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My Visit to Sabina (Orphanage in Rakai Province) October 31, 2010

Posted by Mike O in Charity.
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The bus ride to Rakai with Ritah Nyamwiza- delayed over two hours by a bus park strike, hot, rough and cramped- was one of the most intellectually enjoyable times I’ve experienced in years. Will discuss later.  Got out in the pitch black; no one was there to meet us. We struggled down the 500 yards of the final road (recruiting a passerby to help) And came to the first new feature at Sabine- a locked gate. Yelling ‘Hello!?’ several times got someone to let us in; mild irritation, naturally.

The changes in Sabina were absolutely stunning, starting with being shown to one of two round new concrete huts for visitors. These don’t have electricity yet, but the rest of the complex does (though in 48 hours here, it was knocked out almost 24 hours by a storm and out for 2 hours for no known reason.). What I didn’t know was they now have piped water! They still use retained rainwater for many things, but they don’t require it for everything and that HAS to improve health. The water and power is making the nearby village to be a booming development; so much so, there has been encroachment onto Sabina land and it will only get worse; need to fence the ENTIRE property (but gate it, so the people can still transition it) to set the boundary ASAP. Surprisingly, this probably would not cost more than $2,000 and would allow for more efficient cattle management, if cattle guards could be added (and the cows can figure out to stay off them. Cattle branding would also be helpful and necessary to grow the herd significantly; modern chips probably wouldn’t be understood, but tattooing would be.

Sunday was not much of a working day (and I’m getting far enough behind on this that days are merging). I toured the place, astounded at the substantial fields, smaller plantations; chicken coup populated with 60 chickens, concrete sculptures (and couches??; never seen anyone sitting in those and they pool some rainwater- update; I sit in them when they are dry; this place wears me out).

I did get the opportunity to meet Godfrey, my new project; a big kid; as tall as Alan and only 13. We made the 3 km walk to visit his mother, 4 siblings (still at home; 3 other siblings live elsewhere) and a nephew. The hike was through very pretty country, still muddy from an early rainstorm. The Mugisha family actually owns a significant tract of land- at least 13.5 acres including a lovely hilltop. But all 6 live in a dried mud waddi that can’t be more than 100 square feet. No wonder Godfrey had to leave; there literally would be no room for him to lay down to sleep.

His mother, 6 feet tall, was incredibly gracious, feeding us hot milk and sugar and bread; delicious and incredibly filling. She presented me with a large straw mat and two straw bowls. The mat is far too large for luggage, but proved to be a perfect addition to the concrete waddi I am living in.

Projects for the Mugisha family:

  • Build them a house (a basic one would cost about $2,000, maybe $2,500 because of the remote location- fully equip it for another $500)
  • A fenced, plowed 1 acre plot: maybe $500, to allow them to grow sufficient sustenance

The big rainstorm of earlier occurred just as Ritah was leaving: huge pounding rain. I was really worried about her with the laptop. She called and assured me she found shelter when it hit. It knocked out power and continued to by a frog strangler for well over an hour In the middle of this, I had the bright idea to break out my candy supply and give each kid one piece. Great idea- for the kids in the same building. The kids in the other building found out and they all came running through the descending ocean of water and I suddenly had over 100 completely drenched kids all with their hand out for candy. Not very smart, even for a mzungu.

Worked the fields on Monday: 300 college hours plus 40 years technical work experience and I find I am not qualified as a field hand. Essentially, I dig holes for planting- lots an lots of little holes with a garden trowel. Last time here, I was a little guy filling a big hole with a big shovel; now, I’m a big guy with a little shovel making lots of little holes.

Meetings with Debra. It was agreed that food supplementation and finishing uniforms would be priorities. Seemed to be impressed about the supplement; Currently they get rice once a week and the other thing they get is porridge- essentially a maize flour in water, with the consistency of milk, not even gruel. And I know they feed them a little better when I’m in camp. I’m funding rice for 3 times a week for up to 5 months. Uniforms will get done; Godfrey needs a new one, even if he isn’t on the list. He looks pretty ratty and he is Student Prefect.

