Sunday, March 29, 2015

You Have to Breathe

…When things don’t go as planned. 
When there is a time deadline things always seem to not move as fast as you want and everything seems to pop-up out of nowhere in an attempt to sabotage you. For reasons unknown, that seems to be even more the case here. You need the welder to do some work but the power is off for the week, except late at night when it’s time to sleep. You need to paint, but the rains are here making it nearly impossible when you don’t have an inside space to do it in. You need to hold a meeting but the night before it rains a lot and most people are not able to come in the next morning. You need to construct things outside but it rains literally all weekend, from morning to night and you decide to just curl up and lay in bed all day because you know you can’t do anything about it. On days like these, you have to just breathe. 

Almost every day one or two Ugandans will remind us of “Ugandan Time”, mpora, mpora (slowly, slowly) and they joke about us Americans and our “American Standard Time”, rushing around to get things done. But in the end, even with the “Ugandan Time”, things do get done. So our lesson, just breathe.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tis’ the Season...

..for sowing seeds. The rains have come and people are rushing to plant seeds while others are hoping the ones they planted weeks ago won’t be lost to the scorching sun. They say the rains use to be predictable, even down to the day, but over the past few years they have seen a change. This season the rains were late. This change, or delay in the rains means the already scarce supply of food we have in the market will become even scarcer.  Of course during the dry seasons you expect this to happen as the supply decreases and the prices go higher, but they expect it to be worse over the next few months. The tomatoes have already gone from the best picks, to the not so great picks doubling in price… 1,000/= for a heap has become 2,000/=.

Well, tis’ the season for planting and we have joined in. Matt and his counterpart have started re-introducing a health education program into the local primary schools. So far they have started with one and by the 2016 school year they hope to be in all 4 of our town’s primary schools. Since arriving, nutrition has become Ashley’s big focus with projects and a few weeks ago she led the nutrition lessons for the health education classes. As an extension of the lesson, she worked with the school’s programs director to introduce sac gardening to the students.  The result?  200 P4-P7 students have constructed 25 sacs. Now that the rains are here, we have planted cabbage, spinach and what they are most excited for, carrots. If all goes well, we plan on expanding to more veggies and maybe fruits during the next (long) rainy season this October. 

Food Category Activity

Demo with boarding students, who in turn led the lessons to other students the following weeks

Some P5 Students making their gardens

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Know Your Status

Yesterday we held another HIV testing event in our town. World AIDS Day 2014 was such a success we have decided to continue on the work throughout the year and hold quarterly testing up until this year’s 2nd annual event in December.  

So how to get people excited about knowing their status? First you stress the testing is free, next you get a sound system to broadcast music and every other minute you talk about getting tested (in Uganda, they love sound systems) and lastly you try an incentive. What incentive did they have yesterday? The first 100 tested would get a mystery prize… Needless to say our goal of 100 tested was surpassed with a total of 237 people tested! And for their prize, some biscuits (cracker/cookie things) they were very eager to line up and get with smiles on their faces. A very inexpensive but effective way to get people interested in testing for sure.  The biggest accomplishment was seeing many of the faces from our previous testing back for their 3 month re-testing. 

Matt even was interviewed on 2 local radio stations and promoted awareness and encouraged people to get tested and know their status. Now it’s time to start planning the next event for June. In the works is a local campaign, Kibaale Know Your Status. 
Do you know your status?

Female Condom Demo

HIV Info

Quarterly Testing Event

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Drop Everything and...

One of our local school we work in, St. Mary’s Primary School, celebrated the 2nd Annual DEAR Day in Uganda for the first time by encouraging an environment of reading among its students. For 30 minutes you didn't hear the usual sound of teachers conducting their lessons with pupils reciting every line, instead you heard children reading aloud or the silence of those reading to themselves. 

I conducted a few interviews with some of the staff and children and they each said how much they enjoyed the exercise. The students loved it because it gave them time to do something they enjoy or learn about something they are interested in. The teachers enjoyed seeing the children encouraged to read and were surprised at how much the pupils were engaged. The plan, they want to start a similar exercise each week were students can read for about 30 minutes to 1 hour as the schedule allows…it was successful exercise indeed.

 Now Ashley is asking for your help. These schools have little and in some cases, no leisurely reading materials. If you know of any organizations that donate books please comment below. 
Thank you!

P7 Students Reading Newspapers

P5 Students reading stories from the Bible

Top Class Listening to a story read by  P5 &P7 Students

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

It’s Been Awhile

So what has been happening here? Well, we have officially been on this journey for 9 months. February came and went before we even knew it. Funny how time goes by so fast but at the same time it seems to not move at all here. So, 9 months down 18 more until you all get to have us around again.... for awhile.

We welcomed a new set of volunteers to the west; six awesome education volunteers ready to get to work. Unfortunately, none will be joining us in our district….maybe next time.

With the help of Matt’s counterpart, last month we started re-introducing a health education program into our neighboring school, and are working with a great group of P4-P7 students. We have some awesome projects lined up for this month, the current focus is personal health and hygiene, and the topics so far have covered personal hygiene, latrines, home/compound hygiene and nutrition.

We replanted our garden. In case you missed what happened last time, our precious 1 year old neighbor decided that each time something would grow it needed to be weeded leaf by leaf until she finally decided it was time for it to go all together. So needless to say, our attempt at sac gardens was a failure. This time we had to get a little innovative...and with this help of the internet Ashley came up with this.

It’s not finished yet, there are still a few rows left to hang, but we did make sure it was out of reach from small children. 

What else….oh yeah, the season is changing. Not like the seasons back home where soon it will start to warm up and the trees and grass slowly come back to life, but the season is changing. We are moving into one of our rainy seasons. This means the brown and red dirt that has coated everything for the past few months is going to be replaced with unexpected downpours and muddy roads you sink in. The upside, it won’t be as hot, things will start to grow back and we will hopefully start to get food in the market…the downside, time to start bathing inside our sitting room again, shoes will be destroyed, and getting out of our district will be a struggle. Hello March!