Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Day 1 - Straight Into It

Ahhh... it feels good to be back in Africa. There's nothing quite like it.

We arrived in Entebbe at around 1am this morning, staying a night in a motel. This morning we were picked up by Joseph from CALM Africa and transferred to the project site. The traffice coming through Kampala was awful and it took us almost  hours to get there - all teh while jammed into a hot car going nowhere.

There were of course the usual sightings to keep us entertained, including a giant tractor in the middle of the city driven by a man in a suit. Passing a group of traffic police (in white uniforms for some crazy reason) one of them started to pull us over, then saw me in the passenger seat and let us pass.Traffic cops around Kampala are known for trying to get bribes, but aren't so keen on foreigners taking that story home.

Closer to the school that CALM run, we passed the house of the opposition leader. There was a road block and police with rifles on the path to his house. Apparently he sometimes organises walk to work protests against the current government.  This includes people rallying at his house, which the government do not appreciate. So, to keen him in line, they barricade him in his house for days/weeks at a time. Hmmm. Will keep my thoughts on that one off line.

Arriving at school I was greeted with a huge hug from Dorothy. For anyone who doesn't know the story, Dorothy is my sponsor child. She was in a terrible situation last time I visited and another volunteer and I decided to sponsor her to board at Jolly Mercy. It was great to see how happy she is now. There was practically no trace of the scared, defeated child I met.

Making the rounds at school it was awesome to introduce Leckie to everyone and finally connect the dots between him and CALM. There was one really uncomfortable situation where a whole class called us master. We're thinking this was a confusion around the word headmaster, but awkward....

There is another volunteer here who has some friends looking to sponsor children, so we went to visit some children in need of this.

Family 1
The mother, Ellen is raising her 2 children alone. As an assortment of chickens peck around our feet in the house she tells us her story. It's an only too familiar one in Uganda. Ellen had been going to school, paid for by her uncle and had been married. When her uncle died she was not able to continue at school. Her husband considered paying for this, but Ellen's mother in law had taken an intense disliking to her and forbade it.

In the end, Ellen's husband left saying he wanted nothing to do with her, her children or his mother. They are luckily living in a house at the moment but it does not belong to them and could be taken away at any time. Ellen digs in the fields for food money but cannot afford school fees. As she has the children with her she doesn't get much work done, earns less and the cycle repeats.

Family 2
The mother, Rose, has 6 biological children and cares for 3 orphans also. Her house was in very good condition and she even had a television - even the volunteer house doesn't have that! Though with this many children to care for, finance have become quite strained ad she is having difficulty supporting them.

The 3 orphans Rose looks after are her sister's children. Their father passed in 2007 and their mother in 2011, both of AIDS. One of the children is HIV positive and another is albino and struggling in this climate. Without proper eye protection he has gone blind and does not cover his skin. I actually had a donated hat in the car so gave it to him before we left.

Family 3
I was so excited about this one, going back to see Kizimula whom I had bought some glasses last time I was here. I was really pleased to see that he is now able to get some work and is contributing more to the support of his wife and the orphaned children they look after.

Kizimula is looking much better, the bones in his chest are no longer protruding and he seems much happier. He describes putting on his glasses as the fog clearing.

They have another baby in the house since I last visited. The baby is their grandchild and a HIV orphan. At 9 months old he is looking very malnourished and unhealthy. Whilst we were there the baby started to wee. Instead of covering him or taking him outside they just let him do it on the floor inside. Not very hygienic! I couldn't help but look at my watch and think that had I been at home right now I would be walking through Waterloo to Pret to get a sandwich instead of squatting in a dirty mud hut watching a baby urinate.

Family 4
The final family of the day consisted of a woman and 6 children. The live in a single room and are not very healthy. THe kids are currently sponsored to attend public school. This means classes of about 200 students and no personal attention. It also means beatings from teachers. But it's better than nothing.

We were told that the father disappeared 2 years ago, which raised questions about the infant she was nursing . Apparently she had recently fallen in love with a man but when she fell pregnant he abandoned here. So here's how this works: It's believed that the witch doctor can help a woman to not give birth for up to 2 years, so the man accused her of having done this and the baby of being her husband's.A really convenient excuse for men who do't want to take responsibility for their own actions! And again, sadly, not surprising.

Men really do live a charmed life in Uganda. Don't want to deal with something? No problem. Just blame the woman and the witch doctor.

To be continued...

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