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Published: March 19th 2010
We have been having an excellent time here in Bujagali Falls, just outside Jinja in South Eastern Uganda. We are not sure how long we will stay here, but are definitely in no hurry to leave at all!!! We got here a few days ago, after crossing the border from Kenya through Malaba, and traveling via Jinja where we did an overnighter to stock up on supplies before venturing out here.
Yesterday we were painting a local school with an organisation called Softpower. Softpower are a non-religious NGO with an extremely wide portfolio of educational activities including rebuilding and maintaining local government schools, funding a couple of local nursery schools (the government does not provide free nursery schools here, but without them women find it extremely difficult to perform all the tasks demanded of them, such as farming, collecting water and fire wood etc while still having to look after several small children at the same time), running a health clinic, doing malaria education and prevention, running an educational centre where schools can bring students for a range of drama activities, or to use the library, and learn farming skills. Up in North Western Uganda, Softpower also do conservation education with local farmers.
In the morning, Chibbe first took us to one of the Softpower preschools so that we could take a look at what they do in the community. We had 3 classes of kids, aged between 4 and 6 years old, welcoming us to their school and singing for us, and just generally being gorgeous... One of the lessons they were doing while we were there was about empathy, and looking after other people's feelings. Very beautiful.
After that, we drove out to another local primary school and did our painting (as I said, one of Softpower's activities is to refurbish local schools, with the aim of creating more inspiring learning environments... all the schools they have worked with look amazing, lots of beautiful bright colours everywhere.. We were painting blue today). The building we were painting was a new building that Softpower had funded, and it was being painted half white, half blue with a kind of wave pattern around the sides. After painting for a few hours, we had lunch at the school (beans and posho) and then had some more lovely encounters with kids as they came up, usually very shyly, to say hello and ask us our names. Always with the biggest smiles on their faces, we would then exchange a few questions and answers before they would fade into silence and then just sit and watch us inquisitively before going back to class. We drove back to our camp with Chibbe in the back of an open truck, arriving thoroughly sweaty and dust covered due to the hot sun and dusty dirt roads that we drove on. So we opted for a swim in the Nile to wash ourselves off!
While we were swimming we met a gorgeous young woman named Amina who was doing her family's laundry in the river just near where we were swimming. It was funny because she ended up being the sister of another, younger, girl - Janet - that we had met the day before (they were so obviously related it wasn't funny!). We said, 'is your sister's name Janet???' and she was like 'yeah!'... anyway, we got to chatting and she ended up inviting us over to her house for dinner... On our way to her place, we bought some ingredients to take for dinner at the local markets (a cabbage, some ground peanuts - used to make nut sauce -, vege stock, and rice) and had an awesome time helping to prepare the food, as well as getting to know Amina, and Janet and the rest of the family in the process.
It really was an incredible experience - there were about 10 kids there (not all of them related to Amina and Janet), and they were all so cuddly with us, and very playful! Amina and Janet (who is 11) prepared the whole meal just about; I helped with cutting the cabbage, and Charlotte checked out the rice for stones, but it was amazing how these girls just got on and did it all.
They live in a tiny mudbrick house in the local village, and the whole meal was prepared by the light of oil lamps, and cooked on open fires. The two girls would be pulling pots on and off the fire with their bare hands, and in the relative darkness. So competent, so skilled. It was amazing and I struggled to think of an 11 year old at home who would be able to prepare a meal like that.
The end product was absolutely delicious. Though I felt extremely guilty because as the guests we got the lion's share of everything, despite our protests. We had cabbage cooked with the stock and tomatoes and carrots, posho (maize meal), dodo (cooked greens), and ground nut sauce. Yum!
... And I think we are going around again tonight too!! ...Sounds like sweet potato from their garden is on the menu.
Anyway, today we went back to Softpower. Keira and I stopped off first at the local Softpower nursery school and hung out with the same 3 classes that we had met previously there. They all sang for us again, and I played football with a few of the kids. We got some great photos - but unfortunately the internet here is way too slow for me to post them! Then we went over to the Softpower Education Centre, where we were cutting huge lengths of fabric into squares for when they teach the young women in the schools how to make their sanitary napkins. We did that for a few hours until we were too hungry, then we came back to the village for a great veg curry at a local restaurant and a cold ginger beer (Stoney Tangawizi - a delicious ginger beer indeed!)... which has brought me to right now.
I had better go though, because I am waiting for the local librarian to swing by for a chat with me. I met her when visiting the Softpower Eduction Centre, and couldn't resist poking my head into the library there to say hello... So we will catch up over another Stoney, and hopefully I will get a bit more info about what the library does in the community.
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