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.
June 6th, 2007