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.
June 13th, 2007