Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Saturday was our AIDS Extravaganza! We rented a large complex here in Lugazi and had schools and AIDS support groups perform. I spent a good portion of my time last week learning to do a traditional Ugandan dance, which we performed at the Extravaganza with costumes and all. Don’t worry the amazing moment of ten muzungus doing the African dance was captured on film. I ran a booth on infectious disease prevention using resources that they already have available to them. I created the posters in English, and then had a Ugandan friend translate them into Lugandan. I also ran a booth on family planning. I can’t remember if I explained this new project yet, so I’ll keep it brief. I located an NGO called the Uganda Health Marketing Group in Kampala. They sell a lot of products to private businesses as well as give them away for free in villages within their district. Unfortunately, Lugazi doesn’t fall within their district so we purchased a box of Cycle Beads. Cycle beads are composed of a necklace with different colored beads where women can track their cycles. They can then abstain from unprotected sex during the time of the month that they are most fertile. It’s 95% effective in preventing pregnancy for women with regular cycles of 26 to 32 days. We had a booth at the Extravaganza where we planned to run family planning classes and then sell the cycle beads for one hundred shillings. We didn’t quite get the audience we were expecting. We were hoping for the community to come so I could then teach the women this form of family planning. The main people at the Extravaganza were hundreds of student performers. I had to leave a few hours early for Gulu and I left the family planning classes in Josephine’s (public health nurse) care. She said they sold about twenty after I left. I didn’t quite get the numbers I was hoping, so today I planned with Josephine to come every Monday and Wednesday to the hospital and teach the mothers who come in to the antenatal unit to immunize their children. We will then hit our intended audience as well as teach them the benefits of having time in between pregnancies for their own health, which can be accomplished with cycle beads.
Last week we had our unveiling of our very first hand station in the Lugazi Central Marketplace. We set up a booth in the marketplace, luckily it was near the produce and the not near he hanging raw meat. We first presented the hand washing station to the management and then had them sign a contract saying that the hand washing stations will always be fully stocked with water and soap. I will be checking in on the station throughout the summer and if I find that it is not stocked with water and soap three times then we will have a meeting with the management to discuss their relocation. The management agreed and the station has been well stocked since the grand opening. We then certified 167 market vendors in small groups. I gave a lesson on how germs are spread and then I discussed the importance of hand washing and how if done correctly, it can decrease diarrheal diseases by 42-45%. I then asked them questions to verify they understood the material. When they answered them all correctly we had them line up and wash their hands. As soon as they washed their hands they were presented with a hand washing certificate and a hygiene kit (Thank you again Sister Morton!). It was a wonderful day and many of the vendors have proudly displayed their hand-washing certificate at their stand. We are still waiting for four more hand washing stations to be built and I’m hoping they will be finished by the end of the week and then we can install the remaining four. The picture was taken at the end of one of my lessons and the woman I’m handing the hygiene kit to has just washed her hands in the newly constructed hand washing station.
Our next stop for hand washing stations is the local hospital where we will be installing four.
There have been so many different experiences like this. I love these experiences because I learn so much about there culture and the way they are and what they believe!!
Oh and another cool thing is that I ran a half marathon last Sunday. A couple of people and I just decided to on Saturday night. It was a last second thing. So we left at 5:30 in the morning caught a taxi finally found the place to run, they let us register even though it was closed and then we ran it!! YAY. Well my time is up. I better go!!
Also this week we are having our big eye clinic. Sight Savers, an NGO (non-governmental organizations) that helps people get diagnosis and treatment for different eye ailments that donated nearly $4000, and the local hospital ophthalmologists are working with us to help people get the eye treatment they need. Yesterday (day 1) we saw over 250 people! I got to help give the eye exam, the one where people have to read the letters, it was so much fun and we were able to help a lot of people. There were some really cute old men and women that were getting their eyes checked. You don't see many really old people around town so it was a treat to help the cute grandmas and grandpas.
We stopped at a couple of rural fishing villages along the way. The people were drying millions of small fish on the rocks. They look similar to sardines and are called "Silver Fish" I think. The children throw rocks at the birds to keep them from eating all the fish drying in the sun. The fish are actually really tasty. You mix a couple of dozen fish in with beans. Mandy refuses to try them.
