Liz In Uganda



5th Feb 18th Feb

5th February 2009

The weather is most unseasonal. Supposedly the dry season, it has rained every day for ten days or so. On Monday a storm started in the early hours of the morning and didn't let up until lunchtime. I stayed indoors writing a report and listening to the radio. That's when I found out that a good part of England had stopped due to snow. Ha! I know when I'm well off...

Yesterday I went to Bukakata to recruit students. This is a very poor part of Masaka District on the fringes of Lakes Victoria and Nabugabu. To me it is a most beautiful area but to Apollo it has the most awful roads and to the residents it's an area with little opportunity for work apart from the lakes (grazing and cultivation are difficult because the land is often flooded). I saw many drinking houses and many drunks, men and women. Hmm. We visited Rasheeda, a 2008 student, to make sure she had her knitting machine and was able to work. She was already making samples for prospective customers so we are all very happy for her. We recruited two young men, both polio victims, one in a wheelchair and one with a stick. We saw two others but one was too young and the other clearly not in the least disabled. We went deep into the villages, driving along footpaths and weaving between small vegetable patches since there are no roads. By 2011 the main road through Bukakata to the ferry jetty on Lake Victoria is due to be tarmacced. This will improve access enormously both for the residents and for those who travel to the Sesse Islands. Perhaps this will improve the opportunities for the residents too, although some of my more cynical Ugandan friends remind me that 2011 is election year.

Waiting for the bus to leave Kampala recently I looked for a newspaper seller. It struck me just how many hawkers there are working the bus park and I made a note of what they were selling - just thought I'd share this with you....

hats - Muslim and baseball
shoes - men's, women's and child's
full cooked meal on a china plate (katogo)
toothpaste, soap & condoms
soft drinks and water
chewing gum
racks of plastic jewellry and hair ornaments

watches & sunglasses
hard boiled eggs (with salt or sauce)
noodles and vegetables
chapsy (a local food)
ladies cosmetics & perfume
shopping bags
reflective mats
kikoy (local wraps)
biros, pencils & rulers
folding plastic mats
and finally......newspapers!

Happy Birthday Paul!

18th February

More techie problems. The internet cafe has been running at slow to standstill for the last couple of weeks. Today was the last straw. After a futile 2 hours I tried the 2 alternatives. One was closed due to a virus and the other happily let me in, but internet didn't work and I arrived home with a flash stick with about 300 infected files! Add to that my efforts to renew my web hosting contract - my host's link didn't work, the control panel didn't work and I gave up. Now Paul is hosting me, thanks Paul.

I made a quick visit to Kampala to have a cheque signed because the messenger went without it. I wasn't very happy but the upside was that I went to the National Theatre to see the Burudani Dance Company. I'm not really into dance but this was very good indeed. The main item was "Memories of Child Soldiers" - a tribute to the many, many children in Africa who are abducted to become soldiers (the boys) or "wives" (the girls). Uganda has had a particular problem, the LRA have abducted many children from the north and more recently from neighbouring countries. The choreography brilliantly displayed the misery and trauma the children experience. Sadly the audience was small and predominantly white, but very appreciative. I'd like to see this performed in schools all over Uganda. (If you'd like to know more about child abductions try reading "Aboke Girls" by Els der Temmermann.)

Fundraising for MVRC moves ahead. We are about to launch our major fundraising in UK/Europe. Expect to get an email soon! I'll put the Appeal on here too. We're trying to raise 50million Uganda shillings, sounds a lot but it's only £17,800. We're also fundraising in Masaka - the committee is just finalising their strategy. Here we will focus on donations of food and materials rather than cash, although we plan to ask local Churches to do a collection for us. We're also planning a 'fun day' in Masaka town which should also raise our profile in the area. I've updated and will add more over the next few weeks

Success brings its own problems. When the money arrives so do the hangers-on and the greedy or jealous people. Just the presence of a white VSO brings problems - I know of one man who is already ringing asking for a 'soda' and I'm sure there are others. MADIPA too has had issues with an old member trying to make trouble and bad mouthing the association. These matters have to be handled with great tact. The African nature is very generous and always prefers to forgive rather than prosecute, confrontation is a no-no to be avoided at all costs. This approach has advantages, seeking as it does the rehabilitation of those who have strayed. But for me it is difficult, I've always preferred a direct approach which does not work here, so I keep very quiet. On the other hand I'm working on ways to manage our finances with the minimum of risk!

VSO brought some UK visitors here this week. It was really great to take them round, and made us think out of the box. Thanks guys, hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I certainly was very aware of what a small sum we need to operate effectively for a year (90 million Ush or about £32,000). Our guests clearly thought this very little, even in global meltdown. So, donate just a little because every £5 counts!

Apollo continues to recruit. A few days ago he came across a youth with osteomyelitis. The poor lad has never received any treatment, he can barely walk and has pus oozing. His dad was very reluctant to let him come to us but Apollo insisted. Let's hope he turns up next month and we can then arrange for treatment. Another job for FoMVRC I think...

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