Saturday, June 8, 2013

Days TwentyThree-ThirtyOne: Jinja

Today Tessa and I arrived in Jinja early afternoon and made our way over to WORI so that Annet could bring us to the home of our host family. Robinah, the mother, is so sweet and welcoming. The home is beautiful, and she lives there with her two sons who are a bit older than Tessa and I, Daniel and Dennis. Both Tessa and I are looking forward to having the experience of living with a Ugandan family, even if it is only for a short time. For me, it will be a good segway into my much longer homestay in Spain coming up in the spring.
We ate dinner with the family around 9pm (she was shocked that we had been eating as early as 7pm on the island) and were exhausted from traveling, so we went straight to bed. Dinner was delicious with spaghetti and meat,  matoke with gnut sauce, and chicken.

Our meetings and hard work for our research began today. We met up with Annet first thing in the morning and bodaed to Mafubira to meet with Jinja District Union of Persons with Disabilities (JIDU) so that Tessa could ask some questions for her project. After grabbing some mangoes and rolexes for lunch, we made our way to Bugembe so I could run an interview for my project with Clemency Uganda. They serve the Bugembe district, one of the most populated villages in the area, which is made up of roughly 200,000 people. 
As we made our way to the office with Neto Augustine, he mentioned how important they felt it was to work directly in the slum so they could be closest to the problems. We discussed the ethics of slum tourism, something that has recently taken off both in Africa and in many ghettos and slums elsewhere, such as India and th U.S. While for some it may offer a valuable learning opportunity, it really seems to do more harm than good by gawking at and photographing "those poor people" and their lives. Unless you are visiting a slum to talk to or work with the individuals there, you are actually further perpetuating the single narrative. It would be in everyone's best interest if you stayed at home that day instead.
Clemency Uganda is using wonderful community centered participatory practices that always include need assessments and allow the community members to participate in every step along the way. They have invited me to join them this Saturday for one of their children's bead making programs. While conducting interviews with the various NGOs and CBOs has certainly been helpful and interesting, it is so much more valuable to witness what these organizations are doing on the ground.
This morning I really started getting homesick. I actually was surprised that I hadn't been so far so it wasn't shocking, just unsettling. It seems as though it is not so much about the things I have at home in that they are more than what is available here, just that I have grown so accustomed to my life at home and that is where I'm fully comfortable. All the more reason though to continue pushing myself further from my comfort zone and to continue to grow and adapt.

I had two of my own meetings set up for today while Tessa went back to spend some time at Ekisa Ministries, a school and home for children with disabilities. She was touched by this organization when we visited them a few weeks ago and wanted to look more in depth at their programs and facilitation to see if she might possibly be interested in similar work for her career path. While she only ended up staying for the morning, I think it offered some valuable insight about the difference between services for individuals with disabilities here and in the U.S., even though about half of the staff comes from either England or America.
My morning meeting was with BIDE, another women's empowerment organization. They too offer business and management skills training to offer group loans and savings programs through income generating activities (IGAs). 
We met up for lunch at Forever Bar and Restaurant with Andrew and Nicole before heading to my afternoon meeting. I had ordered a salad and a hot dog, though she said she would have to check and let me know about the latter. The waitress came out with essentially a salad on a bun and, because the salads here are different anyway, I assumed that must be what it was. Shortly after, though, she arrived with something that looked a lot more like a salad, leaving us all confused about what I had ordered on the bun. While it was good, I wasn't really sure what I had been eating until I received the bill that listed a hot dog and a salad. At most of the restaurants here, instead of just ordering, you have to first ask what they actually have available. It's likely that they haven't served hot dogs since the first week of their inception.
In the afternoon, Nicole and Tessa joined me to speak with Community Concerns Uganda. We got lost on our way to this meeting, like every other one, but eventually we were able to find it. This organization, like many of the others I have met with, includes a microfinancing and savings and credit component by training IGAs such as crafts, but also included production and selling of peanut paste (peanut butter). I really do think it would be valuable for these local NGOs and CBOs that focus on women's economic empowerment to collaborate and work together for information and idea sharing. While each of them seems to struggle from lack of funding, each has at least one slightly varied method from the others that may serve as positive advice to the others, yet most of the organization have never heard of the others due to lack of reliable and consistent communication and networking resources here.
After our meetings, Nicole finally had the chance to be introduced to WORI. We joined them at Jinja Parents' secondary school as they began their sexuality and reproductive health program for the students there. Two interns at WORI taught the majority of the course, and Joshua especially managed to engage the students and make them feel more at ease with a not-so-comfortable topic. The program was taught in a very open-minded way, including discussion about expected gender roles that are sometimes broken and that not everyone is born either male or female. Tessa and I will be going to the introductory session for the same program at another school on Tuesday and have been asked to help teach. While I'm sure we can't reach the students the way a Ugandan is capable of doing, it will be a good opportunity to engage further with the community and WORI.

