Friday, September 26, 2014

St. Mary’s Primary School

Background on the Ugandan Education System:
There are three levels of education for children. The first is equivalent to pre-school and kindergarten referred to as Nursery School with a Baby (age 3), Middle (age 4) and Top Baby Class (age 5). Children then enter Primary School usually at age 6 and attend grades P1-P7. Near the end of P7, students take an exam to move on to Secondary School usually around age 13 which has ordinary and advance level ordinary stops at S4 and advanced level up to S5 and S6 meant for students to gain experience geared towards college. The average age to finish secondary school is 19 to 21.

When we first arrived at site we went to visit one of the local primary schools, it’s actually a few steps from our home and one that our organization originally founded but now is under its own operation. The protocol in Uganda is always following the chain of command. We first had to meet with the headmaster; nothing can be done without his consent. Then we were introduced to the head teachers, teachers and students. We discussed being allowed to come in once or twice a week to hold classes. For Ashley she will teach English to baby and top baby class (her favorite ages) as well as for P3 and P4 classes. Matthew will be doing health education in various classes.

Today we had our first time to officially go to the classes and Ashley taught English to the nursery students. Matt even joined in and did some singing and dancing. We are really looking forward to working with the students over these next 2 years, after all these children are the future of Uganda .

Teaching Nursery School

Matt singing and dancing with students

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Grilling Ugandan Style

 Many people probably wonder…what do they eat in Uganda? Are they eating at all? ...Poor things. Well, don't be worried guys, because Uganda has some of the most fertile soil and just about anything you put in the ground will grow. Better yet, beef, pork, goat and chicken are widely available in almost everywhere. The good thing about beef and pork, you can go to the butcher and tell them exactly what cuts of meat you want. Even better, it is very cheap; a kilo of beef is 8,000/= or roughly $3. Not bad at all, and after doing some research online, we are now able to let them know exactly what we want: T-bone, sirloin or some meat for a roast we can get it and it's freshly killed that morning.

Matt even made us a little grill to celebrate finally getting T-bone and sirloin, can you believe they are always one of the last pieces left at the butcher!
Matt made a grill.

Very good beef.

As far as other meat goes, there is an amazing pork joint in town that is owned by one of Ashley's counterparts. You go in and tell them what pieces and how much you want, 1 kilo is 7,000/= ($2.70) and a half kilo 3,500/= ($1.35). They roast it over the fire for the day and you can even choose if you want them to cook it with onion, tomatoes, cabbage or all three. 

Amazing Pork Joint in Town

For chicken, unless you go to a local restaurant , you have to purchase it, kill it and prep it yourself. Chicken is a little more compared to beef and pork. 1 chicken will cost 15,000/= ($5.80) to 25,000/= ($9.60) depending. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

World Peace Day

September 21st was World Peace Day!

Today we were able to attend a function held in another city in our district, Kagadi, with others from our organization. There were lots of skits on topics from domestic violence to men saving some meat for the children, cultural dancing and singing and they even had a tent testing for HIV and one for save male circumcision. Overall, it was a great time.

Cultural Dancing at the Event

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Matt's so Handy

Last week Matt helped the staff at the Health Center to assemble an incubator that had not been in use due to the staff’s lack of knowledge on how to assemble it. The incubator had been sitting in the supply room for about 2 or 3 years and after doing some research online he was able to construct the incubator and put it in use. He also trained the staff members on how to operate, trouble shoot and maintenance the machine.

This will help the community since there are no other functioning incubators in the town, the nearest being over 1 1/2 hours away. This will also benefit the Health Center since it now has an operational incubator to assist with new born babies who need it. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Another Week in the Field for Ashley

A new month and new projects. This month Ashley is working with her counterparts finishing up training on trenches for groups who haven’t received trainings and starting trainings on VSLAs. Finally some finance stuff for Ashley and she even got to facilitate all of the trainings for the week.

So, what is a VSLA? Village Savings and Loan Associations are formed by groups within the community, in this case the members of the agriculture self help groups have formed their own VSLAs. These people, in many cases, do not have access to lenders and these associations provide a way for the farmers to both save and take out loans when needed. Most groups meet weekly or monthly and there is minimum amount they are suppose to save each month. The group is completely self-governed and ran and my role is to provide training to support and strengthen their groups. The majority of the groups had not received any formal training on VSLAs but instead took the knowledge from other groups they had been in and applied it.

Many of the groups had run in to the same problem. Each person was saving the minimum and nothing more. This for one limits their personal saving as well as the interest they can earn and limits the amount of funds available to the group as a whole for loans.  The main fear: someone takes a loan and never pays it back and they lose all of their money.  Thankfully I worked in personal loans for 5 years and was able to give the groups good advice and guidance to solve these issues. I also introduced the concept of member passbooks and ledger cards to improve bookkeeping with some groups. The groups use notebooks that stay with the treasure that have all of the group’s savings and loan records. What happens if they lose these books and better yet how does each member know and have proof of how much they have saved or owe in loans? That is where the importance of the members books come in so each member has their own records so in the case that the main book is lost or stolen they have a back-up. Overall this week was a success and went very well.

One group practicing filling out the new ledgers and member's passbooks

Monday, September 8, 2014

Birthday and a Kitten

Matt celebrated another birthday in another country, this time from Africa. This year he got an unexpected surprise.

Back Story:
Ashley had mentioned to her counterpart they we have a kitten back in The States and would love to get one while we are here. She might have mentioned it too many times. This morning at work she waited for her counterpart and when he arrived on his motorcycle, she went out to greet him and heard a cry that sounded like a baby. “Do you hear that?” he asked. On the back of the motorcycle inside of a box wrapped in a tarp was a kitten. We have a kitten now.

Happy 26th Birthday Matt!

We decided to name him Stacey like his sister Stacy back home in The States. Hopefully she won’t mind. Honestly, we couldn't stop calling him Stacey so it has stuck.