Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Gift of Giving

Where has the time gone? I am not as good at keeping up on the blog as I had hoped, so forgive me for the lengthy entries.
Wonderful things are happening with 4 Oneworld in Uganda! Last Friday the Doctors of Animal Sciences came from Makerere University to connect with Kibooba. The Department Head, Denis Mpairwe was leading the discussion and he inquired about the history of the village. I realized that many of you may not know the details of Kibooba, so let me share.
Kibooba was hit hard in the mid-1980's by war, AIDS and poverty. A conflict took place between rebel forces and government soldiers. Many citizens were slaughtered, women raped and the town was left devastated. A sickness infected many people and the families learned that the name of the disease was AIDS. The consequences of these struggles have resulted with about 90 orphans in Kibooba. An orphan in Uganda means that one has lost one or both parents. The term "complete orphan" means a child has no parents or other relatives, in which case a good Samaritan assumes guardianship.
The people in Kibooba live a simple life. There is little, if any money exchanged in the village with the majority of households struggling to feed their families. Fetching water, digging in the garden, and acquiring firewood consume the days of most individuals. The poverty is severe and paying school fees is nearly impossible. The idea of the school came about when the local counsel leaders, Harriet and Joel collaborated to support the children who would otherwise never have the opportunity for an education.
The villagers united to bake the bricks to build the school and donate their labor. In 2000 the school was erected on the sacred memorial ground and named the Kibooba Village Memorial Orphanage Care Center. Citizens contributed the little funds they had while Joel worked multiple jobs to pay for the teachers' salaries and other operating expenses. It is a primary school offering classes in nursery through fifth grade. This is a special village with an inspiring story of unity giving and hope. They have come so far and with the help of the Friends of Kibooba (Canadian non-profit), 4 Oneworld and the Doctors of Makerere University we will be able to empower the community to sustain the school.
So now I am patiently waiting for the Doctors to schedule our next meeting to begin moving forward with a plan for Kibooba. They know the background, have inspected the land and have so many ideas on how to generate income for the school. Most importantly, their plan will only succeed with the involvement of the citizens. It's not about 4 Oneworld just donating funds; it's about empowering the parents and guardians of the students to contribute their time into the various projects to help pay for their children's education. Some of the initial ideas include chickens, cows and planting vegetables for selling. By the end of the month I hope to have a plan in place for success. However, I know the wheels of progress move slowly in Africa and I am not putting the pressure of a deadline on myself.
Did I mention the beauty of this partnership with Makerere? Dr.'s Denis Mpairwe, David Mutetika and Connie Kyarisiima have all agreed to donate their expertise as their community service to Kibooba. Joel and the women's group representatives clapped when they learned of their kindness. I was fighting not to shed a tear. They felt that since the villagers, Friends of Kibooba and 4 Oneworld were all contributing their time that they would as well. Giving is contagious. Once one person gives from their heart others can not help but to return the gift. It started with Harriet and Joel and is reaching all across the world with people like you (my faithful blog followers). So whatever you do today, be sure to give. Give from your heart and watch as your kindness is multiplied.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite poems about giving.
Give by Hari Kartar Singh

Give from the Heart
Give Often
Give Much
Give All
Give Again
Keep Giving
Give To Strangers
Give To Friends
Give To Family
Give to All
Give Again
Keep Giving
Give Time
Give Money
Give of Yourself
Give All
Give Again
Keep Giving
Give Freely
Give Now
Give Joyously
Give without Thinking
Remember it is your soul that wants to give.
It is your ego that wants to own.
And when you give to others you learn this:
You need nothing for yourself.
To give is to be a child of Trust.
Trust is truth.
Truth is Divine.
To give is to heal,
To give unconditionally is to forgive entirely.
Giving demonstrates the Universe's abundance.
And, when you give, the Universe demonstrates it's abundance to you. Give
Give Now
Give Again
Keep Giving.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I know that I don't know

I didn't make it down to Mbarara. It was going to be a short trip, as I had planned to leave Wednesday, spend Thursday in the field with Dr. Card and then travel back to Kampala on Friday. I needed to be back in Kibooba on Saturday to have tea with the women's group, and the transport issue just didn't allow enough time for me to make the journey. I was then asking myself, "Now what?" I do believe that for some reason I wasn't meant to go to Mbarara, but I was searching for that reason, since I started to feel a little lost as to what would be my next step.

I spoke with a friend, Tom and he mentioned that I should consult one of his agriculture professors from Makerere University, Dr. Mutetika. There's an ingenious idea that I never considered. Duh. Sometimes I think I'm so focused on one goal that I lose sight of the possibilities that are surrounding me. I had goats and Dr. Card in the forefront of my mind and didn't even think of consulting other professionals. I just needed to take a step outside of the constraints of the little box I created and open myself up to the possibilities. I realized I know that I don't know, and I need to go to the people who do know!

Dr. Mutetika specializes in animal science. He kindly agreed to meet with me the following day. To my surprise he had arranged for the Department Head, Dr. Mpairwe to meet with us as well. These two gentleman were exactly what I needed. I thought I would be asking the questions and it was quite the contrary. They asked me, "Why goats?" I told them that we investigated pigs and it seemed to costly and too risky, with not enough return. I said that I was advised that goats were a hardier animal. They inquired about the main purpose for this project, what the citizens of Kibooba were interested in pursuing, what the land situation was like in Kibooba and which livestock are the people familiar with? They told me that they would like to come to Kibooba to assess the current situation, maximize what is already in place and create a model to successful benefit the school. I was blown away by these guys. Their knowledge and their willingness to help was exactly what I needed. Their expertise was going to allow me to help Kibooba the right way. What did I do to deserve this awesome turn of events?

