the poultry project

Eric Wafana b.2002 – d.2012

June 14th, 2012

This week, Peter Welikhe (Poultry Project’s Uganda Director) shared some devastating news with us. Eric Wafana, age 10, passed away. Eric and his mother, Sophie, joined the Poultry Project  back in 2006. Sophie worked hard to grow her project, purchase a cow with profits and in 2011, she bought a small coffee farm.

When we met Eric, he was just a toddler. Last summer, he was a robust youth, doing well in school and full of smiles. Despite access to ARVs, medical care and education and the unconditional love and support of a powerful, courageous mother, Eric could not fight the odds against him. We don’t have all the details, but it is likely that TB, malaria or another curable, communicable disease weakened his compromised immune system.

One of the main purposes of the Poultry Project is to spread awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Stigma, controversy and ignorance still hinder national and international prevention efforts. Aid dollars often never reach the folks, like Eric, in need. And then there’s a plethora of historical, structural, economic and political issues that complicate HIV/AIDS prevention, service, and treatment. Add extreme poverty, weak social/medical/academic infrastructure, malaria and TB to the mix and it seems like Eric was up against the world.

It’s days like these that make us recognize the fragility and miracle of life. We are humbled to have walked hand-in-hand with Eric.  And we honor Eric, his family, his mother, his fight, his life. Rest in peace, sweet Eric.

FacebookTwitterGoogle GmailPrintFriendlyShare

Chicken Delivery II

July 13th, 2011

Peter sent more photos of the chicken delivery. Now, all the families in Soroti, Tororo and Mbale have their 5 chickens (4 hens + 1 rooster) and a gorgeous chicken coop designed by Emily Axtman. Thanks to all of the Poultry Project’s donors, supporters, and the amazing team at TASO for making this Expansion + Coop Build Initiative a success!

FacebookTwitterGoogle GmailPrintFriendlyShare

Meet the Team: Emily Pavlick

June 17th, 2011

Emily Pavlick is a nutritionist, aspiring ayurvedic chef, master granola baker and yoga instructor by trade. But its her immense heart and compassion, her warm presence and careful touch, her understanding eyes and unwavering generosity, her open mind and unwavering determination, and her belief in the connectedness of humanity that make her work with the Poultry Project so important.

Emily helped start the Poultry Project back in 2006, two years before she stepped foot on Ugandan soil. She was moved to act when she learned about AIDS orphans and their caregivers struggling to make ends meet during that first summer when the project was just a dream. She wanted to make sure that James, a 5 year old boy who had lost both parents to AIDS, had access to food and transportation to his clinic appointments at TASO for meds and TB treatment. She wanted to help Hanania get a roof over his head and help Jude care for his younger siblings. As a full-time student and waitress in Boston, she used whatever spare minutes she had to raise money to get the project going. She baked and sold her granola, asked friends and professors for support, and sent hundreds of emails. Fundraising is hard work, but Emily knew that at that time, it was the best way for her to help. When she finally got to Uganda, she worked hard to add 6 families to the project, build a house and restore a roof for some of the participants, provide basic nutrition counseling and education to participants and TASO staff, and work with her husband, Joe, to devise a division and savings match program for the farmers, strengthening their support network and adding incentives for saving money. This year, she planned an amazing fundraiser at the Woods in Brooklyn, baked almost 50 lbs of granola to sell, planned and co-facilitated the new farmer workshops, and took a month of unpaid leave from her job at the New York City Health Department to go to Uganda to build coops, lead workshops, add families to the project and do a little bit of nutrition counseling.

Whether shes in Uganda or stateside, Emily makes herself available to do any task. A jack of all trades, she gets the job done with grace and efficiency. Sometimes the work is hard and it brings her to her knees. At these times, after a child has passed due to an AIDS-related illness or she sees a child with malnourishment and stunted growth, Emily tries to stay strong, but the tears flow and feelings of helplessness and even failure creep in. “Are we doing enough?” she’ll ask. Together, we realize that we are doing the best we can, that we cannot erase suffering or stamp out poverty, and that we can seek change within ourselves. Having these conversations, grieving together, encouraging each other to move forward, celebrating the successes, making life-long friends with the farmers and TASO staff, and knowing that we have changed their lives and they have changed ours–these are some of our personal benefits from this work.

