A TASO Mbale counselor visits Vaska, a young mother and poultry project participant, at her home. Her shirt conveys a powerful message…”Stopping AIDS begins with YOU.”
It’s ten o’clock in the pm, and we’re in Kampala, preparing and packing for our flight home. I have a terrible urge to write everything we’ve done since that last posting, so I will. Colin’s post is below.
On Friday, we finalized our memorandum of understanding with TASO regarding the poultry project. The participants will receive their hens in July at the next training workshop. We hope to continue fundraising throughout the year to meet project costs ($3600 total), and provide additional support to the children.
Young women outside of shops in the trading center near Kimaluli, the village where PRID serves children like Wycliff and Peter.
PRID has identified a piece of land to purchase for the coffee project demonstration farm, and we’ve already contributed enough money for that purchase. PRID’s chairperson and our dear friend, John Busoolo, offered to provide Wycliff and Peter with additional support.
A farmer holds a ripe arabica coffee bean, reading for shelling and then drying in the sun.
We gave John money to pay for Peter’s school fees for the remaining two terms, and for milk, eggs, and a mattress for Wycliff.
John is a good man. He works five 12-hour shifts a week, spends time with his four children and sweet wife (Gertrude), and uses every spare second to help the orphaned and HIV affected children of his village. Colin and I have been fantasizing about drinking PRID coffee in couple years…we hope the coffee project is a success!
Sipi Falls, where water drops about 50 metres from a steep cliff in the northern foothills of Mt. Elgon. The surrounding area, rich in fertile volcanic soils, is heavily cultivated; major crops include arabica coffee, bananas, and maize.
On Sunday, we took a trip to Sipi Falls. We followed an enthusiastic guide down to the base of the waterfall. He told us that if we stood directly under the waterfall we would die, after the water washed all of the hairs off our heads. We didn’t test his hypothesis.
Colin and Kelly admire the majestic Sipi Falls on the foothills of Mount Elgon.
Monday brought tears. We began the day at TASO where we each gave short goodbye speeches at the staff meeting. This time, I didn’t buckle and weep uncontrollably. I heard one of the counselors tell Colin, “Don’t let Kelly cry.” I think I made people feel uncomfortable last year when I wept like a newborn baby. I guess now, I know that I’ll return to Mbale.
Colin and a few TASO counselors sing folk songs together.
At the guesthouse that night, Colin played guitar for Muzaki (Margaret), Charity, and Rachel, while Miriam and I peeled carrots and potatoes. They sang old American folk songs. When the mosquitos joined the sing-a-long, everyone left. Jude and John Busoolo arrived soon after the TASO crew left. We laughed and ate together. Colin walked into the room with a dark brown mullet wig. Jude went outside because he was laughing so hard.
Jude laughs at Colin’s new look.
Emma played on the internet. He was looking confused, so I asked him if he needed some help. A detailed map of St. Petersburg covered the screen, but he was looking for Nevada. I asked him why he wanted to view a map of Nevada – Las Vegas? Reno? Carson City?. He said, “I’m looking for Area-51.” Excited about the topic of UFOs and E.T.s, Colin assisted him and ten minutes later, I see Jude and Emma horrified by the alien photos Colin was showing ‘em on Google images. He took them outside to look at the stars and contemplate the vastness of the universe. I walked out to join them. I heard Colin say, “The next time you look at the stars, know that I’m looking at the same stars…the same stars!” Jude and Emma liked the concept of sharing the night sky with Colin; it makes them all feel closer, and safe. Then we had to say goodbye.
We repeated the process this morning. Bye again to Jude over the phone. More goodbyes at TASO. More goodbyes at CURE. But not as many tears as last year. This time when I leave Uganda on a huge plane, I know I’ll be back and I believe that all of our friends will be OK.
Oh, and everyone kept asking us, “When are you coming back?” and we replied, “We’ll be back soon, but my sister, Emily, and her husband, Joey, will come next year.”
