Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Family Planning and Hand Washing Projects

I spent my last few weeks teaching family planning classes at the Hospital with nurse Harriet as my trusty translator. I had another male nurse translate for one of my classes and after I completed the class the women asked to get a woman translator because they didn't believe a man would translate what I was saying correctly. I had fifty cycle beads a week before I left and within two days of classes we taught and sold all fifty beads! So within a few short weeks we totaled 138 cycle beads sold. It was a great way to end my family planning project!

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.

Outreach to a Rural Village

So I went to a rural village in the outskirts of Lugazi where I live. A lady from the church I attend is part of an organization that goes around and helps different schools and she wanted us to come with her. She never gave us any details, we thought that we were just going there to have a look at the school and discuss what we can help them with in the future. When we got there, they had the cute kids put on a program for us. They sang and had little dances and solos to go along with it. After that, we went on the tour of the school grounds. It wasn't much of a school but they had some buildings where they held classes and we could see some areas where we could maybe help them. After that, the guy turned to me and said, "Okay, lets get to work." I was handed a machete type thing and told to go cut down bushes and grass. We were going to clear out this whole field. While I was being a lawn mower, other people were put to work getting water and cutting down some trees. After that, we went to lunch. They brought us some bananas, sugar cane, and Jack fruit. While we were eating, they came and informed us that they were expecting us to teach them after lunch. :) Funny huh, so we got some lessons together about sanitation, Business, composting. By the end of lunch, almost all there village was there, well it seemed like it. They had us sit in front with all the leaders of the village and then the kids sang again (the same songs). Then they just started to dance. The crowd was going crazy. The ladies were doing this crazy yell and laughing. Then they started to pass these scarf looking things that they were wearing around there waist to us. Which meant we went up. When we were up there, the crowd went even more wild!! It was so funny!! After that, they had so many speakers get up there and speak to everyone and after that, they fed us. It was cute, they walked around and washed our hands and then the children would come and kneel down and hand us the food. The food was called Casava and it had beans in there with it. It really wasn't that bad but it was a huge portion and I just couldn't eat it!! After lunch, we got up there and taught the people. I'm not to sure how they took everything but they thanked us, took pictures with us and then we left.
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!!

Tifanee Miller

Street Kids Soccer Team

Before I left for Uganda I collected about 40 soccer jerseys, 4 pairs of soccer cleats, some cones, a few soccer balls, and goalie gloves to bring to Uganda. I originally had the idea of starting a soccer team in Uganda or donating the equipment to an already existing team once I had arrived. Before I left one of the staff members at HELP made the suggestion of implementing some public health lessons into the soccer program to help teach kids healthy habits. Still not knowing exactly what to do with a suitcase full of soccer equipment after spending a week in Uganda, I met the members of The Youth Outreach Mission (TYOM). They had mentioned that they had used soccer matches as a way to gather street children and teach them about HIV. The next day I was in their office with all the equipment and they were so grateful, I thought we were all about to start breaking down into tears, but as a group of college aged young men, we held our composure and started brainstorming ideas for a soccer program. Our Initial idea was to gather the street children and orphans from Lugazi and have them play soccer and after soccer practices we would have health lessons. Members of TYOM worked together to gather a handful of about 40 street children together for soccer practice on a regular basis of about 3 times a week. After about 2 months of practice we had our 1st real game against Lugazi East, the Mukono District Champions ( The 3rd largest district in Uganda out of the 80 districts) and we lost 0-1 which was a result to a free kick they had in the second half of play. Just about every school in Lugazi knew about our up and coming team and wanted to play us. Teams thanked us for picking them to play us. We also had hundreds of school children gathered around the field for our games. Our second game came about a week later, to Lugazi West, the Lugazi city Champions who had recently just beaten Lugazi East 1-0 for the Lugazi Cup. The game was pretty even but by half time both teams were worn down. Thankfully thanks to our grant of about $14 (US) we were able to provide our kids with clean water and fruit at halftime which made a tremendous difference. Our boys came fired up the second half while the other team became a bit more sloppy. Our hard work payed off with about 2 minutes left in the game when one of our star forwards put a goal to the back of the net. Hundreds of children were cheering and laughing and our own boys on the sidelines started doing cartwheels and flips. I myself was hugging everyone and highfiving the boys, I felt like a proud father. It was by the far the greatest moment I had in Uganda. A couple of minutes later as the final whistle was blown all the boys were hugging eachother in excitement as I honored them to be one of the best youth soccer teams in Uganda, which they really are!) I left about a week after the last game was played but before I left I got some funds put towards getting them some more soccer shoes and also to have their individual photos taken so that we could make identity cards for them. All the boys have such an interesting story to tell about their life, most of which are heartbreaking, but they are such great kids and are so dedicated to the team and soccer in general.