This morning Tessa and I met with the First Afrian Bicycle Information Organization (FABIO), an organization that allows people to buy bikes on credit. Having a bike allows for cheap transportation to the market, for example, to sell and buy cheaper goods for yourself and your family. They have been offering the service to schoolchildren as well so that they don't waste so much time or money on their commute to school. Previously, and still in many of the rural villages, it is culturally inappropriate for girls and women to ride bikes. FABIO has been encouraging women to be empowered and take advantage of this more sustainable and efficient mode of transportation. In addition to providing bicycle loans, they advocate for sustainable and environmentally friendly transport and road construction that is safe for all forms of commute including cars, taxis, bikes, and pedestrians.
In the afternoon, Annet brought us back to Mafubira to meet with the Women's Empowerment and Livelihood Links (WELL). At their bakery, they train women how to bake various breads and pastries so that they have a skill. While many of these women have found jobs at local bakeries, they hope to open their own bakeries someday. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, WELL can only provide training, and not loans. Additionally, WELL has a farm on the other side of Mafubira where they have rabbits, pigs, and chickens. Women may receive an animal and learn farming skills again so that they can begin to earn an income. Despite having no outside funding, the women work so hard to keep the organization running. They are hoping to someday begin to market their goods to other countries, including the U.S. 

Today we had a pretty slow morning, deciding to visit the Long family, who founded Hackers4Charity, at their local cafe The Keep. We wasted a significant amount of time there sipping tea, eating cake, and browsing the internet. Deciding we shouldn't have an entirely unproductive morning, we made our way to Jinja's market to have a look at some of their teas and spices. We both picked up tea and coffee as well as a few samples of the local gnut paste (peanut butter). After the market, we spoiled ourselves yet again with pedicures on Main Street. For 3,000Ugx ($1.20), we justified the pampering and enjoyed rolexes with our much needed polish change.
Clemency Uganda had invited me back to Bugembe to join their craft program while the children made and varnished paper beads. The children were crowded around me teaching me how to make the beads but kept laughing because mine were nowhere near as neat as theirs. Afterwards, they had a singing and dancing programmed to welcome me as their visitor. I can easily promise that my hips don't move half as well as those children's. Again, it was so advantageous to witness their programs on the ground and learn more than I ever could just by holding an interview.

