August 31, 2007

Variety Week

This past week has been pretty varied. We have moved out of the house and into a hostel. Bit of a shock if I’m honest. Not quite the same not having a tv, hot water or an electricity socket in the room. We are at Red Chilli and it is actually a pretty nice place and it even has tables and a garden outside! It is also outside of Kampala so there is the benefit of having a quiet nights sleep.

Cakes

On Monday I went to Rainbow with the ambitious task of making cakes. I actually didn’t realise how ambitious I was being until there were about twenty children in the very small kitchen all trying to ‘help’. Fortunately Dave was there to stop them all from flooding in. I immediately went into strict teacher mode; ‘no more than 5 children at a time’ ‘if I see you eating you are out’ ‘no fighting’ ‘don’t pick your nose then put your hands in the mixture’. The younger children ignored all that I had to say and in classic child behaviour they ate more than they made. The ‘babies’ were all making icing for the cakes and when asked if they had been eating it they all dutifully cried ‘noooo’. This would have been somewhat more believable had their tongues all not been dyed by the luminous icing! Once we had nailed the first lot of cakes I turned round to put the dirty dishes in the sink. There wasn’t a sink. There wasn’t hot water. But there were 30 eager children wanting to do the washing up. Dave went outside to help them, each child holding one precious item to wash after their cries of ‘give me, give me’ had been answered. The washing up was largely a disaster, it was basically a water fight with each child clutching a culinary implement. We eventually made 50 cupcakes and the moment to put them in the oven had finally arrived, unfortunately the oven didn’t work. And there was now the opportunity for Dave to jump in to the role of ‘man’ and stoke up the outside fire with wood and coal. It is amazing that cooking ‘is for girls’, yet the moment any amount of smoke is required or the chance of injury is heightened it instantaneously becomes very masculine activity. The cakes eventually came out of the oven 2 hours later, a little burnt on the outside and a little soft in the middle, but handmade beautiful cakes nevertheless. And no reported cases of salmonella.

Beersch

I also treated myself to a small trip after the cake making episode. One of my Ugandan colleagues offered to take me to the brewery on Port Bell. He had a friend who worked in production and could show us round. I was completely surprised at the brewery. Firstly it stank, that was the main surprise. How can something so tasty smell quite so bad in the production process? Secondly, inside the factory there were so few workers and so many machines. In a country with such a large active population I would have thought that there would have been many more employees. I think that in the production line there were only about 12 people working. Finally I was amazed at the speed at which the bottles were churned out. They had to produce a minimum of 1,000 cases an hour (and I think its 24 bottles a case), this was no mean feat. I also loved the fact that we were able to walk about the factory freely. My guide rightly said ‘it is best to do this in a developing country as there are so few rules’. We did have to wear eye protection though which was mildly comforting. I didn’t get any factory issue ones as it seemed that my sunglasses were sufficient! I also learnt, for the East African beer buff, that they produce Senator, which is a beer largely unavailable inside Kampala city. They keep it for the villages as it’s a cheaper beer, it also happens to be the strongest that they produce at a whopping 6%. After visiting the factory we went to a local bar to have a beer and I was amazed when the guy who showed us around the factory paid for them. His reasoning was that it was his country so he should be making me feel welcome which made me feel pretty humble. He said that I could buy him one back if he ever came to England which hardly seemed a fair deal. Honestly; a beer only costs 50p here and I’d have to shell out over £2 if he ever came to England.

Clinic Day Trip

We also organised a clinic visit for some of the Nsambya children this week. We have recently discovered Hope Clinic and it meant that we could take the kids on a nice fun trip to the general clinic! Most of the kids had worms and some had the added bonus of having ringworm as well. We also took a child for a HIV test which was pretty nerve racking as we waited for the results. She was negative which was fantastic. We are hoping to set up a fortnightly bus so that people from the community can go to the clinic for free. We are mainly doing this to encourage people to go for HIV testing as if they come out positive they can receive completely free treatment. We will also leave a few spots for parents who want to take their children to the general clinic. It is such a shame that there are all these organisations desperate to hand out free ARV’s and people are still too ashamed to go for the test. There is still huge stigma attached to being HIV+ and many parents are afraid to take their children for tests because they worry that they won’t be able to care for them and that the child will become excluded from society. This is something that many organisations are fighting to change but I do think that it is something that has to come from within the community. The message needs to be spread regularly and I think that it will be rather a snowball effect once people begin to get tested. Once the awareness is increased that treatment and other supporting services are available I think that people will be a little less reluctant. There is still one problem that remains however, and that it transport. Although these organisations offer free ARV’s for the very poor families the cost of transport still remains an issue. I think that this is something that the larger organisations need to address as it does reduce the number of people who access their services.

Rainbow 

Now that I have finished my work at Hospice I have had more free time to go to Rainbow. Although I haven’t been able to be present as much as I would have liked, it has given me the opportunity to do some activities with the kids. The main problem at Rainbow is just how many children there are. You start painting, for example, with a nice group of 8 children, and all of a sudden there are twenty all squashed onto the 6 free chairs all fighting for a chance to get involved. The popularity of Rainbow serves to highlight the need that there still is for organisations like this. Rainbow is popular as it lets anyone attend and this is both its blessing and its curse. The children are free to attend when they want, but there can be so many of them that it can often become difficult to satisfy all the different age groups. Rainbow does however, do something else. It gives the children an area to play in, its not a grand area, in fact its rather an accident trap as there is rather a lot of loose gravel, but its lets them meet with their friends something which is important whatever country you live in.

Help the Needy

I have also nearly, oh so nearly, finished the website that I’ve been working on for Help the Needy. We are just finalising the figures before we ‘go live’ with our child sponsorship program. I am really proud of the work that the organisation has done and I do believe that their organisation is the way that Ugandan will begin to succeed. Its community based and whilst it seeks funds from abroad it is a Ugandan organisation born in the community it wants to serve. I think that this organisation is more aware of the needs of the community and how to serve them than a Western organisation even if they don’t have the means in which to do it! The kids that have been selected are ones that would have been missed by a larger organisation as they are not at the bottom of the poverty line but they struggle to provide funds for education. They are also the ones who have a chance at success and as many of them are orphans they will have to provide for themselves in the near future. Writing up the child profiles for the children seeking sponsorship was utterly depressing, child after child was an orphan and many of them had lost a parent to aids. The list does seem never ending but that is why these HIV/AIDS awareness programs are so important. These issues that affect communities cannot be handled in isolation and this is the real problem here. For many organisations they tackle one stand of the problem, which is fine and it enables them to hone their skills and provide a consistent service, but if they are to do this then they need to work with the organisations that are providing the other strands, so that the ‘client’ receives a holistic package. I don’t have enough time left to really get involved in this task but it is something that enough people are starting to become aware of. Hopefully in the future people will stop trying to ‘solve Africa’ alone and will start working as a team with common goals.


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