Andrew Lovell

Hand-washing Education and Eye Camp

Ok so imagine a swarm of Ugandan men and women lining up to wash their hands, crazy huh? But true, this past week we had a major hand washing event in the local market. We are putting in 5 new hand washing stations and to help get the people excited about and using it we had a free mini hand washing course. Hillary and I taught a short 10 minute lesson about why, when, and how to washing your hands, if they completed the "course" then they received a little certificate saying they are now Hand Washing certified and got a free gift of a hygiene kit. It was really amazing to see all the market vendors excited to use the new hand washing station and to receive their certificates, especially since they love that kind of stuff here. We were able to give out over a 100 hygiene kits!! Hand washing is great.

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.

Lesley Cliff

Fishing on Lake Victoria

So yesterday morning we took a taxi out to a small fishing village on the coast of lake Victoria. The lake is the largest tropical lake in the world, and the largest lake in Africa. We took a small wooden vessel named "Andrew" across the lake to a tropical island. Andrew had a few leaks but they fortunately provided a bail bucket to keep us a float. The trip took a couple of hours and was absolutely beautiful.

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.

Taylor Mackay

Obama Is The Real African Hero - June 10th

Obama is the man here. When we walk down the streets, people--young and old--yell "Obama" at us. People always ask us, "How is Obama?|" There is a song on the radio here with the following chorus: "Obama! Hey! Hey! Obama is the real African hero! Hey! Hey!" It's awesome. Then in the taxi yesterday a man sitting by me turned and asked where I was from. When he heard, he said, "Thank you for voting for Obama." Lucky guess?

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.

Mandy Mackay

Bead-making in Kawoto

I did not have any big projects in mind when I first headed out to Uganda. I did not exactly know what the people needed and I did not know what I really could do to help. When we arrived in Lugazi, Uganda one of our first places to visit was a village called Kawoto which was on a hill that looked out over the sugarcane plantations. The people that lived in this village are all plantation workers and work for an Indian man named Meta who owns the majority of the land in Lugazi, including the land these individuals live on. He owns this land, and also controls their source of income, and he also seems to dictate their lives. They are not allowed to grow crops or build on this land—the main way to provide an extra source of income. The people live in great poverty. Kawoto was known among our group as the most beautiful village and the best boda boda ride in the town. To get to Kawoto one must take a boda boda ride of about 1,500 shillings through sugarcane plantation after sugarcane plantation, up and down steep hills and through plantation settlements until you arrive at Kawoto hill where you can look out over all of Lugazi and see the rolling plantations of tea and sugarcane, the slow moving villages and farmers and the greenery surrounding you on all sides. It really is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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.

Becca Burgon

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Business Training

As project lead for business training, I was heavily involved in setting up and facilitating business classes in Lugazi and the surrounding vicinities. In addition to the official classes we had for more established businesspeople, we also held meetings with a few women’s groups in the area, offering basic business advice and encouragement to the women in attendance. Leading discussions with and listening to the ideas and the dreams of these women proved to be a very worthwhile experience. I remember distinctly, before the end of Second Wave, visiting some of these women, members of a women’s group at Ssanyu Primary School, in their individual businesses to observe their work environment and inquire into their practices. From pharmaceuticals to charcoal, from bars to fruit stands, these women did what they thought was best with what they had. Granted I could have spent a great deal of time with these visits in researching and advising, I found it sufficient to briefly explore what these good women did to provide for themselves and their families and, after reviewing my notes, offer each woman one piece of advice as to how she could improve her business. One particular woman, Sarah, stands out to me. Her employment is in a pharmaceutical shop in Lugazi where she sells medications to Mehta Sugar Factory laborers, but she dreams of someday owning her own shop. When I asked whether I could see a copy of her budget, I was amazed at how organized and how precise it was. I was similarly amazed at the neatness of the shop itself, also attributed to the hard work and dedication of Sarah. After our visit, I encouraged Sarah to teach her fellow group members what she knew about structuring a budget and running an orderly business because I could tell that she had a lot to offer. That small moment, combined with many other like moments, further confirms to me that the solutions to many questions in international development lie in the local people themselves. The crux of empowerment is helping people help themselves, inspiring them to realize their own potential and to tap into their own non-monetary capital, manpower and otherwise, in order to make a real difference in each other’s life. I feel extremely fortunate to have witnessed and learned this for myself firsthand.

-Bryan Paul