First, just a little thank you to my wonderful dad on Father's Day, especially appropriate here as he and my mom have both been so supportive of this trip and everything else in my life.
After breakfast with our Ugandan family this morning, Tessa and I showed up at a home for children with disabilities and those that had been orphaned. She had found and contacted the organization before coming to Uganda, but hadn't been able to get ahold of them aside from a brief email. When she mentioned the organization to a family we had met in Jinja, they told us stories of how when visitors come, especially mzungus, everyone is all smiles, fun and games. Once they leave, they have witnessed the children being mistreated, ignored, and even abused. The situation was so bad that they had called the organization's donors to inform them and request that they cut funding for the program. What shocked us further was that the home was started and is run by mzungus, so the treatment wasn't for lack of access to information and knowledge like it often is in Uganda. In that case, education would be a manageable remedy. This feedback made us even more curious and so we decided to visit without an appointment, at the very least to see their fear of having to flip the "look at our wonderful charity work" switch.
Surprisingly, we were welcomed in without hesitation, though if I played any part in their organization I would never allow visitors in. We did notice some fear as before we were allowed in, the man who worked at the gate ran inside to alert the staff of visitors. We heard a minute or so of conversation, not in English, before we were able to come inside.
The moment we entered the building, I wanted out. Between holding my breath and holding back tears, I wanted nothing to do with this organization but was curious to see what else they had to say. First, we were taken around by one of only two Ugandan caregivers working today, responsible for 43 children between them. She showed us the children's rooms where each child had a crib only just large enough to sleep. Although many of the younger children were in their cribs, they were not sleeping but lying there just staring around the room. After, we visited the room for the children with disabilities. On the way to that building, you have to avoid stepping in cow dung as the animals cohabitate with the children. They have eight children there, and she introduced them saying "Here are our disabled kids. They can't do anything-can't walk or talk, so they just sit or lay here." One boy, around six or seven years old, wrapped his arms around Tessa and climbed up her torso, sitting naked on her lap. The caregiver did nothing to assist. There was no structure, stimulation, or supervision at the time for these children.
On the other end of the compound, the other caregiver was sitting outside in a chair supervising roughly 15 toddlers sitting on a blanket. As soon as they saw us, they ran to us and started hugging, jumping, and tugging on us and our things, not as though they were excited or curious. I'm not sure if I can explain it, but they eerily swarmed us and clung on soundlessly and emotionlessly. Every one of the children had soiled clothes, saturated in their own filth except for the children who had no pants on at all. We actually witnessed one of the children soil himself and begin crying, but the caregiver merely shushed him so she could continue speaking with us. The caregiver agreed to answer some questions, though did not know anything about the organization and could only answer those about her work specifically. Again, there was no structure or stimulation for the children so they spent their "play time" throwing rocks and dirt, eating a piece of wood siding, or sucking toothpaste from the tube. The cows had access here as well, and all of the children would begin crying when one came near.
Then, one of the volunteers from England arrived, all smiles. Once she reached the children, she hugged and kissed each one of them while they seemed rather disinterested yet clingy. When one of the children started crying or vying for her attention, she would push or send him or her away so that she could continue with the interview. While we didn't directly witness any abuse, the positive attention by the staff was a clear facade. Luckily, they allowed me to take pictures of our visit so that the conditions were documented.
What frustrated me the most was that while they spoke of lack of funding, the areas that were inadequate had little to do with funds. For example, it is one thing if each child has only one outfit or none at all, but it is something entirely different when you do not take the time to at least wash out the filth. This especially floored me as three staff members found time to speak with us, yet did not appear to find time for the children's hygiene. Additionally, even their attitudes towards the children were insufficient. They ignored those children who were upset and instead sent them away. When they did mention their funding sources, they clearly have had more luck finding donors than most NGOs and CBOs I have spoken to, yet the place was still in such a negative condition.
Once Tessa's interview was finished, we couldn't get out of there fast enough. We walked back into town so we could have time to discuss what we had seen and to take some time to clear our heads a bit.
Around one, Tessa and I had been invited to lunch at Neto Augustine's home in Mbiko. We had gotten pretty good at maneuvering travel on the Matatus in Kampala, but in Jinja they are less organized and the stops are less obvious, so I always end up handing the phone over to the conductor to make sure we get off at the correct stop. Once we arrived at Neto's lovely home, we were able to meet some of Clemency Uganda's volunteers from Denmark and Croatia who will be spending the next six weeks working with them in Bugembe. He showed us a video of when he and his wife went rafting on the Nile, saying that since he hasn't swam since he was very young, even I can handle it and promising us that people get hurt, but no one dies...
Neto's wife, Zaina (sp?) made us a delicious lunch of matoke, gnut sauce with fish, rice, chicken, beef, potatoes, cassava, posho, and green beans. Another wonderful example of Ugandan hospitality. Clemency Uganda as a whole has been so welcoming and enjoyable to work with, and both Neto and Florence are planning to see us one last time before we return to America. We spent about three hrs at their home, talking with them and their volunteers, before deciding to make our way back to Jinja.
As there aren't many activities in Jinja, we lamely spent the rest of our evening at another Internet cafe before heading home. I wouldn't be surprised if, at Space Cafe, the staff has a running bet on what time we will show up, or how many times, each day.

