Time goes by too quickly. On Friday we completed our first week in Uganda and I feel like I have so many stories to tell. Our host family is absolutely lovely. Laura and I had a very warm welcoming week. First of all I must introduce myself (Sofia) and Laura with our new Ugandan names. “Namuddu” Sofia and Laura “Nakkonde”. During our welcoming dinner on Sunday we were baptized with these new names.
In just one week we have visited 8 schools. The poverty here is a great shock and the conditions that some children have to live in our not decent.
– School conditions: The class “floors” are full of dust, some schools lack of grass and not all children have the money to pay for school food.
– Drinking water: obtaining drinkable water is one of the biggest challenges. Children and families waste too much time to get water (the wetlands are sometimes very far from schools and houses). During our visit to the wetlands we were able to see how dirty this water is. Animals and children swim in this water and they even use this water to wash motorcycles (boda-boda). During our long talks with Sylvia we discussed how this issue has a domino effect on other things like children health and the sustainability of this water. Some schools have water purifiers but only one or two for more than 400 children.
– Teacher absenteeism: in almost all the schools we visited there was always a teacher missing. In other cases we saw teachers with their babies in school (How can you concentrate on teaching with your baby in class?). In another school we saw one of the students taking care of the baby.
– Student absenteeism: Why do children miss school? Some families can’t afford school fees (which are normally for feeding purposes in public schools), others are sick, others have to work at home and others lack of motivation.
– Houses: most families make their own houses with mud or they make their own bricks with soil. The manual work is impressive and something to admire. However this week we went to were able to see the bedroom where the bed was a mat on the floor.
– Language: for us as volunteers it is one of the biggest challenges because very few people understand and talk English even though they study it at school. We are slowly learning a bit of Luganda but it is not sufficient to communicate with children. However we are very lucky to have Sylvia Namukasa who normally translates everything for us.
Culture: during our first week we attended different event which gave us an even better picture of how things are here.
1) Pre-wedding celebration: where we saw the typical “Gomes” that ladies wear (I hope to post some pictures next time). We also listened to the typical music and saw the customs and traditions that normally take place in this kind of celebrations.
2) 85 Baptism: On Sunday we went to church where 85 babies/children were baptized. This is a clear example of the high number of children that women tend to have a very high number of children at a very early age (14-15 years old). In the streets you see 2 years old walking alone or sometimes the older sister/brother (4-5 years old) talking care of their little sister/brother.
3) Funeral: a man of 31 years old died of HIV/AIDS. He had a little girl of around 7 years old and a boy of 11 years old. Their mother went missing after she found out that he was infected. Now these children had become orphans. But they are not the only ones in this community. They day we went to the wetland we found a 15 year old girl called Harriet who was taking care of around 20 cows. She had no mom or dad but lived with her grandparents who didn’t care much about her.
When you read this you might be imagining a dark picture but I wish I could describe the amazing natural environment they have and the great efforts KYEMPAPU is doing to conserve and improve it.
I have to leave now but I hope to have more time to talk about all the fields that KYEMPAPU is working on and how all these problems are slowly being addressed.