Greetings to you all,
It is a great opportunity to come back to you again this week. I hope that you are well or at least I wish you’re well. It is a joy for me to see this month come to an end. I have learnt to celebrate the daily little miracles that happen to us that most people may not recognize. I have been taught to be mindful in more ways than one, to always be aware of my energy towards the environment around me. Over the years I have learnt a great lesson from not being mindful and I almost lost a friendship that I had kept for years. I have had to live with these consequences every single day but I am not afraid to fight for it because it matters most to me. I write this edition of our blog in celebration of my friendship, there is no single day that goes with me thinking of us and where we would be in knowing one another.
I hope that all of us will fight for the relationships that are worth the fight and also choose our priorities right.
This week started on a sad note because one of our Mamas, Irene L, lost her mother to a long-term illness. Irene had been there about three weeks ago to attend to her. Her mother’s health improved and so Irene returned to Kampala to take care of her business and her kids. Irene has four children, the youngest a boy of four, and she can’t leave him for too long, especially that there is no school at the moment.
When Irene received the news of her mother’s passing she had to travel over 320KM to her home district of Gulu. We have been to this part of the country more than a few times since ISEE was born. It is quite an interesting place because it is commonly known by the events that happened about 20yrs ago under the insurgency of the Lord’s Resistance Army under the leadership of Joseph Kony. This insurgency affected most of Northern Uganda between the late-80’s to the early-90’s.
Irene had to travel to lay her mother to rest and she was lucky that the lockdown was lifted a few months ago, where now people can travel across districts without restrictions. This all has happened just about a couple of weeks after Irene’s boda-boda accident that required her having a surgery to drain excess fluid from her skull. This excess fluid was causing her to have some speech difficulties so she needed this surgery as soon as possible. She was lucky to have the treatment that she needed on time but I feel sad that she has had to travel so far and that this happened at such a time. So wherever you are please send her positive thoughts in hard times such as these for her.
This week I met with the following Mamas; Sarah N, Dorah A, Hadija N, Rehema N, Jane N, Francoise L and Florence A.
Sarah N is doing okay with the goats but the day I met her, she had just come from seeing a doctor and she had been diagnosed with stomach ulcers. She said that a few days back before my visit, she had been experiencing some stomach pains that forced her to go see the doctor. She had never had this problem before so she did not realize what the effect was. After seeing the doctor and samples were taken from her, the doctor told her that she had ulcers and she was given some medication. In the attempt to investigate the cause of this, the doctor realized that Sarah was thinking a lot and this was resulting in high blood pressure and ulcers.
She told me that she is worried about her kids, she is worried that will happen to her children when school starts. Sarah has a daughter who got pregnant during holidays a few years ago, so she fears that without school her children are vulnerable. One of the reasons that she is depressed is the fact that she lost so much during this sickness. Sarah is also a brick maker and without her health, she has no chance to sustain her childrens’ educational needs. She used to hire strong men to help her dig dirt and mould bricks along with her and the children. The children would help fetch water because this exercise requires a lot of water. She usually made these bricks, baked them and sold them to people constructing. She would later use this money to pay for children and grandchild fees but this has changed since the lockdown and her illness recently.
Otherwise she recovered very well from her previous nerve problem that was causing some pain in her left leg and back. Her goats are doing well. They received a few rains over the past few days so the goats have had plenty of food. The goats look great and the goat house continues to look good and firm.
Dorah has continued to recover from Covid and is looking great. She continues to try and cook because her customers keep asking for food even when she closed her restaurant a few months ago now. She used to cook food in a nearby restaurant where she was resting but she later caught the virus and was forced to close and around the same time she lost her father. She had to travel more than 400KM to a place called Nebbi to bury her father. She was eventually locked down there so in the attempt not to accumulate a lot of rent arrears, she asked her husband to pick out the equipment and take them home.
When she came back from the burial, she continued to heal and it was time to work again. She looked for a place for a long time and finally got one but it was in the city. It was a good opportunity for her because it meant that she would have more business because she was to work in a shopping arcade. After all this struggle, her husband stopped her from going to town because of his insecurities. He thought if Dorah went to work in the city she would run away with other men. This was sad because there was nothing she could do.
She has now decided to cook from one of the rooms at home and supply her previous customers alongside with some of the builders around her house. She is also looking for another house around the area to rent and cook from. Her family is still young so she really likes to cook close to home so she can care for her kids as well.
Dorah has also decided to build a chicken and rabbit house as a way of trying to increase her income. When she finishes the building of these houses, she intends to keep rabbits and chickens and her target is the December festive market.
Hadija N is still doing fantastic with her roadside chips stall. When I visited her this week, she was doing well and I actually bought a plate of chips for my dinner. Her main challenge has been the curfew time that starts at what used to be their peak hours back then. She would sell more from about 6-10pm in the night. She also had a bar that would go almost until midnight and sometimes past. It was nice to find in good spirits but was also planning to expand her business or even diversify. Hadija and her husband who is a boda rider were able to buy a small piece of land far out of town and have built a small house for themselves. They have been evicted twice this year so their goal was to build and complete their house.
The challenge is that they will have to move to this new place but the people there are different so they will need to adapt to the areas’ needs. Hadija was maybe thinking they would sell dry grain foods like rice, beans, and peas which these people may be accustomed to. At least I am glad that she will have her own house so she will not be evicted again.
