Colin makes James laugh while they play with a little toy car.
As we walked down the hall of TASO’s medical wing on Monday, we could hear the screams and crying of young boy. We peeked through the window and saw the doctor taking James’ blood for his regular check-up screening (CD4 count and other vitals). Charles held tightly as James tried to wiggle out of his arms and escape the procedure. James cheered up when he saw us, but he was still gasping for air after all that crying. The doctor said his last CD4 count, taken six months ago, was still high. James is not yet on ART.
Martha, Charles and James’ TASO counselor, sat down with us to discuss ways to further empower Charles to care for his brothers. We agreed to open him a bank account with Martha as co-signer to ensure the money is spent appropriately. Hopefully, we’ll get this worked out before we leave.
On Tuesday, we visited Charles and James at their home with Juma (the CURE employee that oversaw the reconstruction of their home last summer). We walked to the front door calling the childrens’ names, but the place seemed empty. A young mother and her child sat quietly on the right side of the home watching groundnuts dry in the sun. We found James fast asleep on the foam mattress. Flies congregated atop the untouched porridge his brothers prepared for him. James obviously didn’t want to eat porridge again. It took him a few minutes to wake fully. He sat up and began to smile.
James, still half alseep, rests near his bed.
Charles arrived, and then two of the other brothers filed in. Charles stopped going to school awhile back. He is 17 years old and he has not finished Primary-6 (5th grade). We talked to him about what he wants and he said school would be ideal but it’s impossible. Juma told him that he could manage to go to school and still care for James. Colin’s mother, Loretta, sent a huge package of gifts to Charles and James last summer, including a 300 page coloring & activity book. Charles gave us the completed book and asked us to present it to Loretta as a gift. Charles enjoys creative expression…he decorated that chicken coop and turned it into a grand village suite, he colors, he draws. School could be his safe haven. It could be a safe haven for so many children here. We give Charles and James and other children some chickens and bicycles so that they can make money, but the real money making comes with an education. The chickens and bicycle will turn profit, but not nearly enough to feed, cloth, transport, and educate a family of six boys. Katie and Stelio Flamos made a recent donation intended for school fees for some of the children; we plan on supporting Charles with some of those funds.
When we left, Charles was coloring and James was sitting on the front stoop playing with his toy car. Later that afternoon at TASO we learned that a suitcase full of clothes for James had arrived from Kampala, supposedly from the American woman that pledged money for their maid and six months of food.
We’ll see Charles and James next week when we deliver the replacement chickens to most of the participating families.
The bride and her attendants sit under the decorated canopy during the ceremony; neighborhood children watch curiously from afar.
Michael, a driver at TASO, invited us to attend his daughter’s Kwanjula on Sunday afternoon. A Kwanjula is a traditional Ugandan engagement/wedding ceremony that involves the formal introduction of the groom and his family to the bride’s family. There are processions of gifts and payment of dowry. An emcee officiates and entertains guests. Music plays, aunties and friends howl, and the bride and her attendants sport custom Ugandan dresses, the gomesi, in every color and pattern imaginable. We sat with some TASO staff and they translated for us and helped us understand what was going on. Colin held Charity’s sweet daughter, Melanie.
Melanie soaks up the love and attention from her new biggest fan – Colin.
Shamim shines at the poultry project workshop.
After travelling on rough Ugandan roads from remote distances, the participants were mobilized and the workshop finally took place. And it was a success.
Sara Khanakwa, TASO Projects Officer, invited Dr. Wonekha N. Deogracious of FARMAfrica to facilitate the workshop, and he was fantastic, empowering participants with knowledge and confidence to continue a successful poultry project.
To begin, Wonekha insisted on hearing from the participants, wanting to discover what they learned at the workshop last summer. The participants also shared their challenges and successes as Wonekha and Charity took notes.
After hearing from the participants, Wonekha began his lesson…everyone was engaged, except the little ones. About 10 of the younger children drew pictures of buses, the sun, flowers, and the Uganda flag on large pieces of newsprint taped to the floor.
Colin chats with Dr. Wonekha about poultry project management.
Wonekha emphasized the importance of participant ownership over the project. He said that too often participants in projects like this fail to fully invest in the project, because they believe the project belongs to the donor or organization. He implored them to take responsibility for the project, reinforcing that this is their business- their livelihood.
