We have been having some serious internet issues, so we think that the rest of our photos will have to be uploaded from home.
This week, the GROW team has been busy celebrating the solar installations in each of the villages and brainstorming ideas for next year’s group. We have a meeting with A2N this afternoon in which we plan to discuss improvements on the partnership and get feedback on what next year’s group can do better. Our final solar celebration is this evening at Oriyoi. We hear that the village elders are coming and cannot wait to see what’s in store for us.
On Monday, we had our ceremony at Kisoko. We were greeted by music accompanied by shrieking and gyrating women. All of the GROW trippers joined in for a wild bout of dancing before the ceremony. As we were leaving, among the countless hugs and thank yous from the people of Kisoko, Sam noticed children headed to the center to do their homework under the new light. The Village Information Center is the only light in Kisoko. It was an incredible event for the team and for the people of Kisoko.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, we held our ceremony in Merikit. To our surprise, we were gifted a goat! We named her Joan and gave her to our driver, Titus, who was very appreciative. Joan slept peacefully on the hour ride back to our compound between Sam’s legs.
Love from Uganda,
Sam, Ellen, Rachel, Sarah and Phoebe
We have been having some serious internet issues, so we think that the rest of our photos will have to be uploaded from home.
So sorry for the delay in posting, our modem has been broken/not working/MTN has been wildly unresponsive to our average 60 phone calls a day demanding that they fix the network.
We have had a busy, busy week and a great start to implementing our projects!
Early in the week we traveled with our solar technician, Isaac, to install solar at Corner and take measurements at the three other sights. We also installed our three signposts with the help of their respective communities– we even learned how to mix cement! who knew.
Friday night was our big “kick off” ceremony at Corner Information Center to present all of our projects within the Osukuru district, for which corner serves as a focal point. After a program that included speeches from local government officials as well as many local information facilitators and an interview by New Vision newspaper from Kampala, we turned on the light and booted up the computer! We also presented 4 bicycles complete with plates identifying them as belonging to the information centers. It was a great night and we’re looking forward to the rest of the celebrations this week.
We’ve also had our fair share of fun this week. The girls ordered dresses from a local tailor– discussing patterns and necklines took up a few hours. The dresses are a big hit here, garnering a lot of comments, mainly “you look smart”, although it is debatable whether they will make a debut in America. After the celebration on Friday we also enjoyed going to a local bar with Isaac and Floyd, our solar technicians, sipping on some beverages and indulging in what has become Sam’s staple dinner: 2 sticks of pork and chips. Perhaps most wonderful was the weekend we just passed at Sipi Falls! It really is an intransferrable experience; Sipi is so, so beautiful. We remarked many times that we felt like we were in Narnia or the Garden of Eden. Most exciting of all, though, were the warm showers! So luxurious, even though they were still adjacent to the pit latrine..
This week is also chock-full of plans. We’re looking forward to the ceremonies at Kisoko, Oriyoi and Merikit, dinner at Jacinta’s house (we’ve been dreaming about her food since lunch there last weekend), many meetings to better plan for a next year’s projects and fundraising efforts, and jetting off on our three day “budget safari.” the implications of “budget” remain unclear, though we are eager to find out!
We will post pictures as soon as our modem is fixed and look forward to sharing them with you!
Hello from Sarah, Ellen and Sam’s cottage as we scarf cookies that Sam found in the supermarket for eight hundred shillings a box (50 cents). Our need for Western food of some sort increases as each day passes. On the menu at dinner tonight – beans, rice, pork and curry. Phoebe decided to go out on a limb and try the spaghetti. We want to go ahead and warn future GROW trippers to never try this.
In terms of our work, we are very pleased to announce that we have now purchased 4 solar systems, ordered 4 bikes and 3 signs, 1 laptop and plan to purchase chalkboards tomorrow. We are excited to start implementing our projects and move out of the planning and logistical phases. On Friday, we are having a large celebration at the information center where we are both installing solar and a computer. We have invited A2N’s partner NGOs like Plan Uganda and TASO (The AIDS Support Organization) to the event. We want members of these organizations to be present because they encourage village information centers to sensitize communities on health and sanitation issues. We hope that by inviting such NGOs to this first ceremony, we can improve the partnership that already exists between them and A2N and highlight their impact on the health of the relevant communities.
