HELLO FROM UGANDA
Hope this e-mail finds you all well. At the moment we are staying in Kampala, Uganda. Our journey began in NYC because we were afraid that if our international flight was canceled we would miss our connection to Uganda so we stayed there an extra day. From NYC we traveled to Dubai where we had a 16 hour layover. So we hired a taxi and saw the sights even though we were exhausted…pretty nice and clean too. On to Uganda the following day where Deo, our most invaluable driver, guide and good friend was waiting for us. We spent one night in Kampala and departed bright and early the following morning for Kasese, the reason for our visit.
In Kasese we found a very rural town with one nice hotel, muddy unpaved streets and an eager group of volunteers who were awaiting us and so excited to meet us they came to the hotel the night we arrived just to check and see if we were really there!! There was Kiima, Francis, and Yona the main volunteers as well as about 28 others who all had other jobs but donated their time to improve the lives of others even though they themselves were not rich..in fact none of them had electricity in their own homes and only Francis who worked for an agricultural NGO doing organic and subsistence programs had electricity in his office. Francis donated his office for Paul & I to do the computer, sewing machine and camera training as we had donated these items to their program. (Items Provided by Rob Davidson, Me and Grayce Beeman). Baby clothing and eye glasses were provided by Yvonne and Arline. Funds provided by Jim Chapman, Gordon Millar, Richard Uschold, Catman Cohen, Paul Rooy, Mary, Yvonne & Tiffany.
The local volunteers took us into the mountains where entire villages assembled in different locations to greet us with songs, live dramas and assembly meetings to discuss their needs and issues. Village leaders also attended and together we took tours of the work they were doing to improve their own lives and explained how we could help…Just meeting them and visiting their very basic rural village was a moving experience. They were so sincere and so appreciative that some one came all the way from USA to see them…One of them even said "George Bush didn't come here but you did and we thank you for coming all this way to see us."
The people had to walk a long way up the mountain (women and little children) to get water which trickled out of the ground at a rate of 40 minutes to fill a five gallon jerry can…Imagine how long it would take to provide water to the whole village… but they were doing something about it and with the help of a local volunteer (engineer) called Yona who lived 40 minutes away by motor bike and the local villagers they worked together to connect three trickling wells and direct them to one area. They cleared trees, dug trenches and laid stone etc…and now they have water at a rate of five gallons every six minutes for one area…They have more springs to attend to and they also need to build an area for water catchment so while they sleep at night they can collect the run-off (but not all of it so the wild animals can have some too!). With some of your donations we were able to provide funding for some of the work (and mosquito nets too) but they still need about $3,100 to complete the water storage project in one area..so we felt bad that we couldn't pay for all of it because they couldn't start building without all that they need…anyway they were very grateful for our help, our visit and the funding we did provide.
We were very impressed, and moved with the quality of workmanship, the attitudes and the genuineness of everyone we met that Paul couldn't leave without giving an additional amount of money so the project office could have electricity. I thought that they would cry when he handed over the additional funds…They must have thanked us fifty times for all we already gave them yet they were overwhelmed by knowing that folks in USA do really care.
We went on to a primary school where the children sang a lovely song welcoming us and a put on a moving play about AIDS… it was almost impossible not to cry…These efforts were spearheaded by Kiima who organized our visit and who is the team leader of the rural community health program. While at the school we found a girl with a broken wrist and were able to provide first aid with some local cloth we had just purchased on the market . Will show pictures later but now my computer will run out of battery and my battery recharge cable has broken so I won't be able to use my computer again until I get home.
After Kasese we visited Kigali, Rwanda (yes, we have already traveled thousands of kilometers by bumpy and sometime dirt road in a week!!) ....getting across the border was another story I'll have to tell later but let me tell you how beautiful the rural flower-lined dirt roads in Rwanda is and how the children actually cheered when they saw Paul stand up to take their picture!! Guess they thought he was a movie star or something!!
The most moving part of our Rwanda visit was the Genocide memorial museum which marks the spots where so many were buried in a mass grave. The museum covered not only the Rwandan genocide and history but also had history and exhibits on many of the world genocides including some I wasn't even aware of. We stayed at the real "Hotel Rwanda" called Des Mille Collines means one thousand hills...oddly enough not a single plaque mentions how many lives were saved at the hotel..We later learned that they were afraid that tourists might not want to stay there believing that spirits of the dead might linger in the rooms. Some of the wait staff had lost parents and family members in the genocide and were very open to share their stories with us until the managers pulled them away to other duties. We learned so much during that visit and I'd highly recommend it to any of you.
I'll be touch again…Thanks to all of you who have supported our efforts in one way or another.
*** In 2008 our project began with an assessment. In 2011 we completed phase two of the safe drinking water project and will soon begin phase three.
Mary Lightfine, President
Volunteers Without Boundaries