Monday, July 9, 2007

Adobe Stove

First day building an adobe fuel-saving stove! This was for the Busy Bee Primary School, a very small village school where our Ugandan friend Freddy's kids attend. There were so many of us volunteers, not really knowing what we were doing, that I felt kind of un-useful. But now we know how to build one and we can do smaller groups. We got very muddy and enjoyed it. I'll post a picture later.By- April Murdock

From Laura Westover

Uganda is getting better and better by the day. I am finally finding things
I am interested in and I am going to make them work out. I went to the
Special Needs School again this morning and met the most impressive man.
His name is James and he is the head of Hand-in-Hand Uganda. His organization
funds the school and he wanted to show us some more of what they work on.
He drove us to a plot of land where they are building a two story building that
is going to be dormitories, offices, and a school all for kids with disabilities. They are also building a clinic next door where people can get health care and medicine for free until they can get back on their feet. He said that they sponsor kids and then expect them to give back to the community. He himself is a beneficiary of the program. They took him off the streets, sponsored him through secondary and university, and now he is a
successful lawyer in Kampala who volunteers his time to be the chairman of this corporation. They are doing some really cool stuff. I am going to get
involved helping them do home visits to the kids who cannot come to school
because of physical limitations and teaching awareness classes to the community. Having a child with a disability in Uganda is considered a curse
from God. They are often abandoned and those who are not are neglected and
never educated. It is a huge problem. He wants me to get involved possibly
teaching their parents that they are intelligent and as human beings deserve
an education. I am looking forward to it.
Even without that cool meeting, Special Needs (from now on SNS)
was a blast. I busted out the parachute today and they *loved *it. I just
love those kids. Viola is a young teenager with a learning disability who
is so sweet. She is smart too and I love teaching her primary songs. Rose
and Edith are two adorable deaf girls who always come laughing and running
down the street to get me when they see me appear around the corner in the
mornings. Shafic is a little rascal who can speak but only does when he
feels like it. He loves repeat songs and dancing but gets sheepish if you
pay too much attention to him while he is doing it. I am still trying to
figure out Stephen because he is much older and higher functioning than the
rest of the kids and I can't ever figure out if he is having fun or not.
Bruno is an adorable snoog who walks with the tiniest crutches I have ever
seen. Well, I should say he is supposed to walk with crutches but he refuses. He is so
determined to be like the other kids and is always trying to play hopscotch and dance with us but I constantly have to grab him to keep him upright. I will never forget the first time I saw Jonah. He is very disabled mentally and is just always smiling. And the cutest part I saved for last—he is cross eyed. I seriously died the first time I saw him.
There are more that I am not as close with yet but I am learning. I will write
more as I learn more.
Today I also made contact with the other special ed school in
Mukono. There are 240 disabled kids there!!! I was shocked by how many
there were. It is a school of 800 with a huge disability program. I am
going to try to get a lot of volunteers involved in the afternoons when
there is less going on. They really want us to play games for PE and art
projects. The headmaster was the most delightful man I have met so far.
I told him that I was interested in helping out with the disabled kids, he
grabbed my hand and then raised them both up to Heaven and said, "Oh thank
you God for this girl." He was so grateful. I love finding people who
appreciate our efforts and don't just ask for money. I hope I can get the
volunteers to get more involved. They would all love it if they just gave
it a chance. I think they are just scared by people with disabilities.

From April Murdock

Ask me how you can help eliminate poverty in Uganda this summer!

"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do,

or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.

Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." Unknown

I have been filled with so much love lately for my kids at The Crane School, and when I contemplated leaving them in a few months I was filled with so much sadness. They are such a delightful bunch! I love their questions for me about the U.S., like what we eat, what we grow, what education is like, politics, geography, etc. Fridays are debate days, and while the class of 170 students were picking up the rubbish from the red-dirt floor, I decided to have them debate about waste removal. Most people in Uganda burn their trash, taking out the semi-edibles for pigs and such. Wealthy people in Kampala who pay for trash removal may not see their community landfills, but we all reap the effects of burning plastic and everything else. So the debate motion was "burning rubbish is the best way to remove waste." And these young ones get into it when they debate! We talked about recycling, which was a new concept for them. Afterward, we reviewed letter-writing and I asked them to write a letter over the weekend to Bill Gates or the Mukono town mayor, requesting they build a recycling facility in Mukono. These kids don't really have homework or grades (they advance in school by passing the national exams each year), but I figured if even a few of them wrote letters, they would be more committed to take care of trash differently. Monday several of them turned in the letters, and they are precious. I love my kids! I told them that I will really mail their letters ¾imagine if a classroom of 12-15-year-olds get a visit from their mayor, President Museveni or the richest man in the world to see what this is all about and actually do something!