This morning we met with PLAN, a child-focused NGO which tackles problems from education to sanitation to healthcare. We were collectively impressed by the work that they do and the dedication that they displayed to improving the centers. We hope that next year’s GROW team is able to further strengthen GlobeMed’s partnership with PLAN.
Our neighbor, Penny, just came by to return Bringing Down the House and Caddyshack from Ellen’s dvd collection. Her only real communication – “Kindly give me two more”. She walked happily home with Glory Road and Take the Lead (ballroom dancing movie with Antonio Banderas) in tow. “Elaine”, as she’s known here, is really making a name for herself with these movies.
Giggles from Uganda as we all listen to Rachel shouting “move” at Latrina (our creepy cat) while attempting to drink out of our 5 gallon water jug on the porch,
Ellen, Rachel, Sam, Phoebe and Sarah
We’ve spent a lot of the past week planning specifically what we want to accomplish while we’re here. It might seem like we’ve spent a lot of time doing needs assessment but it’s been imperative in determining our final plans and how we are going to spend the money that GlobeMed was so successful in raising this year.
Here are our objectives:
1. Provide Solar Panels for 4 Centers (Corner, Oriyoi, Kisoko & Merikit)
-Corner and Oriyoi are both centers that the GROW team worked with last year, installing signs. They have both demonstrated improvements based on their new signage and we are very excited to give them solar. Kisoko and Merikit are newer centers. Merikit was spearheaded by Local Information Facilitator (L.I.F.) Paul, who runs a center in Kidoko. Paul’s Kidoko center received solar from the GROW team last year and his center is thriving. Kisoko’s L.I.F., Faith, is the only woman L.I.F. and we really appreciate her feisty spirit as a woman in a field of many men.
-Solar Panels are of immeasurable importance to the Village Information Centers, as evidenced by the overwhelming success of the two centers in which the team installed panels last year. Both Asinge’C’ and Kidoko have thrived in the past year. Solar allows the centers to have light, making them more central to the community in that they garner attention and provide a place for people to gather at night during their leisure time, facilitating more information spread. It also creates a place in which people can charge their cell phones. They would otherwise have to go to Tororo, often many kilometers away, to charge their phones. This service means that the centers can create a bit of revenue to buy materials and support more community initiatives. As solar is installed, the centers become focal points of the community and, as evidenced by Kidoko and Asinge’C’, become more utilized by health NGOs such as TASO (The AIDS Support Organization) and PLAN Uganda (a child-oriented NGO).
2. Provide Signage for 3 Centers (Kisoko, Merikit & Amurwo)
-Amurwo is another one of Paul’s new centers and we are happy to help out Pius, the L.I.F. there, as he launches efforts to improve his centers.
-Signage has proven to be very important to all the centers that received it last year. It legitimizes the institution, attracts new visitors to the center and makes it easily identifiable. Before coming on the trip last year, I think a lot of us had the perception that signs weren’t that central to the centers’ productivity, but we’ve absolutely learned otherwise.
3. Provide 2 bikes for Asinge’C’
-Asinge’C’ has been very, very successful in the past year after last year’s team installed solar, but the Local Information Facilities no longer have functioning bikes to spread information and go door-to-door. We really want to reward this warm and inviting community for their fruitful use of the center so we are excited to purchase these bikes.
4. Provide a Laptop for Corner
-We are almost positive that we are going to buy Corner Information Center a laptop computer. They have expressed interest in keeping their records on the computer and also offering typing services to students at a reduced rate. This, again, would provide some sort of revenue and help support the center. Corner also serves as a central location for many smaller centers and we feel that a computer will be an asset to other centers in the district as well as their own.
5. Provide New White Boards for Amurwo & Merikit
-This will help clearly advertise information about health and market information about agriculture.
We’ve been clarifying these plans and bargaining with every vendor who we plan to purchase these items from to make sure we can stretch our funds to the max. Excited to start these projects in the coming days. This morning we visited TASO (The AIDS Support Organization) in Tororo. TASO is an AIDS-support organization that serves thousands in the district, providing free Antiretrovirals (ARVs) and counseling services to those thats are infected. We were very impressed with the organization, they seemed to really have everything together and be extremely functional and effective. This morning we spent most of our time in the children’s wing, playing with them while they awaited treatment. The experience was both inspiring and sobering- we hope to continue a relationship with TASO throughout this trip and continue to strengthen their work with the information centers and A2N.
