Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Out With the Old. . . :(

I'm a little disappointed at the level of interest people have of this blog. Both we volunteers for not posting more regularly/often and also of anyone who is supposedly reading this for never commenting on the well written, witty commentary of the events that shape our weeks. Regardless, this is the weekly update for July 20-27th:

On Sunday we attended a fantastic, elaborate wedding ceremony for Patrick from Town Council. Jackie, Ashley, Rylee, Ashley W., Seren, Kira and Emily went to the pre-ceremony praise session which lasted a good three hours before the hour + long wedding in Mukono. After the ceremony was the reception at the Nora Complex in Lugazi. The Mukono celebration was a waste of time compared to the festivities later in the evening. Deo even introduced us in the middle of the reception as the guests of honor and had us stand in the front of the hall. Thanks Deo.

Monday was spent in a dizzying attempt to visit and say goodbye to all the partners our departing volunteers needed to see. It was rough for some, amazing for others, but I think everyone started to feel the reality of going home. Chrissy and Emily went to observe at Little Angels Primary School to prepare for teacher training, a few people went to work on a stove and others attended to their PWD visits. It was a weird day.

Tuesday was equally weird. Irene cooked us a fantastic lunch as it was to be our last time all together in Uganda. Aloshus brought the people from the Mayor's house to the main house with all their luggage and then the rest of the volunteers packed up. Most of us had a rough time saying goodbye, even though we will most likely reunite in a little over a month. The worst part was seeing the family and Edith cry as the kids on the street ran after the bus as they all drove away. I couldn't help but cry. The people with whom I've spent hours and hours every day were leaving--just like that. It's weird how it feels like we've always known each other, even though it had only been 6 weeks for some and 11 for the others.
That night we rented some speakers and went down to the Cornerstone Orphanage in Nakazadde to watch Cars with the kids. They loved it. I think they understood English better than the kids at St. Edwards when we tried to watch Shrek with them.

Wednesday was BUSY!!! All the energy from the third wave rubbed off on the rest of the house and we all picked up and got going on all our projects again. We hustled around doing stoves and PWD home visits and writing up project proposals. We sorted and cataloged all the books we have collected and placed the more advanced books in the recently constructed Lugazi Hill View Library. It looks fantastic!!! Then Stephanie and the team had a great discussion with the students about playing sex safely. Our St. Edward's playdate went well also, we watched The Little Mermaid together. Next Wednesday will most likely be our last with that group.

Thursday was a PWD miracle! Seren taught a bodacious lesson on the importance of bonding with your children. Faith had the new volunteers introduce themselves and then had James Brown give a little speech. Afterward, she spoke to the group--for a while. The individual homevisits went extremely well and the new energy of the volunteers has been opening discussion on what to do next with each of their new friends.

On Friday, the rain spoiled some of our plans. We were hoping to finish filling the Kikawula stove, but didn't get too far before we got drenched. The other PWD home visits went really well and the kids and volunteers are really bonding well. Our AIDS support group went really well too. The Mamatoto choir is coming along and they have a great time when they get together.
After work the majority of the group left for Sipi Falls (aka the garden of Eden) and I'm not sure what happened after that because I went to bed around 9pm. \

It was a very busy week, and we are so excited for the good energy that's rejuvenated us. We look forward to more good work and busy schedules.
Thanks for reading--if you did. If you did--leave a comment.
The shovel goddess

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ready or not, here we come Rwanda....


On Monday morning Ashley and Heidi went to Kampala for the day to visit someone for Parliament. Some of the primary school team went to St. Edwards to observe the teachers. The Adobe stove team started a stove in Nmango and their team is working very hard and the team members are starting to figure out all the basics to teach the Africans. A small group went to Jinja in the evening to attend a YSA family home evening. They played games and had a lot of fun. We all enjoyed a delicious dinner from our amazing cook. I think we all look forward to dinner WAY too much.