We finished The Wizard of Oz and started reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic in Crane's P7 literature class. A lot of the vocab is difficult, but they enjoy the story and I think she's a great example of loving adult leadership. Many of them don't get enough of that. I hope they grow up to be responsive parents and citizens. In lit class today I was alone for two hours with about 160 students, which was a little challenge (there are usually 2-3 teachers in our class and we split it in half). I started reading a short book to them about Native Americans and my students are fascinated, though it took forever to show them the pictures and repeat everything as I walked around the room because the acoustics are horrible and the class next to us makes noise too.

I've started teaching keyboard lessons at the church twice a week. There is a lot of interest there and I've never taught music but I enjoy it! Two weeks ago I started teaching two English classes to non-students; one in the morning across the street at the Vulnerable Children Care and Development Programme for teens who've dropped out of school, and the other in the evenings for a women's group that makes and sells handicrafts. The class at Vulnerable Children is actually terminated now because of some misunderstandings/complications with the director, but I'll go back to Crane's or find another project. The kids are great and I was excited to see them progress. One of the girls, 15 years old, is from Soroti (a district east of Gulu) and recently escaped the LRA where she was abducted into Sudan 3 years ago. Her family moved here 8 months ago and her father preaches the word of God in Kenya. She invited us to her house on the 15th and we had a lovely time with her step-mom and sisters. We taught them to sing a couple of songs while we waited for a torrential downpour to let up. During our two-hour bus ride up to Iganga this past weekend to work at an orphanage there, I played "It's a Small World" by sitting in front of Esther and Sarah's father. He was on his way to Kenya to preach. We had a good conversation and he told me all about Esther's experience in the bush. Remarkable people, they are. I'll send you more details of their story if you're interested.

The orphanage in Iganga was pretty great. The directors, Ruth and Richard, are single adult siblings who are carrying on their deceased mother's legacy. Friday night the kids danced and sang for us by the dim light of a bare bulb. They are talented! There are about 20 kids there, and R&R would take more but can't afford them. They make and sell magazine-bead necklaces, rent prom/wedding dresses, and work a garden. Great program. We taught a short English class to a group of street kids Saturday morning during a rain storm. We sat on the veranda where they sleep at night, and despite great excitement for us to come (they were expecting us), only a few were there because some had gone out to work (collecting garbage, selling plastic bottles, whatever they can find, sometimes stealing). Only one girl came and she didn't stick around because the girls fear the boys, Richard said. Neighbors came and watched the lesson and I think we helped show the community that the street kids have worth and can be "civilized"; hopefully others will mentor them and help them get off the street. I had a candid, long conversation with a 15-year-old boy there who is actually from Mukono and ran away from his alcoholic, abusive father. Tough life, good boy. Bad situation. On our way home from Iganga Saturday, we stopped in the tourist town Jinja (where we rafted the Nile) to eat at Ozzie's restaurant. So yummy. Being a tourist town, there are more beggars and street kids than other towns and while I waited for my food to come, I pulled out a little book to read with some scroungy kids sitting in front of the restaurant. One of the better times I've waited for food, I think.

I thought we were entering the dry season, but it was anything but dry two weeks ago, and a bit chilly too. Every day the heavens have exploded in waves of rain, with gigantic thunder and lightning. Class ceases when we're at Crane's because it's impossible to hear through the tin roof. Sounds like the sky is falling. And guess what ¾we had an earthquake! Friday the 15th I had just sat down to read before bed when I felt a rumbling throughout the house. At first I thought there was a very large truck in front, but it kept going long and slow. I ran into the front room where Dave was talking with Janet and Janice (our dear new "mzungu mothers" who arrived two weeks ago to stay a few weeks), reasoning that I'd rather die with friends than die alone. No damage done, thankfully¾the best kind of earthquake.

Thursday we actually had the opportunity to sit in a parliament meeting
discussing the education on the deaf and dumb in Ugandan school districts. It
was great to learn how the system is run.

