the poultry project

The Ballad of the Mzee’s, Kelly and Colin

June 1st, 2007

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.

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