Thursday, 31 May 2012

Uganda: Amuria and Nancy

From Uganda 2012
While we were travelling today, over roads that were 90% clay, to our second furthest point from Kampala, we thought of Nancy, our original team leader and team leader here last year. At the last minute, for personal reasons, Nancy was unable to come with us. She was replaced by Dave. Nancy guided our team throughout its training. She planned this trip in detail, working with the ladies of the Inner Wheel of Kampala. At every turn, we have been conscious of Nancy’s thoughtful care and planning. We all miss you Nancy. Our love and thanks! Hope to see you soon

Today, we presented 500 bedkits in the hamlet of Obalanga, Amuria District. Although, as the crow flies, this is only 35 km from another community we visited, the people of the two places speak languages that are unrelated to each other. None of the Inner Wheel ladies who are travelling with us can speak this language. The lady who went ahead to organize the arrival of the bedkits, worked through an interpreter. Once again, we were in a poor rural community with family-worked fields. It seemed to us that there were more cattle than usual.

Someone told us that in the lower grades of the public elementary school, they have up to 200 students in a class. She said that one of their many problems is feeding children during the long school day. Parents may give them bananas or fruit, or some children gather such things on their way to school, but this is not easy for the younger kids. She said that, in theory, it would not be difficult to prepare, say mutake (the national cooked banana dish) at school but because the families are very dispersed, looking after several children at home, and working in the fields, there is not much free time to walk the many kilometers to school and cook.

We have seen uniformed children playing soccer around what must be private schools but there is little sign of sports in the schools where our distributions take place. Of course, children who walk an hour or so to school get plenty of exercise.

We again visited a home of a bedkit recipient. Again this was a homestead with three or four round, thatched, buildings The smaller huts are for storage, one of the larger ones for the six boys and the other larger one for the parents. These little houses were wattle and daub with the outer daub being cow dung, smoothed and polished to form an easily-cleaned (we were told) surface. The boys of this family played soccer with a homemade ball (something packed into an outer net made of rubber). One of the boys could use this just as though it was an inflated soccer ball.

Tomorrow is another day in Uganda.

Team Uganda 2012

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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Uganda: Day 9 - Gweri Distribution in Soroti District

From Uganda 2012
Yoga! In the local dialect this means "Hello!"

The weather was a typical Uganda day in May - hot. Today, the sky was clear with no signs of rain. We have noticed that the further north we get, the days get hotter. This place was a one-and-a-half hour drive and the roads leading to Gweri were all smooth and we enjoyed the ride. We passed through some villages and all went well. We were greeted by parents who were cheering with excitement. We had the assistance of two policemen.

We had one child who was on crutches and one had to be rushed to hospital as an emergency and had malaria. The child came back on time to receive the bedkit.

The distribution went on smoothly and we had parents who volunteered to assist with the carrying of the bedkits to the childrens’ parents/guardians. They were all grateful and appreciated the gifts for their children. The children could be seen smiling and said "Thank you."

The distribution was very close and we had an opportunity to visit the city centre of Soroti. We enjoyed the smells and sounds of the local culture. We made some local purchases and fortunately and we got some red wine which was desperately needed.

Tonight, we are preparing to celebrate our successful distribution with the Inner Wheel ladies.

MESSAGE FOR MAURICE: Maurice, the Uganda Team wants you to know that the label system you designed for SCAW is wonderful!

Elizabeth Mukondiwa and Karen Mackay
for Team Uganda 2012

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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Uganda: Real Rural Uganda

From Uganda 2012
Yesterday we visited two homes in Kumi, in a very rural setting. Today we visited a home in a village in the Katakwi District about 7 hours north east of Kampala. All of the houses were “dobe and wattle” (mud huts), roughly three metres in diameter, with thatched roofs. Sometimes the children sleep in a separate hut but in the home we visited today, the entire family, including 6 children, lived in one of these buildings. None of these homes had windows, lights, water, or plumbing of any kind. Cooking is always done outside, even in the local restaurant that we also visited today. The extent of the poverty is seen in the fact that less than one in ten children wore shoes during today’s distribution.

It is difficult for our SCAW team to appreciate the lack of facilities, but we got a taste of it last night as we had no power all night or first thing this morning. Reading and report-writing were done by candlelight or kerosene lantern. This inconvenience totally changed our life for one night yet these people live with this on a daily basis.

This is close to a border so another burden that many of the families have to deal with besides the loss of one or both parents to AIDS, has been warfare and a large number of orphans. Often these orphans are adopted by the remaining family members. This adds to the already substantial burden of raising their own family.

All of the children get up and dressed in their school uniforms each morning, walk to school, bring home their homework, and make sure it is done in daylight. Uganda is on the equator so the sun comes up at six o’clock and goes down at six o’clock.

The saving grace for these people is the incredibly fertile land, fine family agricultural practices, and a year round growing season. Most of the farming is back-breaking labour done with a hoe, mainly by women. We have yet to see any plowing done by horses or tractors. We did see a few cattle-powered plows.

This area has to be the most rural and the poorest that we have visited so far.

