from, to grow and sell coffee to benefit children. The group is searching for a larger piece of land to hold a demonstration farm, that will actively involve the children and give them desperately-needed support and guidance.
I was so excited to help PRID, that at first, I grabbed a shovel in the village and asked where to dig. We didn't need to dig, we need to think. The fish farm is a long term goal that we hope will be sparked by the success of the coffee project.
Coffee is something that cannot be planted in exchange for immediate monetary results. Coffee trees will not bear the beans we love to drink for up to three years. Progress is made from the sale of the coffee tree seedlings.
On June 2, we will again meet with the elders of the village and PRID Boardmembers to discuss what is the next move - and how we can best help those in need.
John knows what it is like to be an orphan. When he was a child his parents abandoned him, though he said there were a few people to look out for him. Many of the children in John's village are not so lucky.
"When I looked at my life, I realized that orphans have the hardest lives," he said. "There must be somebody to look after these children, and love them."
The experience in the villages with TASO is something I will not forget. Seeing so many children suffering from HIV/AIDS is something that does not get any easier.
I heard a name mentioned throughout the day last Friday; but I heard "My Mona." I kept wondering why does everyone have posession over Mona?" She must be special, if she belongs to everyone.
When I met Maimuna, she was on a homemade crutch walking on the side of the road with her friend to the outreach clinic. She had already struggled to walk miles for treatment. As Kelly mentioned, not only is Maimuna suffering from HIV/AIDS, but she has a severe case of herpes on her leg, which has immobilized her. She was somehow still graceful, as she tried to stand tall; and like that afternoon, a beautiful smile occasionally broke through the clouds. When we spoke to her, with the help of TASO counselors, I was forunate to be wearing sunglasses. I broke down. I felt terrible; ripping the heart out of my chest would have been easier, than to see this sweet girl at about 10 years of age, all on her own and suffering. I casually made an exit so she would not see me sad. I am excited to see "My Mona" again and hold it together so I can make her laugh.
May 20, 2007
Colin and Yekosophat sing...
Children clap to the beat of Colin's music.
Last Wednesday, Colin and I visited the TASO Children's Clinic. Each Wednesday, TASO's young clients come for counseling, medical care, and pharmaceuticals. Most of the children are taking an anti-malarial & TB prophalaxis; others are fortunate to be on pediatric ART. The TASO children's clinic used to be housed in a dilapidated, cramped trailer. That horrible trailer retired in January when TASO finished construction on a new wing of the building and opened the doors to a spacious, sunny children's clinic.
Colin brought his guitar along and I carried crayons and coloring books. Two of the participants from the poultry project were there! Michael Wanaba and Yekosophat (and his mother, Lona). Michael looks like a different child. Last summer, he was terribly weak and suffering from malnutrition and stomach TB. The TB is gone, he's gained weight, and he began taking ARVs.
Lona told me that, "everytime Yekosophat sees a muzungu he thinks it is you." Lona, like many other poultry project participants, lost hens to New Castle disease. She said that when the hens died, she decided to sell the cock, fearing it too would fall sick. With the profit from the cock (4,000 USh) plus a portion of her savings (10,000 USh), Lona purchased a goat. Her goat is pregnant and she plans on purchasing a calf in the near future. Each of the poultry project participants also received a bicycle as an additional source of income and support. Lona lends her bicycle for use as a boda boda (bike taxi service) and uses the profits to pay for Yekosophat's school fees. Yekosophat is doing well in school and ranked 26th out of 90 students in his primary-2 class.
Yekosophat sings a song about the impact of AIDS.
Colin brought smiles and laughter to the children (and their mothers) with his music. He played some folk songs and the children clapped. He sat in the middle of the straw mat strumming his guitar with all the love and soul he had. It's hard to go to the children's clinic. Last year, I remember excusing myself. Overwhelmed with emotion, I had to leave to cry, to hide my reaction. It's hard to see sick children anytime, anyplace. Colin was so graceful. He didn't need to leave. Whatever he was feeling - hopeless, confused, sad - was hidden by his song and smile. Yekosophat was so moved by the music that he stood up sang a ballad about AIDS. Colin played the guitar to the beat of the lyrics and the swing of Yekosophat's hips. Lona sang along. It was so cool. The song he sang tells the story of an uncle that "used to sing and dance...now he is sick with AIDS and barely walking."
On Thursday, we went back to TASO to discuss our plans for the poultry project. The biggest obstacle has been the scourge of New Castle disease (NCD). We believe that the majority of the hens we purchased were sick. NCD is a common virus that affects village poultry in developing countries. Although we paid for the hens to receive NCD vaccine, we cannot be certain they did. Fortunately, at the onset of sickness, many of the families were able to sell their birds and purchase more birds or goats, and the bicycles continue to provide most of the families with some supplemental income. And not all the birds fell ill. Considering the NCD obstacle and our limited time here, we decided to hold another training workshop and purchase 3 more hens for each family. The workshop will be Saturday, May 26. We contacted FARMAfrica about getting one of their trainers to facilitate the workshop. The hens will be purchased from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), where we bought the cocks last year. Another option is to allow each family to locate a vendor in their community and purchase the hens locally.
Workshop discussion topics will include: nutrition, bird health/vaccination, problems/solutions/concerns, marketing/business strategies. We want the workshop to be a forum for the participants to discuss the failures and successes of the pilot phase of the project...we want to respond to their needs.
We began mobilizing the families for the workshop last Friday. TASO gave us a vehicle to travel to the Budadiri sub-county to visit with three of the poultry project participants (Violet, Vaska, and Maimuna).
A TASO TEACH program participant examines Vaska's 11-month-old daughter for signs of anemia and malnutrition.
We found Vaska in the front of her uncle's home carrying her baby. Several TASO staff encouraged Vaska to take the child to a nearby health clinic for blood work, possibly a transfusion. The baby showed classic signs of anemia and malnutrition. Vaska said that she has had troubles with the poultry, but the bicycle has been profitable. She agreed to come to the workshop with another family member so that she can have support and assistance with the poultry.
Violet's grandmother (her caretaker) greeted us with dismay and sadness. The evening prior her entire bird/goat house had been ransacked and all of her livestock was stolen. She said her birds never fell sick. She was so upset and we assured her that she had done all she could to protect her birds. In fact, her birds probably never fell sick because of the clean, well-kept house she built for them. News of the upcoming workshop seemed to cheer her up. Violet was in town buying a school uniform, which is a good sign. She got the money from boda boda profits.
Violet's grandmother sits with her orphaned grandsons; she has lost all but one of her children. Her only surviving daughter was recently diagnosed with HIV.
We also had time to drop by Shamim's house. She ran outside screaming when she saw the TASO vehicle, but made a quick u-turn back into the house. She emerged two minutes later with a different dress on - Colin told her how I also love to change my outfits several times a day.
Shamim holds a little lamb.
Shamim's health has improved greatly. She is getting taller, her rash has disappeared, and her grandparents said that she has not fallen sick in months. Her energy levels have also improved and she continues to make her family happy.
We found Maimuna walking towards the TASO outreach clinic with a walking stick in one hand and her best friend's hand in the other. Maimuna has a herpes virus on her right leg. She needs a cane to walk and the pain is excruciating. She got treatment at the TASO outreach Friday, and the TASO medical staff said that her leg should be healed by Saturday.
Margaret, me, Maimuna, and TASO community workers pose for a pic.
Colin got his suitcase on Saturday! The box of 64 Crayola crayons was scattered among his clothes. Clothes were unfolded and I think some things are missing. It's here, though, and that's all that matters. We went to Entebbe to retrieve the luggage and we stayed there Saturday night. Lake Victoria is gorgeous, but the lake flies that hang out there are annoying. There's billions of 'em. And together they make a piercing, terrifying noise that I believe has inspired the melodies for the most haunting horror film scores. We took public transport back to Mbale last night. Near Iganga, about 2 hours southwest of Mbale, we were stalled because of a horrible accident. A semi-truck hauling beer flipped and went off the road. Hundreds of cars on either side of the one-vehicle accident waited to pass on the bumping, unpaved road. People were everywhere; the only illumination provided by gigantic stars, a cresent moon, and car headlights. I hope the driver is okay...it didn't look good.
I have to go to TASO now. It's Monday morning, the sun is shining, and I promise to write more tonight or tomorrow morning.
A sign at the Budadiri clinic prohibits grazing animals. If you look closely, you'll see a goat and a cow, grazing.
May 16, 2007
Sure glad London wasn't our last stop
Colin admires a statue at Paddington Station in London.
First, we want to thank all the wonderful people that supported us at the pancake dinner and with generous donations...with out you, this would not be possible. Merci Beaucoup!
Before we left, I started a fabulous new job at the Canton City Health Department as the Health Services (AIDS) Coordinator, and Colin finished another semester with amazing grades. He also wrote a column about our Uganda effort in the Stow Sentry, a Record Publishing newspaper he writes for.
We want to tell you a bit about our travels across the Atlantic...
It all started on Saturday, May 12, when our flight from Cleveland-Detroit was cancelled. Our entire flight itinerary changed. Rather than arriving in Entebbe, Uganda Sunday evening at 8pm, we were slated to arrive the next morning at 7:45am. They rebooked us on a three different airlines, flying to DC, London, and onto Uganda. The highly efficient Northwest airline worker held us hostage claiming all along that he was searching for a better itinerary. He didn't find one, and at 6:15pm he said, "You better run or you'll miss your flight to DC." We ran through the airport to another terminal. I had on 4in heels (stupid, I know); Colin was not pleased with my footwear selection. We made it to the gate and pleaded with more highly efficient airline staff to let us on the plane. They did. We ended up at Heathrow airport for a 12 hour layover. Heathrow is not so fun. The duty-free store selection in terminal 4 is outrageous - Chanel, Escada, Asprey, Gucci, electronics stores galore, liquor stores, cosmetics...you name it. We were lugging around 25lbs of baggage each. Instead of hanging out in the wonderful shopping mall that is terminal 4, we decided to ride into London. All I wanted to do was go to the Tate Modern and accidentally walk by a TopShop.
Didn't find a TopShop, but I did find some cool hats.
