Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Day 9 - Making Decisions

Breakfast this morning was an interesting affair. We have eggs, but due to a county wide gas shortage there is no way to cook them. We had also 3 loaves of bread. Loaf one was full of bugs and no doubt responsible for the cockroach infestation in the refrigerator. Loaf 2 from the freezer was mouldy from being defrosted and frozen repeatedly with the power outages. The 3rd looked reasonable though so we ate it.

The plan today was to see a few more people who are seeking small business loans and make a final decision on where to spend the donation money.

True to Uganda though the first visit didn't quite go to plan. The first woman we went to see was called Nancy. When we arrived she was sitting on the floor of her tiny room crying, holding her hand in the air. Her left arm and hand were really swollen and infected. She refuses to go to the hospital believing that she could die if she does. Despite pur protests that she could die if she doesn't we had to settle on traditional medicine. So we went to a local herb dealer and got her some herbs. The idea is that she ingests some, rubs some on her arm, ties it off and waits until it is ready to pop. She has a wound on one of her fingers where she has tried to 'pop' it but it wasn't ready. It was so hard walking away knowing that she could easily die from something so easily treated because she doesn't believe in modern medicine. The smell in the room was awful as well. I don't think she has bathed in the 2 weeks since the infection started which won't be helping.

While we were at Nancy's house we asked Israel about painkillers. We tried then words 'painkiller', 'paracetamol' and 'ibuprofen' and all were met with blank looks. We also enquired about a missing finger from the swollen hand. Apparently it is unrelated, having been bitten off in a fight when she was younger.

Nancy really believes that someone has put a charm on her and that the only way she can be saved is with traditional medicine. Unfortunately Nancy was in no condition to discuss a business plan so we had to leave her with some herbs and move on.

Next we went to visit a woman named Mary. She has 3 children who attend school and her husband has left 3 years ago. She is currently selling tomatoes from a makeshift stall in front of her house and runs at a profit of 21,000 shillings per week (£5). She currently wants a loan to expand into the charcoal and Irish (standard potatoes) business. She is an excellent candidate for a small business loan with her business experience and demonstrated motivation.

The next candidates we saw were a full family, the father named Ronald. They have 7 children, 3 of whom are wheelchair bound after untreated malaria in childhood. When we arrived neither parent was home, but the children's grandmother introduced us to them and showed us around. Later Ronald came to the school to chat.

Ronald is seeking a pig loan, which will allow his wife to work from home caring for the pig and also their children with special needs. The way a log loan works is that you give a female pig and a sack of maize. When the female gives birth the recipient family will raise the piglets up to the same size as the one handed over. At that stage repayment comes to CALM in the form of 3 pigs which will be used for similar loans. The remainder and the original pig then belong to the family to breed, raise and sell.

Ronald has kept pigs before and I am very impressed that he has stuck by his wife through the children's disability. This is not something I've seen a lot of. Not only has Ronald stuck around by he has created a local network of parents of children with disabilities, encouraging access to medication and anti-discrimination. This has now been running for 3 years and has 210 members.

Finally we saw a woman named Scovia. Scovia's husband left her and their 6 children and sold the land out from under them. Thankfully a member of the local community has taken them in and they have a roof over their heads. All 7 of them are now living in a room that is about 3.5 x 4metres though and Scovia needs to find a way to get back on her feet and improve their situation.

Scovia is seeking a loan of 3 sacks of charcoal which she can sell in smaller quantities for profit. There is a small stall in front of the property Scovia is staying in that she can use to sell her charcoal and there is only one person already selling in the area.

Back at Jolly Mercy we made our final decision on donations, made payment to Ben and arranged to see this all through for the next 2 days.

Final stop for the day was the bar for a celebratory drink. Joseph and Martin from CALM joined us with their usual amusing stories. CALM have a second volunteer house in the more remote Rakai district. Joseph told us how once volunteers there had ignored his instructions to wear proper shoes and has ended up with jiggers in their toes - little bugs that love under your skin and feed off your blood. When the locals saw they had them they all laughed as jiggers are associated with being unclean and people are looked down on for having them. They had to dig them out with a safety pin. What a hard lesson learned!

Funny things that happened today:
* Ben was telling us about the first time he bought a pig. He hog tied it and strapped it to the back of his motorcycle. He says the pig liked it, but started squealing as they went through the market and people started shouting at him.
* We saw a woman pushing a bicycle. Ali, Israel and Boscoe collapsed in fits of hysteria with Ali asking us 'have you ever seen a woman riding a bicycle?!'
* A bee flew past us and we were informed that this means visitors are coming.
* Afro bar was playing Ninja Warrior with all patrons staring in disbelief

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