The focus this year was a continued effort “to keep the birds alive.” Wonekha said marketing strategies are useless if the chickens are dead. He showed participants, in immaculate detail, how to feed and house chickens to ensure success. He spoke about the importance of many aspects of the birds health. Nearly half of the birds were lost last year; Wonekha said this would not happen again.
“These are hard-working people,” Wonekha said. “They just need to be given a chance.”
Wonekha has agreed to conduct the follow-up visits to each family and to hold three more workshops. He said that while hosting workshops is positive, the real learning and progress takes place at the farm. Wonekha said he is committed to visiting participants throughout the coming year to evaluate poultry management practices and offer technical assistance — something that was not available for participants last year.
Michael Wanabwa takes notes; last year he was so ill he could hardly sit up or speak.
So, while the sweet babies colored, the older children and guardians focused their eyes and full attention on Dr. Wonekha. Michael Wanabwa’s pen never left his hand; last year he could barely eat or speak he was so weak from TB. Emmanuel (called Emma) took breaks from note-taking to draw elaborate depictions of Ugandan public transport, the matatoo. John Natule also relaxed with some drawing and coloring, but took notes most of the time. Jude Engole, Ben Okedi, Peter Okevi, Jacqueline, and Hanania impressed the TASO counselors and Dr. Wonekha with their maturity and discipline…they took notes too. And Charles came to the workshop. We missed him last year, so we were so excited to see him walk through the door. He too absorbed every word Dr. Wonekha spoke, while James sat quietly in the chair in front of him. James didn’t want to color. He was sick. Charles said he’d bring him to TASO this week. Sweet James…
Shamim glowed, as always. She wore some of the clothes my sister, Theresa, gave to her. She looked so cute, and she knew it. Towards the end of the day, Yekosophat asked to sing a song for Colin. She was visibly annoyed as she watched another child take her spotlight. As soon as Yekosophat finished singing, she stood up for her stage time. She sang the same song. Aha. The song: We are the Pillars of Tomorrow.
Margaret ended the workshop with a brief presentation on nutrition, one that my sister Emily (the nutritionist) would have approved. She spoke about the importance of eating proteins, carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables; drinking water; and mixing things up. It was cool.
Margaret talks about the importance of eating a balance diet, especially while taking ARVs.
This year, we will give each of the families money to purchase 3 hens from their village. Dr. Wonekha will assist each family with their purchase to ensure that healthy chickens are bought. The families that lost their exotic breed cock will get a replacement. In the next two weeks, we will draw up a contract with Dr. Wonekha and a memorandum of understanding with TASO for the future of the poultry project.
Yekosophat sings “Pillars of Tomorrow” for Colin.
Sweet James rests his cute face on his hand after eating some porridge. James loves the camera!
I remember talking with the TASO counselors last year about the immense challenges that children affected by HIV/AIDS face, most notably the death of parents. We were fortunate to have the will and the ability to start the poultry project as a small solution to some of these childrens’ problems. The project has been successful in many ways, but the I can look back now and see where we went wrong. Our biggest failure was the naive purchase of 84 hens from a smallholder poultry farmer. We know now that most of those birds were sick and many died. Some families were able to find solutions, other remain without any chickens. Here are the rest of the updates on the poultry project participants (some families could not be visited b/c of time and transportation constraints).
John Natule: John is a total orphan (has lost both parents to complications of AIDS) and he lives with his uncle. When I met John last year, he reported maltreatment and neglect at home. His TASO counselor, Charity, mended his problems at home after she wrote John’s uncle an honest letter urging him to take responsibility for John, to show empathy and compassion, and to be grateful for the support that TASO gives their family. Today, John is back in school and things at home are improving. He in P-3 (like 3rd grade) and he recently ranked 4th in his class of 176. John lives on the outskirts of downtown Mbale, so the chickens are kept by family members in the village. Two chickens died, but the remaining hens and cock have been productive; they now have 5 hens, one cock and two chicks. John said he eats the eggs when he visits the village. The bicycle is used for personal transport.