****pictures of downtown Mbale…
A vibrant purple logo for a Ugandan cement manufacturer; Wanali Ridge and a shoe store in the background.
The Mbale clocktower marks the center of town; like many historic buildings and structures, the clocktower is a billboard.
Boda-bodas rest against brightly painted buildings on Republic Street.
On the last night here, we could write about any of our experiences. I imagine it will take a long time to process the experiences of this journey. There’s too much to comment on to attempt to summarize. So this will not be the last blog posting.
What has grabbed me the most on this visit is the striking intelligence of the children we have encountered. Their grit and determination is awe-inspiring. While LeBron James is a hero to many, Jude Engole, and other children like him are my new heroes. I couldn’t begin to imagine what it would be like to raise a family at such a young age.
ARVs to be taken for the younger siblings with HIV; meals to buy; meals to prepare; school to attend; books and pens; transportation costs; lack of clothing; leaky roofs; another case of malaria; walk a mile to get water for the family; walk miles for anything at all; It’s real here.
Without sounding too much like a late-night TV pledge-drive for Africa, these child-headed-family teenagers face a host of struggles, including paying school fees for themselves, and their siblings. Primary (elementary) school has no costs (for most students), but secondary school (high school) is very costly — up to 100,000 Ugandan shillings ($60) per term — with three terms per year. To put that in perspective, a solid meal for six, prepared at home (meat, potatoes, rice, vegetables) costs about 60 cents. And that’s still expensive for many.
The sadness I felt saying goodbye to these kids was, in part, because some of this country’s brightest minds may go to waste. We were able to identify some of those neediest families within TASO and PRID and help with school fees. One of my worst fears is leaving the next Albert Einstein in a field of crops to raise, with no outlet for his/her genius.
But these kids don’t complain. They don’t throw pity parties for themselves. They can be found in Mbale, Uganda on the streets; and in the villages, always trying their best. They just do the next right thing, and we can’t ask anymore than that from our heroes.
Candles burn in our hands at the TASO Mbale AIDS Candlelight Vigil to honor and appreciate all the individuals that have been affected by HIV/AIDS, those that have passed on, those that live positively, those that serve to treat and prevent HIV, and all those that have been left behind.
Clouds float in the sky, kind of like the cartoon clouds on the TV show, The Simpson’s.
Linens and fresh flower filled vases adorned our dinner table. It was a special night. Jude Engole, Ben Kedi, and Emmanuel,our friend from a bus ride to Kampala, joined us for a night on the town.
They were all smiles as they feasted on a buffet of local cuisine. After all the plates were cleared, I launched into a lecture about safe sex, decision making, condoms, and HIV prevention. Surprisingly, their eyes didn’t roll. Ben and Jude assured us that their TASO counselor, Robert Oluka, talks to them about HIV prevention all the time. I admit, it may not have been the best timing for such a discussion, but I wanted to start the dialogue. Colin rescued them from my “let’s talk about sex” lecture and challenged them to a game of pool.
Jude and Emma watch carefully as Colin teachs them about the mathematics of pool.
What an amazing man…
They love Colin. Watching the four of them play pool, laughing and shouting, hugging and giving high-fives – unforgettable. Colin and Emma played against Jude and Ben. A couple weeks ago, Colin taught Emma and Jude how to play. Ben is a seasoned pool player. They played best of five; Jude and Ben won. But really, everyone won.
Colin was able to bridge language and culture barriers with a simple game of pool. Ben, Jude, and Emma look up to Colin. They trust him. They can confide in him. And he makes them laugh. When Jude would line up his cue for a shot, Colin would start doing his interpretation of a traditional Bugisu dance. Jude laughed uncontrollably. I, on the other hand, am the boring teacher figure that wants to talk about feelings, condoms, and bad grades. It’s so cool to have Colin balance it out. His gentle tone, patience, and incredible sense of humor make him a friend to anyone and everyone he meets. Jude thinks of Colin as a father; they all know him as a friend.
The family: Back from left: Robert, Joseph, Charles.
Front from left: Reuben, Charles (yes, there’s two Charles’), James.