Unfortunately, we didn't have time for the Tate Modern -- we spent a few more hours at the airport getting boarding passes for our flight to Entebbe. We did venture into London, but it was uneventful. London is OK, I guess, except paying to use the restroom at Paddington station is not so cool. We went back to the airport because we were too rushed and broke and tired to enjoy London in an hour. Our flight to Entebbe was wonderful. Sleep and movies!
Colin's bag didn't make it to Entebbe, but the folks at British Airways promise it's arrival in Mbale soon.
Yesterday, we went to TASO and as we walked down the path we were greeted by Shamim. She ran to us with open arms. Best welcome ever!
P.S. Colin insists that I fabricated the whole "muzungu" thing; nobody has called him a muzungu yet.
Indeed, no one has called me a "muzungu," and I am extremely dissapointed. I am boarding the next flight to London.
I am so relieved and pleased to have arrived here safely.
Everyone here greets us with the words "you're welcome," which beckons me to respond with "thank you." But its not a matter of gratitude as much as it is the welcoming and kind nature of the Ugandans.
As Kelly said, the flight here was a drag -- not a fantastic way to start the journey. But this is an amazing place and I am tickled to be here, luggage or not.
Fortunately, I have a few shirts to wear -- one says "STOW," and another says "France: Losers of Both World Wars."
At this moment, Kelly informed me that its time to go -- we are going to TASO to see the newly constructed Children's Clinic, and meet with the counselors about the poultry project.
We will write more soon.
April 23, 2007
Pancakes for Uganda
Pancakes taste good, especially for dinner. Pancakes taste even better when they are made, purchased, and eaten for a good cause!
The cause: supporting Colin & Kelly's efforts to assist children affected by HIV/AIDS in Mbale, Uganda.
Their travel costs are covered, so ALL of the proceeds from the pancake dinner extravaganza will be used to:
1. support the sustainable agriculture project (TASO Mbale Smallholder Poultry Project for Vulnerable Youth), 2. assist child-headed families with school fees
3. assist John Busolo with his coffee project for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS
4. purchase necessities (clothes, foam mattresses, school supplies, cooking utensils, soap, bicycle repairs, etc.) for child-headed families
5. assist poultry project participants with vaccinations and other project needs
Also, 8'X 10' & 4'X 6' Photography Prints (Uganda 2006) will be sold for the cause.
We hope to see you on Friday night, May 4th, at the Kent Presbyterian Church 5pm - 8pm! Adult admission is $5 all-you-can-eat, and children eat free! Sausage, coffee, juice, syrup, butter, laughter, and water will also be served.
Bring everyone you know! And if you're interested in volunteering to help make and/or serve pancakes, please contact Colin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 06, 2007
Many thanks to all of the kind individuals that attended the presentation yesterday.
I am truly grateful to the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland for allowing me to use their beautiful space for the presentation. The individuals at the Taskforce are remarkable...they touch lives daily. I credit the teachers I had at the Taskforce with inspiring and motivating me to work towards a goal that should be held by all of humanity: making the world a safer, kinder, more livable place for people with HIV/AIDS and preventing the spread of HIV through comprehensive, evidence-based prevention. THANK YOU!
On May 13, I'm going back to Uganda with my boyfriend, Colin McEwen. We are currently raising money for all of the families that participated in the poultry project last summer. Some of the children need school fees, others need school supplies - the needs lists are endless. We plan on having a pancake breakfast fundraiser in Kent, Ohio sometime this month...we'll post the details on the blog. I am also selling 8 x 10 prints of the photos I took last summer; many appear on the blog. If you're interested in purchasing a particular photo, contact me at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. All the proceeds go to the Ugandan children affected by HIV/AIDS and their caregivers.
Again, thanks to all the people that took time out of their busy days to attend the presentation. And special thanks to my mom, dad, grandma, and sister who helped me so much yesterday!
March 10, 2007
Save the date...
February 17, 2007
February 06, 2007
September 06, 2006
Asante! Thank You! Waybale!
Children run after the TASO truck after a chicken delivery.
6 September 2006
The road is strewn with many dangers...First is the danger of futility; the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills...Yet...each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
-Robert F. Kennedy, 1966
I want to extend my sincere thanks to all of the kind, compassionate individuals who made my learning & work in Uganda possible.
Your generosity, empathy, and open hearts affected the lives of so many Ugandan women, men, and children.
On behalf of Shamim, Charles & James, Nambozo Maimuna, Nabubolo Vaska, Natule John, Nambozo Violet, Namuzekye Jude, Wanyenze Doreen, Walyabi Protus, Nambozo Sarah, Mukhaye Jacline, Wofana Eric & Nambozo Sophie, Khaukha Hanania, Woniaye Yekosophat, Nagwere Rashid, Wanambua Michael, Kedi Ben, Engole Jude, Okevi Peter, Apiot Agnes & Akalo Grace, Akido Betty, the staff of TASO Mbale, Wickliff & Alice, and Peter, I thank the following people:
Mr. and Mrs. Salvatore DiPietro
Drs. Franklin and Merle Griff
Meghan McEwen and Ryan Cooley
Emily and Joey Pavlick
Ann and Pat Kelley
Effie "Effteaheamoo" Flamos
Dan and Linda Fuline
Jeff and Marilyn Barr
Jim and Peggy Fallon
Albert and Marge Corsi
Amy and David Saba
"Chick" and Jill Weaver
Ron and Linda Marshall
Christina and Steve Saris
Colleen and Greg Caley
Marcy and Dave Greenfield
Margie and Kregg Himes
Mark and Joann McEwen
Sue and Dr. Dave Pavlick
Kathleen and Stelio Flamos
Mary and Barry Lester
Mr. and Mrs. George Tzangas
Judy and Michael Conway
Debbie and Dan McMasters
Rawna and George Shaheen
GIJ Towing Inc.
Thank you for funding the poultry project(benefiting 21 families), the remodeling of Charles & James' house, a new latrine for Charles & James, clothes and toys for Charles & James, clothes and toys for Shamim and other HIV+ children, school supplies for several children, Wickliff's medical care, Peter's medical care, and my travel.
I will continue to post to this blog...keep checking for updates on the poultry project, Charles & James, Shamim, and HIV/AIDS happenings/news in Northeast Ohio, the US, and abroad.
August 22, 2006
Wickliff's great auntie holding him as he waves goodbye/hello.
21 August 2006 I suppose taking Wickliff to the hospital was a good idea after all. Yesterday, we found Wickliff laughing, talking, walking, and eating at his great aunt and uncle's home in Mbale. Grandma (Alice)'s brother is a retired electrical engineer and his wife works in a bank. They've been caring for Wickliff and Alice for about a week. Alice wants to return the village, but she agreed to stay in Mbale for a couple weeks while the great aunt and uncle look for a nanny to help them care for Wickliff. And whatever happens, they've committed themselves to being a part of Wickliff's life. He is so happy! He doesn't fear me anymore. He told his auntie he likes me. He talked lots. We colored together. He walked and waved. He laughed and smiled. When I met Wickliff on August 6th, he could barely keep his eyes open. It's amazing to witness his recovery. Even more amazing to know his family is now involved, and dedicated to keeping him healthy and safe. And loved.
Peter's leg is healing; he's back in school.
We returned to the village to pay Peter a visit, and to deliver a soccer ball. Ironically, I burnt my inner calf on the exhaust pipe of the motorbike we took to Peter's home. I asked Peter if he'd help save my leg and he laughed. We went over his school reports. He missed a lot of school because of the wound. He was 4th in his class prior to the injury; he dropped to 15th on his latest report. The good thing is that he was able to take his exams last week. The wound is healing and his limp gone. We also gave him a mosquito net and enough school supplies for a year. I said goodbye to Peter, and hobbled away on my burnt leg (just a tiny exaggeration:)
Faith and Charity drying my tears on my last day at TASO Mbale.
Today was my last day at TASO Mbale. They insisted I give a speech, say something. I wrote something simple and short, but when I began reading, I wept immediately. I got what my sister Emily would call the 'ugly cry'. I couldn't proceed. Charity, one of the counselors, took the book from my hand, sat by my side, and read the speech for me. I just sat there and cried...tears of joy and gratitude.
p.s. In Uganda, it's customary to say "Well done" when greeting someone. "Well done" is said in place of other more familiar greetings like "Hello", "Muzungu How are YOU", and "Hi".
August 19, 2006
James stands outside his new home, at the end of a rainbow.
19 August 2006 Sweet Shamim danced all day, charming people with her delicate, unforgettable smile. Instead of giving her testimony and singing a song, Shamim danced with the TASO Mbale Drama Group. The sun beat down on us during the neverending TASO Mbale Annual General Meeting, a meeting which lasted 9 hours:) The Drama Group performed three times with their new member, Shamim.
Shamim dances at the TASO Mbale Annual General Meeting.
And then, of course, came the speeches and reading of reports and minutes. I was too hot to be impatient. Shamim made the time seem irrelevant. She wore her new purple dress, pink sneakers and a shear black headscarf. I loved watching her dance, so happy and free. Shamim makes everyone around her feel good. Her smile is haunting - stays with you always, even visits you in your dreams. And her little voice. And her sweet little hands. She always holds my hand. I had to say goodbye to Shamim, but I'll see her again.
Shamim's remarkable smile.
James laughing with friends outside his new home.
I left TASO early to say goodbye to Charles and James, and to see their improved home. The sun was about to set - my favorite time of day, when the sun light shines differently, illuminating everything, making dull things bright. And the colors! It's my favorite.
As we drove into the village, kids started running towards the house from all directions. We found James sitting on the veranda underneath the bright blue shudders wearing one of his brother's uniform shirts.
Charles, James, Reuben, and Joseph stand with Juma outside their new home.
Charles rode in on his new bike. Robert arrived later after a long day of caring for a neighbor's cattle. About twenty neighbor children lingered around, laughing and joking and saying, "muzungu how are you."
Havin' fun in the doorway.
Clearly, Charles and James now have the coolest house in the village! Wonderful, airy sky blue paint brightens the interior walls of the home. A deeper, sea blue colors the doors and shudders. The veranda, the floor, the new latrine - it's beautiful!
Charles and James inside their freshly painted home.