Charles and James: Charles is the mother and father to his five younger brothers; the youngest, James, is about 6 years old. When we stopped by their home, James was eating porridge and the other boys were tending to the garden. All their chickens died. The bicycle is used for personal transport. Charles seemed stressed. The TASO counselors reprimanded him for not having a mosquito net over James’ bed. Then they yelled at him for leaving James home alone during the day. Apparently, TASO Mbale took TASO Uganda’s Executive Director to visit Charles and James’ home as part of a tour of the poultry project beneficiaries’ homes. When they arrived they found James alone. An American woman was along for the visit and she pledged money to pay for a maid/nanny and food for six months for the family. Charles could use the extra help. He loves James and its obvious; he doesn’t intentionally neglect James. With all the work he must do to provide for his siblings, it’s inevitable that James is left alone. Charles didn’t attend the poultry project training workshop last year, so I urged him to attend this weekend. Although most of the birds we distributed ended up dead, most of the families were able to find solutions. Only two families lost all their birds. Colin and I plan on visiting Charles and James again next week, probably for a whole day. James is so precious. Hopefully, they will hire the maid/nanny soon. They have no support from family – no uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins are around to assist.
Charles’ brother sleeps in the former chicken coop, which he redecorated with newspapers and magazines.
Jude Engole: Jude is also a total orphan and he is the mother and father to two younger sisters, Maria and Espiosa, and one younger brother, Christy. Fortunately, Jude and his siblings get tons of support and guidance from their church. The priest built them a house and other parish members support Espiosa and Christy while Jude and Maria attend Secondary School (most Ugandan high schools are boarding schools; day schools exist, but are not practical for students from the village). Jude started writing me letters last year about his successes and failures with the poultry project, the transition to secondary school, the challenges of raising a family, and his hopes for the future. Jude wants to be a doctor. He is very bright, but he is struggling in school. Textbooks are not provided and he can’t afford them. Secondary school fees in Uganda keep millions of children from ever going onto high school. Primary school is free (UPE-Universal Primary Education), but secondary school can cost anywhere from $150-$250 each term. I’ve met so many people in their 20s that tell me they dropped out half way through secondary school because they could no longer afford it, and if they did graduate, how would they pay for university?…
Jude succeeded with the poultry project and proved to be quite the businessman. When his birds got sick, he sold them before they died and purchased a goat. His goat just birthed 3 kids. The surviving hens are productive, laying eggs and hatching chicks. Jude saved money and opened a bank account. The bicycle is used for personal transport.
Jude shows Robert, his TASO counselor, his bank account information.
Ben Okedi: Ben is in his last year of secondary school. He lives with his aunt. He and his two brothers and young sister are total orphans. Faith, the youngest, is a client at TASO. Ben is fortunate to have the generous support of his auntie, which allows him to focus on his studies. The chickens faired well; in fact, none of their birds died. The hens hatch and lay eggs. They purchased a goat with egg and chick sales. The bicycle is used for personal transport.
Ben and his aunt feed their chickens and prized goat.
Hanania: Hanania, 17, is a total orphan. When he joined the project last year he was living with his maternal grandmother in the foothills of Mt. Elgon. He told his TASO counselor, Charity, that he feared his grandmother would sell his chickens or eat them. Hanania didn’t like living with her. She said mean things to him and didn’t care about his ARVs or getting him to the TASO clinic for check-ups. So, when we went to visit Hanania, we were so pleased to hear that Hanania moved to his paternal grandmother’s home, closer to Mbale. We found Hanania playing with friends, laughing and smiling. His new home made life so much easier and better. He showed us the hens and cock that he carried with him. The TASO counselors were so amused that he traveled to a new home with his chickens. One of the hens recently hatched 5 chicks; the other hen lays eggs for sale and consumption. The bicycle is missing, but we promised Hanania that we would help him get it back from his grandmother.
Hanania (center with hat) smiles proudly for a photo with his new friends.
Lona and Yekosophat: We haven’t been to Lona’s house yet, but we’ve seen her at TASO twice already. Lona and her son are both TASO clients. I remember when we delivered her chickens last year – we found her putting the finishing touches on the chicken coop she built. Some of chickens died, but she was able to purchase a goat with the sale of eggs and chicks from the remaining birds.
Lona and Yekosophat light up the room at TASO with their powerful smiles.
Sophie and Eric: Sophie and Eric are also both TASO clients. We saw them at TASO and got an update on their poultry project. Sophie has assistance from her father and they’ve purchased another bicycle with profits from the first bicycle (boda boda) and the sale of eggs and chicks.