 

FacebookTwitterGoogle GmailPrintFriendlyShare

Meet the Team: Emily Axtman

June 15th, 2011

Emily Axtman (a DesignCorps fellow) submitted one of the winning designs for our Chicken Coop Design Competition. We asked Emily to work on a design for a chicken coop that could be used by our farmers in Uganda. She jumped at the opportunity, because she is committed to public service and she believes that design can promote social, economic and environmental change. Before her work in Uganda, she designed and built chicken coops for migrant farmers in rural North Carolina. After Uganda, she went to Austin, TX where she’s participating in the Public Interest Design Program. She’s part of a growing community of architects and designers making big change with small scale projects.

In the months leading up to her volunteer stint in Uganda, she read books on the region and HIV/AIDS in Africa, researched materials and construction methods common in rural Uganda, communicated with our partners in Mbale to learn more about Ugandan poultry farming and building practices and designed a model for the Poultry Project coop. Once in Uganda, Emily and the team got to work. Emily conducted a workshop with Poultry Project farmers to refine the coop and make sure it fit the farmers’ needs. With a few changes and three days of hard work, the demonstration coop was complete and the on-site coop builds at farmers’ homes began. Emily helped train the build team and together, they built 7 coops.
Emily exudes creativity, curiosity, ambition and compassion. She approaches her work with the utmost sincerity, humility, dedication and focus. She never presumed that she had all the answers and she frequently sought feedback from the build team and the farmers. She rarely put down her hammer to take a break. I loved watching her teach the Poultry Project farmers and beneficiaries how to build, use and maintain the coop. It was amazing to see a group of people turn a pile of wooden poles, a roll of wire mesh, papyrus, nails and a tin roof into a gorgeous, streamlined chicken house. And after the roof was put on the coop and the last touches and adjustments were made, we drove away from the home feeling proud about what we built, together.

Emily created this graphic to illustrate how a Poultry Project farmer uses their initial flock of 5 chickens to generate a lasting source of income and nutrition.

“The chicken coops that were built over the course of the project stand as a tangible product representing a system designed to provide the necessary resources for the participants to bring themselves out of poverty.”  – an excerpt from Emily Axtman’s blog.

Emily loved learning how to use a panga, so much that she took one home in her suitcase. The fresh pineapple in Mbale made her happy and before she left, she walked to the market to buy one for us to share. We wanted her to cut it up with her panga, but she used a kitchen knife instead. She’s saving the panga for building more life-changing, community-enhancing structures. Thank you, Emily!

[Photos 1, 3, 4 by Emily Pavlick; Pineapple photo by Kevin Kopanski]

FacebookTwitterGoogle GmailPrintFriendlyShare

Meet the Team: Eric, John and Milton

June 9th, 2011


Eric

Eric and John are both supported by the TASO Mbale school fees assistance program. Peter (manager of the school fees assistance program) recruited them to join the build team, because he knew they wanted and needed part-time jobs. Eric helped build the model coop and during his school break he worked with the build team to build over 10 coops. He’s back at school now and John will take his place. Eric and John have parents living with HIV/AIDS, which is why they receive support from TASO. Milton lives in Tororo and he lost his father to AIDS-related illness. His mother was in an abusive relationship and disappeared, leaving Milton all alone. TASO Tororo helps him with his school fees and he boards at school, for free.


John

Being part of the build team has been a formative experience for these young men. They’re learning building, design and teamwork skills. They also make some money. And they get to do this while helping others. It’s a great service learning opportunity and we’re happy Peter had the foresight to include Eric, John and Milton in the project. Emily Axtman became really close with David and Eric during the builds and on her last work day in Uganda, she got to build a coop in Soroti with just David and Eric. She said they moved so gracefully through the process, without distractions from a dozen neighborhood children clamoring to play with the tools or me and Emily taking a million photos. David and Eric taught Emily how to use a panga and she taught them a trick or two about building and design. Joe and David, despite the language barriers, formed a strong bond too. Joe used to work in construction in the US, so he was able to share some tips in exchange for panga lessons. It was a mutual learning experience for the whole team and friendships were made. After each build, the exhausted, starving team would go to the best, local Ugandan-food restaurant to eat rice, beans, matoke and chapati. The favorite spot for the post-build meal: Tower Restaurant in Mbale (around the corner from the clock tower).

Loading and unloading heavy wooden poles and planks, traveling for hours in the back of the truck under the hot sun (or torrential rains), working nonstop to get the coop up in 4 hours, cleaning up the build site mess and getting ready for the next build, always with a smile–thank you Eric, Milton and John for your hard work!

Joe, Eric, David, Milton, and Emily A.