On this day, Charles, James and their brothers have a place to sleep. All six boys share a house together, and Charles does his best to look after them, after their parents died from complications due to HIV. But after receiving support from TASO and a few folks back home, the boys are all smiles.
Last night we were taken by a TASO vehicle, with Charles’ and James’ TASO counselor Martha Okweny, to purchase three mattresses and two bed frames so all the boys have a comfortable place to sleep. Some of the six boys have been sleeping on old worn mattresses, and some on the floor. These boys are bound with cables of love that are unbreakable, so sharing mattresses together isn’t unusual.
When we arrived at their house, Charles was plowing the land for planting crops. The other boys were scattered around and James was sleeping – on an old, beat-up mattress on the floor.
James is in his glory — in front of a camera, where he belongs.
The boys have had many hardships as a family of orphans trying to survive. But they have received plenty of help, and their lives are improving.
Charles has truly assumed a parental role in James life, and loves him as much as any parent could. Raising a younger brother is struggle enough, but James also has HIV. Their brotherly love has captivated many people’s hearts, including my own.
After Kelly’s visit last year, a few miracles have given these kids some hope. With help from our families in the US, Kelly built the boys a home; the boys built a chicken coop for themselves for the poultry project; a woman from the US (we can’t find out her name) hired a maid for the family to look after James and cook and clean for them; the executive director of TASO Uganda donated clothes; Martha and Kelly set up a bank account for the family; and now the boys can sleep easier because they also have beds, thanks to the caring and generous people in the USA.
Robert and Charles assist TASO counselor Martha with unloading one of the boys’ new beds.
Martha said she feels full of joy.
“God is great,” she said as were driving with bouncing beds on the roof. “Just a few years ago these boys were helpless. They were wearing tattered clothes, they had nothing to eat and their house was falling apart. They were hopeless.”
Martha was there when the boys’ mother died, one week before she was set to begin her ARV treatment. She swore she wouldn’t abandon these children. For these counselors, it’s not a job, it’s a passion.
James curled himself up on his new bed frame and mattress and smiled.
Some people in Uganda have difficulty showing emotion at times, but Martha assures us that the boys are truly happy. This support helps to give them confidence.
The boys will continue to grow and become strong men – strong for each other with brotherly love that inspires us all.
Happy birthday Scott
I could hear Colin laughing really hard as he read the “Roosters” blog entry. He said, “Kelly, do you know what the National Football League is? Dr. Wonekha was not a recruiter either, he was a recruitee of the Ugandan national football (soccer) team.” I’m not into sports, except basketball. Go Caz (short for Cavs)!
Vaska’s younger brother boldly selects the most intimidating, brightly-crowned rooster of the bunch.
Last week, I developed a peculiar rash-like, pus-filled, reddish infection on the inside of my elbow. From the start it seemed weird and I wondered about life without a left arm. It puzzled the doctors at CURE and TASO, but they reached a general consensus that it was the work of an insect, probably a Nairobi Fly. I took some antibiotics, and I am happy to report that I will keep my arm, the pain is gone, and the scar is beautiful. Now, poultry project business…
This week we set out on Monday to deliver exotic breed roosters (note: to satisfy Colin, we will start referring to male chickens as roosters instead of cocks) to 15 of the participating families that lost their roosters to sickness. Our journey began at 8am, but we didn’t leave TASO until noon. We planned on picking up the birds and our project consultant, Dr. Wonekha, at his office in Sironko. When we arrived, we learned that over the weekend his stock of roosters was sold and he was out looking for replacements. Our deliveries were postponed to Tuesday. We were bummed. I worried because I wanted an opportunity to visit the children once more before we leave next week. Muzaki and Charity reassured us, telling us that we could complete the deliveries in one day. We went home disappointed, but with a sprinkle of hope.
We got a much earlier start and left TASO at 9:30am sharp. Dr. Wonekha waited for us at his office in Sironko with a handmade wicker basket full of roosters. We loaded the vehicle, and by noon we delivered 5 birds. The families greeted us welcoming arms. We visited families living in the foothills of Mt. Elgon and families living north of Mbale.