I saw a sense of relief in Charles' eyes. This home, the bike, and the poultry make him feel more secure, less overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being the breadwinner, the cook, the caregiver, the "everything" to his five brothers.
A rainbow appeared in the sky, first one I've seen since I've been here. The rainbow seemed to end at the house.
Magic colors everywhere!
That rainbow, however superstitious this may sound, assured me that Charles and James are gonna be all right. A good luck rainbow for Charles and James. We said our goodbyes before the sun left the sky.
...at the end of the rainbow.
View of the house as we drove away.
August 18, 2006
Pictures for TASO client IDs scattered on a table.
August 17, 2006
Happy ending (sort of)...
Children enjoying the view on top of Wanali Ridge - Sunday, 14 August 2006.
17 August 2006 I posted the last entry in a rush. Some of the counselors (Margaret and Sylvia) from TASO invited me for dinner at the Sunrise Inn, determined to help me forget about the stresses of the day. We planned to meet at 6pm. At 6:05pm, I posted the blog and took a boda boda to the restaurant. I was thirty-five minutes late. Aha.
Margaret is one of the founding members of TASO Mbale - an amazing woman! And Sylvia is a sweetheart - she counsels children at TASO. We talked about the project and how stressful its been. We also discussed the importance of projects that empower clients. We talked about the high cost of education in Uganda, and the persistent poverty. I asked Margaret if the poverty is getting worse. She said, "When families have to share salt to cook with, salt that costs 200 Ush (1800 Ush = 1 USD), you know something is wrong."
Around 7:30pm, Enos joined us. He came straight from TASO to the Sunrise after a long evening of delivering birds and bicycles to five families. I was overcome with joy and relief and gratitude when I heard this. I had no idea the other team of counselors set out to make deliveries. Three deliveries left. Tomorrow night, all 21 families will have their 4 hens, 1 cock and a bicycle. Hooray.
And someone asked how we can ensure that these families will not eat the chickens. Well, it's possible that some of these birds will be eaten for dinner, but it's our hope that most of these birds will be used to lay eggs for eating and sale. The families participated in a training workshop on smallholder poultry farming last Saturday. They learned about housing, feeding, disease management, and basic business skills. They also received bicycles, which are a major source of income, as they are the predominant mode of transportation here, especially in the rural areas. Each family has been encouraged to use the bicycle as a boda boda and, once the hens start laying eggs, as transport to the market. Many families plan to use the bicycles for transport to school, too. TASO counselors will keep close watch of each family's progress with assistance from TASO community nurses and chairpersons. With close monitoring and supervision, we expect most of the families to adhere to the project framework and guidelines.
The testimonies at the training were telling of the general enthusiasm and motivation among these families to make this project successful and to become self-supporting. Peter, the mother & father to his 4 brothers, stood up during the training workshop to speak. He pleaded with the other participants to take this project seriously, to care for the birds, and to utilize fully the opportunities and resources that the poultry project offers. After Peter spoke, others stood to express their gratitude and excitement.
They know that these chickens aren't for dinner; hopefully, they'll feast on the other white meat.
Update on Peter and Wickliff:
While John was in the village yesterday, he saw Peter. After spotting John, Peter ran to greet him. Peter's leg is healing. He's running! He finished his exams at school. Peter told John he is very happy.
Yesterday, Wickliff's grandma, Alice, fell sick. The doctors admitted her to the hospital, but Wickliff was ready to go home. Grandma couldn't care for Wickliff, so John went back to their village to bring a relative to Mbale to help. Wickliff has left the hospital with the relative, and is staying with her in Mbale. Grandma is still in the hospital. She's 74 and in bad shape. This whole situation confuses me...did we do the right thing by bringing her and Wickliff to the hospital; did our assistance harm more than help; will Wickliff get the nutrition he needs when he returns to the village; what happens when grandma passes - who will care for Wickliff and his two brothers...
Delivering the Birds & Bicycles
Violet holding her hens.
17 August 2006
For the past two days, we've been delivering the chickens and bicycles to the families participating in the TASO Mbale Smallholder Poultry Project for Vulnerable Youth. It has been VERY stressful...
Time. In the US, time is everything. If you're late to work, you lose your job. If you're late for a party, you offend your host. If you're late, you're in trouble (most of the time). Time isn't so important here. Like yesterday, I asked a man at TASO for the time. He looked at his watch, which read 11:30am, and said, "It's half past eleven." "It can't be," I said. I checked the time on my cell phone. It was 1:05pm. I wonder how long his watch has been off by over an hour. Regardless, the deliveries were set to begin at 8:30am. We didn't get on the road until after 1pm. Today and yesterday.
Patience. That's what they say I need. I've spent so many restless hours waiting for someone or something since I've been here. I find myself becoming less patient and more frustrated. No, angry. One of my roommates at the CURE guesthouse, Ihlo, told me I'd notice a difference back home. We'll see. I'll probably just be late for everything.
We reached 6 families yesterday, 7 today. Two hens died along the way, but not because of poor care; we suspect sickness. We purchased the cocks from NARO, and the hens were collected from local farmers that are participating in a smallholder poultry project administered by TEDDO. The farmer vaccinated the hens one week ago, so who knows.
Children help load over 80 hens onto the truck.
Several of the families have been working hard this week to construct houses for the birds using local materials; others already had chicken coops. TASO counselors will monitor the project by visiting the homes monthly. In addition, TASO community chairpersons and nurses will aid the TASO counselors with monitoring and evaluation of the project.
James embraces his new chicken.
Eight families remain. I hope we get a vehicle tomorrow. I hope we set out before noon. But, I need to remember that it's not good to have expectations. I wanted to see each family receive their birds and bike, but if I don't witness each delivery, that's ok.
And although it has been VERY stressful, the smiles on the childrens' and guardians' faces when we hand over the hens and bikes melt the worries and anxieties away.
Robert explains the intended uses of Peter's new bike.
August 15, 2006
James takes a look at the progress inside.
James is so happy. He loves the construction going on at his house. When we arrived, he was drinking tea and standing by the doorway, watching the construction crew pour the cement floor. He loves being photographed, too; he kept posing for me.
James playing near the water barrel.
The crew has been sleeping and eating at the house to maximize time, and to protect the supplies from theives. They care for James while the others go to school. Charles and his brothers all rushed home at lunchtime to help with the restoration.
James places his foot on the cement bag, just like his brother's friend.
Charles went with Juma to purchase bricks for the veranda, and everyone helped unload the bricks. The interior and exterior are plastered, floors poured, and the veranda in progress. They're also building a latrine. The house should be finished tomorrow. Then we paint the windows and doors bright aqua blue!
Many thanks to all the compassionate, wonderful, generous people who supported this project, especially Meghan McEwen and Emily Flamos, who mobilized the funds! Your support has meant more to Charles and James than you'll ever know...they are forever grateful! Thank you!
James is lovin' the camera, and his new house.
The doctors want to release Wickliff soon. He has graduated from the all-yogurt diet that he hated to millet porridge, milk, eggs, and other solid foods. He looks great. I saw him smile for the first time in a week. He looked so different. I like the smiling Wickliff best. We have people in the village to monitor Wickliff's progress after he returns. Boaz, one of the founders of PRID, lives next to Wickliff. He will keep close watch of Wickliff, and ensure that Grandma is using the money we'll give her to follow the doctor's nutrition plan for Wickliff.
I was waiting for that smile...
Robert (TASO Mbale) and James (TEDDO) carry the birds to the truck.
Today, we retrieved twenty-one vaccinated, exotic, improved breed cocks from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO). They're beautiful. We tied their legs with remnants of a sisal bag and piled them into the back of the TASO Mbale truck. At first, they flew around the truck and acted crazy, but they settled once the vehicle began moving (and maybe they knew they were getting 4 hens each). They never stopped stinking, though.
James and Enos (TASO Mbale) tie the birds' legs.
NARO is located outside of Soroti, about 2hours drive north of Mbale. It was a long ride. All twenty-one birds arrived safe at TASO where they'll spend the night. Tomorrow morning, we'll pick up 84 local breed hens from Kumi. That is, if we have a vehicle. The bikes were purchased. All we need are the hens and a ride, then we can deliver. Ideally, we pick up the hens by 9am and start delivering to the families afterwards, but considering the time it took to gather the cocks today (7 hours), I don't know if we'll get all the birds and bikes delivered before I leave.
Birds enjoying the ride to TASO Mbale.
August 13, 2006
Lwe Liswa Ni Bulamu Bwe, Masaba Region
Young man participating in the inauguaration day celebration for the Bagisu male circumcision ritual.
On one of the most important days of his life...
12 August 2006
Mt. Elgon is the colonial name given to the Masaba Mountain. The Bagisu people inhabit the southern and western areas of Masaba. Male circumcision is an important part of Bagisu culture. Every even year, a five month ritual for male circumcision commences.
Dancing under the hot sun.
The singing, dancing, and cutting began on Friday, 11 August 2006, the inauguration day for Bagisu male circumcision. Friday was the kick-off event.
Thousands of people gather to dance, sing and prepare the young men for their initiation into manhood.
The Uganda Minister of Culture and other government officials sat under white tents as boys from the various Masaba clans performed elaborate dances, clad in beads, animal skins, and musical accessories. Journalists and ethnomusicologists documented the event with video cameras, steno pads, and huge high-tech microphones.
Uganda's Minister of Culture watches the performance.
The circumcision candidates will continue to sing and dance in their villages for their family and friends to prepare for their respective circumcisions, which will happen sometime between now and December 2006. (The actual circumcisions did not occur at the inauguration ceremony.)
Armed guard at ceremony.
I had goosebumps the whole time…it was incredible. I’m so grateful that I got to experience such a rich piece of Ugandan culture.
Charles & James' House: Construction began on Friday. Plastering inside and outside is complete. The floor and veranda will be completed by Tuesday, 15 August 2006. I'm going to visit the house on Monday. Charles and his brothers are so grateful and happy. Special thanks to all those who helped make their new, improved home a reality!
Wickliff: Young, sweet Wickliff is improving. His treatment plan consists of some medications and eating - yogurt, especially. Wickliff doesn't like yogurt, but the doctor insists. His malnutrition wasn't severe enough to warrant a feeding tube, but his recovery will still take time and patience. He'll be in the hospital for another week, maybe two. Grandma somehow found her longlost brother, and he came to visit her. She is content.