Protus: Protus is a total orphan and he cares for his two younger sisters and youngest brother, Timothy. Protus lost all of his birds and uses the bicycle for personal transport. He recently got a fulltime job in sales at the Mbale Sports Club! Protus is also a new father and husband. We’re proud of him.
Protus at the poultry project training workshop last summer, 2006.
The rest of the families were not visited, but were sent messages about the workshop on Saturday.
Yesterday (Thursday) we spent the morning at TASO’s children’s clinic finalizing the arrangements for the poultry project workshop on Saturday, and we also met the cutest baby.
Kelly enjoys Sarah, while Grace looks lovingly at her beautiful neice.
Six-month-old Naluwende Sarah came to TASO with her aunt, Namarome Grace. Sarah’s mother died from complications due to AIDS, and she came to TASO to be tested. She seemed like a perfectly healthy baby; smiling, bouncing her hands and even peeing on those who held her (Kelly). She looked around at everything with wide-eyed curiousity, just like a six-month-old baby should.
As we visited with Sarah and her aunt, the results of the test were unknown. Grace told us that her sister was taking ARVs when she died, which greatly reduces the risk for mother/child transmission. It won’t be known conclusively whether Sarah has HIV/AIDS until she is 18 months old.
Sarah looked as if she had been taken care of – and in fact, when Grace looked at her, it seemed like pure parental love. Sarah receives utmost care from her auntie – even the cute fold of her socks is something that would be done by only the most attentive parent.
We both became so full of hope for Sarah’s future, and made us wonder, ‘What will become of sweet Sarah? Will she remain healthy? Perhaps she will become a folk-singing astronaut.’ (okay, that last thought was purely my own)
….We know one thing for sure: Sarah will be loved.
Sarah, feeling a bit nervous, relieves herself on Kelly as they share a sweet moment together.
Children color a “Stop HIV/AIDS Stigma” poster at the TASO Children’s Clinic.
Colin’s second column documenting our experience in Uganda is now available online at StowSentry.com and in print (pick up your copy of the Stow Sentry today or subscribe)!
On Monday, during our home visits, a woman on the side of the road flagged down the TASO vehicle. This happens quite often, TASO giving random people rides. This woman was holding her child in a blanket. She was barely a woman, only 19. We picked her up about 3km from the main road she was trying to reach. She was on her way to the Busiu clinic. Her son was dying in her arms. A baby of 1 year, he looked like a 2 month old baby with the face of a 100 year old man. The TASO driver remarked, “That child has no life in it…” The woman told us that she was released from the hospital 3 weeks ago because she could not afford the treatment or transport to Mbale. The child’s condition continued to deteriorate. The boy layed nearly lifeless in her arms, eyes rolling in the back of his head, struggling to breath, unable to lift his head. It was horrifying. The TASO counselors asked her where the father was. She said he was looking for money for the child’s treatment and they were to meet at Busiu hospital. We reluctantly dropped her off at the clinic and gave her money to pay for transport to the main hospital in Mbale, as the Busiu branch wouldn’t be able to treat the child’s severe condition. She promised to manage the money herself. She promised to take the baby to Mbale. Today, Colin and I went to the Mbale hospital to look for the woman and her child. We had her name jotted on a small notebook. We handed the notebook to a young doctor. We searched through the wards and he looked through the hospital log books. No trace of her. He said that if the baby died at Mbale hospital the death would have been recorded at Busiu rather than Mbale. It’s hard not knowing what happened. It’s hard to see a dying baby. I wonder if her husband took the money and spent it elsewhere. We will follow-up further. It’s so sad. The TASO staff kind of shrugged off the tears…this is not unusual. They’ve seen it before. Not me. I don’t have a backbone for this kind of thing.
You know, before we came to Uganda we celebrated the 1st birthday of Colin’s nephew, Cass. He is a vibrant, curious, active, loved, and perfectly cared for baby boy. He has everything he needs. Not spoiled. Not deprived. Just the love of two parents, grandparents, and family friends, food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and the freedom to grow and live. He walks and plays. He waves and laughs. He can open and close. He can even eat on his own. Cass is a normal 1 year old. Why can’t every sweet baby boy be like Cass? This single scenario sheds light on the struggling, inadequate health infrastructure in Uganda; poor transportation plays a part; lack of prenatal/antenatal care; lack of education…so many factors. The young mother is trying so hard. This isn’t the first time she has struggled with a sick infant; she lost her first baby. The TASO counselors asked if she’d ever been tested for HIV and she said no. In many parts of the US, prenatal HIV testing has become routine. An HIV+ woman can prevent transmission to her child with some ARVs prior to delivery and careful, exclusive breast feeding for the 6 months. Such treatment and education is available to women in Uganda, but not on the scale needed. And the mother’s HIV status as cause for baby’s ill health is speculation…the TASO counselors were just doing their jobs. It’s so confusing, all this poverty and suffering. I see it here. I see it in Ohio. It’s everywhere. I feel so helpless, but not hopeless. Things will get better. That sweet baby will be okay…
A palm tree sparkles under the Ugandan sky.
