Wednesday, 5 March 2014

My first few days have been such a challenge

5th March 2014

My first few days have been such a challenge, although I have been welcomed back to the community like a family member. Staff are still well organised and working well with children who have some terrible challenges to meet, even though they are supported by their amazing sponsors.

This morning I was woken by some soft calling of my name. Teddy Achola was crying outside my window at 7.00am. These children do not cry easily and yet these are the third lot of tears I have seen in 2 days.  When I finally roused I saw a sad and swollen face, she had toothache. The diet here consists of so much sugar, taken for energy, but many people are not aware that this substance is responsible for so much of their dental problems.

This was followed by Ronald getting up after feeling so sick and having a headache last night. He even missed supper but declared himself fit enough to go to his training today. That's my boy.

Gloria then visited with her mum. Gloria was raped last year and it has really disturbed her education. Her result were not as good and she is worrying about going to school because she thinks she will fail. We established that her English Comprehension is poor and prevents her from understanding her teachers. Some assessment and lessons booked in with the best English teacher in this area (me). Praying that she will improve and regain her confidence.

Then came Isaac and his wife and baby Merci. Isaac trained with OSAAT and is now working but his boss has not paid him for 4 months. His rent is due and his landlord is threatening to lock them out of the house on Friday. Plans to go with him to his boss made.

Sarah then came, she was trained as a knitter and a machine bought. Sarah was another person who cooked for 2 priests for 3 months without being paid. One day she went to work and they had locked up and gone. Religious leaders? There are many like that here. She worked in a hotel while she continued to get a knitting contract. Her son broke a cooking pot and she was not paid so the cost of the pot would be covered. She wants to send her son to school but does not have the money. OSAAT does not sponsor the adult and then the child. Sarah has approached the sons school and will knit their sweaters and they will deduct her sons school fees from her payment. I gave her a gift of money to buy wool to knit a sample and a loan to buy thread for another contract obtained. She will cook casava chips early in the morning to raise money for their feeding while she knits for the rest of the day.

Then came Joel, he had cried so seriously last night when I met him for the first time since arriving here. I had to leave him in order to get back to the office, due to recent security scares, before dark. He came today to say he cried tears of happiness to see me but was so worried that he would never see me again. You can imagine the hugs!!!!

Then Peter arrived at the office having walked 12 miles because he is sick. He is thin saying he has pain and headaches, has lost his appetite. He will stay with me tonight and be off to the hospital with staff early morning.

Other visitors included Aron who has some cultural problems which were sorted and a lady asking for work. Not bad for a mornings work. Ronald stays with me in the office and he is a dream person to share home with. He is so serious about training and we talk and listen to music, do paper mache in preparation for my birthday party on Sunday. There seem to be so many people coming not sure what we are going to do but I am making a pinata???? pass the parcel, whacko with sweets, music, dance….

It has been 14 months since I left this sunshine country, but coming back has been easy.......

28th February 2014

It has been 14 months since I left this sunshine country, but coming back has been easy. I have been welcomed by those I have met and am very happy with the accommodation found on the internet. This time near Lake Victoria was to be a rest and a recovery from a 6 week coughing virus before I head for 24/7 work in Lira with my second family.

The flight was as planned, smooth with a 1hr 30 min layover in Cairo. I arrived at Entebbe at 03.15am, after actually sleeping for a few hours but was woken abruptly by the lights coming on and within 15 minutes we were landing. I left a couple of books on board, a job to be addressed once I was settled.

Regan was there to meet me. A young man who, with his friend Herbert are working with orphans around Kampala. Both young men suffered as children and they say they feel the pain of the children that they support in a property that they rent.

Regan told me his car had a puncture and so his friend Ivan would take us. The car was too small for all 3 large bags, so the boot was tied with string and another was squeezed into the back of the coupe with Regan wrapped around it. We were in as the key in the ignition failed to turn the engine. Ivan left the car without speaking and disappeared. After 30 minutes and 2 phone calls he returned with a petrol can and proceeded to pour it into the tank. We were off and arrived at the accommodation at 6am.

On the second day I ventured into Kampala on a motorcycle boda boda. My phone had been blocked so I headed for the phone company. I was sent to 3 different desks before it was established that the phone registration I had submitted last year was not recorded and needed to be repeated. Every mobile phone has to be registered with a passport or ID card and a photograph to which the government has access. On visiting the bank to change money I was told my bank account had been closed and I had had no notification of that. That is now another challenge to get my money back when I reach Lira.

Kampala has changed a little. One bus park has been resurfaced and town rangers have been employed by the council to catch hawkers selling on the side of the road and to deal with vehicle parking etc. The traffic jams are the same with dust and exhaust fumes visible to the eye and certainly felt by the lungs.  After walking a few miles up the hills and through corridors packed with shoppers, hawkers and pedestrian transporters of every item to restock the shops. I required refreshment. Local matoke, malaquang veg, rice and chicken was the order of the day supplemented by chopped salad supplied by a fellow diner.

I called a friend and arranged to meet in town. I was collected after sitting on a concrete post in the sun and city smog for more than an hour but that is Uganda and we were so happy to meet again. Friend1 (F1) had been a Regional District Commissioner in charge of law and order in a large area Uganda. I had met F1 as F1 worked and I could see F1 was liked and respected by the people there. All that was about to change when a new Government Minister was appointed for that part of political business. He brought many of his people along and a government reshuffle of District and deputy commissioners resulted in 120 losing their jobs. They discovered it by reading it in the papers and radio announcements. It was followed by a phone call to advise them to clear their offices and hand over their vehicles. Some living locally met last week and the meeting was disclosed to police who came and tear gassed the meeting.   I could say more but I don’t want to disclose identity such is the fear of what this government is capable of. F1 wants to challenge it but fears arrest on some fictitious charge. Welcome to the lives of a changing Uganda.

Their homosexuality bill was being signed at Entebbe State House while I had an appointment at Kampala State House. It was signed by the President after being passed unconstitutionally. His decision to sign was made on the strength of a report that advised that homosexuality is learned and is not a condition anyone is born with. Therefore ‘’the disgusting act’’ act should stop. Many people here who have not been exposed to the wider world do agree with the bill and the belief is that homosexuals will move to USA and Europe to avoid penalties of life imprisonment. Local communities often stone and beat thieves, will there be any more tolerance for this ‘’crime?’’

A pornography bill 2014 has just been passed and the consensus is that it is as much about female dress as much as what we in the west understand as pornography. Several young women have already had their clothes removed publicly as a sharia type punishment if they have been judged by communities to be scantily dressed. I see many men in any street town or rural setting urinating in public, they are exposing a part of their body prohibited to being shown in public, according to the pornography bill. Maybe a letter to the President I think.

Are we seeing any patterns here about the way this country is going?

Let me move away from politics as I now can see the way that people are being totally controlled by law with rights being removed and no support for the aggrieved.

Local people are employed to collect the waste from local factories. The skin is rolled into short lengths and used for flavouring stock, fish fat is sorted some is heated melted and the rest is cooked with fruit skins for pig food, The heads and backbone are dried in salt and sun to preserve and sold to those who cannot afford the real thing’, Some inner offal type part was removed from sinews to be cooked and sold for human consumption, the rest to animal feed. The bones are ground to powder for chicken feed. Don’t ask me what happens to the scales please I will have discover that on the way back.
Lira Lira here I come, are you ready????

Lots of love

Sandra Murphy