The family of 11 orphans gathers with their new rooster. (Not pictured: Apiot Agnes, the eldest sister and primary participant of the project)
Dr. Wonekha told us more about himself too. Turns out, he is a veterinary surgeon. Once, he operated on a lion. He said he prefers general veterinary medicine to those high-risk surgeries. A self-proclaimed man of the people, he has dedicated his life to helping his fellow Ugandans out of poverty. We thought he was solely employed by FARMAfrica, buy he works as a consultant with several other sustainable agriculture development organizations, mainly in the field.
Colin and Dr. Wonekha are awed by Christy’s soccer talents.
A former football player at Makerere University and National Football League recruiter, Dr. Wonekha used his soccer skills to engage and entertain some of the children. He took a special interest in Jude Engole’s younger brother, Christy. He told Colin that Christy has a rare talent as a left-handed player. He promised Christy he’d put him on a team We are really excited that Dr. Wonekha is working on this project.
Dr. Wonekha plays a traditional Ugandan instrument at Charles and James’ house.
It was so refreshing to deliver birds with someone that actually understands poultry farming and is able to give quick, useful advice. And, he let each participant select their rooster of choice. Which brings me to Shamim…bright, rambunctious, shining Shamim. When we pulled up to her house, she ran out screaming. She ran back inside soon after realizing she was only wearing her underwear. I came to the rescue with the special rainbow dress that Theresa (my sister) sent for her. With her new dress and her vibrant personality, she hopped into the TASO vehicle to greet everyone. She selected her rooster with a quick scan of the birds in the basket; she chose the most unique one of the bunch.
Shamim makes everyone feel good. She’s like a rainbow.
After handing the rooster to her granny, she leaped out of the vehicle and started running towards the road. Everyone called out, “Shamim, where are you going…come back.” She just smiled and kept running, on the lookout for her favorite person, her grandpa. Although she couldn’t find him, she was determined to keep us there until he came home. Colin and the TASO counselors had to pry us apart. After a brief song session and several hugs and photos, we tried to leave. Shamim ran out in front of the TASO vehicle for one last handshake and goodbye smile.
Shamim and I are kindred spirits (as my mom would say).
By 8pm, we finished all the deliveries. Rashid and Emma got their roosters in the dark. The family with 11 orphans brought out their soccer ball from last year to show off their new skills. Speciosa wore the necklace she made with the beads we gave her. Charles and James joined the rest of their brothers for a long awaited photo (my mom and sister Emily kept asking, “so, where are Charles and James’ brothers that you always talk about?!. Unfortunately, this photograph can be viewed on Colin’s next blog posting. Stay tuned…
Speciosa looking beautiful in yellow rain gear.
Lona and Yekosophat send their love to everyone in Ohio. Violet and Vaska missed the opportunity to handpick their roosters, but their brothers were around to do it for ‘em. Hanania still has his rooster from last year, but we gave him a special visit – he’s doing well and TASO is trying to get him back in school.
Yekosophat smiles at Colin while they play catch together.
Akido Betty left school to get her rooster. We delivered 12 roosters, drove hundreds of kilometers, crossed terrible roads, and suffered whiplash from driving fast over lake-sized pot holes. It’s not over yet. The project is just beginning, and it’s off to a great start. Dr. Wonekha will purchase 63 hens (3 for each of the 21 participating families). During the first month of the hens’ lives, he will administer vaccinations, parasite control meds, high quality feeds, and special care to ensure the longevity of the hens. Next, Dr. Wonekha trains TASO staff on effective poultry management, monitoring, and evaluation. On Saturday 7 July 2007, the 21 families will meet again at TASO for another workshop on hatching, egg handling, record keeping, and disease management. After the workshop they will receive their 3 hens. A final workshop will be held in September. For the remainder of the year, TASO staff and Dr. Wonekha plan on visiting the homes often to assess progress and address problems and needs.