Peter: A messenger from Sibanga delivered good news about Peter's leg - the wound is healing and he is walking better. Tabitha, the community health worker, continues to care for his leg and ensure a quick recovery.
Demonstration hen at poultry project training workshop.
Poultry Project: Training workshop on Saturday, 12 August 2006, went well. Everyone showed up, plus one. Don't know how that happened, but we'll be supporting 21 families now, which is a good thing.
Although we had a late start (scheduled time:8am, actual starting time: 10:45am), the basic topics were covered and the families left enthusiastic and ready to rear some chickens.
Poultry project training workshop.
The man suppling the hens & cocks facilitated the workshop. He was amazing. The demonstration hen he carried along laid an egg during the "housing" discussion. He engaged the participants, too. Many of the children and their guardians took notes, if they could write. Many of the participants speak different languages and only a few understand English; therefore, two of the TASO counselors translated for the trainer. Some of them traveled so far (two day trips for some) to be there. It's all starting to come together.
Now, comes the hard part - getting all the chickens and bicycles delivered next week. I hope we make it happen!
Robert, TASO Counselor, & Sarah, TASO Project Officer, watch the trainer demonstrate poultry vaccination.
August 12, 2006
Bananas on the dashboard.
11 August 2006 My family feared my safety in Uganda, haunted by the realities of the rebel group, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), and the war they continue to fuel in Northern Uganda. LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, wants to rule Uganda with the 10 commandments, kind of like our president, George W. Bush. What’s really ironic is Kony’s blatant admiration of the President of the United States - he named his son after him.
An LRA rebel holding Kony's son, George Bush.
August 10, 2006
Juma unloading bags of cement.
9 August 2006 Finally began restoring Charles and James' house today. Actually, no plastering done yet, but the materials were delivered. We delivered several tons of sand and 500 lbs. of cement. One of the maintenance men at the CURE Children's Hospital, Juma, volunteered his services. He runs a construction business on the side. He'll send his crew today to begin plastering, then do the floor and, if there's enough money, put a cement veranda around the house. He estimates finishing the job in four working days, so by Tuesday, August 15th.
Loading sand onto the truck.
Dumping the second load of sand.
TASO Mbale is holding its Annual General Meeting on Saturday, August 19th. Shamim will give her testimony and sing a song. She told her counselor, "make sure the muzungu comes to see me perform." We all pitched in to buy her a new dress and shoes for her special day.
Wickliff is doing well. He is still in the hospital and his condition is improving gradually. Wickliff gains more energy each day. His grandmother said he is sitting longer, not lying down as much. The doctors haven't said when he'll be discharged. The village elders reported that Wickliff's brothers are doing well and they eagerly await the return of their brother. John (founder of PRID & gate guard at CURE) has been by his side most of the time; I'm truly grateful for his enormous heart and willingness to help young Wickliff recover.
No word on Peter, but we sent for the village elders to check on his recovery...hope he's back at school!
August 09, 2006
Poultry project home visits
Young girl carrying wood.
8 August 2006 For the past two days, I've been visiting the homes of families participating in the poultry project. What an adventure! On Monday, I travelled with TASO Counselor, Charity. Today, I travelled with TASO Counselor and Community Organizer, Margaret. Margaret is a founding member of TASO Mbale. Back in 1990, she and several others began volunteering their time to counsel people living with HIV/AIDS. She's been with TASO ever since.
Many of the families we visited live deep in the mountains, where the rains are heavy and the roads are terrible. There were times when I just closed my eyes and held on. Margaret and Charity called it 'dancing' when the car bounced and shook us as it passed over the bumpy, muddy, dangerous, unpaved, terrible roads. We saw cars stuck in the mud and men fixing bridges and roadways.
Fixing the road.
Some homes were impossible to reach because of the rains and other people were not home, so we sent messengers. The purpose of the visits was to assess the homes, select the individual to be trained, distribute the training manual, and inform the individual about the training workshop on 12 August. Each family, along with participating TASO Mbale staff, will undergo training in smallholder poultry farming; the following topics will be covered: understanding common chicken diseases, administering vaccines, supplementing scavenge-fed chickens with supplemental feed, building a “house” for the chickens, getting the product (eggs) to market, marketing strategies, basic business skills, reporting parameters of the project, expectations of project, project prospects and possibilities.
The chickens are to be reared as egg layers, not broilers. Considering the consistent local market demand for eggs, with the proper maintenance and care of the chickens and responsible, informed marketing and sales, each participating family should make enough money to attain an acceptable level of food security and purchase other basic necessities.
Here are some of the children benefiting from the project:
Rashid is 11 yr. old, HIV+, and an orphan. His grandmother takes care of him and his four siblings. He will go to the training with his grandmother, who will be the primary participant in the project.
Yekosophat and Lona.
Yekosophat is 7 yr. old and HIV+. His mother, Lona, will be the primary participant in the project. She is very excited and has experience rearing chickens.
Eric and Sophie.
Eric is 2 yr. old and HIV+. Eric's mother, Sophie, will be the primary participant in the project.
Jacqueline is 14 yr. old, HIV+, and an orphan. She lives with her grandmother, who will be the primary participant in the project. Jacqueline will also go to the training, but her grandmother will handle the chickens, so she can stay in school.
Violet is 14 yr. old and an orphan. Violet and her 3 siblings live with their grandmother. Violet and the grandmother will both participate in the training, but the grandmother will care for the chickens while Violet is in school.
Margaret, TASO counselor, & Jude
Jude is 15 yr. old and an orphan. He and his 4 siblings live with their grandmother. Jude will be the primary participant in the project. Jude is currently in school, and plans to help train his older brother and grandmother so they can assist him with the project while he's in school.
Vaska and her 1 month old daughter.
Vaska is 14 yr. old, a new mother, and an orphan. She lives with her grandfather. She will be the primary participant in the project.
Twenty families will participate in the project. The goal of the TASO Mbale Smallholder Poultry Project is to ameliorate the dire situation these children find themselves in, a situation of hunger, sickness, despair, and hopelessness by empowering them and their guardians to become self-sufficient through active participation in an income generating activity.
August 08, 2006
Wickliff and his Grandma at the Mbale government hospital.
8 August 2006 After meeting Peter in Sibanga on Sunday, we met Wickliff. His grandmother sat outside her mud hut holding him close. Other children stood around her. She alone cares for her three grandchildren. Their father died and their mother abandoned them. Wickliff is three years old; light brown hair, lethargy, jaundice, and blatant weakness - all signs of his deteriorating physical condition. The grandmother told us she didn't know what to do for him. "I'm just waiting," she said. Waiting.
The elders said that the nearby clinic could not offer the care Wickliff needs. So, we arranged for grandma and Wickliff to travel to Mbale...
They arrived on Monday morning, and John (founder of PRID and gate guard at the CURE Children's hospital) met them at the taxi park. John spent the day going from a private clinic to the Joint Clinical Research center and finally, to the Mbale government hospital. He helped grandma navigate the complicated process of getting primary health care in Mbale(or anywhere in this country).
Wickliff was diagnosed with severe malnourishment and anemia. He received a blood transfusion that day. Today, they put him on a dextrose drip and began feeding him. I met with the doctor briefly this morning. He said Wickliff's condition is improving, but they need to keep him for a few more days. Grandma is becoming restless. She misses the village, and she wants to go home. She'll stay though. John and I have been visiting them, taking meals and buying them whatever they need. The hospital is scary - crowded, dirty, ill-equipped, dark, windows wide open, noisy, damp, bug infested, crowded, dirty. You walk through the corridors and wards hearing babies crying, stepping over rubbish, bumping into patients and visitors, wondering where the doctors and nurses are. And when you come to this Ugandan government hospital for treatment, you must buy EVERYTHING, from the pad of paper the doctor scribbles on to the gloves he wears. When I went to the hospital Monday night, the nurse said, "Wickliff is fine. He needs a dextrose drip. You can buy it for 1500Ush at the pharmacy." Earlier that day, John had to buy the mat for the hospital bed, gloves, pen, paper, needles, blood, medicines, cotton swabs...everything used to treat Wickliff.
Wickliff is getting better, but a lot of damage has already been done. He is only three and his brain and body are trying to develop, but without food, his physical and mental capacities are compromised. Some of the effects of malnutrition can be reversed. At this point, it is crucial to ensure that a consistent level of nutrition is maintained for Wickliff. Unfortunately, given the physical condition of Grandma, it is likely that food will continue to be scarce for this family unless someone intervenes. John's community-based organization, PRID, is trying to find solutions and answers to the problems of orphans and vulnerable children like Wickliff in Sibanga sub-county. John and the members of PRID are determined to help Wickliff. They'll find a way to make sure Wickliff has food to eat.
I'll go visit Wickliff tomorrow morning...I hope he smiles this time.
August 07, 2006
Saving Peter's Leg
Peter is an AIDS orphan living in Sibanga sub-county with his grandfather.
6 August 2006 Two weeks ago, one of the gatekeepers, John, at the CURE hospital asked me, "What are you doing here in Mbale?" I told him I was training/working at TASO Mbale, and we began discussing HIV/AIDS and how he's been affected. John lost his sister to AIDS, and she left three children behind. That was three years ago. After losing his sister and learning about other orphaned children in his village, John decided to do something. John grew up in the Sibanga sub-county near Mbale. In 2002, with two village elders, John formed the Poverty Reduction Initiative for Development (PRID) with the goal of empowering child-headed and single mother households through sustainable agriculture projects - coffee, poultry, and fish farming. Coffee trees were planted and are beginning to fruit.
John and the village elders, Boaz and Nathan - founders of PRID.
The first attempt at rearing chickens failed, as all the chicks died, supplemental feed was insufficient, and the new hatchlings were not vaccinated. The fish farming project has not been implemented. With limited resources, PRID has not reached its full potential.
John invited me to visit his village today. We travelled by bus, boda boda, and foot. We waited for PRID's co-founders and senior members to join us. Boaz is the vice-chairperson. Dathan is the secretary. Boaz cares for 5 of his late son's 10 children. Boaz and Dathan led us to the homes of some of the neediest families in the village. We trekked through gardens of beans, yams, groundnuts, bananas, and peas. It rained most of the time.
