ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

Two days of visits

The past two days have been busy but in a different way than Wednesday.

When we were at Shamma High School last week, Andrew was approached by a South Sudanese man who wanted to know what we were doing. He works with the people in a refugee camp and with South Sudanese who are in Kampala. Andrew felt that this was someone I should meet as his vision of empowering the women aligned well with ISEE.

On Thursday, I met with Reverand Joseph, Bishop Samuel, and three ladies who run programs for the women in the community. They have a large building that is rented for them where they have church but also training workshops in soap making. They are desperately trying to engage the youth as there are many South Sudanese boys who are orphans or whose fathers are fighting in South Sudan and these boys are getting into drugs. It is their goal to offer welding, carpentry, tailoring, and other programs to give youth and other community members some skills.

They were very interested in our reproductive health workshop but getting into the camp would be a huge bureaucratic headache as only certain organizations can go in and lots of official papers have to be signed. There are 60,000 people in the camp. (I know Days for Girls is looking to get their product into refugee camps so maybe this would be an access point for them.) The Bishop said that our “train the trainer” program would be good as they could bring community leaders to the building and we could train them on our reproductive health program.

I explained about what ISEE does and how we are small and not a funding partner but that the vocational training could be something that we are interested in maybe supporting. They invited us to return on Tuesday to see the soap making project and have promised to send outlines and budgets for their other programs that they want to start. We will see what we can do!

I then had a lovely visit with Margaret, one of our original Mamas who is still using the sewing machine we bought for her in 2014. Gertrude was next – a new Mama that the students at Dr Knox sponsored. She has a computer/stationers shop and is currently studying Information Technology on the weekends. She was doing her homework as we arrived with her adorable baby sitting on the floor next to her.

The afternoon was spent going through 33 Mama applications and unfortunately culling some of the applicants. Anna, Andrew and I managed to bring it down to 9 possibilities and Andrew spent the afternoon on Friday calling each one to get a feel of their business. Because this group is from outside Kampala and more in “the village”, there are more farming projects: chickens, goats and pigs. I will met with these ladies on Monday so stay tuned for the introduction of our new candidates!

Yesterday, I reconnected with three mamas; Lorna, Francoise and Aidah. They are very inspiring women. I am always humbled by how hard they work and the conditions in which they live.

There you go! Your update for the day. Saturday, we are presenting to the teachers at Alpha and Omega. We have a group of 45 and Andrew and I are presenting together. That is something new! We’ll see how it goes.

I wish you a lovely day.

In friendship,

Erika

PS – Francoise gave me a kitten!

Yesterday!

This is the third time I am writing this blog post… the energy and enthusiasm dies each time the saving fails and I have to restart! Bear with me… 🙂

Yesterday was a crazy day with visits to four schools, all over areas north of Kampala. Andrew had warned me that four schools would be too much but this tough old broad wanted to get the last presentations done!

We headed off at 7am, collected Andrew in Kawempe, and headed “north” to Luwero to do another presentation at African Outreach to the girls who had missed the presentation last week as they were attending a sports day. They had promised us 80 girls but it ended up being 94 so we couldn’t hand any kits out to teachers.

The girls were assembled in the computer lab (yes, they have a lab donated by an outside organization) because it was pouring rain so we couldn’t assemble under a tree like we had last week. They were seated in a weird arrangement and behind computer screens so I pushed a sturdy table up against the blackboard and climbed up on it so that I could see everyone and so that everyone could see me.

“I don’t usually climb on the furniture,” I started. They all laughed and on we went.

We then piled back into the van and drove to Betty’s to collect the last of the bags we need for the Mama kits.

Then it was on to St Kizito which is also in the Luwero district but along a different road. We arrived to a school with no kids as the head teacher had decided the day before that they were going to do teacher training on Wednesday and the students stayed home. Madam Bernadette was so upset that we had come and the girls were not there but I said Anna would come to present in the near future. We gave her two bags of sporting equipment, jerseys, books and blocks for which she was very grateful and we headed on our way. But I did manage to greet my little friend Millie before we left as she was hanging out around the school. I could just take her home!

