Today a small group of volunteers visited an orphanage. We had to take a taxi about 45 minutes away to a village out of town. The taxi ride was a doozy. One girl commented that it felt like we were on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland...but without seat belts. While I see where she was coming from, I don't feel that quite described the fright merited from this ride. The van was scrunched full of people. I believe I've told you how the roads are like driving on the surface of a huge dusty golfball. The potholes are everywhere--and big. So there was a lot of bouncing. Like your spine was an accordion or something. I've never been so happy to get out of a car. haha
We toured the orphanage/school that this man Dan has up in this village. He wanted us to have four volunteers essentially sleeping in the village 3 days a week. He said they'd provide food and sleeping quarters for us. We got to walk through the sleeping quarters of the children. Tiny rooms with several beds inside, multiple children to a bed and the condition of the room was eerie. There are no lights so even in the day time it's a bit scary. The walls are made of brick with splotches of cements holding them together. The largest spiders that I've seen thus far in Africa were just chilling in the ceilings of these rooms. The bathroom was a room with...not even a squatter toilet--It was a room with a little hole in the corner where the floor and wall meet, where you could pour water to rinse out whatever you did in there to the outside of the house. It was alarming. No doors to the buildings even--just a curtain. Some of the kids sleep on the floor without mosquito nets. I tried to picture myself sleeping there for three days--as an adult...I think I could do it but I don't think I'd sleep.
We went to meet the children and ...as you know, they're always my favorite part. They're full of smiles and happy to stop listening to their teacher and wave as we pass by. The children are very sweet and they have over 200 students ranging in ages from 3-18. We asked questions to the man (Dan) giving us the tour about what exactly he was looking for--how we could help. It's so interesting to me because none of us volunteers communicated any doubts or anything while we were there. We toured the facilities, asked questions and pondered project ideas...but that was it. However after another treacherous taxi ride home one of the volunteers said, "Did anyone else get weird vibes from Dan?" (The man in charge of the school and also the man who gave us a tour). Every one of the volunteers immediately agreed. There was something odd about him. Something didn't seem right the whole time we were with him but none of us said anything during the tour. I'm so thankful that we were all able to discern who we should and shouldn't be working with. That school as income generating projects and is doing okay...ish on its own--at least comparing it to other areas here. But the idea of sending four white female volunteers up to a village, so far away, sleeping there, three days a week with a man that every volunteer got icky vibes from just didn't seem right. It was a unanimous decision that while the living quarters weren't awesome in the least, there are many other places with a greater need and that have leaders that would be good for us to work with.
We're really excited about our education project we're doing with the Ministry of Education (cough...magic)...cough...nerd. haha We have another meeting with him tomorrow. The team working on this project is great! We have a lot of things we want to teach and help them implement to help improve the education here. And even after we work with this district of teachers, there are a lot of small villages that would need these same programs and tools taught to them. So in our research and preparation for this project, we would like to package it in a way that we can bring it to other places with the same need (there are plenty who want help with teacher training and curriculum) and give them the same tools that we're giving the Ministry of Education.
Other projects: We're SOO excited to go back to Child of Hope--the school in the Namatala slum. The leaders of that organization are kind, trustworthy, genuinely good people. I'm excited to go back to the slum and work on the water sanitation projects and women's group projects that we currently have in the works.
We also have a team going out to a village that was worked with last year. Last year, the team helped build a school and since we've been gone (anyone else just sing that kelly clarkson song in their head? No? Just me?) they've added on to the school! Only problem being that they don't have a roof for it. So we're going to build a roof for them and see what else we can do to help them out.
A pair of volunteers met with someone who has a soccer league here. Last year the team helped advertise and work with this soccer league as an extracurricular activity for the kids. Apparently some of the kids have even made it to the national team after playing in this league. Cool eh? They have things they'd like us to do and we have some volunteers in on that.
The village we went to yesterday has a lot of potential project opportunities. We have two medical peeps on the team that are going to be getting some clinical hours in at their clinic there. And we have another volunteer that is going to be preparing leadership training classes for the high school students at that school. Might good stuff.
There's plenty to do here and plenty of need. I think the trick is choosing what is a priority and trusting who you work with--but that honestly hasn't been a problem before today. We've mostly worked with really wonderful people who want to partner with us for the improvement of fellow Ugandans. I have so much more to say but I feel like this post is way way too long. I'll have great news tomorrow I'm sure. Love you all, Mals