Peter and his grandfather.
We arrived at Peter's home; his grandfather cares for him and his three younger siblings. Peter is 15 years old, but looks 12. He hasn't been to school in a while. He walked with a limp. A huge, pussy, severly infected abscess on his inner left calf caused the limp.
The abscess on Peter's leg.
Money kept Peter from visiting the nearby clinic for treatment. He did, however, manage to buy some kind of treatment that is supposed to be injected; he applied it directly to the sore, which was making it worse. The sore had been exposed for three months. We told Peter to go to the clinic...we'd meet him there after we finished our village tour.
Tabitha, a midwife, runs the village clinic. She's a dynamic woman! She dressed Peter's wound, gave him antibiotics, and gave him strict instructions to return to the clinic everyday until the abscess heals. For the next 7 days, Peter will receive antibiotics. Tabitha also noticed that Peter's diet rarely included proteins, but that protein was essential for the proper healing of the sore. We went to the shop adjacent to the clinic to buy 30 eggs for Peter. Now, after visiting the clinic each day, he will go to the shop for an egg. We also bought him a pound of groundnuts to take home. Peter plans to return to school, now that he has proper treatment for his leg. The school is near the clinic, too! Peter was so happy.
He's in good hands...
Peter and Tabitha, the community health worker.
August 05, 2006
5 August 2006
"What is that thing?" I screamed when I saw the dinosaur birds in the dumpster.
"Those are wicked birds," shouted Angela from Nigeria (hilarious).
Mary from Uganda corrected her, "No, they're vultures. They eat trash. They're disgusting."
Disgusting is harsh; I like these huge, weird, pterodactyl-like creatures. They're actually storks, not vultures; vultures are smaller. Marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus) is the name and rubbish is the staple food. I'm sure that's not always been the case, but most of these birds are now found near dumpsters (that is, if there is a dumpster). The Marabou stork is one of the largest flying birds in the world. We saw these majestic, monster-bird trash collectors last weekend in Kampala. I think Marabou storks are beautiful!
I was supposed to go up that mountain (see 8 July entry)today to deliver a soccer ball, courtesy of Colin. It rained all morning, so Moses, my friend and guide, cancelled. I hope to go next Sunday.
August 04, 2006
I want to be a farmer
Camp Sunrise still needs donations to make the camp happen. There are so many children living in Northeast Ohio that have been affected in different ways by HIV/AIDS. This camp is their time to have fun, to be children, and to leave the stresses of their lives behind, if only for one week. If you can, please help make this camp possible for these children. And if you're thinking, "they probably got everything they need already," remember, that they can use the extra supplies for next year's camp.
Here is a list of items that Camp Sunrise still needs:
Giant Eagle and Michael's Gift Cards
Board games for the cabins - as many as we can get (jenga, catch
phrase,monopoly, uno, etc.) - these are helpful when it rains.
Supplies for free time activities - friendship bracelet floss,
Supplies for cookie decorating - for 25 kids
Supplies for scrapbooking - for 25 kids
Dixie cups - 500
Kleenex - 4 boxes
Kotex maxi pads - 2 large packages
Tampons - 2 large boxes
Pull ups - 2 large bags (one for boys and one for girls)
Socks - boys and girls
Boys' bathing suits - 2 small (ages 6-8)
Girls' bathing suits - small sizes
Contact Katie McKee to find out how to get your donations to Camp Sunrise:
Camp Sunrise Program Manager
AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
3210 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
4 August 2006 Minimal progress made on the project today - finalized proposal and put in tentative bicycle order. The home visits planned for today were canceled due to lack of transportation. Transportation is a problem - roads are bad and gas is pricey. I don't know if I've told you, but gas is like 2,350 Ush. per litre. 1 gallon = 3.78 litres. At 1 USD = 1,840 Ush., gas is close to $5 per gallon.
Charles' house: not moving forward as fast as I would like, but we hope to start construction this week. I will be patient:)
And the best news of all...
Hanania will be participating in the poultry project! I will visit him next week with his counselor, Charity. We agreed that it would be unfair to keep him from participating because of our fears about what COULD happen with his guardians. With the impending end of food aid, this project is just what they need.
About the end of the food aid program: an exit strategy is being implemented. About 40% of the 8,500 people getting food aid will receive training in sustainable agriculture to promote successful subsistence farming and generate income through smallscale produce sale.
My mom has a fantastic garden. Her garden is full of flowers - every color, many scents, different shapes, and so many sizes. The gardens here don't sprout tulips and poppies; they're sprinkled with earth's fruits - cabbage and groundnuts (peanuts), sweet potatoes and yams, carrots and peas, curry and ginger roots. Paw-paw, avocado, and mango trees shade village homes and supply the farmers with afternoon snacks after long hours of back-breaking work in the garden. Guavas and passionfruits, tomatoes and peppers, pumpkins and cucumbers. I want to be a farmer...
August 03, 2006
I love Uganda
Rebecca and Pemina, sisters and orphans, playing football.
3 August 2006 I went through a range of emotions today, as usual. Joy, helplessness, sorrow, excitement, gratitude, anger, satisfaction, emptiness, fulfillment, and Happiness.
I’ll just tell you the happy stories...
Robert (TASO counselor), Enos (TASO driver), Betty (TASO Day Center staff), and I went to Kumi district to visit 4 of the child-headed families participating in the smallholder poultry project. But, before we went to their homes, we stopped to order the hens. We’re purchasing them from TEDDO (Teso Diocesan Development Organization). TEDDO organizes and trains communities in all kinds of sustainable, income generating agricultural projects. James, our contact at TEDDO, agreed to facilitate our training workshop as well. We may buy the exotic cocks from TEDDO depending on the price he gives us…we found another farmer today offering vaccinated cocks for 12,000 Ush. and TEDDO wanted 15,000 Ush. – we’ll negotiate:)
On the way to TEDDO, we stopped to buy sweet potatoes.
Other Smallholder Poultry Project Updates: “Keeping Poultry” manuals are printed and bound! The caterer, date, location, and facilitator of the training workshop are set! And all the families we visited today glowed with gratitude and excitement. I think we'll get the bicycles and birds delivered before I leave!
The Crested Crane (B. r. gibbericeps) - Uganda's national bird; this one is somebody's pet.
Peter takes care of his four brothers. He’s 15, and he left school in 2004 after his parents died. Some NGO built a beautiful house for Peter and his family and they gave him groundnut (peanut) seeds to harvest. Peter is excited about the project, and has experience rearing chickens. None of these children are HIV+, and so Peter didn't know how to get to TASO Mbale for the training, so the TASO community nurse for Peter's region volunteered to escort Peter to the training next Saturday. I'm amazed at the profound impact TASO has had at the community level.
Peter and Robert.
Enos suddenly stopped the car on the dusty, red-dirt road when he spotted a man riding a bike. Enos and Robert smiled widely and got out of the truck to greet and hug the man. His name is Charles, and one year ago, he was on his deathbed, severely anemic and unable to walk. On a home visit, Robert and Enos saw the way Charles' brothers were neglecting him. They went to the nearest hospital to organize an immediate blood transfusion for Charles. With lots of work and patience, Robert and Enos managed to get Charles to the hospital for the procedure (in Uganda, and other developing countries, medical procedures like this don't just "happen"; the hospital in Mbale doesn't even have oxygen). At that time, Charles was 27 years old and weighed 37 kg. After the blood transfusion, Charles started taking ARVs. Today, a year later, he weighs 62kg, is married, and works hard harvesting maize and selling charcoal. Enos and Robert saved his life. Seeing Charles happy, healthy, and full of life inspires hope in Robert and Enos - and me.
Robert, Charles, and Enos.
The family of late Moses Imolot, Helen Orin, and Eunice Malinga.
Grandma takes care of her eleven grandchildren. Her son died on 28 June 2006, after the deaths of his two wives and youngest child. Auntie, also a TASO client, helps Grandma with the children. Auntie, along with Agnes, the eldest daughter, will work together on the smallholder poultry project. Grandma showed me the graves for her son, his wives, and her grandchild. I just held Grandma's hand, and we both bowed our heads. There really wasn't anything to say. The silence felt right.
As I opened the TASO truck door to climb in, I noticed one of the boys tying sisal rope around a huge wad of black plastic bags. He was making a soccer ball. I tossed him one of the soccer balls Colin sent. Agnes, Rebecca, Ben, Pemina, Peter, Geresom, Isaac, Majeni, Naomi, Esther, and Deborah ran for the ball after Ben kicked it with his knee. Neighbor children joined in. Grandma smiled.
Agnes, Rebecca, Ben, Pemina, Peter, Geresom, Isaac, Majeni, Naomi, Esther, and Deborah told me to tell you, "THANK YOU!"
August 02, 2006
More ARVs at TASO Mbale
2 August 2006 Today, TASO Mbale began the process of offering ARVs to clients again. It's been nearly a year since TASO Mbale filled the 1000 ARV slots, but they've been given 500 more to fill between 1 August 2006 and 1 March 2007 (this includes both adult and pediatric clients). After TASO Mbale reaches the ceiling number, clients are referred to other NGOs or government hospitals for ARVs, but TASO Mbale has the most slots (some regional hospitals have ARVs for 50 people). It's not enough. It took too long to bring ARVs to Uganda and other African countries, way too long. There were issues of intellectual property (pharmaceutical companies slow to relinquish patents for generic manufacture of ARVs) and reservations about the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of distributing ARVs in resource-poor regions. Twenty-five years into the epidemic and the worst hit region in the world is still struggling to provide treatment to millions of people infected with HIV, and prevent mother-to-child transmission. Here's a good article by Paul Farmer about ARVs in resource-poor countries: Download file
In the Children's Clinic...
Dr. Sylvia and Hanania waiting at the TASO Mbale pharmacy for his ARVs.