Onwards to Nakifuma Primary on Gayaza Road (we seemed to be making like a spider web, heading out, coming back to a round-about then taking another arm then coming back again). We presented to Madam Joyce’s school last week as well but one of the bags that was loaded was incomplete so we were 28 kits short. We delivered the kits and also equipment as we had at Bernadette’s school. Madam Joyce and Madam Maria were so excited and were calling everyone into the office to see what we had brought.

“We always must borrow jerseys but now we have our own! We have sports day coming up and now we are ready!”

It was very exciting to see.

I also spoke with them about ISEE partnering with them to provide sewing machines once they had finished constructing their new building so that the older students could learn a skill to support them once they left school. Joyce told me that she had just spoken to the children the previous day and had promised to buy one machine herself to use at the school but that adding a few more would be an incredible opportunity for the children. These three women are so passionate about their students – it is awesome to work with them.

We continued on the same road for a very long time, heading further and further away from Kampala up to Kayunga. We were headed to a school that none of us had been to so we were told to collect Maureen at the petrol station in Kayunga. She hopped in and onwards we went… the road went from paved to dirt washboard and continued on and on and on. Maureen asked us to stop at a random place and she leaned out the window to ask a local where the school was! She had no idea! I still don’t know who she was.

We eventually arrived at Mount Camel school which was a primary and secondary school. I met headmistress Madam Kevin and an older woman named Christine and we went into Kevin’s office to talk about the presentation. The girls were aged 12-18 and both Kevin and Christine bemoaned the fact that the girls in the community were falling pregnant and quitting school. I offered our “deluxe” presentation with the condom demonstrations but Kevin was completely against it. She did not want us to encourage the girls to have sex. I said to her, “They are obviously already having sex if you are losing them to pregnancy.” But she was not to be budged. She started talking about religion and I left her to Andrew, offering the excuse that I needed to get my presentation organized. I was quite frustrated as we had traveled a very long distance to just talk to high school girls about puberty and hygiene. It felt very hypocritical. They had also assembled more than 100 girls but said that the extras would just not get kits but I flatly refused that. So they had to regroup the girls so that there were only 100 there.

Once they were finally organized (it was just after 3 at this point), I told Apollo that I would only be an hour or so as I intended to do the basic presentation and head back home. I was presenting in a large classroom/auditorium and the girls were sitting at desks miles away from me so when I said, “can you hear me?” the ones at the back said, “no.” I motioned for them to come forward and once we were all settled again, I began the basic presentation. Most of the girls were well into puberty so I spoke about it quickly, focussing more on the emotional side. We then went into menstruation and keeping a calendar. I asked if there were any questions and Christine asked them to write the questions if they did not want to say them. Christine and Kevin collected them and read them before giving them to me. Some girls also gave me questions directly.

At one point, Kevin came to me and whispered, “The girls are asking about safe days so you can speak about that and the other topics you mentioned.” I said, “All the topics?” But again it was just safe days with a focus on abstinence as we always preach. Then I was given a question about condoms. So I approached Kevin and said, “They are asking about condom use. Can I speak about it?” She reluctantly agreed. “And the demonstration?” She shook her head no but I stressed that if they are asking about them but are using them incorrectly, they are no more protected. She agreed but stressed to the girls that THEY were the ones who asked, it was not the school who was offering them the information.

I had gone into the presentation without my full bag of goodies so I signaled to Andrew and asked him to bring my big bag. He told me later that my face just beamed as I asked for my full kit. Finally, the presentation was going to be useful for the girls. These girls did not need to know that their breasts were going to get bigger, they knew that already. They needed to learn how to keep themselves safe.

So after 2.5 hours, I finished the full presentation and I answered all the questions they had. They were SO thrilled with the kits, they clapped each time I showed them another component.

Christine was very thankful for the presentation and said that she wanted me to come back to train the teachers so that they can teach the material in their schools. I really like the idea of presenting to teachers. Train the trainer.

We left just before 6 and got back to Apricot at 8:30, tired and hungry but pleased with the impact of the day.

Andrew received a text today from the coordinator/manager of the Kayunga school and she thanked us very much for the presentation and the kits. She said that the girls really needed that information.

So there you go! 13.5 hours of travel but over 200 kits handed out. Only 50 are left for Anna to take to St. Kizito now.

Hope you are all well. I hope this saves and publishes!!

In friendship,

Erika