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.
May 27th, 2007