Ellen, Kathy and Marina left at 6am this morning for their safari. Today, they will visit the only park with zebras then sleep in a village before continuing on tomorrow toward Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. On Saturday they will hike into the forest on a gorilla trek. This can take up to 8 hours of trekking depending on where the gorillas are located. Hopefully they haven’t moved into the Congo!
These past 3 days in Kampala have offered us the opportunity to meet with three organizations that share some of ISEE’s vision.
Monday, we visited Kawanda Secondary School. I have been associated with this school for the past 7 years and each year we see how the school is developing its programs. It is a well-respected school but still lacks resources due to funding limitations and supply limitations. We have donated Science, Math, Art and general supplies to help support the programs being offered there. This year, Ellen brought a molecular model kit, bulbs for the microscopes that were donated last year, and two Science demonstration books. I always carry mining maps that they use for world geography as well as for their studies in mining and geology.
Kawanda is currently building a 3 level boys’ dormitory that will house up to 1000 boys when it is done. The anticipated completion date is in 3 years but the boys will be able to start moving in once the first floor is completed. The school is expanding and the current dorms need to be converted to classrooms.
We had a great day visiting the school, seeing our friends and also reconnecting with our sponsor student who is getting ready to write his term 2 exams in S2 (grade 8.) Some teachers asked Ellen and Kathy to teach again but I am not sure if Ellen will have the time before she leaves. Kathy certainly won’t as she is leaving already on Monday.
We had the chance to chat with a teacher who also works in a village Catholic secondary school near Bombo. The students who attend there are from neighbouring and distant villages and while some board at the school, others are travelling to and from great distances each day. We were told that by the end of grade 11 and 12, there are only 2 to 5 girls left because the rest of the girls have become pregnant and left school. The girls who travel a distance to get to school are befriended by the boda-boda drivers who offer free rides and chat the girls up. The girls feel flattered and cared about and then, they get pregnant. Apparently there are stiff penalties for the men who are caught (up to 14 years in prison?) but mostly there are cash exchanges that happen and the girls are left with a baby and no education and no cash because the family gets it. We are going to do our presentation there too!
Tuesday, we finally connected with Days for Girls Uganda at their office near the Kasubi tombs. We had a great meeting with Dianna, Diva, Olivia, Anne, and Eliza to learn more about their operation and their plans. They have only been open since February and already have over 2000 girls waiting for kits. They are also setting up Days for Girls clubs in secondary schools to give the girls a chance to meet and talk about issues that they face. Reminds me of the E2 – Empowered and Esteemed program that we have.
Once our kits have arrived in the container, we will order the soap for the kits from D4G-Uganda. This is an empowerment project that they do to help the women learn skills to become self-sustaining. The bars cost more than what we would buy from the supermarket but thanks to the donors in Kelowna, we have budgeted for soap and this way the soap serves a double purpose. Plus it smells nice instead of the laundry soap that smells like lye or another caustic ingredient.
I think we are going to have a packing party once everything has arrived and invite the D4G team here. They have offered to help pack the 300+ kits that we will have to assemble. At that time we will also be able to give them the PUL and flannel that has travelled in the container too.
The biggest challenges D4G – Uganda has are to find PUL (or other waterproof breathable fabric) and Ziploc bags. Those types of bags that are available here are much cheaper in product but more expensive in price. We will probably have extra to donate once our kits are done but there won’t be many. They are also looking for sponsors for the kits but at the moment, they are still pricing out the costs of a kit because costs are rising quickly. They want to ensure that the women sewing the kits are getting fair payment for their time and work but they need to recoup the cost of the materials and still keep the price of the kits affordable. Lots of great ideas and lots of work to do but hopefully ISEE can work with them to develop their programs.
Wednesday, we visited a beading cooperative sponsored by Youth Sport Uganda. YSU contacted me before we left to see if we could develop a partnership based on our mutual desire to empower Ugandans. YSU works with children in slum areas to give them a day of organized sport on Saturday (we have brought jerseys from Kelowna to donate) and also supports this girls’ cooperative in Acholi Quarters. This land is in Mbuya and was donated by the government to the Acholi people who were fleeing the war. Unfortunately some individuals arrived faster than others, claimed larger parcels of land and now rent the houses to the people there. A month’s rent is 70,000, or about $35. Not a lot but when the only sources of income are from beading (each necklace is sold for 2,000 and a bracelet is 1,000) or from the quarry. To earn 1,000 shillings, a quarry-man (or woman) has to half fill 10 jerry cans with rocks that he/she has quarried with a hammer.
We had a chance to shop directly from the girls and then visit three homes to learn more about how they live. Some attend school so we weren’t able to meet them all but there are about 30 girls involved in the project. Outsiders can also sponsor a girl for school through YSU. We have arranged to do a Reproductive Health workshop with the 30 girls before Ellen and Marina leave. Joshua, the founder of YSU, felt it would be very beneficial for the girls to receive this training and especially the reusable kits. When earning 2,000 shillings for a necklace, there isn’t much money to buy pads. Apparently these necklaces are also sold at the Mzungu market in town but are bought in bulk from the girls at a reduced rate by the local buyers. Joshua said that it isn’t a fair price that they are paid and then these same items are sold at 5 to 10 times the price.
We have purchased a selection of the jewelry from the girls to bring home to sell but if there is something that you would specifically like from the photos that will be up in the next post, please let me know.
So for now we wait for the container and the kits to arrive. Then we can jump back into the presentations that seem needed and well received. The women from Days for Girls Uganda are going to come to one of our presentations to see what we are teaching in our workshop since we cover so much more than Days for Girls. They will also be able to offer us some feedback as to what to change or add because we only ever hear positive remarks from the interpreters. This is the Ugandan way. Maybe our presentation is awesome and nothing needs to be changed but that doesn’t seem likely! There is always room for improvement!
PS – Not sure why that last paragraph is a different font and size…