I’m committed to seeing him through the end of college as long as he keeps up his grades and I have capacity.

Uniforms: woman involved probably jacked the price a bit on seeing me; very severe woman. Knocked it down a bit by promising to stop by her shop. Ended up buying a bolt of fabric, because she apparently is not permitted by law to make cloths unless to specific measurement. This probably is to prevent individual sweatshop operations, but the implementation of that good intent significantly restricts their business and is protectionism for the larger operations.

Had a good discussion with Debra and I think she realizes I’m a different kind of donor; one very accepting of being told when there is trouble with a kid. That started when Charles Mug??? showed up from school, complaining of severe eye pain. I had suspected he was exaggerating it, because it was the only way to get away from school to see me. He DOES have significant eye problems, so I was glad to take care of a checkup, even under somewhat false pretense. But he has become a problem for the staff with exaggeration and outright lies, coupled with arrogance. Too much touchy-feeley contact with the donors and not enough kick-in-the-pants contact from them; he’s about to get one from me.

Tuesday; made 3 trips to the marketplace maybe a kilometer away; first for pineapples for the kids (only found 31 small ones and needed more, next day there were none, so we supplemented with sweet bananas). Next was for Aunt Stella (who I call the enforcer; the obvious disciplinarian of the house mothers. She has large varicose veins and real circulatory problems below the knee. Went to a clinic, then sent her to a specialist: cost- 100K (including some balance at the clinic from a previous visit). She was very grateful. Third trip was with Godfrey for doing the unenviable task of washing my clothes; sodas and a school binder. I was amazed at how well known he was in town, and well liked. The store owner, on finding out I was his sponsor, immediately started scolding him to be sure to study hard. Those trips and a couple hours of field work wore me out. But in the middle of the night a pack of dogs sounded like they were killing each other or someone else right out of my window. Turns our to be their mating ritual; do they get rough!

Wednesday started by pricing the drainage work; as I suspected Debra massively underestimated the cost. 80K, Hah! We ended up adding a few features and it will be 520K. Also, started honoring something I promised to do; pay each staff member (37, including the school) 10K and thank them for the job they are doing. They can’t be paid nearly enough for the successes of this place. For the janitorial and cleaning staff this might be a week’s pay for all I know. This afternoon is time for individual interviews; many of the staff have further schooling dreams and should be considered for such.

Margaret Meeting:

  • NOW: Food supplementation -Was going to commit 1.5 M to boosting rice to from one time a week to 3 times a week, but drainage work cost far more than anticipated. Will drop my investment to 1 Mil, good for over 3 months. Will try to raise another $500 when I get home for another three month.
  • NOW: School books: need to get more for the upper grades; Godfrey feels limited by the lack of them. Will donate several to the school, with the understanding that Godfrey have one whenever he needs it.
  • NEAR-FUTURE: fencing the ENTIRE land, leaving gates at the natural paths. This would serve to establish the land rights. Would also put up signs indicating that the access will continue to be free as long as property and Sabina’s property rights are respected. Future could include cattle grates
  • NEAR-FUTURE: Need to discuss a summit with the squatters and come to some mutual understanding. Would like to open up a property transit, but would completely dependent on property respect and certainly a lack of violence. Tell them they have a chance to move from being considered squatters to being considered squatters if this is down AND additional squatter being kept out. Sign a Memorandum of Understanding, give them a copy to save as a provisional title to their land, dependent on good behavior. After a set period (5-8 years), it converts to a real deed.
  • FUTURE: increased egg production. This will require raising the flock to 300 to be ideal (both for consumption and flock maintenance. This would utilize the building to the west edge of the property, near one group of squatters. This would need exceptional security: probably a solar powered motion detector and possible alarms. Would recommend divining the building 3 ways. Equipment room in the center, separate flocks at each end. Three separate flocks would reduce chance of disease annihilation.
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