Bob and Peter
for Team Uganda 2012

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Monday, 28 May 2012

Uganda: Home visit

From Uganda 2012
Today we were able to visit the home of one of the children who received a bedkit. The family consists of a man who is a subsistence farmer, his wife, and their six children.

The home consists of an area beside a corn field that has three thatched huts surrounding a central area. The central common area and the area around the huts is all hard-packed earth, the grass having been trampled away. The huts are about seven feet square. The floor is hard-packed earth. The walls are made by forming an infrastructure of loosely woven sticks and then packing wet clay often mixed with dung and straw around the sticks. When the material dries it forms a fairly soft clay-like wall. More sticks are used to make a pointed conically-shaped roof frame that is then covered with long reeds (thatch).

One hut belongs to the father, the other to the mother, and the third is used by the children. The wife does the cooking at her hut. The children all sleep in the one hut on the floor which appeared to have a few gunny sacks for them to sleep on. It is very dusty.

The climate allows for much of their living to be done outside except for the rainy season (May to September).

I try to imagine myself living under these conditions and it simply does not seem possible. I am humbled by this experience. I take my creature comforts in Canada for granted. I vow to be ever mindful of my great good fortune in Canada.

The bedkit will be used by all the children. They will probably sleep parallel to each other with their heads and shoulders on the mattress and their bodies on the bare floor. The mosquito net will probably be draped over all of them. If a donor cannot imagine what a difference their gift will make they can be assured that their bedkit will make a huge difference in the life of those six children and will be a great comfort to the parents knowing that their children will be much more comfortable and will be protected from mosquitoes especially during the rainy season.

Don McCormick
for Team Uganda 2012

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Sunday, 27 May 2012

Uganda: One Sunday in Africa

I had to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. As I got out of bed, my foot got caught in the bottom of the mosquito net. I ended up wrestling with the net and in the end it won convincingly.

From Uganda 2012
We began our Sunday by traversing south for three hours - once again in beautiful Uganda. It is so easy to see that Kipling called this incredible country the “Pearl of Africa.” The vistas of the mountains and cloud formations will remain in my head for a long time and I will visit them when I need a passive moment.

Our distribution site, in the district of Busia was quickly arranged to suit our needs to efficiently deliver the bedkits to the precious children. A couple of Inner Wheel ladies had arrived earlier and organized the location. Basically-another smooth operation.

Our drive back to the hotel was highlighted by four baboons by the roadside. Needless to say it was a little bit different than the Gardiner Expressway!

Tonight as I go to sleep I will long to hear the little voices bid thank you for the bedkit and to tell me they are fine. I will sleep better knowing they are also sleeping better.

for Team Uganda 2012

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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Uganda: Bunangaka Distribution in Manafa District

From Uganda 2012

Today marks our half-way through with 3,000 more bedkits to give.

We witnessed another successful distribution. What a wonderful day it has been with all the smiling faces and cheering from the parents. Manafa is Bantu-speaking and uses the Lugeso language, a language so different from the other areas where we have done distributions.

We had an overview of the country-side which gave us the better view of Mount Olgen Mountain. We are staying at a hotel where we only have the side-view of the mountain. The road was meandering and had some hills, with the road becoming narrower allowing only one car at a time, as we approached the distribution. The children could not contain their happiness.

Being a weekend, a number of people came to witness the distribution and there was very good crowd control which resulted in a smooth flow of the distribution — allaying our fears. The people in Manafa are just wonderful and the kids were all smiles with some kneeling showing their respect when receiving the bedkit. It was very touching but we know for sure that today the children will have sweet dreams.

Thanks to the Canadians donors for making a difference in the children’s life and that of the parents.

Elizabeth Mukondiwa
for Team Uganda 2012

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Thursday, 24 May 2012

Uganda: SCAW Ladies read this

From Uganda 2012
Want to be sleek and sophisticated, look good for three to six months?

Then, get your hair braided or knitted! The ladies of the Inner Wheel of Kampala look good at 6 A.M. and 6 P.M., after a long, hot, dusty distribution day.

To have your hair braided or knitted is a long process taking one to three hours, according to how thick you would like to have the braids.

Knitted hair has to have a synthetic material incorporated into it.

To keep your hair looking good, use shampoo and conditioner as usual, with oil or cream in between the braids to keep the scalp moisturized. Repairs can be made to the braids as the hair grows.

This hairdo may be a bit tight for the first few days, but a warm damp cloth will help minimize the pain – but hey, it’s worth it!

for Team Uganda 2012

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Uganda: On the Nile thousands of kilometres from Egypt

From Uganda 2012
We started the day from the community of Kamuli in the eastern plain of Uganda. While our bus was being repaired, we took the opportunity to visit a nearby private primary school. In Uganda, all schools, public or private, require the students to wear school uniforms. All children are required to go to primary school, but considerably fewer go to secondary school and far fewer get to college or university. The forty students in the classroom that we visited, attend school from 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. with meals provided. We have been extremely impressed with the emphasis on education in Uganda.

We then drove for several hours through the verdant plain we had experienced yesterday. There were some differences today. Along the paved roads we could see teams of oxen pulling plows, larger fields and larger houses. Once we left the highway, farming was again done by hand (primarily by women and some children) and many of the houses had thatched roofs. But today many of the roofs were thatched with papyrus.