"I thought I was here to give drugs, not handle all this...I thought it was gonna be a good day," sighed one of the doctors, Dr. Sylvia, as she tried to grasp the horrible things Hanania just told her. Hanania missed his last appointment for ARV refills and hasn't taken his meds in three weeks. He said that he gets headaches when he's hungry. His guardians, grandparents and other relatives, usually prepare CSB (corn-soya blend food aid) for meals. He is severly malnourished. He weighs only 29 kg, and he is 17 years old. He looks like he's 10. His lives up on the mountain near Kapchorwa and getting money for transport is a problem. I suggested to the doctor and the counselor, Charity, that we involve Hanania in the poultry project. Hanania smiled at the idea, but then told us about the time he was rearing rabbits and his grandparents slaughtered and ate them, without asking or paying. It's likely that they'd kill and eat the birds, too. The land is fertile near the mountain; Dr. Sylvia says his guardians are lazy. They depend on Hanania's food aid (USAID Title II program - administered by ACDI/VOCA), which officially ends in September. Dr. Sylvia and Charity were visibly overwhelmed – how can they help these children when the guardians are perpetuating the problems. Another child, John, also deals with stigma, discrimination, and neglect at home. He lives with his uncle's family. All of his cousins go to school and he stays home to clean and work, despite his physical condition. Charity is working on getting him back in school; her biggest barrier...the uncle.
Hanania got his ARVs, money for transport, and some extra money that we told him to hide from his guardians. Hopefully, he'll make it back to TASO Mbale for his refill and checkup. I'll try to visit him before I leave.
Hanania and me.
I'm happy to report that Meghan McEwen, Loretta Bowlby, and my sister, Emily Pavlick, have motivated people they know to support the reconstruction of Charles and James' home and the TASO Mbale Smallholder Poultry Project for Vulnerable Children...Thank You! I also want to extend my gratitude to all the people that supported me and made this experience in Uganda possible...Thank You!
It's not too late to make donations to Camp Sunrise (ATGC) - Cleveland, Ohio. Review the previous blog entries (27 July and 31 July) for an updated list of what they need and Camp Sunrise contact info.
August 01, 2006
Building a stronger home for Charles and James
1 August 2006 I went to visit Charles and James! We are moving forward with plans to plaster his home with cement, install a cement floor and veranda, and possibly paint the exterior. I went with one of the TASO Mbale counselors, Robert, and the driver, Enos. First, we stopped at the primary school to pick up Charles. He was not at school today, so his younger brother, Joseph, escorted us to their home. One of the teachers, Issa, came along to help assess costs of construction.
I was happy to see that they live on a decent piece of land, have three pigs, one dog, and a 4-room house. The house does not need to be rebuilt...this is good.
We began touring the home and estimating costs. Neighbor women with their babies in their arms, children, and some of Charles' brothers gathered around to listen and watch as Robert and Issa calculated the amount of cement and sand needed. James smiled when he saw me; he looked better than he did when I met him a couple weeks ago. James will start ARVs as soon as his TB subsides.
He is taking medicine for his TB now - I saw it in one of the rooms, neatly placed on a chair next to the jerry can of water and a bottle of Waterguard (water purifier). I saw other things in the house that exhibited the tremendous love Charles has for his brothers - six toothbrushes sticking out of the mud-brick walls, mosquito nets hanging above the two mattresses, neatly kept kitchen, clean dirt floors, and an Addungu (traditional Ugandan harp) lying next to the chair slash table. He is so responsible! Issa said Charles misses school often...he has too much work to do at home.
Charles finally arrived from the market and smiled wide when he saw us. We told him about the plans to cement his home and the poultry project. He reverted to dad mode and concentrated on the discussion of his home's repairs. James went straight to Charles' side, and he was welcomed with loving arms.
I gave Charles and his brothers one of the soccer balls...thanks Colin!
The estimates for the project were much higher than I expected. Cement is 18,000 Ush per bag, and we may need 30 bags, plus labor, plus sand to mix w/ cement for floor, plus transport of supplies, and maybe some paint. It will cost around $700 (the teacher's estimate was $1000). James needs to sleep on a cement floor - he is so vulnerable to bacteria and disease and living in a clean house is one way he can avoid contracting deadly opportunistic infections. Tomorrow, we will meet with the building engineer that is working on a project at TASO. We'll take him to the house so he can give us a more reasonable estimate. We will try to find ways to reduce the cost. The goal is to start construction before the weekend - it'll take about 3 or 4 days to complete.
On Thursday, we'll visit all of the families participating in the poultry project.
If you have time, send a Giant Eagle or Michael's gift card to Camp Sunrise :)
July 31, 2006
The river and The city
School children admire the mighty river Nile.
31 July 2006 I was on 'holiday' in Kampala to celebrate the end of our TEACH program. We stopped at the source of the Nile river in Jinga en route. Jinga, decorated with palm trees and whitewashed colonial homes, sits on the Nile river and welcomes many more tourists than Mbale - my new small town home in Uganda. A group of primary school children were visiting the Nile also. I enjoyed watching them watch the powerful, ancient river flow.
Kampala-Jinga road fastfood restaurant.
The road from Jinga to Kampala is very busy and narrow and scary. Semi-trucks and VW buses and tour buses and small cars and motorbikes - all speeding, all trying to pass, all risking the lives of their passengers to get to the source of the best truckstop food. Nearly everyone traveling the road knows where to stop for a snack - we'll just call it the chicken-on-a-stick drive-thru.
That's where we had dinner. Before the car was in park, hands jabbed bunches of chicken-on-a-stick, cokes, and passionfruits through the windows. Women carried roasted plantains in baskets atop their heads. Kids carried sodas and waters in shower caddies. Liver and intestine on a stick was also offered through the window.
I had huge bouquets of meat in my face, and I thought of my sister and imagined her horror.
Goat meat-on-a-stick and in my face.
I took some plantains - a bag of 5 for 500 shillings (no liver for me). You bargain with the meat men, if you don't like their price, there's someone near the bumper with a better offer. That is the drive-thru on Kampala-Jinga road - fast, friendly service.
A boda boda driver gives a woman a ride.
As we got closer to the city, I started getting dizzy. Cities fascinate me, and have since I was a little girl. I get overwhelmed when I see a city for the first time. I want to see it all. I know there isn't enough time. I try to figure out a way. I fail. How can I maximize my time here? How can I get a taste of Kampala? How can I understand and know this city in 5 days? And the shopping...when would I get to Owino market? I totally lost control of my mind - I forgot why I came to Uganda. Cities do this to me, but only if I'm intrigued at first sight. Kampala was one of those cities. I looked longingly out the window, wanting to jump out, wanting to explore each block, each street, each market we passed. I was trapped in the vehicle, though, alone with my worry of not being able to 'see it all'. The fruits were aligned on the streets in neat, mountain piles. Atop a truckload of foam mattresses, I saw a Chinese man laughing with Ugandan men. Boda-bodas everywhere. Traffic. Noise. Music. COLOR. Beautiful women walking with their babies on their backs and baskets of bananas on their heads. The school kids in uniform. An Indian man standing outside his electronics store. Muzungus walking with their Northface backpacks, flowy skirts, and Chaco sandals. Tall buildings, colonial buildings, mosques, and cathedrals. Women perched on sidewalks selling candy, peanuts, jewelry, nail clippers, books, and hankerchiefs. Men shining shoes. Another man sitting behind a sewing machine, putting the last stitch in some woman's dress. I love Kampala!
(read Moses Isegawa's Abyssinian Chronicles for impeccable descriptions of Kampala and a look at life in Uganda during the Amin years).
A few weeks ago, I heard about the Owino Market. It's the biggest market in East Africa with close to 100,000 people shopping/selling at the height of business on any given day. I heard that Owino was where you could buy a circa-70s Dior belt and a pair of shelltoe adidas for $1. Owino is a thrift store heaven with leftovers from closets from all over the globe. Owino is opposite one of Kampala's taxi parks, where taxi's set off for all destinations in Uganda. Kampala sits on seven hills; the taxi park and Owino lie in one of the valleys.
One of many entrances to the Owino Market maze.
Entering Owino reminded me of going into a haunted house. It's an intricate labyrinth of wood stalls with clothes everywhere, shoes hanging from the rafters, and iron sheets and tarps blocking the rain and sunlight. Men sleep on their piles of fake Timberland boots. Women rest on a cushion of baby clothes. Other vendors holler for you to look at their skirts while another vendor grabs your arm to pull you towards his treasures. There are no aisles or straight paths. The trail winds like a snake through stalls, with the entrance lost and the exit nowhere to be seen. You suddenly feel trapped. You can't decide where to look. You want to keep moving to see what else lies ahead, but you know that you'll never find your way back to where you are now. You want to take pictures but there aren't many smiles here. It's a tense environment - competitive and mysterious. Julia and Barbara wanted to leave. I admit, I did too. My eyes hurt, my head throbbed, and I needed to rest my overworked senses. We pushed towards an exit, and we emerged safe and free from the Owino abyss. The Dior belt wasn't $1 (2000 shillings), not for me (muzungu and unable to bargain in local language). The second hand merchandise is prized and pricey, while the new stuff, imports from China and India, is cheap and disposable. I decided that proper Owino exploration required two full days, fluency in Lugandan, and lots of water. Since I lacked some of those vital Owino shopping requirements, I retired my desire to search for all the treasures I might find within the magical mazes of Owino. I'll come back later...
Rainbow of belts at Owino.
I am back in Mbale with loads of work to do. Charles' house needs to be rebuilt. I have soccer balls, courtesy of my boyfriend - Colin McEwen - to deliver to various children, including the kids that live up on the mountain. And this poultry project – must buy vaccinated birds, organize training session, and get all supplies delivered to each family before I leave on August 22.
Camp Sunrise still needs donations to make the camp happen. There are so many children living in Northeast Ohio that have been affected in different ways by HIV/AIDS. This camp is their time to have fun, to be children, and to leave the stresses of their lives behind, if only for one week. If you can, please help make this camp possible for these children.
Here is a list of items that Camp Sunrise still needs:
Giant Eagle and Michael's Gift Cards (easy, fast way to donate, if you don't have time to go to the store for these items:)
Board games for the cabins - as many as we can get (jenga, catch
phrase,monopoly, uno, etc.) - these are helpful when it rains.
