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!
XO
THE GROW TEAM

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