Hanania models his new raincoat. TASO plans to place him in school next term.
As our time here comes to a close, we are a bit overwhelmed with all the commitments we continue to make – school fees here, medical expenses there, food all the time. We can’t possibly help everyone, but we’ve gotten a lot done. We’ve strengthened relationships with folks at TASO and project participants. It is evident that these are lifelong relationships. Mbale is another place like home. People keep suggesting we make it our permanent home. That won’t happen, but I do want to see how all these children progress through life. I want to hear about their graduations, first dates, university acceptance letters, job offers, babies…we’ll come back. My sister and her husband will visit. Other family and friends will visit the next year. TASO staff and project participants will have the opportunity to visit the US…these are our dreams.
I hope to grow our efforts in Mbale into a foundation by January 2008.
Colin and I enjoy some food at Nurali’s after a long day.
Christy, Speciosa and Jude huddle around the goat they purchased with poultry project profits.
When I received the first letter from Jude, I wept. Grateful, good Jude wrote about his struggles as a teenage parent to siblings, about the hard work of subsistence farming, and about his dreams to become a doctor. Jude Engole was the only poultry project participant that wrote me. (NOTE: sending a letter to the US costs 2000 USh; many poultry project participants may lack stationary and/or transport to the post office…etc.) Jude continued to send updates throughout the year and I was so anxious to get back to Uganda to visit with him. The letter sent in December had messages from Jude, his sisters Speciosa and Maria, and his brother Christy. They wrote, “you are our mother and father.”
On Sunday, Jude invited us to visit him at his home in Ajuket. Currently in secondary school in Mbale, Jude only goes home on weekends when transport money is available. He was so eager to get back to the village to see his youngest siblings, Speciosa and Christy. Maria, the second born, is also away at secondary school.
Driving along the main (paved) road near Jude’s home, we got a phone call from one of Jude’s late father’s colleagues, Alex. He assured us that Jude would meet us to direct us to the home. Alex is a father and a teacher, but he finds time to assist Jude in so many ways. Alex helped Jude write me letters. Alex helped Jude open a bank account. Alex is a good man.
The peaceful, spacious front porch of Jude’s home.
Jude’s house is really nice – front porch, great view, four large rooms, and spotless. A crucifix hangs on the living room wall, adorned with the St. Theresa prayer card my mother, Kathleen Flamos, gave them. There are photos of Jude and his siblings. A teddy bear hangs by a string on a nail, as decoration. The girls share a bedroom; so do the boys. Their pet dog sleeps on the porch, while Christy feeds millet to the pigeons he keeps. Speciosa helps an auntie prepare lunch. Jude cuts and slices the juiciest, most delicious mangos ever for his guests. Colin and I indulge. Then comes the pineapple. And some roasted corn cobs. Organic food at it its finest.
Speciosa and Kelly.
After some chatting and a tour of the property, we sat in the living room and enjoyed the fruit and conversations. Jude showed us photos of his late parents. His mother died “when we were young”. His father died just recently in 2005. (Ages of the children: Jude,19; Maria, 17; Speciosa, 15; Christy, 13) Jude’s father used to sit them down in the living room each night and share his wisdom and guidance. He told them that no matter what they should always be together. He charged Jude with the responsibility of keeping the family united. Jude said that he advised him to be weary of aunts, uncles, and others trying to take them in. One day, Jude went to an aunt’s house and before he got through the door she asked him to fetch water. According to Jude, that example illustrates exactly why his father told him to focus on work that will benefit the family, not an aunt only. A priest from the UK built the family’s home a few years ago. Their parish priest assists with family counseling, school fees, and other various needs. Their network of support is strong and reliable, yet Jude continues to bear the burden of being a mother and father to three, making good marks at school, and being the main provider.
Jude can’t stop laughing when asked to smile for a picture with his sister, Maria.