Colin is getting better and I am so happy because everyone keeps asking me, “How is he?”, “When is Colin playing music again?”, “Why aren’t you with him, taking care of him?”, “Where is your companion?”, “Where is Colin?”, “Where is the other muzungu?”.
Everyone will be happy to see his face tomorrow!
We’ve been preparing for the poultry project workshop on Saturday, visiting participants, and evaluating the past months of the project (and consoling people saddened by Colin’s absence and ill health).
What we’ve learned from home visits and conversations with participants is that our major mistake was distributing birds to the participants. We believe many of the birds we purchased were either not vaccinated or sick or both. Many birds died before the families even got them home. This year, we’ll do it better.
According to TASO staff and several of the participants, purchasing hens locally protects against the sale of sick birds. In fact, there are legal repercussions if an individual is caught selling sick birds, as such sales pose enormous threats to local food supplies.
Last Friday we began mobilizing the participants to come to the poultry project training workshop on Saturday, May 26. We finished today! The TASO staff planned beautifully. There’s been a vehicle and counselors ready to go everyday. Sarah Kanakwa, the Projects Officer, is busy making arrangements for Saturday (food, facilitator, etc.). Everyone is on board and working together. Last year, I didn’t trust that things would get done without my incessant pestering and hovering and now-now-now mentality. This week, I’ve just been along for the ride and everything is working out very nicely. Colin is playing guitar right now, singing St. Jame’s Infirmary – my favorite.
Anyway, we got the poultry project invitations out and I was able to visit several of the participants’ homes.
I will list the participants and a brief update (some participants were alerted by local messengers, so detailed updates are not yet available). Here are the participants I saw on Monday…
Rashid smiles proudly for the camera after showing me his school report.
1. Rashid is back in school, and his eldest brother, Izma, has returned to school also. TASO supports Izma’s secondary school education by paying school fees. Rashid and Izma’s mother registered at TASO in 1995 and she is still alive, but aloof. She abandoned her children years ago and is nowhere to be found. Grandmother has graciously taken care of the children with help from her son, who lives next to her. The poultry project has been successful and profitable. The hens have layed eggs for eating and hatched chicks have been sold. Proceeds from chick sales helped them buy a goat. The bicycle is used for personal transport needs, such as fetching water, market days, TASO clinic visits, school, etc.
Michael leads us along a path through maize fields towards his home.
2. Michael Wanaba
Michael’s health has improved immensely…he looks like a different child. TASO is supporting his return to school. They remain with 2 hens and 1 cock and one hen recently hatched 11 chicks. The other hen lays eggs for Michael to eat. Two weeks ago five of the chicks were stolen from the chicken coop. The grandmother explained her plans of moving closer to Mbale town. The bicycle is used as a boda boda and also to take Michael to TASO.
Michael laughs at my weird muzunguness with his cousin.
Jacqueline recently recovered from serious ARV side-effects. She reacted negatively to Nevirapine, but her regimen was changed at her last clinic visit to prevent further harm. She is doing well and her skin rash is also healing. She is active in school and getting good marks. When we arrived at her house we found her dying her hair black. School resumed for Ugandan students on Monday after a long holiday…Jacqueline decided to take an extra day off.
Nabude Charity, a TASO counselor, and Adobi, a Nigerian TEACH participant, tease Jacqueline about skipping school.
The TASO counselors scolded her, but laughed about it soon after. It was cool to see Jacqueline acting like a typical teenager – concerned with her appearance, being rebellious, and ditching school to play beauty shop. We told her not to do it again, though. Poultry project news: Three of Jacqueline’s hens died on arrival and she was left with one cock and one hen, which are still living. They were productive enough to enable Jacqueline to purchase a goat which just gave birth to a kid. The bicycle is another source of income as a boda boda.
