Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Up in the night, warm welcomes, school needs

Well it's 1:30 am here.  Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night because there is a chorus of howling dogs throughout the community and/or because I really need to use the restroom and I was hoping to hold it all through the night (the bathroom process is kind of awkward here so I try to go as few times as possible. haha) but it didn't work out so I wake up and go.  Either way, what a great opportunity relieve my poor bladder, enjoy the outdoor tunes and update you guys on goods here in Mbale. :) Win, win, win.

Last post talked about the Namatala slum.  We've been talking a lot about possible projects that we could do there.  We for sure want to do some work with water sanitation.  The team last year got a couple of water filters donated to the slum.  They're still doing well and have prevented problems from a recent cholera outbreak.  They currently only have two water filters in a slum of 20,000 people.  So we'd love to do research on good organizations and get them some more access to water.  Currently one of the men living in the slum that is selling them water from a water source that he has access to--that's there in the slum.  Selling water that's not clean.  Does that rub anyone else the wrong way?  We want more people to have access to free water that is clean.  We also are really interested in some micro-financing projects and doing some workshops teaching women about hygiene, etc.  I'll keep you posted!

We met with the Ministry of Education (several of us call it the Ministry of Magic because we Potter nerds find it hilarious) on Monday.  The teachers in the area really struggle because they don't always have very good training and oftentimes don't have a curriculum.  So the scores at the end of the year are usually low.  So we're really interested in working with them to do some teacher training workshops and have like a big science fair type activity at the end of the summer that could bring kids from all over the district together.

Yesterday our friend Sula picked us up in this "taxi" and brought us to a village called Kakoli.  The welcome was overwhelming.  When we rounded the corner the women were yelling (this cool african AYE YAYAYAYA) and dancing and literally pulled us out of the taxi.  Everyone was so excited to see us.  They escorted us to chairs that they had lined up and then came down the line and all shook our hands and hugged us.  We had NO idea what was going on but none of us had ever experienced anything like this.  They sang a song for us in english and then sang one in their local language.  It was unreal.  Here are some pics:

When they sat down after hugging all of us, Sula talked to them about the possibility of us working with them this summer. They, too, could benefit from water filtration systems.  It's just crazy to me that something that I never worried about---getting sick from drinking water--is a legitimate problem here.  There are a bunch of project ideas we have.  We just need to assess the work they did last year and see how we can improve on it.
While we were already quite aware of our inability to blend in here, today was another shocker.  Their welcome was so friendly and overwhelmingly kind.  I had never experienced anything of the sort.  It's so humbling to be treated this way by people whose lives I respect so much. I feel like I've met some of the most remarkable people in the world and it's overwhelming to me when they think we deserve any sort of glamorous treatment.  I'm just happy to be here, interact with them and help in any capacity.  What lovely, humble, sweet people...all over the place here.  haha
Sula later took us to several different areas--schools, community groups, etc.  A couple of the schools that we visited had some details that were mind blowing to me.  For example, did you guys have these things painted at your schools growing up?
I don't know if you can read what they've painted to the right but I'm not joking you, it says, "Avoid gifts for sex".  Yeah, "Say no to drugs" is not their only concern here.  Apparently girls sleeping with their teachers as a bargaining chip has been a problem.  Unbelievable and just so sad.

At one point today we were meeting with the head of an elementary school and I saw a poster on the wall that had warnings about HIV/AIDS and had a bunch of questions on it like, "At what age should I get involved in sexual activity?".  Is that crazy to anyone else?!  Elementary school!  One of the schools that we went to had a spray painted sign saying, "Virginity is power."  We all laughed because most of us were raised in the LDS community so the message is funny to us.  But when we understand what it means here and is trying to's pretty eye opening.

We have a meeting today with a man in charge of an orphanage.  We have a LOT on our plates.  There are a lot of organizations that would appreciate our help.  If we do have spare time here and there, we'd love to volunteer at some orphanages.  So that's the most recent agenda.  I apologize if this post is less coherent.  It's still the middle of the night and I'm not entirely sure how I awake I am. haha But the bugs are starting to congregate to the light from my computer so perhaps now, with an empty bladder, and outdoor bugs currently in the process of singing me to sleep (instead of the dogs from an hour ago) I'll try to get some sleep before our orphanage visit.  I'll update you again soon!  Mal


  1. What amazing people. So many problems I wouldn't have known were such incredible obstacles for these people every day. My life, and my problems are so different. Can't wait to hear about the orphanage.

  2. well, that just flat out breaks my heart.

  3. hmmm I'm not sure what to say. There is a lot to say. I think I should be there. How many children can you bring me? I want them all.