She wants to figure it out and may be forced into keeping the chips stall open and her husband could ride her to the stall daily. She doesn’t want to lose this stall because it has been their lifestyle for years now. It would be a shame if she lost it, she lamented.
I also managed to visit Rehema N. She is doing okay. She has continued to survive with her laundry washing gig. She calls it a gig because she knows, this is not one for her. During my visit, she showed me her fingers and was telling me how they are burning on the inside because she had to wash 5 woolen blankets the day before.
She pointed to her two grandchildren and said if it was not the little ones she would not be doing the work. Two of her daughters — the parents of those particular grandchildren — left the country in search of jobs in the Arab world. Like I have mentioned to you a lot of Ugandan youths have turned to these nations for work because employment opportunities are hard to come by. Therefore many young men and women have gone to work as line workers, security guards and house maids.
She told me that she wants to go back into cooking like she did previously. Rehema raised her five children and tried to send all of them to school with money she earned from her roadside chips stall. She can’t handle the pressure of the laundry gig because it is more work than her cooking and also when she cooks, she is the boss and no one pushes her around. She had to wash all these woolen blankets and the owners needed them the next day. To make matters worse it rained so she had to wash them very early so they would dry early.
I am looking forward to helping her start her restaurant but only when she is ready. Everyone has something they are good at and I am more than convinced that for Rehema, it is not washing laundry but rather it is cooking. She has to show us that she is ready and she also has to show us that this is what she wants.
Jane N water tank one is actually different from Jane N water tank two. These two Mamas have similar first names “Jane” and the businesses they run are similar “Water supply”. We gave these two Mamas two water tanks to help supply water to their communities at a price as a form of business. Their N names are actually different so this is how I separate them on my side.
Anyways Jane water tank one is doing well at least the last few weeks when it was hot. Most of this year has been good for and she has not really complained much because she has always had a substitute. Her substitute business during her free time when she is not attending to the water tank, is the paper bag making business. This too has been good especially with the fact that most businesses are returning to the streets so they need the paper bags to wrap their food stuff.
Most importantly one of the other reasons I go to see them is also to visit her grandson Francis who has hydrocephalus. I usually like to go visit him to see how he is doing and have a little chat with him. I was glad he has been attending some of his physiotherapy so he looks better and he is getting heavier. This is a problem because it has become harder to carry him around every now and then.
I dropped by real quick to see Francoise L majorly this time to talk to her daughter because she had a promise from us to help her train in catering but that did not go well because of so many reasons including the pandemic. She texted me about a week ago and needed to speak to me and she had come up with a new idea of wanting to study hairdressing. I went to speak to her about the different options and I am glad we are able to agree about her attending at one of the local salons close to her home.
Otherwise Francoise is well, she looks healthier and stronger. She has finished all her TB medication and is now back at her cooking. She’s still cooking her beans and maize mix on the roadside. If you don’t know how it is made, she soaks the maize and beans in a mixture of ash and water. This makes the maize and beans cook faster because these two are bought dry. She later boils them for several hours and serves it usually in the morning as a breakfast meal.
I had the pleasure to see Florence A and she is continuing to enjoy her food stall. She has not yet occupied her tin house with toys as she anticipated because she has not yet raised the required amount of capital.
The salon is doing okay and continues to pick up slowly everyday. The chips continue to do well for her so I am happy for the stability she is having. I will keep following what she is doing and see how we can be of assistance.
Last but not least, I went down to Geoffrey’s house but it was unfortunate that I didn’t find him home. I was able to meet his wife though and we spoke a bit. It turns out that Geoffrey is out of town for over a week now, he was called upon by his parents in the village where he comes from. His wife said that something was stolen and since he is the oldest boy and his parents are old, he was supposed to go and help retrieve them. She said that even herself, it was hard to get a hold of him because his village is very remote and it has no mobile network and no electricity at all. She is not sure when he will return but I asked her to let him know that I was in search of him.
Finally the president of Uganda H.E Yoweri Museveni delivered a state of the nation address three days ago and he lifted some of the restrictions on all religious houses. In the previous address, he locked down all schools and churches due to the increase of infections and spread of the virus. He ordered them to close with immediate effect but has now opened all places of worship so that the people can worship again. All schools remain closed as efforts are made to vaccinate all teachers and support stuff before they can open schools.
This past weekend I lost my first tooth as an adult or as far as I can remember. I had a crown done about 2yrs ago but it almost got infected so they had to take it out and had to redo it. The dentist eventually found another bad tooth that this time, he had to remove it because there was nothing much he could do to save it as it was already shakie. It was not as painful as I thought it would be so I managed to hold through. I was surprised that I was able to sleep a bit. I honestly didn’t expect to have a peaceful night but when I woke up, I realized I was still bleeding a bit. My mouth for sure feels weird but I like the way it feels as I feel more hygienic.
Thank you for your continued support and following what we do. We appreciate you more than you can imagine. It is always a great pleasure for me to write these blogs weekly as I continue to share my experiences with you. I have learned a lot of things in my journey of writing and I have learned one good lesson about myself, “I am a night person.” All the writing for me becomes faster and clearer during the early hours after midnight. I surely don’t want to advise people to know the morning “me” because he is old and grumpy.
As always please stay safe, don’t forget to wear your masks and also sanitize if you can’t wash your hands but remember to remain sociable. Let us protect one another, the pandemic is still real.
Director of Programs, Uganda.
ISEE Solutions Society.