In other news, we’ve been anxiously awaiting the ripeness of both our pineapples and avocados. Sarah became quite overeager today and crunched happily into a rock hard avocado. Meanwhile, we’ve been satisfying our fruity desires by purchasing many a fruit salad at our meals. Ellen requested a small plate of pineapple at dinner and was alarmed to discover that this translated to the delivery of a large platter of an entire pineapple. Rachel simultaneously received a full ‘PoPo’ (aka Papaya). Today as we were haggling for solar prices, we found ourselves (to the delight of our godsend of a new boss, Jacinta, who ROCKS) thrown into the backseat of the solar technician’s small sedan en route to one of the centers to prove to him that we deserved lower prices based on the menial size of our VICs. We are beginning to grow used to these types of impromptu journeys. We love Jacinta, especially for her sass; when bidding farewell to a Local Information Facilitator who was evidently irritating her, she jokingly yelled in his face “GOODBYE, GOODBYE. See you when I can’t avoid you.” On the docket for tomorrow is a long-awaited washing of our dirty underwear as well as continued haggling for all of our supplies.
We will update very soon!
THE GROW TEAM
Happy Memorial Day everyone!
Today the GROW team visited three information centers in the Tororo area. We were thrilled to find that the village Asinge C in which last year’s team installed solar is thriving. Each center seemed extremely well organized and the center managers were enthusiastic and eloquent about their purpose. In many of the villages that we visit, the information center serves as a main form, or the only form, of infrastructure. Their purpose is multi-faceted. Besides providing vital agricultural information like the price of crops or levels of rainfall, they serve as immunization record keepers, general stores, family and youth counseling centers, and even places where children can do their homework come nightfall. Additionally, the managers refer the villagers to health centers when they come for help. After visiting six information centers, we feel even more confident about the health benefits that will serve the community through the service of these centers. We have one more day of physical needs-assessment and are excited to formulate the best way to spend the money that we have spent the year fundraising. It’s going to require a lot of constructive conversation.
On a personal note, we again have running water! We are beyond thrilled to live in cottages with functioning toilets, showers and sinks and all expect to sleep well tonight.
On Sunday the team visited a Pentecostal church service. Unbeknownst to the group, the service was intended for “healing,” i.e. the majority of those in attendance were either suffering from AIDS, malaria, etc. or were probably attending on behalf of someone who was. After hearing this and reflecting on our time spent ignorantly listening and actively participating in the front row and remembering the priest’s reaction to our presence (“Well, I don’t know why you’re here, but…. Welcome!”) we all had a good long laugh.
Later in the day, the group hiked up Tororo Rock, a steep rock/mountain(?) ten minutes away from our compound, with two of John’s peers, William and Moses. Sam, Rachel, William, and Moses made it all the way to the top. As for the rest of us…no comment.
We’re currently munching on peanut butter sandwiches and thinking of watching a movie at Phoebe and Rachel’s hut. Ellen has become famous at the compound for her DVD collection. Today we woke to hear our next door neighbor Penny blasting Ellen’s copy of the Notebook on the other side of our wall. When we asked her if she cried while watching it, she scoffed and said “I’m hardcore.” Tonight she’s planning on watching Bringing Down the House. In other news, we’re a little afraid to make our way around in the dark with the compound’s stray cat on the loose. She likes to hang out by the pit latrine (outhouse) and Ellen aptly dubbed her “Latrina.” She is creepy.
Love from Tororo and Happy Memorial Day!
El, Phoeb, Sar, Rach (Sam’s 4 Wives…they practice polygamy here)
Today was a relaxing day. We slept in and then went into town for breakfast. After breakfast we walked around, eventually purchasing personally burned CD’s of popular ugandan music from a wonderful vendor named Mr. Baker. We still don’t have any water at home, so we’re all feeling a bit grimy, but Rachel and Sam just set out on a run nonetheless. Tonight is the big game between Manchester United and Barcelona, which everyone is excited for. The recently elected Member of Parliament from the Tororo area, who was here today thanking those that voted for him, is paying for a large screen to be erected in the middle of the town soccer pitch to watch the game on. We’re planning on watching tonight with John, either from a bar in town or outside on the big screen! Fingers crossed for a fun night and a shower tomorrow, if we’re lucky!