We spent yesterday making our way to Jinja for most of the morning. In the afternoon we finally had the chance to meet Rose and the rest of the staff at the Women's Rights Initiative (WORI), a long term partner of Tawi, to tell us more about their goals to help empower women and youth. Community Based Participatory Research is not a new concept to them; they do needs-based assessments of communities with expressed needs before creating any curriculum or plans and serve as a catalyst to incent individuals to be the sources of change. WORI, as well as Tawi, focuses on sustainable change by not only teaching women to sew, for example, but also how to fix a faulty machine.
Being as my project focuses on poverty, I have been attempting to observe and ask about that as well. I am not planning to disperse many of those findings or my own insights on that here until possibly after I have had time to digest them through working on my project and conducting more interviews with social protection agencies to avoid any premature assumptions.
So far our time in Jinja has been exciting and interesting, most of all speaking with WORI. I look forward to meeting with additional NGOs and to continue learning.
Yesterday Tessa and I joined Rose and Stuart for a visit to a rural village called Mifubira to accept or deny requests for revolving loans. The individuals who receive loans use them to start a business. The interest rates then provide money for WORI to provide loans to more individuals. It was interesting watching this process as the entire meeting was in Lugandan, so I only picked out a few words. They had an innovative way of having most of the women sign the contract by coloring their thumb and stamping a print on the form if they were illiterate.
This morning I worked on contacting more NGOs and have set up meetings with several of them. Hopefully they will be able to provide insight on poverty in Uganda as well as their specific agency's approach and methods for approaching poverty alleviation with various services.
We went back to WORI this afternoon to talk about other NGOs they would be able to put us in touch with. A couple of children saw us inside and soon an entire group showed up. They were fascinated by Andrew's video camera and were recording us and each other. We learned some more Lugandan phrases from some of the WORI staff while we were there so we don't look like such silly mzungus.
We have ended up staying in Jinja longer than we had expected, but we are heading to Lingira Island today, which is part of the Buvuma Island chain in Uganda. While we are there we will be staying with some longtime partners of EDGE, Andy and Keeky Smith of Shepherd's Heart International Ministry. This area is much different than the more urban touristy Jinja so it will be interesting to see the differences, especially regarding access to resources.
We had to relocate from the hostel we were originally staying at after Eric contracted a combination of tropical diseases, one being ringworm, likely from the sheets or towels there. He is feeling fine and appears to be clearing up, but he will be going to an Australian doctor today to try to identify whatever is going on on his back. Andy and Keeky recommended that we stay at their friends' bed and breakfast in Jinja, run by Hackers for Charity. The husband has always had jobs working with electronics and found his niche here by offering reliable and affordable computer services to individuals and NGOs. They have been incredibly hospitable in sharing meals and their beautiful home for the past two nights.
On the research end, I have so far met with four NGOs including WORI, one of which we came across coincidentally. On Saturday I met with an LGBT organization; the only one in Jinja. They have to keep the organization confidential because of the Kill Bill recently passed in Uganda which not only prohibits homosexuality but marks it as punishable by death. The laws are so heavily enforced that they have a separate police force to do so and require that doctors, parents, and others serve as mandated reporters of homosexuality or may be subject to up to three years in jail.
The following day Tessa and I met with Benjamin, an administrator at Agapewo Ministries Uganda in Jinja. Their programs focus on education, HIV/AIDs, and agriculture. While they incorporate God they are not affiliated with any particular religion. Their main struggles are transportation, lack of funding and resources, and high expectations from the program recipients. Benjamin noted that when they offer services to a community they expect to be alleviated of all their problems when really the organization can only do so much.
A woman sitting near us at the cafe overheard Tessa's introduction at the beginning of the interview and was interested when she heard her mention "disability." Julie works for Africa Inland Mission with a focus on services for individuals with disabilities. Tessa was able to conduct an interview with her as well and was invited to a conference for NGOs with a concentration on disability services in Kampala onJune 1st, so she and I will be traveling there in a few days. I think the networking opportunity will be fantastic so that she can get a better idea of how certain NGOs come to be and find their niche in Uganda, and also that Tawi will be again well received as it too tries to foster relationships between NGOs.
After spending hours at Space Cafe, the main Internet cafe in Jinja (or the magnet for all muzungus), we were getting a bit stir crazy so Eric and I went exploring around town. We wandered into a Hindu temple and met the main priest there. There is a prominent Indian population in Jinja, so he found work as the priest there in 1996. He invited us to come back the following morning for prayer, so Claudia, Eric, and I did.
While Eric remembered where the temple was located and could accurately guide his boda boda driver there, my sense of direction is rather shakey so Claudia and I tried to navigate our way from Soace Cafe with no luck. However, while walking to the bank from the cafe I spotted the Jay Vishwa Karma temple again and we were able to learn from the priest. Mainly the temple is for individual prayers but the priest comes to open the curtain and wake God up in the morning and to close the curtain in the evening while he sleeps. He showed us the morning prayer, answered more questions, and blessed each of us by giving us bracelets and blessing them.
Before heading to Lingira,we joined Keeky to take a boy from the island to a school near Jinja that offers courses for students with disabilities. Right away he was welcomed by the other students and it looks as though he will do well there. After, we visited a facility for individuals with disabilities called Ekisa, also located in Jinja. Ekisa was beautiful and had enough space for each child to have their own bed and to spend time playing outside. It also included a sensory room so that the children could still have environmental stimulation even if their disability may have otherwise limited that.