Supplies for free time activities - friendship bracelet floss,
Supplies for cookie decorating - for 25 kids
Supplies for scrapbooking - for 25 kids
Dixie cups - 500
Kleenex - 4 boxes
Kotex maxi pads - 2 large packages
Tampons - 2 large boxes
Pull ups - 2 large bags (one for boys and one for girls)
Socks - boys and girls
Boys' bathing suits - 2 small (ages 6-8)
Girls' bathing suits - small sizes
Contact Katie McKee to find out how to get your donations to Camp Sunrise:
Camp Sunrise Program Manager
AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
3210 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
July 27, 2006
Camp Sunrise needs your help...
Big, magic trees near the mountain.
27 July 2006 When I started school last fall, I also started an internship at the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland - that internship changed the course of my life. I wouldn't be here, in Uganda, if it wasn't for the strength and encouragement of all the people that influenced and inspired me at the AIDS Taskforce (ATGC).
Recently, ATGC became the home of a wonderful program, Camp Sunrise, which holds an overnight week-long camp each summer for Ohio children affected and infected with HIV/AIDS. This summer, the camp will be held mid August, but they need some supplies to make it happen.
Here is a list of what Camp Sunrise needs:
Small plastic bins for cabin art supplies – 10 total
Bottled water for Club med – 5 cases
Board games for the cabins – as many as we can get (jenga, catch phrase, monopoly, uno, etc.) – these are helpful when it rains.
Supplies for free time activities – friendship bracelet floss, lanyard, beads, stationary)
Supplies for cookie decorating – for 25 kids
Supplies for scrapbooking – for 25 kids
Bug Repellant – 8 bottles
Sunscreen SPF 30 + - 10 bottles
Tylenol – 1 bottle of 100
Advil – 1 bottle of 100
Ice Packs – 4 total
Dixie cups – 500
Kleenex – 4 boxes
Kotex maxi pads – 2 large packages
Tampons – 2 large boxes
Pull ups – 2 large bags (one for boys and one for girls)
Socks – boys and girls
Boys’ bathing suits – 2 small (ages 6-8)
Girls’ bathing suits – small sizes
5 gallon buckets for drumming program – 15
If you want to make a donation, contact:
Katie McKee, Camp Sunrise Program Manager
c/o AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
3210 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
July 25, 2006
This time, I'll write...
Walkin' home from school on the train tracks.
25 July 2006 There was something so familiar about my morning walk to TASO, but it was not until last night that I realized why. Each morning, I walk a short distance to TASO and on the way, nearly everyone I pass greets me. They don't say, 'hi' or 'Good morning'; they sing a song, and it goes like this, 'muzungu how are you, muzungu how are you, muzungu how are you' (rhyming the last u in muzungu with you). This comforting morning Mbale serenade reminds me of the "bonjour" song from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
People seem to be having trouble pronouncing my name, Kelly. Sometimes when they say my name it sounds like they're saying Gary or Karen. Recognizing the confusion my name causes, Francis (a TASO Counselor) decided to give me a proper Bugisu (Ugandan tribe) name... Nambozo. The name isn't catching on, though, and people still call me muzungu and Gary and Carwe.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm working with some of the TASO staff and another American student, Julian Harris, on developing a pilot project to help AIDS orphans and HIV+ youth make some money as smallholder poultry farmers. We're calling our project the TASO Mbale Smallholder Poultry Project for Vulnerable Youth. The goal of this project is to ameliorate the dire situation these children find themselves in - a situation of hunger, sickness, despair, and hopelessness - by empowering them to become self-sufficient through active participation in an income generating activity. Each family will receive training in smallholder poultry farming (focus on the semi-scavenging model) & marketing/business skills for egg sales, 4 vaccinated local hens, 1 vaccinated exotic cock, supplemental feed, supplies to build simple housing structure for the chickens, and a bicycle. Poultry farming on a small-scale is relatively low-maintenance and the inputs are minimal, as local chickens can rely on scavenged feed for most of their diet. Disease is the big problem poultry farmers face, which is why we will spend considerable time on disease prevention, control and vaccination at the training. We want to equip these families with the skills and resources they need to create a small egg-selling business so they can have a reliable, regular source of income to meet their most basic needs - food, shelter, water, clothes, education, healthcare, transportation. If everything works as planned, the chickens, bikes, etc. will be delivered to the families before I return to the states. This project will be funded, in part, by all the generous individuals that donated money to help me get to Mbale. More on this project as it unfolds...
Follow the link this link to learn more about smallholder poultry farming and poverty alleviation.
p.s. There's this book called, "Lords of Poverty: The Freewheeling Lifestyles, Power, Prestige and Corruption of the Multibillion Dollar Aid Business" by Graham Hancock. It was written way back in 1989, when people like me were probably fighting for an end to poverty by the year 2000. Here's an excerpt from page 1, a poem by Ross Coggins:
Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet-
I'm off to join the Development Set;
My bags are packed, and I've had all my shots,
I have travellers cheques and pills for the trots.
The Development Set is bright and noble,
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes,
Our thoughts are always with the masses.
In Sheraton hotels in scattered nations,
We damn multinational corporations;
Injustice seems so easy to protest,
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.
We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with an open mouth.
We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution-
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.
The language of the Develoopment Set,
Stretches the English alphabet;
We use swell words like 'epigenetic',
'Micro', 'Macro', and 'logarithmetic'.
Development Set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the rich and the poor.
Enough of these verses - on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray to God the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you...
(note: nambozo, a.k.a. carwe, does not belong to the development set)
Kapchorwa, Mt. Elgon and Sipi Falls
Children hanging on a Mt. Elgon National Park sign in Kapchorwa.
25 July 2006 The internet left me for a few days - it's back and I am happy!
The view from Kapchorwa.
TEACH Tororo & TEACH Mbale participants.
Sipi Falls was beautiful; although, I've never seen an ugly waterfall.
Great views. Fresh, cool air. Magical flowers. Banana leaves and cabbage plants. Everything nice.
Sorry for the short story, but I'm off to TASO. The TEACH program ends on Friday. We'll travel to Kampala to present our reports and discuss what we learned and all that good stuff. After that, I'll return to Mbale to continue working on an income generating poultry project for some of the child-headed families and HIV+ children at TASO. I'll explain the project in more detail later.
July 21, 2006
21 July 2006 Went to visit sweet Shamim. She lives near Budadiri with her grandparents and other relatives. Shamim, like Charles and James, is an orphan. We met Shamim a couple weeks ago at the TASO Mbale children's clinic. She came to TASO less than a year ago after approaching a TASO staff person she saw in her village - she said, "Look at me, I am sick. Something is wrong with me and there is no one to look after me." Shamim has been receiving counseling and medical care at TASO ever since. She is taking ARVs, and getting to her TASO appointments regularly.
Shamim and her TASO counselor, Charity.
Shamim is the cutest! She has so much charisma and spunk. Everyone at TASO knows her. She sings songs, gives great hugs, and rarely frowns; she's a charmer. We all fell in love with Shamim that day. We insisted that Barbara, our TEACH coordinator, take us to Shamim's home for a visit.
We brought Shamim some food, sweets, and school supplies. It was refreshing to see that Shamim is living in a nice home, surrounded by love. Her grandfather told us that he's lost four of his children to AIDS. He often worries about losing Shamim. "She brings me so much happiness," he said.
Shamim ties her head scarf as her grandfather watches her with admiration, hope, and love.
I left Shamim's home feeling rejuvenated and energetic. I can't explain it, her aura. She makes you feel good. She makes you smile. She makes you feel safe and calm. She lets you know, without saying anything, that she's gonna be alright. She is only 6 years old. She must have an old soul.
Happy Birthday Dad
21 July 2006 I'm so grateful to have a dad like you! Thank you for always making me laugh, supporting me in all I do, and showing me how to be a good person. I love you.
Happy Birthday Dad!
July 19, 2006
Charles19 July 2006 I met an angel today. His name is Charles, and he agreed to let me share his story with you. I met Charles at the TASO Children's Clinic. He wasn't there as a client, he was there as a guardian. Charles' parents died of AIDS. He is the eldest of 6 boys. The youngest boy, James (age 5) is HIV+. Charles took off school today to bring James to the clinic. James clung to Charles, like a child clings to a mother. Charles is only 14 years old. He has so much on his mind - caring for 5 children, cooking dinner every night, making sure James gets the proper medical care, cleaning, and going to school. When Charles goes to school, James stays home alone. The home they live in is unsafe; it's made with mud and bricks, and could easily collapse during the rainy season. Charles can't afford to cement his home, he must first feed his family. Charles works hard. Charles stands tall and carries on. He looks and acts much older than 14. I suppose he became a parent long before his mother and father actually died. When I looked at Charles and saw his resilience, his stamina, his courage, his complete selflessness, his spirit, I wondered, what does he wish for? what does he want to be when he grows up? does he laugh anymore? or sing? how does he do it? does he know how wonderful he is? does he know he's an angel? He will wake up tomorrow and face another day. It's too bad, though, that he has to do this alone. He has no support, no one to comfort him. He is the mother and the father, and he is a child.
July 17, 2006
17 July 2006 On the way to TASO, I walked behind some school boys - brothers, I think. They were holding hands and laughing. The eldest started tucking his shirt, and the little one quickly followed suit. So much love...
We piled into the TASO truck to go visit rural clients on ARVs. One woman was weak and dehydrated. Her husband has been dead for some time, and her two children are off at school. Her mother listened carefully as the TASO clinician gave her instructions on how and when to administer her daughter's drugs. Her love for her daughter is undying. So much love...
Another client, Florence, was experiencing side effects from Stavudine, and she was having trouble eating because of oral thrush. Her husband is also HIV+, but he's strong and able to care for her and their two daughters. The family has two new puppies that were sleeping peacefully together under the homemade wooden chair. Florence's husband looked at her lovingly as she looked and smiled at the dogs. So much love…
After driving a few miles on a railroad track, we arrived at another client's home. She sat on a straw mat under a huge mango tree. She lost sight in both of her eyes, and has recurring discharge from her left eye. Her caretaker is her 14 yr old daughter, Marianne. Marianne helps her mother take her ARVs, and she’s agreed to help clean her mother's eye. Marianne is in school. Her mother, though sick and blind, continues to work in the garden to keep her daughter in school. As soon as we packed up to leave, Marianne's mother resumed her work, picking the peanuts off the branches she gathered earlier. So much love...