On Tuesday there was a huge holiday called Martyrs Day. It is a day remembering 23 Christians who were martyred because they refused to work on Sundays. People make a pilgrimage to this memorial from all over the world (like we’re talking other African countries, Asia, etc.) For days we kept seeing people trekking along the road trying to make it for the celebrations. Everyone celebrates this day and so all of Uganda basically shuts down, so there wasn’t much work for us to do. We decided to join in the pilgrimage and visit the memorial sites. You have NEVER seen so many people in your life, as we walked with along that road. There was all sorts of people selling fun crafts and goodies along the street as we walked by. We had a great day enjoy the festivities and then we headed to Kampala. It’s totally like a piece of America. There are sky scrapers and the most amazing mall called Garden City. We spent a few hours at Garden City. It is half indoor and half outdoor with all sorts of shops and an amazing food court. We all got some amazing American food and sat at the food court, which was open in the back looking out at a gorgeous garden complete with palm trees and amazing flowers. We spent the rest of the night working on our projects.

On Wednesday Corbin, Leslie and Heidi went to Truelight and built a stove. Building stoves is quite hard work and this group is learning how essential it is to have a lot of people being a part of this project. Later that day some other members of the group filled in a stove for Betty. At 3:00 the secondary schools team went to Hillview Highschool and started their club. With some help from the kids the club was officially name Team Ekitangala (Team Light). Two Mzungus were teamed up with four kids. Throughout the summer the two Mzungus will be mentors to their four children. At 5:00 many of us went to St. Edwards for the weekly orphan gathering. We finished watching Shrek 2. The kids thought it was hilarious and loved it. We came home to a delicious dinner and then each person worked on their projects.

On Thursday morning the persons with disabilities team met with the mothers and their children. Ashley and Natalie gave a counseling session to the mothers about living with a child with disabilities. The mothers were excited and the lesson went very well. The rest of the team played with the children (coloring and playing with balls). After the meeting some went to a business training. David, Jeff and Ashley taught supply and demand to a group of local people. At three Amber, Natalie, Heidi, Rylee, and Ashley went and taught English to a women’s group. Many of the women are at different levels and we plan on pairing some of those that know better English better with those that know as much. Irene threw something new on the menu (we always love our meals, but they are usually most always the same), we had these rolls filled with a spicy cabbage (in the words of Ashley, “A hot pocket went to Africa and got delicious”.) We are so grateful for Irene and Christine, we looked forward to our meals everyday! We plan on going to Rwanda this weekend and so we decided to watch the movie Hotel Rwanda projected on a sheet in the living room. It’s so weird to watch that movie after living in Africa. I don’t think any of us will ever look at the world in the same way at the end of this summer.

On Friday Leslie, Heidi, Rylee, and Natalie went to Iganga. Talked about friendship and taught the children to make friendship bracelets. After they made the bracelets they exchanged them with one another. We played with a parachute after and played other games together. They got so excited to see us and we love working with them. Tori and Jackie went to Kampala to get us tickets for the bus ride to Rwanda. Everyone worked very hard on their projects and it was a very successful week.

On Saturday we woke up at 3:30 am to get ready for our long adventure to Rwanda. Jackie, Ashley, Heidi, Trent, Corbin, David, Tori, Rylee, Leslie, Lauren, and Emily all went for this amazing weekend. We got to Kampala and caught our bus at 6. The ride was a little squishy but much more comfortable than a taxi. We stopped for a bathroom break and they definitely just pulled right over and it was a free for all on the side of the road, SO akward! Our bus broke down and we were stuck for about 2 hours, but finally with the help of some bushes on the side of the road, something in the engine was tied back together and we were on our way again. We didn’t end up arriving in Rwanda until 6:30 pm, it was a very long day. Richard (from a town counsil in Rwanda) met us at the bus yard. We took our things to our hotel (Chez Rose Hotel). We were all so excited because our rooms had hot water and toilet seats, SO nice! We got some dinner at Chez Lando and it was yummy (but it took us three hours from start to finish, everything here is super slow!) We were all super tired and all wanted to get into our comfy beds and hit the hay.

