jump to navigation

Rural AIDs Awareness Progam in Kyebe July 24, 2007

Posted by Mike O in Charity, projects.
1 comment so far


The AIDS awareness program was fascinating, as was really getting out in the ‘sticks’. Getting there involved 90 minutes on a ‘road’ that would barely pass as a jeep trail, passing many miles without seeing any habitation of any kind. I swear most of the younger kids there had never seen a Mzungu; at least not one older, bald and bearded. They would just stand and stare.

The show ended up being 2 hours late (Africa time) so we waited quite awhile, part of which was spent in practical discussion with Vincent on the AIDs problem locally. Later, a pack of kids- obviously just let out of Primary- trooped by and sat in the shade of a tree about 50 yards away. They just sat there, staring at me for minutes on end, not saying anything. Figuring I was supposed to do something, I just jumped up with a shout; the whole group took off like lightning bolts, two of them running like they wouldn’t stop until dark. The rest peeked around the corner and drifted back; I got up- causing them to scatter again- and walked over to where they’d been sitting in the shade, sat down and waited. Finally, some were brave enough to return and sit down; never within touching reach and they had great fun trying to push each other within range, figuring I’d grab them and devour them whole, I guess. No English among there, so trying charades a bit, then got up and left them; didn’t eat a single one of them, which probably a surprise to them. Same pack of kids showed up at the performance and, after it was done, spent a half hour staring at me as I waited in the car. I tried to be entertaining.

When the program people did finally arrive on the back of a truck playing drums, they ‘Pied Piper’ed the entire village to the parking lot that they set up for the show; about 20 performers in all. I was there to shoot film for Vincent, so I tried to find a good position to do so. I ended up standing on a refuse pile behind some of the audience. The villagers kept looking back at me, wondering what the Mzungu was up to. I would just hoist up the camera as say in a baritone ‘I’m the cameraman.” (Anyone who saw the recent movie ‘Blood Diamond’ would understand the humor in that.)

The show involved some singing, a few short lectures, some dancing, and a long morality play, followed by a Q&A session. All in Lugandan, so I had little clue of what was going on. The morality play was- until the end- very humorous and entertaining, with a sobering moral at the end about dangerous behaviors. The length of time of the Q&A was a positive sign, a lot of it about bringing the show to other areas and how useful it was. This particular village was the epicenter of the AIDs epidemic in Uganda and had been devastated; the message resonated with these people. I kicked in 20,000 shillings to the group (things were getting tight for me by that time) as a tip, for sodas, or whatever. They do a great job.

Vincent reminds me that I should mention all of the fine organizations supporting his excellent work; they include USAID, PEPFAR and the Government of Uganda. And, naturally, the Reach The Youth Uganda group, of which Vincent is Team Lead. Note that I have added his link to my link list.

MADEUganda Project, 2007 July 24, 2007

Posted by Mike O in Charity, projects.
add a comment


I had already sent most of my resource (money) on to MADE before I came; it let them repair most of their machinery to keep working. I did bring the final payment for a welder repair, as well as 50 sets of bearings and weightlifter gloves for chair users.

The work with MADE went pretty well, but was a bit depressing. Their new space is so small; they seem to be hanging on by their fingernails. I was (am still am) upset with how long it’s taken to get Winnie the wheelchair that Pat paid for almost 6 month ago, especially with me paying as much as I did to fix their equipment. But it’s pretty apparent times are hard for them.

I was glad to get them the interview with the microfinance people and Kristin. I went first to check things out with Fatuma. While I was there, Winnie got in an extensive discussion with Mohammed, the blind wheel man. I was impressed; he matched Winnie word for word. I wanted to make sure he had his say to others. When Kristen and the others came, the interviews went well with Fatuma, but they never got to Mohammed. I realized this after the fact and arranged to come back and have Winnie do an interview (I told a little fib about this; I told Mohammed that Kristin was the one who caught this oversight and insisted that Winnie and I return. I actually initiated it, but Kristen heartily agreed).

Mohammed is an amazingly thoughtful individual for someone with little formal education and I love the ‘thinker’ picture I got of him. A mechanic and wounded warrior, his view on what needs to be done about the disabled is well worth listening to.

The microfinance people did not necessarily with Kristin did not impress me (hard to, compared to Kristen). During their discussion, I pointed out that they were looking at financing in the wrong way; they shouldn’t consider loaning money directly to a place like MADE, but to the people who need the wheelchairs. The loan should also include vocational training funds. I think the near $400 cost of the chairs likely put them off; it’s the material costs that eat up MADE, I’m afraid. Still, the video of the interviews should be useful.

Kiwanga Project, 2007 July 24, 2007

Posted by Mike O in Charity, places, projects.
1 comment so far


I ended up funding- and working on- an extensive project at Phillip’s House for screening and addition of glass shuttered windows. Also brought a staple gun and staples that helped. Phillip’s House is home of 16 severely mentally and physically handicapped individuals and some of them are real charmers. Phillip’s House dorms have always been shuttered, making the dormitories particularly dark and stifling; this work will go a long way into improving it. But
it was expensive and made a big dent in what I was planning to spend in Rakai.

Since I was there 2 years ago, they had someone come in to work with the residents there and there has been great progress. They take care of their own laundry and do some cleaning. In fact, they were trying to stop one of the girls from doing her laundry because her hands were damaged by some small accident; she was having none of it and insisted on doing her part.

The work also covered screening the clinic; it made absolutely no sense for the clinic not to be screened; last thing a malarial patient needs is another case of malaria two weeks later. Screening the clinic also involved building out wood frames and opening panels, because the window structures were all metal and concrete. Like I said; expensive, but necessary. Got screens on in a lot of other places as well. I helped on some of it; the type of simple work the unskilled, cheap imported labor can do. I made sure Constance’s screens were up to snuff; as a Tour assistent (and one of ‘girls’), we can’t afford her to come down ill if the Tour is going to ever get going.

The medicine we brought into the clinic was put to good use; antibiotic ointment and anti-diarrhea medication was most appreciated. Could definitely use more bandaging materials, however; their ‘plaster’ tape is pretty harsh. Flex bandages would be great. I ended up playing emergency nurse one weekend; not only did one of our volunteers (Tia) have a serious reaction to a peanut dish (peanut allergies can be serious enough to be fatal), but a couple kids got some pretty seriously cut toes. Thank goodness I’d brought some Benedryl for the clinic; it’s about the only medication effective for more serious reactions like Tia’s. Gave her two as the max dose; knocked her out like a sledge hammer; 10 hours later, she awoke and was much better.