We stopped to fish with handmade bamboo poles. Alas we didn't catch a thing, but it was beautiful to sit in "Andrew" as the African sun set on the lake. We then landed, and took off on a hike through the jungle. The rain forest was absolutely amazing. The island was full of incredible birds, monkeys, and crocodiles (Though we didn't see any crocs that day) We hiked for quite awhile in the dark. Our guide was a friend we met at church in a neighboring city. He was taking us to his parents' home for dinner. We arrived in the dark, (the island has no electricity) and had a delicious meal of cold fish heads and rice. Ironically the fish here are by far the most delicious things to eat. The heads are the most desirable part. I was privileged to eat three.
We spent the night in a "hotel." Mandy and I paid $1.50 for the honey-moon suite. We made it through the night, woke up before the sun came up, trucked back through the jungle, and climbed back onto our sturdy vessel. We arrived home later than expected, but had a great time and made some memories we'll never forget.
The people here are amazing. This last week, they had a teacher training in Mukono, the town 20 minutes away from Lugazi. It was led by these three people from Kenya. They actually did a great job. I am so amazed, though, at how much they love each other. They are so kind. Their faith is incredible. Everything is God's will and will be ok. That's what they always say.
We are planning to use ideas from our own backgrounds and also from this teacher training to teach other teachers in the surrounding villages. I hope we can do some good. It is so sad to see so much need and know that there is so little we can do in such a short time. I will do my best.
On my first trip to Kawoto the people had rarely seen Mzungus (white people) before and the children were afraid of us. I approached a group of them, the older ones ran, and the younger ones screamed in fear and began crying. It took us quite awhile before they learned that we were not ghosts as they may have thought but truly close friends, even family, by the end of the summer. I met with the leader of the Women’s Group, Rose, and we discussed the needs of the village. The main activities of the group was handicrafts, mat weaving, stool and broom making, and beautiful crocheted table mats. The women would make a few a month to sell at a very low price. They wanted to grow food but Meta would not allow it and so they did not have money to feed their families or money for schooling for the children.
I met three girls that day who became close friends over the summer. They had great goals of being coming doctors, secretaries, and an engineer. As I was leaving that day they asked if we would come back. I told them that I would like to, hopefully the next week. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Promises are empty here.” I realized that many people must make promises to her and these people and then just forget about them as they get caught up in other things. I knew then what I could and would do for these people. Women in Uganda still suffer from oppression and abuse and so as we began forming a team to work on Women’s Groups in Uganda we started looking for projects that would really affect the lives of the women, things that could be sustainable and really empower and lift the women from the situations they are in now.
Kawoto was just one of many groups that we met with but it was my favorite group to work with. I ended up teaching the women how to make paper bead jewelry. It was such a wonderful project and the women did so well. At first I was concerned that they would not become actively involved. When I came the second time no one was around in the village and I thought that they had forgotten, but once they heard our boda bodas approaching all the women and children and soon even the men came from their work and gathered in the small classroom to hear the lesson on bead making. The language barrier was only slightly a problem. I had my good friend Linda, Teo’s daughter, with me always to translate English to Swahili. And the women just laughed when I learned how to say “good” in Swahili-Visuri!
On my third visit I was so nervous that the women would not have used the supplies I had left them to actually make the beads and that we would have to start over and I would not be able to leave them with the next set of supplies. But when I got there each women came up to me with her own back of over 500 beads completed, so excited and proud of her beads. I almost started crying when I saw how hard they had worked and how excited they were! I could not believe the dedication and hard work these women live their lives each day. It is evident in everything they do.
Eventually, we finished the necklace lessons and we were able to work around the “no planting rule” and we provided then with cabbage farms which are grown in bags not in the ground! (Take that Meta!) So the women are now able to sell necklaces as well as grow cabbages for food as well as income.
It was a sad day when I had to leave my friends of Kawoto Village. I love those women so much. They are so strong and so determined to help themselves. They are great and powerful women and I loved working with them.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009