On Sunday morning we had a delicious breakfast provided by the hotel, it was omelettes, bread, bananas, and steamed milk. Richard met us at 9 and we headed off to Kigale. We went to the Kigale Memorial Center. It was such an amazing experience that I know none of us will soon forget. We spent about 3 or 4 hours there learning all about the genocide. They had 14 mass graves in the back that had over 258,000 victims. We put some flowers on one of the mass graves. They had so much information inside and such graphic details. It was haunting but so important to learn about. They had so much dedicated to the memory of these victims and also survivors’ stories. It was an amazing day and all of us were deeply moved. It is unreal the tragedy that occurred in this beautiful place. As we were driving around we were all amazed at the beauty of Rwanda. It is one of the most gorgeous places we have seen in our entire lives and it is so clean. After the memorial center we headed to the Hotel Des Milles Collines (Hotel Rwanda). It was so crazy to see the actual place this happened. We had the honor of having a man named Abias. He was a survivor that lived in the hotel for 2 months. His wife even had a baby in Room 216. It was incredible to see him and hear his story. It is amazing that they housed over 1,000 people in just over 100 rooms and not one was killed. For dinner we went to an amazing buffet called Karibu. It was so good because it was fast, delicious, and warm…..mmm such a great combo. We went back to our hotel totally exhausted and ready for bed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


May 13th, 2008

Hello everyone!!!! We can’t believe we are saying this, but we are finally here in Lugazi, Uganda!! It is so exciting and this past week has been a great experience so far. We arrived late Wednesday night, drove to our house, and crashed into our beds. Our house is very cute. It has a common room with a couple couches, a small kitchen, then two bedrooms that hold about 6 people each, and 2 bedrooms that hold 2 each. Thursday morning we went around town and saw where everything was, like the town council, hospital, mayor’s house, and supermarket. The town is great!! It is so tiny but very fun to go to. The market is a huge place where everyone has their little fruit, vegetable, or chicken stands set up. And yes, the chickens are alive. Hahaha. But it’s fun to go shopping because everything is so cheap. A pineapple is less than one US dollar, so we’ve definitely all taken advantage of that. Later that night we had a team meeting about everything, then our initiation. Ah, the initiation. Ashley and Jackie kept telling us to be prepared for it mentally, physically, and emotionally. So we were all confused as to what it was. Well, we were sitting outside on lawn chairs in the little courtyard of our house with lit candlesticks. Edith, a cute 18 year old girl down the street who’s been helping us immensely, got up and told us that to be a member of the Muzungi Tribe we needed to do something. All of a sudden, two live chickens were brought out and we were supposed to chop their heads off, pluck the feathers, pull the insides out then cook it over a stove. All the girls started screaming and freaking out, while the boys stepped up to the plate…especially the Canadians, Dan and Jeff. The knife was one of the dullest knives in the world, but they got the job done and cut those heads right off. It’s true what they say…chickens really do keep moving after their heads are cut off. Well, once that was cooked we enjoyed a nice meal and then hung out as a team, bonding. J

Friday afternoon was a very rewarding one. We got up at about 8 am and took a ride out through the sugarcane fields to the Hope Children’s Home—an orphanage for young kids. Our projects for that day were to build a chicken coop and an adobe stove. The girls got there first, and were instructed to take a big pile of bricks to the place where the coupe would be built. They made an assembly line involving all of the little kids and had the best time. They taught them songs like “If you’re happy and you know It” and “the Macarena”. The kids absolutely loved it and were laughing the entire time the bricks were being passed. The girls and kids also hauled mud up a road to put together a big enough pile to make the stove. Meanwhile, the guys were working with the chicken coop and ripping out the old stove. After a great lunch of rice, beans, cabbage, and soda, we headed home. Later that night, some of the group went to African Paradise, the hippest dance club in town. It was a lot of fun and the Ugandans loved dancing with Americans. Everyone was sweating up a storm!!

Saturday afternoon we all went into town to get groceries and e-mail our families. Afterwards, the whole group took a taxi to the Nile River. It was so beautiful!! We sat under a cabana type restaurant and drank Fantas and Mirandas and looked at the site in front of us. Some of us took a boat out onto the river to see more of the white water rapids and see where they are putting up the dam. In four years they will be damming the Nile because they need more power, so we were very lucky to go see it. On Saturday we are actually going to river raft the Nile, so that’s going to be history in the making because it will no longer be allowed!! We’ll keep you updated on it next week for sure!!

