Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Next Time You Turn on the Shower...

Remember, not everyone in the world can.

For most of us when we turn on our sink faucets to wash dishes or start filling up our bath tub to relax after a long day we rarely, if all, think about what it would be like to not have this luxury. We rarely are faced with a “hard” time; maybe the city shuts of the pipes for a few hours or a winter storm freezes the pipes, but after a short time everything is restored. It’s hard to think that so many people around the world do not have this luxury in their homes and now after living an entire lifetime without much thought, we are know among those living without a water source in their home. 

We are lucky. We may not have water running directly into our home, but we do have water catchment tanks within a one minute walk. There is even a pipe that runs from the city just outside of our compound. For the majority of people in our town and throughout the country, this is not the case.

Throughout the day you will see children moving back and forth from town; in the evenings numbers grow as crowds of children and women migrate towards the edge of town, each of them caring a jerry can or two, the younger ones (toddlers) with 1 liter coke bottles. They make this 1-2 mile roundtrip trek every day, usually 3 times, to collect water from the bore hole. In total our town has 2 water sources, one on either side of the town and this water is the life source of the community.  The other day we decided to follow the children on their journey with jerry cans in tow.

 From the hillside we started our journey, walking down the dirt path through the brush. Once we came to the road side we made our way down the hill merging onto the main road. The water sources from a deep valley at the edge of town. In order to reach it, we had to exit the road and climb down a large hill side; slowly we made our way down a narrow path. At the bottom of the hill next to our famous large rocks sits one bore hole. One child starts to pump as others lines up the cans. Others wait their turn and chat about their day. They do this for about 20 minutes until all the cans are full and they start their journey back home. It is amazing the strength these children have. Carrying 10 and 20 liter jerry cans requires strength, one we could barely manage. Yet they walk with ease back to their homes ready to return for their second trip with the cans placed atop their heads.

One of the town bore holes

two children walking up hill from bore hole

child carrying full jerry can on head

child using bike to transport two 20 liter jerry cans

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"No One is Normal"

..we all have something that is different. A great quote shared by someone this past week that is so true and often times forgotten. 

This past week Ashley had the opportunity to participate in her first camp in Uganda. The camp was hosted by several great local organizations and two amazing Peace Corps volunteers. It brought together campers ranging in age from 5 – 27 years old in the Fort Portal area. This meant traveling about five hours, but it was more than worth it.

The week started with shy campers trying to feel out the environment, but by the end of the week they were full of energy and enjoying their time with their new friends. Camp Kuseka, it's name meaning Camp Smile/Laugh, is different from other camps here in that the purpose is to empower persons living with disabilities. Campers ranged from the hearing impaired, those with physical disabilities, learning disabilities and mental disabilities. Each camper was placed on a team with campers with similar disabilities and matched with a counselor one- on –one for the week. 

Red Team! RRRR….RED
Red Team Counselors

Ashley was placed on the red team, which was made up with campers with intellectual disabilities. Her camper was an amazing teenage girl from the area that enjoys drawing and reading and loves dancing. 
Ashley learns who her camper is

This week was a real learning lesson for everyone involved. The week helped to encourage and link resources to the campers and their families and gave campers the opportunity to participate in lots of great activities while learning life skills. Parents attended two full days worth of sessions and were able to learn, share and create networks for support. There were so many awesome sports, arts and learning activities for campers to participate in. Special Olympics Uganda did lots of great activities, there were several speakers, all with disabilities, who encouraged campers and reminded them that anything is possible, lots of opportunities for campers to showcase their talents and so much more.

Ashley's Week With Her Camper

When I first met my camper I was nervous. She was very shy and it took some time for her to warm up; at times she did not seem so sure of me and called me "obujungu". She is in her late teens and like any other teenage girl, she is very independent. At times she would get up and walk away without saying a word, and I would worry, ...oh no, where is she going. Thankfully, each time it was just a trip to the latrine. As the week went on she slowly started to warm up to me and others at the camp. I made it a personal goal to have her call me by my name, and with the help of the Rutooro speaking nurse to translate she started to call me by my pet name, Ateenyi. 

It took a while to see what she liked to do. She wasn't keen on being in large groups for sports and I tried to encourage her to participate with no luck. Library time was one activity I could count on that she enjoyed and used the time to work on her writing, something she said she needed help with. She is like a little mother, she loves children and always helped out with the younger children. When the music started to play I finally found what her passion is, dancing. She absolutely loves dancing like any other Ugandan child. Whether she was siting in her chair or walking to get in line for food, if music was playing she was dancing and singing. 

She said she wants to be a nurse when she grows up because she loves helping children; I think she will make a great one. This week was a great experience. I had the opportunity to meet some great people doing amazing things in their communities and some really amazing campers who only reinforce the fact that nothing is impossible.

Within the society here so many people with disabilities are cast away and left without much hope for the future. It is great to see so many people and organizations working together to end stigma and empower people. 

Remember... none of us are "normal".

Camp Kuseka 2015 Campers & Counselors

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Coffee Anyone?

Matt has always been a coffee lover. Throughout the day he usually makes around 2 French Presses worth; straight, black, no cream or sugar is the way he likes it. Well in Uganda he has hit the lotto; lots of people around are in the business of growing coffee. One of Ashley’s co-workers discovered Matt’s love and gave him some berries as a gift. Now we are in the coffee business, small scale, on the personal use side, but hey, we are in business of processing some coffee. 

This is something completely new to us. The first thing, Matt set out in drying them. We used a piece of tarp we found a few months ago and placed them out. The drying process took a good few days. After drying we started to crack them open to get the seeds. We found an easy way, maybe not the best way, but coke and beer bottles are perfect for the job. One crush and the shell breaks into two making it easy to take out the beans. This is the most taxing step. We developed our own little assembly line, crush crush, and take out the seeds, then start the next batch. Now it’s time for Matt’s favorite part, the roasting. A few minutes in to the process, the beans begin to make a soft crackling sound and the smell fills the air. When it’s all done, he sits with a homemade grinder until the beans are ready. 

We joke about growing some coffee trees, but we wouldn't be around to enjoy them. Maybe we will take the advice of all of our co-workers and buy a small plot of land and start a farm….maybe.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year

2015 is here! 

We have learned Ugandans really know how to celebrate.
The music we talked about from Christmas didn't stop with just celebrating Christmas, it continued up into this New Year. 
That is no joke…. 

At around 4 pm on New Year’s Eve Matt ventured into town to get some food and drinks for the night. We decided we would bring in the New Year at the Health Center with some of our neighbors with a small bon fire, nothing big, but safe among other things. While in town, he saw the prelude to the night’s events. Every speaker in town, probably a good 15-20, was being set up around the center of town. Around 5 pm it started… Every single beat from the Ugandan music we could feel. From nearly a good 15 minute walk away, the music echoed through our home like it was playing from right outside of our door….they really like their music.

We sat around the fire and someone’s watch must have been off, because the mass cheers started at 11:58 and due to the excitement and likely the large consumption of alcohol, the cheers didn't end until after 1 am. It was actually a neat thing to experience. Everyone, it seemed those in town and those at their homes, were cheering and making warrior calls.

The next morning we had to head into town to get lunch and something for dinner. It was like we lived in a ghost town. All the shops were closed and there was no one on the road. In town we found only a few shops opened, and behind each of the counters  the shop attendants were asleep in their chairs. 

Looking forward to all Uganda has to offer in 2015