Jacqueline’s goat kisses its kid. Kids are so cute!
I will add the rest of the poultry project participant updates later.
THANK YOU so much for taking time to read this blog and learn about some of the challenges that children face in Mbale, Uganda. Your awareness is a step towards change.
Kelly has generously allowed me to write a solo blog entry (she’s actually sleeping, so this may be edited tomorrow). Here goes:
When we returned from our sightseeing in the city of Entebbe, I was not feeling well. In my mind, I was suffering from ebola, malaria and a poisonous bug-bite — all at the same time. Nearly the entire medical staff of CURE Children’s Hospital has assured me that what ails me is a simple case of sun poisoning, and expect a full recovery within days.
Nambozo, as Kelly has been affectionately named, has been working steadily with TASO; I, on the other hand have been steadliy active with a toilet and a book.
However, we also began working with John Busolo, a guard at the hospital who co-founded a non-profit organization – Poverty Reduction Initiative for Development (PRID) – to benefit children, many of them orphans. At first, we decided we would build John a self-sustaining fish farm; until after further research, we realized this is something we could not possibly accomplish in our four-week visit (although this is still among plans for PRID).
The Boardmembers of PRID currently possess a small plot of land in Kimaluli, where John is from, to grow and sell coffee to benefit children. The group is searching for a larger piece of land to hold a demonstration farm, that will actively involve the children and give them desperately-needed support and guidance.
I was so excited to help PRID, that at first, I grabbed a shovel in the village and asked where to dig. We didn’t need to dig, we need to think. The fish farm is a long term goal that we hope will be sparked by the success of the coffee project.
Coffee is something that cannot be planted in exchange for immediate monetary results. Coffee trees will not bear the beans we love to drink for up to three years. Progress is made from the sale of the coffee tree seedlings.
On June 2, we will again meet with the elders of the village and PRID Boardmembers to discuss what is the next move – and how we can best help those in need.
John knows what it is like to be an orphan. When he was a child his parents abandoned him, though he said there were a few people to look out for him. Many of the children in John’s village are not so lucky.
“When I looked at my life, I realized that orphans have the hardest lives,” he said. “There must be somebody to look after these children, and love them.”
The experience in the villages with TASO is something I will not forget. Seeing so many children suffering from HIV/AIDS is something that does not get any easier.
I heard a name mentioned throughout the day last Friday; but I heard “My Mona.” I kept wondering why does everyone have posession over Mona?” She must be special, if she belongs to everyone.
When I met Maimuna, she was on a homemade crutch walking on the side of the road with her friend to the outreach clinic. She had already struggled to walk miles for treatment. As Kelly mentioned, not only is Maimuna suffering from HIV/AIDS, but she has a severe case of herpes on her leg, which has immobilized her. She was somehow still graceful, as she tried to stand tall; and like that afternoon, a beautiful smile occasionally broke through the clouds. When we spoke to her, with the help of TASO counselors, I was forunate to be wearing sunglasses. I broke down. I felt terrible; ripping the heart out of my chest would have been easier, than to see this sweet girl at about 10 years of age, all on her own and suffering. I casually made an exit so she would not see me sad. I am excited to see “My Mona” again and hold it together so I can make her laugh.
Children clap to the beat of Colin’s music.
Last Wednesday, Colin and I visited the TASO Children’s Clinic. Each Wednesday, TASO’s young clients come for counseling, medical care, and pharmaceuticals. Most of the children are taking an anti-malarial & TB prophalaxis; others are fortunate to be on pediatric ART. The TASO children’s clinic used to be housed in a dilapidated, cramped trailer. That horrible trailer retired in January when TASO finished construction on a new wing of the building and opened the doors to a spacious, sunny children’s clinic.
Colin brought his guitar along and I carried crayons and coloring books. Two of the participants from the poultry project were there! Michael Wanaba and Yekosophat (and his mother, Lona). Michael looks like a different child. Last summer, he was terribly weak and suffering from malnutrition and stomach TB. The TB is gone, he’s gained weight, and he began taking ARVs.