Sunday we went to Pastor Bill’s church. It was definitely an awesome experience because we got to jump up and down, dance around, and wave hallelujah to music for 25 minutes straight. We were sweating by the time we were finished, so during the sermon we were all pretty uncomfortable and tired. But it was worth it because it was so much fun to go to. It lasted about two hours, and then we walked back to the house, hung out and watched a movie on our projector, and had another meeting about our projects and what we needed to do this upcoming week to get them started. The meetings are very helpful and informative, and it’s fun to see how much more prepared we are after going to one. Also, people talked on the phone to their families since it was mothers’ day. So here’s a big shout out to all the families!! We miss you, but not that much because we’re here in Uganda!!!!!!! J

Monday we went back to Hope to finish our projects but it rained most of the time, so we only got to do about 2 hours of manual labor. It was still a lot of fun though, because it was really muddy and the kids just loved helping us out again. After lunch, we went back to town to meet with the town council about the projects we want to start. At the beginning of the meeting there was a lot of confusion, but we were assigned to different town councilors to talk more about what we wanted to do, and a lot was accomplished. We planned to have meetings Tuesday afternoon, so that’s the plan for Tuesday.

It’s been such a great week and we are more than excited to be here!! We can definitely see many needs here as we’ve talked in all of our meetings and been in contact with all the wonderful people, and everyone is so different in such a good way and has great ideas that we know things will really take off. Thanks again for reading our first blog in-country….we’ll keep posting once or twice a week so keep checking it out!! Cheers!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mission Statement

In preparation for our service in Uganda, our team decided to create a mission statement. We wanted to write something that would provide direction and vision to our projects.
A couple weeks ago we got together as a team and brainstormed ideas that were important to us. We talked about goals we wanted to accomplish and general principles we wanted to employ to reach them. Even our out-of-state volunteers contributed by emailing us their ideas. We organized our ideas into a few different phrases. Then we voted on the 5 proposed mission statements and narrowed it down to the follow statement which we feel best articulates our purpose:

As a team we will serve with passion and fearless humility to develop knowledge through hard work, impact and empower the people of Uganda, and leave sustainable improvement.

Friday, February 29, 2008

From two HELPers in Uganda

Brian and Kira Johnson are currently in Mukono. Here is what they have to say about their experience in Uganda and why they are part of HELP:

We decided to come to Uganda after hearing a native professor describe his country. It's beauties, it's people and their needs. He sparked our interest when he said the three things Ugandans need are Ethics,Education and Leaders. As we visited with him, we realized that he didn't mean importing leaders from other countries to solve Uganda's problems, but for Ugandan's to rise up and help their own people and country. He wasn't asking for money, food, or school supplies, he was asking for leader training. And we wanted to help.

One of the questions most frequently asked to us as we prepared to come to Uganda was: "Why? Why go away to some exotic place to serve when there is so much need right here at home?" The reasons are simple. Uganda is ready. Of course America needs leadership education as much as the rest of the world, but the movement there is already underway. Furthermore, when you walk into a school there and tell them about leadership education, they laugh at you, ask you what kind of a job you can get with that, or call you an idealist. Not so here. When we walk into a school and tell them about leadership education, they ask "Where do we start?" The people recognize their lack of leadership and the need for educational reform and are willing to change and improve. The people who are capable of making a difference are ready to make it. They just need mentors.

We are in Uganda for three months, and are primarily working with the teachers at local schools. As we have introduced leadership education, it has been exciting for us to see the lights come on in their eyes. They know their educational system has ways to improve and are open to new ideas. Teachers are understanding and applying leadership education, for themselves and in their classes. As one teacher told us, "Before this class, I only read to teach the students. The minimum. I didn't like to read. Now, you can always see me with a book, even if it's only for a few minutes in between classes. And the funny thing is, my students have begun noticing, and are asking about the books I am reading. It spreads. Other teachers take notice now also. They see the difference in us and in our classroom." These teachers feel a greater responsibility knowing they are teaching the future leaders of Uganda.

We came to teach and serve, but we have also been on the receiving end learning and growing. We are becoming better leaders and teachers ourselves, we are learning so much from the native people, we have been welcomed into a friendly and beautiful culture, we are making new friends, and we are helping to make a positive and lasting impact. We love the people! We love the food! We love the green hills and forests! We love the unique culture! We love Uganda!

Brian and Kira Johnson
Mukono, Uganda

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Country Directors for 2008

HELP International Uganda would like to welcome their new country directors. Jackie Skinner and Ashley Rogers are excited to be part of the HELP International team this year. Welcome girls!