This morning Annett had set up another meeting for us with Hospice Jinja, the only center offering hospice and palliative care services for the area. Claudia had just returned from the Crusade to Kasensero, a two-day mobile health and religious outreach initiative for that community that traditionally has high rates of illness and lacks access to health and other services, so luckily she was able to join us.  Unlike hospice centers in the U.S., they do all their work through community outreach and home visits, with very few patients coming to the clinic there. Even if patients do come to the clinic, they are not admitted in order to increase efficiency and decrease costs. I think that culturally, too, individuals here are more likely to have family or community resources and are therefore able to remain in the home.
Hospice in Uganda also paints a different picture in that less of the population ever reaches what we would quantify as old age, with an average life expectancy of around 54. While that does seem shockingly low, keep in mind that the high death rate of infants and children is included in this figure. It is not that the population ages quickly here by any means, just that there is a greater risk of contracting more lethal diseases and lower access to quality health care if one should happen to fall ill. Hospice, then, tends to cater to individuals with HIV/AIDs and cancer, the latter being a relatively new phenomenon as the country begins to have a better handle on controlling infectious and other more easily preventable and treatable diseases.
While this organization too lacks full funding, they appear to be doing great work in the local communities. It is hard to imagine not only lack of access to but lack of existence of end-of-life care services when nursing homes appear so prevalent in the U.S. We discussed possibly sending Tawi fellows with them in the future to join on the community outreach and home visits.
Nicole and Andrew arrived from the island into Jinja shortly thereafter, so we decided to go to The Keep again for lunch. Tessa and I had been craving some salad as we have literally been subsisting on refined carbs. Now for those of you (and myself, admittedly) who expected that I would return from Uganda fit and trim, think again. While I have full access to so many green veggies, varied options, and whole grains at home, the largest part of every meal here is some form of white refined carb. Whether it be posho, rice, bread, potatoes, pasta, or chapatti, there's no escaping them. Add that on to not having appropriate clothes to go running in and little free time to do so regardless with a side of having others (with much higher carb tolerances) responsible for generously filling your plate and you have a no-fail recipe for an extra five (or ten...) pounds.
After lunch we made our way to Space Cafe yet again while we waited until our afternoon plans. Neto and Florence, two of the individuals from Clemency Uganda, wanted to see us one final time before we left Jinja so we met them at Paradise on the Nile hotel for some tea and good conversation, as always. We were so lucky to connect with this organization as they have been nothing but accommodating and hospitable since our first encounter and I'm looking forward to continuing to stay in touch. As Neto and I are now officially Facebook friends, he told me that his wife said I look so much different in pictures than in real life. Say hello to unshowered hair, a rotation of three outfits, and no makeup and suddenly people won't even recognize you.