Lona told me that, “everytime Yekosophat sees a muzungu he thinks it is you.” Lona, like many other poultry project participants, lost hens to New Castle disease. She said that when the hens died, she decided to sell the cock, fearing it too would fall sick. With the profit from the cock (4,000 USh) plus a portion of her savings (10,000 USh), Lona purchased a goat. Her goat is pregnant and she plans on purchasing a calf in the near future. Each of the poultry project participants also received a bicycle as an additional source of income and support. Lona lends her bicycle for use as a boda boda (bike taxi service) and uses the profits to pay for Yekosophat’s school fees. Yekosophat is doing well in school and ranked 26th out of 90 students in his primary-2 class.
Yekosophat sings a song about the impact of AIDS.
Colin brought smiles and laughter to the children (and their mothers) with his music. He played some folk songs and the children clapped. He sat in the middle of the straw mat strumming his guitar with all the love and soul he had. It’s hard to go to the children’s clinic. Last year, I remember excusing myself. Overwhelmed with emotion, I had to leave to cry, to hide my reaction. It’s hard to see sick children anytime, anyplace. Colin was so graceful. He didn’t need to leave. Whatever he was feeling – hopeless, confused, sad – was hidden by his song and smile. Yekosophat was so moved by the music that he stood up sang a ballad about AIDS. Colin played the guitar to the beat of the lyrics and the swing of Yekosophat’s hips. Lona sang along. It was so cool. The song he sang tells the story of an uncle that “used to sing and dance…now he is sick with AIDS and barely walking.”
On Thursday, we went back to TASO to discuss our plans for the poultry project. The biggest obstacle has been the scourge of New Castle disease (NCD). We believe that the majority of the hens we purchased were sick. NCD is a common virus that affects village poultry in developing countries. Although we paid for the hens to receive NCD vaccine, we cannot be certain they did. Fortunately, at the onset of sickness, many of the families were able to sell their birds and purchase more birds or goats, and the bicycles continue to provide most of the families with some supplemental income. And not all the birds fell ill. Considering the NCD obstacle and our limited time here, we decided to hold another training workshop and purchase 3 more hens for each family. The workshop will be Saturday, May 26. We contacted FARMAfrica about getting one of their trainers to facilitate the workshop. The hens will be purchased from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), where we bought the cocks last year. Another option is to allow each family to locate a vendor in their community and purchase the hens locally.
Workshop discussion topics will include: nutrition, bird health/vaccination, problems/solutions/concerns, marketing/business strategies. We want the workshop to be a forum for the participants to discuss the failures and successes of the pilot phase of the project…we want to respond to their needs.
We began mobilizing the families for the workshop last Friday. TASO gave us a vehicle to travel to the Budadiri sub-county to visit with three of the poultry project participants (Violet, Vaska, and Maimuna).
A TASO TEACH program participant examines Vaska’s 11-month-old daughter for signs of anemia and malnutrition.
We found Vaska in the front of her uncle’s home carrying her baby. Several TASO staff encouraged Vaska to take the child to a nearby health clinic for blood work, possibly a transfusion. The baby showed classic signs of anemia and malnutrition. Vaska said that she has had troubles with the poultry, but the bicycle has been profitable. She agreed to come to the workshop with another family member so that she can have support and assistance with the poultry.
Violet’s grandmother (her caretaker) greeted us with dismay and sadness. The evening prior her entire bird/goat house had been ransacked and all of her livestock was stolen. She said her birds never fell sick. She was so upset and we assured her that she had done all she could to protect her birds. In fact, her birds probably never fell sick because of the clean, well-kept house she built for them. News of the upcoming workshop seemed to cheer her up. Violet was in town buying a school uniform, which is a good sign. She got the money from boda boda profits.
Violet’s grandmother sits with her orphaned grandsons; she has lost all but one of her children. Her only surviving daughter was recently diagnosed with HIV.
We also had time to drop by Shamim’s house. She ran outside screaming when she saw the TASO vehicle, but made a quick u-turn back into the house. She emerged two minutes later with a different dress on – Colin told her how I also love to change my outfits several times a day.
Shamim holds a little lamb.
Shamim’s health has improved greatly. She is getting taller, her rash has disappeared, and her grandparents said that she has not fallen sick in months. Her energy levels have also improved and she continues to make her family happy.
We found Maimuna walking towards the TASO outreach clinic with a walking stick in one hand and her best friend’s hand in the other. Maimuna has a herpes virus on her right leg. She needs a cane to walk and the pain is excruciating. She got treatment at the TASO outreach Friday, and the TASO medical staff said that her leg should be healed by Saturday.