I noticed Jude’s black watch band and I wondered if it was the watch I wore last summer; I had forgotten who I gave it to. Well, hours later, I asked Jude for the time. He turned over his arm to reveal the face of the watch and I knew it wasn’t my old timepiece. The digital watch showed the time and a flashing “I love (something written in arabic)” over the face of Osama Bin Laden. I chuckled and he asked me what was funny. I asked him if he knew the man on his watch. He said no. He did, however, know about September 11th. He said he borrowed the watch from a friend at school for the weekend. He seemed embarrassed. We told him that such a watch could bring terrible consequences to someone in our country. For him, it’s just a watch with a random man on it. He only wanted to look nice for us.
Jude’s accidental accessory.
Before we left, we gave the family some gifts: clothes, books from Colin’s mom Loretta, beads for jewelry making, soap, magazines, calculator, bookbag, and some special gifts for the baby-Christy.
First, Colin handed Christy a brand-new socceer ball. Christy flashed a huge smile and ran outside to play. We called him back in to give him a harmonica. We figured he, like Peter, didn’t know about harmonicas. He opened the box and smiled again. Jude started laughing really hard. He told us a story…
Christy stands proud next to Colin. Christy, Jude, Maria, and Speciosa love Colin…they told him so.
One day, some boy in their village was playing a weird instrument and all the children gathered around him to get a peek at the shiny music-maker and hopefully give it a try. Christy, among the crowd of curious children, took a special interest in the strange noise machine – a harmonia. But the child playing the harmonica was greedy and mean and he refused to share. Christy devised a plan. Christy is a star socceer player and everyone wants him on their team, so he thought he would call a game. He kept an eye on the harmonica hog to see where he set his belongings before the match. Once the game was in full swing, Christy tip-toed off the field to the tree shading the precious harmonica. He was a natural. He loved this cool instrument, but knew his playing time would be stopped once the harmonica hog heard the music. But now, Christy has his own harmonica. And he’s good. He also said he’ll share it.
Christy beams with joy, happy to show off his socceer skills to his new friend, Colin.
Jude travelled with us back to Mbale. He asked us to help him with purchasing two cell phones, one for him and the other for Speciosa. He wants to keep in contact with them in case of an emergency or minor problems that he could help them with over the phone. He said he worries too much about them and he can’t wait two to three weeks without knowing if they’re ok. We can get them both nice Nokia phones for $60 each. There are no Sprint or Verizon monthly service plans here; rather, you buy airtime (minutes) on the street, in shops, anywhere. Jude loves his brother and sisters. They have so much fun together and their bond is unbreakable.
Jude is fulfilling his promise to his father everyday…he’s keeping his family together no matter what.
Mzee Boazi extends a compassionate hand to sweet Wickliff. Boazi cares for his son’s 10 children. Boazi finds himself caring for toddlers again. Boazi is 78 years old.
To follow up with the PRID (Poverty Reduction Initiative and Development) and the current coffee project, today at the rooster’s call we left for Kimaluli to sit in on a PRID meeting. Kelly, Miriam from the CURE Hospital, John and his wife Gertrude and I piled into a mini-van taxi that John found for hire. When we arrived, we parked and moseyed down a path toward the coffee plants which had been started nearly one year ago.
Miriam displays a fresh pod of beans. These beans beat canned kidney beans anyday.
A short, pudgy and cute young boy appeared from around one of the bends in the path, and I heard Kelly shout his name in her excited voice. “Wycliffe!” He cautiously walked toward us with his grandmother, Alice, behind him. Wycliffe is the young boy that Kelly and John met last year, when he was dying from malnourishment and anemia. John hurried him to medical assistance, and he survived.
Wycliffe is four years old, and looks like he is two.
Wycliffe enjoys a ride on Colin’s shoulders.
He doesn’t speak much, but he loved the fact that I carried him all day. In fact, he clung to me, and this was among the few times I saw him smile.
Wycliffe is caught smiling and playing with pals during the PRID meeting.