July 16, 2006
15 July 2006 Mary #2 invited us to her introduction ceremony in Tororo. Mary is in the TEACH program with me, Mary #1 from Nigeria, and Julia from Ghana. The introduction ceremony is like an engagement party. The bride's family meets the groom and his peoples and they negotiate a bride price. The groom's family presents the bride's family with many gifts. The bride and groom exchange rings and vows. A wedding date is set.
We arrived in Tororo around 1pm. As soon as we got off the bus this young man, about 17 years old, recognized Mary #1 and Julia - he saw them at church in Mbale last week. He said he'd help us get to Mary #2's house, and he called a car for us. Mary #2's house was about 18km away - I'm so glad we didn't walk.
Huge banana leaves created a path from the road to the two big tents where guests were seated. Fuchsia flowers and banana leaves decorated the tents. There were nearly one hundred guests.
One of Mary #2's cousins escorted us to the dressing room. Mary #2 and about 12 other women were getting ready, powdering their faces and tying the sashes around their gomesi dresses.
The gomesi is the "traditional" dress for Ugandan women in this region, but I'm gonna assume that it's design has western influences (like 1980s prom gear). The gomesi is very elaborate, with a square neck adorned with two buttons, pointy sleeves, full skirt, and a huge sash (like an obi around a kimono). Actually, I read that the gomesi was first a uniform at an all girls boarding school (early 20th century). The designer was an Asian - last name, Gomesi. They put me in a gomesi.
They wanted me to walk in the procession, but I declined. I was already the muzungu - I didn't want to draw more attention to myself. So, I took it off. The event was emceed by Mary #2's brother. She is one of seven children and they're all really tall. I think her dad is like 6'8.
Sodas were served during the ceremony, and after about 4 hours of introduction stuff, we ate dinner. I got to sit near Mary #2's maternal grandmother - she's in her 90s.
It was an amazing experience, and Mary #2's family was so kind and grateful to have us there. The best part, though, was that the young man that helped us get to Mary #2's house stayed for the entire ceremony! It was awkward, because everyone kept asking us who he was. He talked the whole time and he kept pestering Julia about wanting to go to Ghana. Julia was getting angry. Mary #1 ignored him. I think it's really funny. He didn't really know any of us. He didn't know Mary #2 at all. He ate some good food and got a free ride home. He's a resourceful kid, and he's a got a great story to tell his friends when he gets back to school.
July 14, 2006
14 July 2006 We went to an outreach clinic today in Bukedea. We visited two bedridden clients at their homes. The first man, Simon, was completely emaciated. He lived in a two-room cement house with his two wives, both HIV+, and four young children (not tested yet). Simon was too weak to get out of bed; he struggled to sit up. All seven of them sleep in the same room, in three beds. The nurse from TASO and the TASO-trained community nurse urged Simon to take his Septrine and to eat more fruits and beans. The ACW (AIDS Community Worker) told us that Simon is looking much better.
The upside of this story is that with the distribution of ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) there aren't as many clients like Simon - finally, people in Uganda have the option of living with HIV, instead of dying too soon of AIDS. ARVs have not solved the problem, though, as they are basically useless if they're taken without regular food intake. The poverty here is real and people are going to bed without eating. ARVs cannot nourish, too. It's very overwhelming.
At Simon's house, I felt so helpless. The other two TEACH participants are nurses, and they offered Simon advice about nutrition and exercise and adherence to Septrine. I couldn't offer any medical assistance. I went outside the room and started drawing pictures for the children. Then I drew a picture for Simon. He thanked me and smiled. I didn't know what else to do.
Next week, we'll start visiting the orphans and the HIV+ children. I keep reminding myself of something a friend tells me whenever I freak out about the war in Iraq, Bush, Walmart, POVERTY, anti-condom advocates, the arms trade, "free" trade, AIDS - he says, "Kelly, the world is a mess, and it's perfect."
One of the members of the TASO drama group has an eleven year old daughter. She went to Kampala today to talk to donors and execs at TASO headquarters. She will recite a poem she wrote about living with HIV and living positively. Before she left, she recited the poem for me. It was the happiest part of my day - a beautiful young girl sharing her experience, strength, and hope!
July 12, 2006
11 July 2006 One of the greatest obstacles we face in the response to HIV/AIDS is stigma. The drama group is a popular way, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, to confront and dispel HIV/AIDS stigma through song, dance, and storytelling. We followed TASO Mbale's drama group to Iki-Iki, where they performed for the Iki-Iki Integrated Primary School.
The act included songs, narratives, question & answer, and dancing.
The school children were captivated by the performance, and encouraged to “take the message home.” To show their dedication to promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and confronting stigma, some of the older students led a song and dance. It was incredible, I got goosebumps!
10 July 2006 Each Monday and Wednesday at TASO, children gather inside an old World Food Programme trailer to discuss their fears, likes & dislikes, hopes & dreams; to meet with their counselors; to get their ARVs; to be weighed; to meet with their doctors.
The trailer is decorated with HIV/AIDS awareness posters and the children's art work. There are some toys, too - boys get trucks and girls get dolls. They color and play while they wait for the doctor or the counselor. They sit quietly, hardly ever talking to each other. They must be scared. They are dealing with disease, loss, being different from other children, physical pain and discomfort, poverty...
Next week, I will visit some of these children at their homes. Some of them still live with their parents; others have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS.
Keep these children in your thoughts, meditations, and prayers.
July 08, 2006
Thinking of titles for blog entries is hard
Saturday 8 July 2006. Today we climbed the mountain near Mbale. People live all over the mountain and they grow bananas, cabbage, corn, chili peppers, coffee, tobacco, tomatoes, papaya, jackfruit, cassava, yams, carrots - it's incredible! I saw waterfalls and monkeys, too. And tons of butterflies! It was a difficult climb, but a climb that the mountain's inhabitants take everyday (with 40kgs of something on their heads).
At the steepest part, there was a ladder that led to the top.
Children were gathering cabbage, while their parents chopped wood.
The machetes they carry in the photo are not weapons, but farming tools. One of the boys is holding a socceer ball in the other hand.
I don't know what the mountain is called, but it's not Mt. Elgon; however, it is part of Mt. Elgon National Park.
p.s. I encourage all of you reading this to contact your legislators and ask them to support the PATHWAY Act (Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2006).
Email your member of Congress today and ask him/her to co-sponsor the Act.
Find out how to reach your representative at the following link:
July 06, 2006
I met some muzungu (white people) today - they're from Texas.
TASO Mbale - community outreach
5 July 2006. Today we went out into the field. After a couple of hours of waiting and chatting and getting to know one another, we hopped aboard the taso land cruiser. We set off for Buseta, the furthest community served by taso mbale. It was a long bumpy ride. We arrived around 11am at the town center. We saw about a hundred people gathered around the massive tree and tent. As we came closer, we noticed that most of the people were waiting in very straight lines. Some were lined up behind a man in a chair with a scale at his feet, but most of the people were in line by the tent, awaiting food assistance.
Once a month taso mbale brings all of their services to the community – clients can get food assistance, medical care, arvs and other meds, counseling, even reflexology. It’s remarkable. And although everything is happening in the grass under big old wise trees, the system is very organized and extremely efficient.
The food assistance is a joint effort between taso and usaid’s food for peace programme. To get the food assistance, individuals must be hiv positive. After learning their status and registering with taso, if they are positive, they are given id cards specifically for the food assistance. The food assistance is a large can of vegetable oil and some corn meal. All the oil cans and grain bags are marked USA. The food is usually the first stop for clients, then they proceed to the big old wise tree where they wait to meet with their counselor for a one-on-one session.
This taso community based initiative is managed primarily by the designated sub-county aids committees (SACs) and parish aids committees (PACs), which recruit, train, and manage the staff of ACWs (aids community workers); advocate; proposal write; seek funding in addition to taso funds; and hold regular meetings with taso mbale management.
Each of my TEACH team members was fascinated with this system of community based hiv aids care and support. They all want to copy taso in their own countries.
We then visited one of the ACYC youth project at the Nabumali high school. The students (many are children of TASO clients) use drama, music and poetry to promote awareness and understanding about HIV/AIDS.
July 03, 2006
pretty yellow building
Mbale. Surrounded by mountains and vibrant green trees. Bicycles and people crowd the streets. The air smells of charcoal. Reggae-like music is playing somewhere always. And everyone is smiling. It's hot, though. I think I told everyone it was winter here. It is not winter here - not even close.
I visited TASO today. They enrolled me in the TASO Experiential Attachment to Combat HIV/AIDS (TEACH) program, and I begin tomorrow along with other students/professionals from Nigeria, Uganda, and Ghana. It's a 4 week experiential learning program and we'll be working out in the community/villages - "this isn't TASO, TASO is out there" TASO-Mbale's director said to me, pointing out his office window. TASO is next door to the Joint Clinical Research Center, Marie Stopes International, ActionAID, and the AIDS Information Center (this is good).
I have housemates, too! Grace is a nurse from Lira, and she's working at CURE during her school holiday. Yesterday, Helen and Jen arrived from Kenya. Helen and I went shopping yesterday for candles. They sold candles, tons of long, skinny candles; but, no candle holders. So, I bought the skinny candles and a soap dish, and I tried to join the two together. I made a huge mess - Katie would be pleased. I saw three butterflies and two lizards today. Oh, some folks asked me to investigate the way toliets flush south of the equator. I've looked and I have no idea. It all looks the same to me. I'll ask around, though.
One more thing - the staple food in Uganda is matoke. Matoke is a green banana and it's served mashed with meats and chickens and other stuff on top. HHHMMMM.
June 30, 2006
After a long night in Addis Ababa and many hours in planes and at airports, I'm finally here in beautiful, green Uganda. I'm staying in Kampala for the evening at the American Recreation Club with lots of British and European people. It's really fancy. Tomorrow, we'll set off for Mbale aboard the CURE Hospital ambulance slash bus. We'll stop in Jinja to see the source of the Nile river en route. I'll start training at TASO on Monday, hopefully. Nothing crazy or exciting has happened yet. I think I'm still too tired and disoriented to notice anyway. I'll sleep well tonight.