Margaret, me, Maimuna, and TASO community workers pose for a pic.
Colin got his suitcase on Saturday! The box of 64 Crayola crayons was scattered among his clothes. Clothes were unfolded and I think some things are missing. It’s here, though, and that’s all that matters. We went to Entebbe to retrieve the luggage and we stayed there Saturday night. Lake Victoria is gorgeous, but the lake flies that hang out there are annoying. There’s billions of ‘em. And together they make a piercing, terrifying noise that I believe has inspired the melodies for the most haunting horror film scores. We took public transport back to Mbale last night. Near Iganga, about 2 hours southwest of Mbale, we were stalled because of a horrible accident. A semi-truck hauling beer flipped and went off the road. Hundreds of cars on either side of the one-vehicle accident waited to pass on the bumping, unpaved road. People were everywhere; the only illumination provided by gigantic stars, a cresent moon, and car headlights. I hope the driver is okay…it didn’t look good.
I have to go to TASO now. It’s Monday morning, the sun is shining, and I promise to write more tonight or tomorrow morning.
A sign at the Budadiri clinic prohibits grazing animals. If you look closely, you’ll see a goat and a cow, grazing.
Colin admires a statue at Paddington Station in London.
First, we want to thank all the wonderful people that supported us at the pancake dinner and with generous donations…with out you, this would not be possible. Merci Beaucoup!
Before we left, I started a fabulous new job at the Canton City Health Department as the Health Services (AIDS) Coordinator, and Colin finished another semester with amazing grades. He also wrote a column about our Uganda effort in the Stow Sentry, a Record Publishing newspaper he writes for.
We want to tell you a bit about our travels across the Atlantic…
It all started on Saturday, May 12, when our flight from Cleveland-Detroit was cancelled. Our entire flight itinerary changed. Rather than arriving in Entebbe, Uganda Sunday evening at 8pm, we were slated to arrive the next morning at 7:45am. They rebooked us on a three different airlines, flying to DC, London, and onto Uganda. The highly efficient Northwest airline worker held us hostage claiming all along that he was searching for a better itinerary. He didn’t find one, and at 6:15pm he said, “You better run or you’ll miss your flight to DC.” We ran through the airport to another terminal. I had on 4in heels (stupid, I know); Colin was not pleased with my footwear selection. We made it to the gate and pleaded with more highly efficient airline staff to let us on the plane. They did. We ended up at Heathrow airport for a 12 hour layover. Heathrow is not so fun. The duty-free store selection in terminal 4 is outrageous – Chanel, Escada, Asprey, Gucci, electronics stores galore, liquor stores, cosmetics…you name it. We were lugging around 25lbs of baggage each. Instead of hanging out in the wonderful shopping mall that is terminal 4, we decided to ride into London. All I wanted to do was go to the Tate Modern and accidentally walk by a TopShop.
Didn’t find a TopShop, but I did find some cool hats.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the Tate Modern — we spent a few more hours at the airport getting boarding passes for our flight to Entebbe. We did venture into London, but it was uneventful. London is OK, I guess, except paying to use the restroom at Paddington station is not so cool. We went back to the airport because we were too rushed and broke and tired to enjoy London in an hour. Our flight to Entebbe was wonderful. Sleep and movies!
Colin’s bag didn’t make it to Entebbe, but the folks at British Airways promise it’s arrival in Mbale soon.
Yesterday, we went to TASO and as we walked down the path we were greeted by Shamim. She ran to us with open arms. Best welcome ever!
P.S. Colin insists that I fabricated the whole “muzungu” thing; nobody has called him a muzungu yet.
Indeed, no one has called me a “muzungu,” and I am extremely dissapointed. I am boarding the next flight to London.
I am so relieved and pleased to have arrived here safely.
Everyone here greets us with the words “you’re welcome,” which beckons me to respond with “thank you.” But its not a matter of gratitude as much as it is the welcoming and kind nature of the Ugandans.
As Kelly said, the flight here was a drag — not a fantastic way to start the journey. But this is an amazing place and I am tickled to be here, luggage or not.
Fortunately, I have a few shirts to wear — one says “STOW,” and another says “France: Losers of Both World Wars.”
At this moment, Kelly informed me that its time to go — we are going to TASO to see the newly constructed Children’s Clinic, and meet with the counselors about the poultry project.
We will write more soon.