We made our way to a church, where the PRID meetings are held, and where Mzee Dasan is the pastor. Kelly rolled out a soccer ball and the more than 50 children in attendance went nuts. The meeting began with everyone, including children, introducing themselves. John then explained to the orphaned children and village members that PRID was beginning a new and invigorated coffee project that would have long-term benefits to the community. HIV/AIDS is a problem here, and one of the main reasons that children are orphaned, and one of the concerns is how will children raise coffee without parents.
Alice is Wycliffe’s grandmother and sole caregiver. She tries her hardest to care for Wycliffe and his older brother, but aging bones and diminished energy levels seem to get in the way.
One of the mzees, Dasan, reassured boardmembers that PRID will not simply act as cash crop, but as a way for children to receive guidance. “If parents died from HIV the clan will not perish,” he said. “The father will die, the mother will die, but the children will inherit this land. We can be the guardians of these children.”
PRID: a community based organization!
It is completely obvious that the boardmembers of PRID have their soul invested in what they are doing. They have made a life’s effort to care and love for impoverished children. Mzee Boaz is raising 10 of his grandchildren orphaned by AIDS, so he can empathize with the plight of the villagers. Mzee Dasan also has taken responsibility for many of the village’s orphans.
Peter tells Miriam and Colin that his favorite school subject is English; his superb command of the English language, and his wide vocabulary make it obvious.
During the meeting, Peter, one of Kelly’s efforts last year, came in wearing a giant smile. Last year, Peter – who John said will someday be “king of the village” because of his incredible intelligence – missed months of school because of an infection on his leg that prevented him from movement.
Colin teaches Peter about the harmonica.
Kelly and John saw to it that his leg be healed and he received medical treatment. He now is the fourth in class rank for his amazing grades. Kelly gave him some gifts, including a harmonica, and he received them with grace and appreciation.
Wycliffe is introduced at the meeting as a potential PRID beneficiary and a dear friend of the visitors (Kelly, Colin, and Miriam).
It is children like Wycliffe and Peter who will benefit from PRID and the coffee projects. There are 10,000 coffee plant seedlings, ready to be planted to assist some needy families. PRID is investigating the purchase of land – for a headquarters and demonstration farm to plant coffee seedlings, before being given to needy families. Kelly and I hope to provide some assistance to PRID, which includes the land purchase of an acre; quality top soil; bicycles and additional coffee plants.
John Busoolo exhibits the premium potting soil destined for use in the coffee project.
We will do our best to help getting the project off the ground. “At PRID, we thought we had to do something,” John said during the meeting. “We are fighting poverty, but we are also helping these children’s minds – PRID fights by planning ahead.”
This road is closed, but another one is open.
Today, after hours of attempting to negotiate a bank account for PRID, we were finally successful.
Our day started at 8:30 a.m. John Busolo woke us at the CURE Hospital guest house. (Kelly had actually been awake for more than an hour)
8:45 a.m.: We were elated to learn about our triumphant Cleveland Cavaliers’ resounding victory in the drag-em-through-the-mud motor city of Detroit. I danced around the guest house.
8:50: We walked to the gate to meet John and a couple of the PRID Boardmembers, who John refers to as the mzee’s. (Mzee means “old man” in Swahili (pronounced moo-zay) and is a term of endearment and respect for elders.) These men had come the day before, but discovered they needed photos for an account, so they slept at John’s house because the distance to their home is too far. These guys are cool; they dressed in their nicest business clothes, and they carry themselves like men who have worked hard their whole lives. Kelly and I walked through downtown Mbale (one mile) with John, Mzee Dasan and Mzee Boaz.
Colin stumbles upon a long lost cousin from Louisiana; cuz offers to give Colin his cool track-suit.
9:00: Boaz and Dasan needed to pick up their passport photos to present them at the bank to start a bank account, which we would find to be a more difficult challenge than we expected.
9:15: We arrived at our first choice for a bank, Centenaray Rural Development Bank, because of its local roots in the community — and access to Western Union.
9:25: We wait to speak to someone — the lines to speak to a bank representative are unusually long. Things in Uganda take a long time to accomplish, I just learn the hard way.