This morning, because I had time, I was able to shower and put on a little makeup. As soon as we arrived at WORI, Rose couldn't stop saying how nice and different I looked and even wanted a picture. That really goes to show how great I've been looking this past month considering the recent back-to-back commentary... 
Our meeting that morning was arranged at the AIDs Information Centre in Jinja and was why Andrew and Nicole had come back to the mainland for the day. While the meetings we set up on our own tended to take the form of an interview or a brief orientation with the organization, WORI has facilitated much more elaborate events. They began by giving us a briefing about the organization and its eight centers nationwide. We asked questions here and were told that we were going to met some more of the staff. By that, they meant that they had arranged a special meeting to welcome us with ALL the staff, including a poem, a play, an introduction to each of the members, and even a speech by our representative (apparently that means me) to speak about Tawi and our research. There appeared to be a bit of a misunderstanding, however, when they presented us with a budget proposal for UW Madison and had included us as donors in their mock budget. While I spoke, I pointed out that we were a non-profit organization that does not take part in funding but that would be happy to connect them to organizations and other resources for intellectual and idea exchange, which seemed to be either unclear or well received; it was hard to tell.
After lunch, we got a phone call from Rose at WORI telling us that she had brought her two-year-old daughter, Kayla, so we could visit her. We had had lunch with her a few weeks ago, but she had been drowsy and subdued. Apparently, that could not have been farther from a true representation of her personality as I don't think I've ever met such a spunky child. From spitting to throwing her water bottle to jumping from the ledge (later Rose's brother translated for us as she said "I'm going to jump! How much will you pay me to jump? 500 and I'm jumping!") Being such a handful, she's lucky to be so adorable and know her limits or Tessa and I would have had a dozen heart attacks as she continued jumping from the ledge and running towards the road.
This afternoon was time for us to help Joshua and JoAnn teach WORIs reproductive and sexual health intro class at another nearby school, St. Peter's. It took us almost an hour to get started as the school's administrators had not communicated with eachother about our program and had scheduled two events at the same time. This session was much more difficult than the one at Jinja Parents' because there were nearly 150 students in the room giggling, of course, during the lesson. Luckily I have never had difficulty projecting my voice so they quieted down slightly for my segment. As I told Joshua and Annet, the only times I got in trouble at school were for talking too much or too loud. I sincerely question my ability to consistently use an "inside voice."
Once the class was finished, Tessa and I had to hurry to Main Street to our friend Esther's shop. The first time we were in Jinja, we had visited and bought a few small souvenirs but wanted to wait on the bigger ones so that we wouldn't have to transport them everywhere, and promised we would be back. When we returned to Jinja last week, we paid her a visit and she remembered us (impressively, as there are many mzungus in Jinja), asking about our time on the island and being so happy that we stayed true to her word. She, like many of the vendors, makes lovely fabric bags, though hers have a plastic lining so they are easier to clean. Unfortunately, when we stopped by last night, an order had just come in and she was sold out but told us that if we chose our fabric she would have them ready by today. Sure enough, when we got there this evening our bags were ready to go in our custom prints. She was sad that we would be leaving so soon so we hugged, got a picture of her shop, and exchanged emails. She then allowed each of us to choose one of her bracelets as a parting gift, so we opted for the very touristy "UGANDA" beaded bracelets. When I meet such kind and welcoming people like Esther, Robinah, and everyone working at WORI, SHIM, and Clemency Uganda, you begin to feel as though you have your own family network while being what seems like worlds away from home.

Today is our final day in Jinja. While my research has concluded, we will be joining Annet so that Tessa can run one final interview with an organization in Jinja that works with individuals with disabilities. Immediately after the meeting we will be catching the public boat to spend our final days on Lingira Island, for this trip at least. Knowing that our trip is coming to a close has been bittersweet. While I have surely begun to miss home, family and friends, as well as my fast paced American schedule, I am not sure when I can return to Uganda. I'm hoping to be able to come back next summer, though it depends on my travel plans in Europe after my semester in Spain. I've given up on creating concrete long-term schedules for myself and begun to lean towards making those decisions more impulsively, which has so far worked out for the best, this year especially. I changed my entire schedule as I dropped my psych major suddenly and decided within a matter of days that I would be traveling to Uganda, neither of which I have regretted for a second. Hopefully I will be able to continue with that while finding the time to return here.
We spent mid-morning with Uganda Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities (UPACLED) so Tessa could run her final interview. Unfortunately the individual she had planned to meet with was out of the office on outreach, but luckily one of the staff had been stopping by the office as we arrived. 
After he meeting, we were essentially only waiting for the boat to leave so we grabbed some snacks and had lunch (a banana and an avocado) before catching our boda to the port.


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