The source of the Nile is a river that enters Lake Victoria at the city of Jinja. Our travels today took us through that river valley. It moved us to realize that there were so many fields of the papyrus that the ancient Egyptians had used to make paper, and yet we were in Uganda thousands of miles from Egypt.

At the end of our drive we again found hundreds of smiling students, parents, teachers, and volunteers patiently awaiting our arrival. In this case, the distribution was in a public primary school and we felt that the teachers were just as excited as were the students. We were thrilled to listen to 500 happy children presenting their joyous songs to us and to Canada.

We do our very best to explain to everyone, that everything we do, especially the photographs, is to ensure that, as you intended, your gifts are reaching truly deserving children.

Tonight we settle in to the city of Mbali which will be our base of operations for the next three days.

Peter Adams and Bob Conway
for Team Uganda 2012

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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Uganda: Our first rural days

From Uganda 2012
We travelled for several hours, in a bus packed with SCAW volunteers, Inner Wheel women (our Overseas Partners) and all the paraphenalia for more than a week of bedkit distributions. We left the congested streets of Kampala and emerged into a wonderful, luxuriant, green, countryside. Uganda is a wonderland of plant life, a glory of colourful and useful fruits, vegetables and flowers. For most of us, this was our first experience of rural Uganda. It has to be one of the food baskets of Africa.

We arrived at our first distribution site and were greeted by 500 colourfully-dressed, smiling children, chanting and dancing a warm welcome. It is difficult for us to express the emotional effect that this had on us all. Some of these children had walked long distances and waited many hours for us to arrive.

We visited three different villages like this in the Kamuli district. We personally handed your bedkits to 1500 individual children. It is impossible for us to describe our emotions as we gave out your gifts to these children. It made us realize just how fortunate we are to be able to so this on your behalf.

The smaller children in particular, often have only a hazy idea of what is going on until they actually receive a bedkit. They get dressed in SCAW clothing, wait, have their photos taken and then arrive at the distribution site where they receive this wondrous gift. Depending on their personalities, some children are wild with emotion while others are made shy by the great occasion. Many say “Thank you very much,” but all, through their eyes, body language and, above all, their smiles, are able to express their gratitude.

These days in Kamuli have made us even more excited about SCAW work in Uganda and we look forward with increased anticipation to working here.

Our team wants to thank the ladies of the Inner Wheel of Kampala, all the regional volunteers who help them, and the teachers and others who prepare each distribution site. We especially thanks all those in Canada, and elsewhere, who support SCAW and make this great work possible.

Peter Adams and Bob Conway
for Team Uganda 2012

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Monday, 21 May 2012

Uganda: Workshop/factory Checks

From Uganda 2012
On this distribution, we were lucky enough to be able to visit places where the bedkit items were made, before beginning the distributions. We have never been able to do this before. The great advantage of this is that in addition to checking on the local procedures for choosing the sources of items selected for the bedkit, all the team gets to appreciate the economic impact of SCAW purchases and the extraordinary effort that goes into purchasing them. The economy of each country that SCAW visits is different so that the purchasing procedures and the manufacturing systems are very different from one country to another. This is one important reason for the variety of bedkits that SCAW supporters see in their photos.

Here in Uganda, although we distribute bedkits widely across the country, most bedkits items are made in the capital, Kampala, or in the countryside around it.

Our first visit today was to the place where this year’s boys’ clothing was made. This was a small home-like operation with fewer than ten workers where young people, men and women, worked at sewing machines making clothes. One of the workers told us that he learned his trade at school. He said that he enjoyed the work as they got to make a variety of garments. He offered to make Peter a suit! One of the women told us that she could make ten of the garments she was working on, in a day.

The owner of this little factory was a woman entrepreneur very like the members of the Inner Wheel who, for many years, have been SCAW’s wonderful partners in Uganda.

Our other visits today were to small, Chinese-owned, factories managed by Ugandans or Chinese, located in rural areas. One, with 500 workers, mainly women, had won the order for our bedkit bed sheets. This was an open, airy, building with around 20 Chinese staff onsite. The second was a much smaller operation where this year’s mattresses were made using a foam, based on local materials. This plant had allowed the Inner Wheel volunteers to assemble and store all 6,000 bedkits onsite. This was an important contribution to this year’s SCAW operation as safe, clean, storage and an assembly site for a small mountain of bedkits is a critical part of our enterprise.

Our last visit was to the place where the bedkit flip flops were made. They were produced by a plastic press, using, what appeared to be local materials. This plant was part of a small complex of factories where 85 Chinese work. All those we met had been there for more than a year, one for ten years. The plant was founded 35 years ago.

Did you expect to read about China in this blog?

Jill and Peter
for Team Uganda 2012

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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Uganda: The team has arrived

From Uganda 2012

The 2012 Uganda travelling team: (Left to right) Don McCormick, Dave Dryden (Team Leader), Karen MacKay, Bob Conway, Jill Adams, Peter Adams, Elizabeth Mukondiwa.

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Saturday, 19 May 2012