Boazi and Dasan travelled many miles to Mbale to further the growth and impact of the community-based organization (PRID) they helped found.
10:05: John and Kelly approach a banker, who gives a list — as long as the bank lines — of requirements to open a bank account. Requirements included (but were not limited to) a letter of recommendation, a formal resolution seeking to acquire a bank account and lists of people who approve of PRID having such an account. It seemed like a lot to ask for a bank account. Kelly and I suspected conspiracy.
10:06: It was agreed that we would try another bank.
10:10: We arrive at a neighboring bank, Stanbic Bank, a South African bank. Stanbic is popular among the local Ugandans, because of its accessibility to local farmers and working-class people. Another plus for Stanbic is that they have sister banks all over the world. And, most importantly, its list of demands for membership were not nearly as long, or scary, as Centenaray Rural Development Bank. The line to speak with someone was scary; but we patiently waited.
10:20: I share my excitement about “King James” and the Cavaliers with an unequally amused Kelly.
11:00: We learn that we do need to find the mzees’ photo identification in order to open account. John decides it best to travel alone back to the village of Kimaluli to retrieve the IDs. Dasan and Boaz are tired from standing all morning and proceed to find some shade and a bite to eat. Meanwhile Kelly and I decided to make our way to TASO to see what is happening.
12:15 p.m.: When we found an empty TASO (because everyone was at community outreach), we decided we would go our separate ways; I would go and continue working on a column (and reading Cavs columns) and she would pick up some items for PRID and some of the children at TASO.
Colin takes a sip of the best Ugandan coffee ever!
1:30: Kelly and I were reunited at Nurali’s, a local restaurant and cafe. We walked back to Stanbic Bank to finish the process. Mbale is booming.
2:00: The five of us are reunited at the bank and we proceed to wait in line for a very long time.
2:15: Inside the bank, I noticed the NCAA lacrosse championship between Johns Hopkins and Duke Universities on the television in the lobby.
2:30: Duke lost and I returned to find the group still waiting to speak with a bank representative. I wonder if LeBron were here, if he would make this process quicker.
Boazi pushes through the thick crowd of eager Friday bank customers to flash me a smile.
4:00: We began our business of setting up a savings and a checking account, with the bank’s financial advisor, Ismail. At first, Ismail was telling us that we didn’t have the proper credentials, sending fear through us, because he was starting to sound like the other bank.
Colin tells Dasan about the Cavs. Dasan tells Colin about his disdain for long lines and banks.
He appeared frustrated by the hundreds of other patrons waiting to speak with him, and literally throwing money at him. But after things settled down, he reassured us that we could begin a bank account today, but first we needed to change PRID’s consitution to include the words “Stanbic Bank.” He was serious. So we took him seriously. We were worried because the two “old men” had to travel hours to Mbale to do this business, and wouldn’t be able to make the journey again any time soon. Ismail collected their signatures and allowed them to travel back to their village.
A smart sign promotes smart business services.
5:00: We set about changing the wording on the documents and finalizing the account. The secretary/copier/typist person Ismail had sent us to was supposed to be “quick” and “reliable,” but took an eternity to finish to reword two documents. No worries, Kelly had her camera.
5:45: John, Kelly and I grabbed the completed documents and we ran to the bank before Ismail left. I felt like LeBron James dashing to the basket for the game-winning lay-up. We snuck in the doors. Slam dunk. We did it. We started a bank account for PRID. And since my bank will only let me take out 200 Ugandan shillings ($100) per day, we will have to be busy withdrawing money for PRID for a few days to help them with the coffee project. Wickliff and Peter will be among the many children benefiting from PRID projects!
Colin meets Protus, a poultry project participant, on the streets of Mbale.
During the day we walked and encountered many people on the crowded streets of Mbale that we know from our short time here. Among them was Protus, one of the poultry project participants; Ajit, the owner of the Landmark Restaurant; and Sarah, one of the TASO counselors, who has been very supportive of the poultry project. We feel as if this is our second home, and we are welcomed.