FacebookTwitterGoogle GmailPrintFriendlyShare

Meet the Team: Peter Welikhe

June 6th, 2011

In 2007, Peter became the Social Support Officer at TASO Mbale and took on full responsibility for the on-the-ground management of the Poultry Project as our Regional Manager. Peter is the best! He has his hands full with providing support services to thousands of TASO clients, managing the Poultry Project, working on a Master’s Degree, and being a family man. He continues to amaze us with his enviable management savvy, vision, creativity, compassion and a relentless commitment to serving others. As they often say in Uganda, “I do not have words,” we too cannot find the words to express our gratitude and appreciation to Peter for sharing his time, intelligence, spirit and energy with the Poultry Project. Thank you, Peter.

 

FacebookTwitterGoogle GmailPrintFriendlyShare

Poultry Project Farmer-Appreciation Day, Mbale

June 3rd, 2011

The Poultry Project expanded its services to TASO centers in Soroti and Tororo this year, but our roots are in Mbale. We planned a party/workshop for our Mbale farmers to create an opportunity for the old and new farming families to meet, have fun and spend a little time talking about poultry farming. Lona, one of the original farmers, sang a song of appreciation to the Poultry Project. She’s a single mother with two children and she has grown her small flock of chickens into a successful business, acquiring several goats and a cow. Her oldest child, Yekosophat, is at the top of his class and their poultry business made regular school attendance possible. Several of the original farmers stood up to share their experiences, challenges and goals. The new families asked questions and relationships were formed. Peter and Joe went over the savings match program with the participants and awarded prizes for Farmers of the Year. Steven and Sophie were the 2011 winners and they each received leather-band watches–something they said they needed and loved but would never buy for themselves.

It was really amazing to be in Mbale five years after the first Poultry Project workshop, to see our friends and learn about their achievements with their poultry businesses, to be able to work with more families and to watch the children grow. But several children were missing from the party. Between 2007 and 2011, five of the original Poultry Project beneficiaries died from AIDS-related illness. Before the party, we were in Peter’s office working on some project reports and I noticed a small note and photograph laying on top of a box of tools. I recognized the photo, so I picked it up. It was a note I wrote to John Natule back in late 2007 along with a photo taken of John and his uncle (also his guardian, both his parents died from AIDS-related illness). It was a short note telling John that we’re thinking about him and we hope that he’s in school and working hard. I asked him questions about his day; what is he in to; how is the family; how’s the poultry – are they laying, is he eating the eggs, selling the eggs, etc; what does he want to be; where does he want to go.

John died in 2008 at the age of 1o or 11. TASO counselors worked hard to ease the tensions in the household, as John was treated differently than his cousins because of his HIV+ status. I felt sad reading that letter. The letter was almost laughable, like how is this silly letter going to make a difference, how is the poultry business going to make a difference. I felt so helpless and inadequate. Francis, a TASO counselor, came into the office and immediately became aware of me and my little moment with the note. He knew I was upset and he took the note from my hand. He remembered John. I told Francis how I was having a hard time understanding and dealing with all the emotions involved in working with sick children. He didn’t have any answers about why John died and other HIV+ children thrive, or why babies are still  being born every hour with HIV in Africa even though it’s totally preventable, or why children suffer abuse from family members, or why some children have access to everything they need and others don’t. He just gave me a hug. He deals with death, sickness and extreme poverty everyday. He’s not immune to its emotional toll, but the work has hardened him. I didn’t feel better, I just felt numb. It’s easy to ignore these realities when I’m home in Ohio in my comfy house, with access to everything I need and the security of knowing that if there was a major tragedy, I have a support network that is unbreakable. I have never starved nor have I ever put a starving baby to bed. I have had my share of suffering, just different kinds. Having the workshop after reading that letter made me feel hopeful and inspired. I met so many women and children determined to work hard and to not let life’s obstacles get in the way. I remembered the reasons why we started the Poultry Project–to give HIV/AIDS-affected children and their caregivers an opportunity to earn income. It’s really simple and it’s been working. Everyday, we are trying to improve our service delivery by strengthening capacity building trainings, improving the assets we give the families (i.e. healthy chickens, chicken coops), conducting in-depth monitoring and evaluation, and diversifying our funding sources. We have all come a long way and we’re going to keep moving forward.

