Published: January 29th 2010January 29th 2010
Corn crops at the orphanage
A recent corn crop at the orphanage is stored before it's made into Posha, a local dish.
At the beginning of this week, I was given a local Ugandan name: Nakalama, which means I'm from the "clan of the lion". (I'm guessing this is because the heat has made my hair grow to three times it's usual size and it looks a bit like a crazy lion's mane.) I've been introducing myself as Nakalama around the village and it always gets a good laugh.
The week started with a national holiday. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the end of Idi Amin's rule of terror, we were asked as an organization to "march" in a local Ntenjeru parade. By "march", they really meant march... we had to swing our arms and legs in unison as a group and walk around the perimeter of the Ntenjeru soccer field in front of a huge crowd 3 times before standing still at attention while various officials gave speeces in Luganda (the local language). It was incredibly hot as it was about 11am... and the speeches went on for a little over 2 hours! Several times I felt like sneaking away to take a break in the shade, but the Ugandans were all toughing it out, so I stood there
The boy's dorm
Two boys in the boy's dorm at Gossace orphanage.
with them and burnt my skin to a crisp. Later, the director of the organization thanked us profusely for "bringing awareness of the organization to the community." He was really happy so I was glad that I stuck it out.
We paid a visit to the Gossage Orphanage this week. The director of the orphanage is HIV+ and has been living with HIV for 15 years, an amazing feat here. He was also an orphan himself. The orphanage has held up to 300 children but currently is taking care of 100 vulnerable kids. Many of the children are not sure how their parents passed away. Due to the lack of accessible medical facilities, people often die at home, with no diagnosis of what caused it.
Walking around the facility was heartbreaking. The dorms hold up to 70 children each. There are 3 beds to each bunk, and the bunks were all pushed against each other. There are no mosquito nets (Dennis says they recently "fell apart" due to how old they were) so the kids are at great risk of getting Malaria. Recently, donations from Canadians and Italians enabled them to install water pumps, which is amazing because
Benches at the school at the orphanage.
prior to that, they used to get their water from a bog hole. I saw this bog hole and the water looked like milk. Watching the kids pumping clean water brought me to tears, thinking about the fundraising we did at home last year for Play Pumps International. The kids have an area to bathe in (basically sheets of scrap metal tied together), a functioning kitchen where local women prepare meals, and most importantly a school. Dennis says they opened the orphanage to give hope where there was no hope. The children were happy, laughing, following us around and holding our hands. These kids were wonderful, so full of life and hope. It really made my heart hurt. Because of donations they've received, they are in the process of building a health clinic, where Canadian nurses will take turns volunteering with the children for 3 months at a time. I have some donations collected from home and I plan to purchase some mosquito nets to distribute to the children here.
We were also busy doing some home visits in community close to the orphanage. VOLSET has been involved in a community health training project called "Village Health Teams". Local
Pumping fresh water
The children pump clean drinking water from a pump that was donated.
community members are chosen to attend health seminars and they are then expected to take the knowledge into their community and help improve facilities and the community's knowledge about different issues.
These home visits were extremely humbling. Almost every home that we visited had at least one person who was sick. Generally they said the person was sick with malaria, but as they have no access to health care (the closest facility is 2 hours away), they diagnose most fevers as malaria. Almost half of the families had one death in the house within the last 6 months, and many did not know the cause of the death. Many of the children were visibly malnourished, yet we were offered food during many of the visits (which we of course politely refused). The good news was that because of the seminars and the influence of the people who had been trained, there were many improvements in the village. Several people had built latrines for their homes (previously they had no toilet, which was a major health issue). Others had built handwashing stations and kitchens. There was discussion of plans for improving the local water situation, which was a bog hole
Interviewing Jessica and a small boy about basic facilities in the home.
similar to the one that the orphanage had previously. The community's water is a major issue and is likely a cause of the constant illnesses.
Life at the white house has become more familiar and less intimidating than it originally felt. I've gotten used to the latrine (although I still daydream about my toilet), and the nightly baths with warm water are amazing after a long day in the heat and the dust. The roads are incredibly dusty, and on the long walks to the office, each passing car covers me with a cloud of red dirt that sticks to my sunscreen. The dust gets into everything and when I wash my clothes the water is bright red when I'm finished.
I've taken some long walks around the area and the scenery is stunning. After work I will usually take a half-hour walk down my street- often with a comet tail of small laughing children following me- and at the end there is a beautiful view of the lake.
Everywhere you look, the world is green, and people are smiling.
There are more photos below