This whole week we have been teaching English to a school called Crane, wonderful kids. There are about 80 students to a classroom, so it’s a little overwhelming, but we love it. We also headed up a choir at Mukono town academy and are very involved with the church here and with the missionaries. I love every moment. I get to plan lessons and teach kids between 9 and 13. They learn very differently here so it’s been an
adjustment to say the least. I wouldn’t trade this time for anything
Numitebi Gwakuna

Oli otiya

Oli otiya,
That's how we say hello.

We had a great contact with a few people in parliament. Last Thursday night the Honorable Freddy came to our home in Mukono and talked to us about going to his home
town in Jinja to visit a few schools, one suburban and one rural. We got up
at 5 am and got to Jinja and met up with the M.P. and they drove us to the
first school in the middle of a ton of sugar cane fields. It was so
beautiful. The children sang to us and were just so precious. We did a
program we put together about teacher training which included child abuse,
how to show children you love them, aids prevention, heath and hygiene,
teamwork, and other activities. We split into groups and rotated. I was team
teaching health and hygiene and AIDS prevention and awareness. We taught it
to kids between the ages of 6-18. We also taught the staff. I really enjoyed
it. And the Honorable Freddy had the newspaper and a news team there. No
pressure right!?! So we went to two different schools and saw the huge
difference between the government and public schools and also the suburban
and rural areas. It was great. Then they took us to the waterfalls of the
Nile, and took us into town in Jinja where we ate an American dinner. It
really made me appreciate our culture and our food. We stayed in a small
campsite on the Nile river that night. Oh it was beautiful. We saw monkeys
and alligators. In the morning a group of us decided to go rafting down the
Nile, The second most intense rapids in the world. We went and we

Anyhow, on Thursday a group of us had an opportunity to go
up north to Gulu. So we got on a bus and met with a member of parliament who
is the representative in Gulu. She set us up with her sister Lucy and she
took s around Gulu to different organizations and we tried to get contacts
there to work in the future.
I am so grateful I had the opportunity to go there. There are so many
organizations there who are trying to help with the women and children who
were affected by the war.
There were a bunch of new volunteers and we have so much work to do and I’m
so grateful we are all so willing and ready. I wish I could write all that
I saw and experienced, and I wish I could express all I felt. It really
changed my life. I hope to always remember and take these experiences with
me throughout my life.
~April Bladh
Angwen (in Acholi)

Orphans and candlelight

Orphans and candlelight,
Well, I think this is the 7th or 8th week I decided to not keep track.

We had a great week with our P-5 class. I love our class. This morning my Mom called and asked "what is your favorite thing about Uganda?" and I had to say it was our class we teach every morning. I love these kids so much. Today a boy made me a camera
out of clay with a light in it that looks like a flash. They are so
creative. Anyhow, I love teaching, I never thought I would.

Friday we left for a town called Iganga where we work in an orphanage and it took over three hours to travel 60 miles in a crowded taxi van and on a construction bumped
road. It’s crazy traveling here. We stayed in a small home turned into a
hotel and there was no privacy it was hilarious. We had candle light is all,
and we slept three to a double bed. Oh the things we get to experience. We
went to the orphanage and the kids had a performance ready for us so we
spent the rest of the night listening to their beautiful songs. In the
morning we got up early and went to teach the street kids who live under a
veranda of an abandoned building. We got there and they all came out of
hiding and we sat and handed them pencils and paper and taught them the
alphabet and words and how to write their names. They were aged between
twelve and eighteen. They had some education but they were forced out of
their homes for one reason or another, most of them were threatened by a
step parent. A lot of them feared for their lives. It was so sad to see them and
hear their stories. I loved the experience, there were so many people from
the community who came and asked what we were doing and why. They see the
street kids like rats, so the fact that someone would come and treat them
like humans was new to them. And the chairman of Iganga really wanted to
meet us. We brought them rice and they sat around and just ate with their
hands. It was such a humbling experience. While we taught them it started to
pour outside. But they wanted to learn so badly.

There is so much we are getting involved in, secondary school drama clubs, building an orphanage for a member out here, building more stoves, teaching AIDS awareness…etc. three months is not enough to learn all I can learn and do all I’d like to do. Life in Uganda is so simplistic and so complex at the same time.
Love you all
April Gwakuna