I was high as a kite when I left the University. I went to hop on a boda, but Dr. Mutetika advised me that I should save money and take the mutatu, which are mini vans used for public transportation. I prefer the efficiency of the boda and don't mind spending an extra dollar or two. "Approved for 14 passengers" is painted on the mutatu door, but they usually pack 'em in like sardines. I've counted up to 18 passengers (not including hand held infants), plus the conductor and driver! I squeezed in the door and as I tried to slide in over a woman I heard a rip and felt a cool breeze across my legs. The slit in my skirt had torn and was just shy of being completely inappropriate! Let's just say really short shorts would have provided more coverage. Thankfully, the slit was on the side of the skirt and if i clasped it together with my hands I wasn't showing too much skin. Again, I asked myself, "What did I do to deserve this awesome turn of events?" Funny how life is full of peaks and valleys. Moments ago I was on top of the world and now I was suffering from mild humiliation. Oh well. I got off the mutatu and caught a boda to my seamstress to have her mend my skirt and my ego.

Connecting with the professors has felt like a small victory. I do believe that we are moving somewhere. Small baby steps, but nevertheless, we are moving forward.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This Is Africa (TIA)

How soon I forget where I am and the pace at which life moves. Did I mention, I consider it a snail's pace? Another day, another lesson learned. The lesson is "This is Africa." Sue, a lovely New Zealander, who I met last year in Uganda, taught me this phrase that explains why things take so long on this continent. I have been learning and relearning this lesson for many years, and today was another schooling for me.

I had planned to take a four to five hour journey down to Mbarara to hang with Dr. Card and learn more about goats. Yesterday I felt I had a stroke of luck. I was going to avoid the brutal public transport and hitch a ride with her driver in her vehicle from Kampala to Mbarara. The car was being repaired and was due to be completed on Monday. However, TIA. The car was going to be ready today, Wednesday for sure. I spoke with the driver early this morning and he informed me that it would be ready by noon. Just before noon I received a text that it would be another hour. No worries, I thought. Then around 2:00 I was told it would be 5:00. TIA. I was a bit apprehensive to have a long dark journey. Let me point out that there are no superhighways here with adequate lighting.

I had a travel companion with me, a lovely woman named Jessica. We had decided that it would be smarter to leave in early the next morning. At 6:00 the driver said he was on his way to pick me up. He finally showed at 7:00. TIA. By then Jessica and I had opted out of the evening drive and chosen to leave early the next morning. The driver said that the car needed one more repair and would definitely be ready by tomorrow at 8 or 9 am. TIA.

So this morning I packed up my life into my backpack, grabbed my camera bag that weighs nearly half of my body weight and just waited. I waited all day long. And for what, I do not know. For whatever reason I was not meant to go to Mbarara today. Another night at my beloved temporary home, the Red Chilli. TIA...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"We are moving somewhere."

It has been a roller coaster of a week for me here in Uganda. My main concern early in the week was the lack of students that had shown up for school. Only 35 kids were in school the first week, but I was assured "they will come." It is common that children do not arrive for school right away, but I was deeply concerned with such a shift, since last year there were about 110 students.

I asked Steven, the head teacher to go to various households to find out why children were not in school. There were a variety of reasons that my Western mind could barely comprehend. The majority of parents/guardians had shifted their children to other schools which offer a better infrastructure. The Kibooba primary school has one large room where nursery-2nd grade are held and three other smaller rooms for 3rd-5th grade. It is a bit chaotic in the large room with each corner being occupied by a different grade. There are a handful of desks, only one textbook per grade and few learning tools. The other excuses for missing school included working in the garden to provide food, fetching firewood to sell it for food, caring for younger siblings while the parents was working, and sickness. Despite the challenges, by the end of week two there were 85 children enrolled and I am told more will come.

I met with a wonderful woman, Dr. Claire Card, who is in charge of the Veterinarians Without Borders in Uganda. She lives and teaches in Canada, but spends two months of the year here in Uganda training vet students about animals in Africa. She was exactly who I needed to speak with to learn about which livestock would be the smartest path to pursue for income generation. We spent hours together and in the end she said, "When all the animals in Africa are dead, goats will still be standing." They are resilient animals requiring low start up funds, low risk of illness and high profit. Hallelujah! This is music to my ears. I plan to meet up in a town called Mbarara to visit farms, learn more about goats and start developing a business plan for goat production.

I had a meeting with eight ladies from the women's group in the village. They all have children or granchildren attending the school, and they are the only formally organized group of citizens in Kibooba. Only a few speak English so Joel translated for me. I asked questions about their backgrounds and listened to their ideas about income generating projects. I mentioned the idea of goats to them and they seemed interested and eager to learn more. They requested training to become educated on goats. I told them that if we pursue goats, of course training would be required. I also told them that I was a volunteer for 4 Oneworld and that I am not paid for my work. I said that my main purpose was to help the children of Kibooba and empower the community. They clapped after hearing this and that just made my day. I thought it was important for them to know that this isn't a job for me, it's my service to humanity and that everyone involved with 4 Oneworld is coming from the same place of giving.

One of our board members, Niki gave me a variety of learning tools for the school. The alphabet, numbers and posters to hang on the wall, and card games. I passed out the alphabet and posters and Joel was thrilled. Steven was incredibly thankful and appreciated the valuable tools. Joel said to me, "We are moving somewhere. We are not alone." My sentiments exactly. We are moving somewhere. Slowly, but surely we are moving forward. I just need to be patient and thoughtful as we progress.