The party ended with a moving performance by the TASO Mbale Drama Group…

[Photos by Kevin Kopanski]

FacebookTwitterGoogle GmailPrintFriendlyShare

Mary Helen + Soroti Capacity Building Workshop

May 30th, 2011

Mary Helen is the Soroti chairperson for the Poultry Project. She lives with 4 of her 6 children and 3 grandchildren in a two-room, tattered-roof mud hut in front of Soroti rock. She refers to her home as “temporary housing,” but she’s been there since 2003. The Lords Resistance Army (LRA) invaded her village (and several neighboring villages) and launched a campaign of mass lootings, killings and child abductions. Over 250,000 people fled their homes to escape the violence and pillage. She dreams of resettling soon, but resettlement requires money to rebuild.

Shortly after she left the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camp, she settled in Soroti town.  Her husband is deceased and she’s been on her own for almost ten years. Mary Helen is a certified midwife and has attended to hundreds of births. She fell ill and when she went to the clinic she found out she was HIV+. Then she lost her job because of her HIV positive status. Mary Helen is pushing forward and hopes to reenter the medical workforce someday. She’s already begun doing odd jobs at the TASO Soroti center in the pharmacy and clinic. In the meantime, she has several children to feed, cloth, shelter and educate and she is determined to make her poultry business grow and succeed.


After the Soroti Poultry Project Training Workhshop last week, the team realized that the Soroti might need an extra push to get their project going. The TASO Soroti Project Officer, Paul, and Peter worked together to organize an intimate workshop for five of the participants facilitated by one of the Poultry Project’s most successful farmers, Steven, because he speaks Ateso and is eager to share his knowledge. The Poultry Project build team would construct Mary Helen’s chicken coop while Steven led a participatory workshop with Mary Helen and the five other participants.


Steven and the Soroti farmers gathered under a jambula (Syzygium cuminii) tree and shared their poultry farming experiences, challenges and goals. Steven is an enthusiastic, engaging educator. He put the Soroti farmers at ease and encouraged them to be open and active in the discussion. After they discussed poultry management, Steven gave them another overview of the savings match program and showed them how to maintain and clean the chicken coop. He reminded them that although we want to see the families acquire larger livestock (cows, goats, pigs), it is essential that they always maintain a flock of at least 5 chickens. He answered questions and told them how he grew his 5 chickens to a flock of over 60. He told them that he has been able to pay school fees for eight children with his poultry business profits. He told them that they can do it too.


The build went smoothly (I think Joe, David and John could build a coop blind-folded) and the drive back to Mbale was uneventful. Kevin got some quality one-on-one time with Robert, one of the project beneficiaries, and had a chance to give him a thorough introduction to professional photography (strobe lights, tripods, composition, light meters and all). We left Soroti feeling so proud and energized about having one of our original farmers train new participants. The Poultry Project is truly changing lives.

FacebookTwitterGoogle GmailPrintFriendlyShare

Build a Coop + Expansion – May 2011

March 4th, 2011

We’ve been working hard over the past few months to plan for our upcoming work trip to Uganda.

On the agenda:

1. Build a Coop 2011: Emily Axtman, the 2nd place winner of the Chicken Coop Design Competition, will go to Uganda to work with Poultry Project participants to design an easy-to-assemble, durable, efficient chicken coop made from local materials.  After the model coop is designed, Axtman will hold building workshops where participants will receive the materials and assistance to build their own coops.

2. Mbale Expansion: The team at TASO has identified 15 families to add to the project in the Mbale region.  In May, we will visit some of these families at their homes, procure and prepare the distribution of each families’ poultry business assets and host their first training workshop.  These added families will also receive supplies and instruction for building coops.

3. TASO Expansion: The success of the Poultry Project has been noticed by TASO’s executive leadership and they want us to begin working with other TASO branches (11 throughout Uganda).  Expansion to the Soroti and Tororo TASO branches is planned for May and we hope to plan to work with 15 families at each location.

To fund this huge endeavor, we have rallied our networks of friends, colleagues and family to spread the word about the Poultry Project and to get involved in our fundraising campaign.  We also have an event planned at the Woods in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), NY for early April – more details to come.

Ways to get involved:

1. Follow us on Facebook.

2. Become a part of our fundraising team on Crowdrise.

3. Donate $5, $10, $20, $100 – whatever you can give – at poultryproject.com

4. Spread the word!

Your compassionate concern and continued support help us give the HIV/AIDS-affected children of Uganda an opportunity to earn money, acquire farming and business skills and improve their lives.  We are forever grateful!

FacebookTwitterGoogle GmailPrintFriendlyShare

act now