Dawn from the front porch of the Guesthouse
We are having an interesting time in Uganda - this is quite a trip! We are living up in the mountains near the Kenya border. No electricity, no running water, no toilet, no fridge, no car, no stores etc. Shower from a bag of water hanging on a stick that Birch hooked up. Birch and John, along with a local teen named Albert, carry the water over a kilometre straight up hill from a river below (every drop we drink, cook or wash with). Propane stove and a fire for cooking. However, solar-powered batteries for the laptop and a cell-phone tower nearby help tremendously. Amazing what we can get used to living without...
We are in a house of volunteers: Barbara (65 year old Canadian who runs everything), plus university students doing a GAP year and a Peace Corps worker - and Birch is hanging out with them. They are having . . .
a great time! He is loving this experience.
For Birch and John, it is mostly hard physical labour - digging latrines, hauling water a long way, building a school. Their latest project is building an oven from bricks and clay so that there can be bread and more variety of food. They have hauled every brick and bag of cement and sand up the hill. Birch and John are working on it together and Birch is very proud! Birch and John also take individual orphans on Saturday, sit with them and read with them.
Isaac learning his ABC's with Birch
John digging a trench in front of Bududa Vocational School in preparation for the rainy season
The NGO is a vocational school for adults during the week and a school for 200 orphans on Saturday. Allegra and I are with the orphans in the school and I do some teaching of the adults as well as some therapy. Allegra has taught two Grade 2 classes so far - reading, clapping, rhymes, colours - she is gaining confidence each time. Yesterday, we just poured out love to the orphan kids in as many ways as possible - hugging, singing, reading, sitting close, playing games, engaging them, teaching, laughing.
Allegra reading from Eric Carles' "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?"
Today, Allegra and I started a mural of a map of Africa, which we are painting on the back wall of a classroom. On Wednesdays, Allegra and I participate in a young teenage orphaned girls' group. This Saturday, we will take some kids swimming. We'll help feed the babies on Sunday, because local workers don't come on Sundays, so there is one lone woman who feeds over 40 babies and toddlers all day long! There is a medical clinic we are helping with on this Monday - 6 doctors and 9 support staff, where they expect 500 people to show up for medical attention and medicine on the one day!!! So that is quite a week!
Starting the map of Africa: Uganda is red.
Carolyn, Anna and Allegra - yes, that's Allegra in the red shirt!
After the slaughter of a generation by Idi Amin and his successors, and the death of hundreds of thousands of the next generation due to AIDS, there is lots of trauma here as you can imagine. I held a little baby last week for hours. Her mom was 14 and died two days after giving birth in November. Her dad is 13 and doesn't want her. Jolia is so little and malnourished. I loved rocking her and feeding her. Fantasies of adoption fly through my head. One of the single adult students is now pregnant from her pastor (!), and her scholarship to nursing school is in jeopardy. This week, I did some trauma therapy with a girl who had been badly beaten up. And yet the overall feeling from most people we get to know here is hope.
We are halfway through our 8-month trip, and it has been just amazing to have this much time and work so closely side-by-side with my own kids. Really a life-changing experience for each of us.
It is also helping shift lots of prejudice that I was barely even aware of before. Certainly it is giving me a fast lesson in global politics that I previously had no interest in. Maybe it will give my kids a fresher, even more global perspective than I grew up with.
Cuddling Jolia, born at two pounds