Celebrating Day of the African Child

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Africa » Uganda » Western Region » Mbarara
June 24th 2015
Published: June 24th 2015
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Well, the three of us just got back from another weekend in Queen Elizabeth National Park (see next blog), and there is no power again. So I’ll blog till my computer dies, which may be sooner than later, as I’m also playing music on it in an attempt to drown out the Evangelical revival happening in the park across the street. And cue the rant…

Ok first off, this is not an attack on religion (although I’m not a big fan of organized religion in general) but it really pisses me off to see this manipulative, right wing, Evangelical fanatic coming to Uganda to spread his twisted message. It’s a fairly well known fact that most of the people of Uganda are incredibly impoverished and many of these people are also very religious. For many, having faith in a god and clinging onto religion is one of the only hopes they have for something better; maybe it’s that god will help them get through life, save their children, or just that they’re going to some place a little kinder than this cruel world in the afterlife. I don’t know what, but it doesn’t matter. This man comes here
and completely takes advantage of their desperation and feeds them lies to turn an immense profit, and to spread his extreme ideologies that generally aren’t as well accepted in the western world (for the most part). People will travel for hours to see this man; we even had to cancel a vaccine clinic in one of our communities because they were all going to Mbarara for him. They will then spend all of the little money they have to hear him speak, as it’s expected that everyone attending give a donation. This is literally robbing from some of the poorest people on the planet. And it absolutely infuriates me. You can not spread messages that homosexuality is wrong or that using condoms is wrong in countries like Uganda. (Note: I’m against it being spread anywhere, but it’s especially bad here.) These messages kill people - homosexuals cannot disclose their status because they have an incredibly high risk of being beaten or killed and the lack of eduction on the importance of condom use is one of the leading factors causing the spread of HIV. I get that maybe these people want to spread their ideologies at any cost, but they aren’t stupid and have to realize that people will die because of it; to know this and continue on is disgusting. The day the Evangelical arrived he made his presence known by having a massive parade going through town with a long convoy of cars, a marching band, and somewhere in the mess was him standing out of a sunroof waving like he was the Queen. I might vomit. What happened to all the good things that should be at the core of religion, like humility, helping the poor, acceptance of others? Like I said, we were lucky (note the sarcasm) enough to have him set up his four day revival in the park across the dirt road from where we were staying. We could clearly hear some of the "miracles" he was delivering: curing cancer, blindness, lameness, etc. He spread his “healing powers” over the crowd and one by one selected “random” people to come on stage to show off how he saved them. Currently, the weekend of lies and insanity is wrapping up and it sounds like they are either releasing a demon from someone, or they are speaking in tongues, or both. We can’t quite figure it
out, but it is creepy, and it doesn’t help that the power is out. Hence, the need for music.

Anyways, end rant. Breathe Sarah… just breathe.

So back to something more uplifting! June 16th is the Day of the African Child which started in South Africa in 1991 after an uprising of black students demanded better rights to quality education. I didn’t get a chance to take part in the festivities last year, so we talked to Boaz (FAOC’s director) and he set things up for us to visit Rustya Primary School for the day. In typical Ugandan fashion we arrived at 10am, the start time for the day, and the kids were still setting up the tarps and tents. Chaos would break if they saw a bunch of muzungus leave the vehicle, so we drove past the school to give them time to organize themselves without distractions. While waiting, we remembered there was a young puppy a short drive away that we considered rescuing a week prior. Silas told us earlier in the summer that he was looking for a puppy so we were keeping our eyes open for one we could save from village life and give to him. The school was going to take at least another 45 min or so (in actuality it ended up being a solid two hours) so we left in search of the dog. To our luck the woman who owned the dog was home and for only 20,000USH (about $8) he would be ours and we planned on picking him up at the end of the day.

Rustya Primary School has a little over 300 students, but is unique in that about a third of them are special needs children; mostly deaf children and those with unspecified mental handicaps. The school also boards several special needs children who cannot travel daily from home to school and back. The beginning of the day started with a tour of the school for the guests and parents where we saw the sleeping quarters, the mostly bare classrooms and the grounds. According to the agenda, following the tour there would be several speeches, lunch, and lastly maybe some free time to play with the kids before everyone went home. However, since the speeches only started around noon, lunch and the afternoon would likely be postponed… and postponed it was. There was speech, after speech, after speech, all in the local language, with no breaks. I was sitting beside Joseph who was paraphrasing it all for me. (Also of note, there was someone performing sign language throughout the speeches for the deaf children which I thought was incredible.) Everything was directed at the parents and the speeches tried to emphasize the importance of keeping children in school and educating them would give them a chance at a better life. They also talked about how the children need proper nutrition to learn, asking the parents to send their kids to school with lunches, as the school doesn’t always have enough food for them. Lastly, they asked parents to discuss financial issues with the school instead of pulling children out of school if they cannot pay for it.

After about four or so hours of non-stop speeches, it was time for awards for students that worked really hard and had outstanding grades. Along with local chairpeople, directors of various educational programs and the school, us VWB interns stood in a row, shaking hands and congratulating the students receiving awards. The award? Three small notebooks that cost about 17 cents each at the local grocery store. When these kids often don’t even have a piece of paper to take notes, these notebooks can make a huge difference. Dozens of children received the awards, some receiving multiple books. I was really pleased to see many special needs children being awarded as well.

When these awards were done it was time for us to present some donations we (and Laura) brought from home or bought here - activity books, stickers, markers, crayons, paper, VWB bandanas and a soccer ball. The bandanas were given to the school net ball team, as they were given new uniforms that day while the rest were given to the school to distribute. I was asked to present the donations - the crowd went wild when they saw the soccer ball - and give a little speech, so I thanked the school for having us and did my best to use my motivational skills to explain the importance of staying in school to be successful later in life. Maybe hearing it from a muzungu will have a longer lasting impact? Let’s hope. Let’s also hope that everything I said was translated properly as a local news crew was filming most of the day! So if anyone tuned into Local News West that day let us know how we looked! Ha!

After all the festivities we bought the village dog I mentioned earlier, got shit on, and made our way back home. “Puppy” or “Benji”, depending which one of us you ask, was covered in ticks, fleas, had a round belly full of worms and at the same time was nothing but skin and bones. He was terrified of people but was also so weak that he didn’t really move or try to get away once he was picked up. The first thing we did when we brought him in the house was strip down to our underwear and give him a serious, serious bath; he smelled foul. By the end of the night he started to warm up to us and we were able to get him to eat if we hand fed him. As the week progressed, so did he. Deworming him was the single most important thing in improving his character; he was a new puppy once all the worms were gone! We also were able to
They love the tattoos!They love the tattoos!They love the tattoos!

The girl to the right of me, who I'm holding hands with, made me promise her I would come back. She didn't believe me, but when we came back to the school to a few days later she ran up and gave me the biggest hug. She's a sweetheart!
locate a rabies vaccine and a distemper/parvo combination one for him. All week we home cooked for him and his appetite came back with a force! Despite still being a little fearful, he eventually trusted us enough to play a little and followed us all around the house. It was so nice to come home from “work” and be greeted with a wagging tail again!

The work in the field continued to be the same as previous entries, although this week we were held up from getting as much done as we would like due to intense rain storms, a community wedding, and another community postponing our visit in hopes of receiving a “miracle”. Oh well, what can you do!

Anyways, this is long again so I think I’ll stop here! As always, lots of photos, so scroll down to see more!

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


One of the classroomsOne of the classrooms
One of the classrooms

This one has considerably more educational material than others

All cleaned up!All cleaned up!
All cleaned up!

He sure looks good after the bath!

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