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.

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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!

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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.


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Meet the Team: Eric, John and Milton

June 9th, 2011


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.


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.

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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.


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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]

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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.

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May 26th, 2011

Proper nutrition is a critical component of care in people living with HIV/AIDS.  In partnership with USAID, TASO implemented a therapeutic feeding program to support malnourished child clients.  Each Tuesday and Thursday the clients gather in the children’s clinic and patiently wait to be seen by their counselors and physicians.  While waiting, a nutrition technician gathers anthropometric measures suchs height, weight and mid arm circumference.  These measures determine which children receive the high energy, fortified feeding packs called “Plumpy-Nut”.    The supplement is basically 3/4 cup of peanut butter with added milk powder, sugar, soybean oil, and vitamins & minerals.  Some children are prescribed up to five per day depending on their status.

In the past, all children who presented with moderate to severe malnutrition were given the supplements.  However, a recent cut-back in funding has made the cut-off more stringent and TASO can only provide supplements to those who are categorized as “severly malnourished.”

One of our newly added participants receives the nutrition services at TASO.  His name is Akoth – we met him at the Tororo workshop, he sat in the front row with his older sister.  At first glance, I thought he was around 8 or 9 years old.  His eyes are large, glassy and black, with a focused stare that seemed to look right through me.  His shoulders were narrow and the sleeves of his tee shirt fell past the elbow, hiding his bony forearms.  His chest would slowly rise with each inhale; labored breathing was apparent.  He would place his hands on his somewhat misshapen head to either stay awake or fight back the pain of a headache.  He seemed uncomfortable, so I quickly asked the counselor if there was anything we could do for the little boy.  She shared with me that this small child was hungry, he didn’t feel well and he in fact, was not a child, but 17 years old.  This was the first time that I’d seen such marked effects of undernutrition.  Akoth is HIV positive, has stunted growth and is severely anemic.

Childhood stunting is a reduced growth rate caused by malnutrition in early childhood or malnutrition during fetal development due to a malnourished mother.  Stunting and its effects are permanent.  Children who experience this nutrition-related disorder, in most cases, do not regain the height and weight lost as a result.  Overtime, the child will be faced with physical conditions that result in premature death because vital organs never fully develop.  Children born with HIV are at a higher risk for stunted growth because of their increased nutrient needs and compromised immune systems.

While TASO provides the therapeutic feeding program, it’s never enough for some children.  Due to extreme poverty, chronic illness and inadequate healthcare, some children will never get a chance at a normal childhood.

This post, and blog in general, is not a call for action from our readers.  Rather, an opportunity for the reader to imagine the reality as it exists here in Uganda and much of the developing world.

Akoth, 17

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May 25th, 2011

It’s hard to forget a girl like Shamim. Full of charisma, spirit, soul and cheer, her presence cannot be ignored. She is the star of TASO Mbale and, as we learned today, her village. It was the first time Emily and I had the chance to spend a whole day with our friend Shamim. While Joe, Kevin, David and Eric built the coop, we went exploring the village with Shamim. She took us up a steep, red-dirt road to her school, to her teacher’s house, to meet her friends and elders, to the clothing market and to meet her friend the tailor (she repurposed an abandoned truck cabin into a sewing studio). Everyone seemed to know Shamim and she greeted each acquaintance, relative and classmate with a handshake and smile. Every old man was introduced as her grandfather, adult women-auntie, and the old women were grandmothers. We walked back to her house to avoid the rain and spent the rest of the afternoon lounging under the trees on papyrus mats. Shamim speaks perfect English now, making it easy for us to communicate with her (ideally, we would speak her language, Lugisu). Back at the house, she shows us her recent school reports and they don’t match up with her obvious intellect. She’s been struggling at school lately because of sickness and the subsequent absences. And when she is at school, hunger, fatigue and ARV side effects affect her concentration. She kept telling us she was hungry, so we went back to the market and got her lunch and some bananas. When we returned to the house, she gave all the elders her food and left only a small portion for herself. This really bothered us, as we know that she needs every bite of protein, fat, and carbs she can get.

As we were loading up the car to leave, she pulled me and Emily aside for a confidential chat.  She gazed toward the ground and her smile faded as she told us her caregivers don’t love her and treat her poorly.  We didn’t have much time to gather more information before one of the elders came over and Shamim quickly changed the subject.  We have requested that a counselor speak with Shamim and her grandmother to figure out the whole situation and hopefully prevent any abuse, should that be the case.  It could also be that the caregivers are favoring the other children over Shamin, because of her HIV status.  It’s very common, for  the positive child to be treated differently, whether it be with access to school, food rations or the amount of housework given.  It’s really frustrating to not be able to solve all of Shamim’s problems right now. To make sure that she has the childhood she deserves. The Poultry Project is not going to bring Shamim’s parents back or take away her illness, but it will help her and her family make some money and it has the potential to flourish into a thriving business. Shamim’s family purchased a cow with profits from their poultry business and her enrollment at school, from P1 through P4 has been a direct result of the project. We are hopeful that the TASO counseling team will be able to identify and resolve the current issues the family is facing. Before we left, we hugged Shamim and told her that we love her and that everything will be okay-I hope we can keep our promise.

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Soroti Workshop + Build + Material Drop-off

May 24th, 2011

Last week, we held a training workshop for 10 new Poultry Project families in Soroti, a town west of Mbale. The 100 kilometer drive down Kumi Road was dotted with potholes and a speed bump every 25 meters.  Along the way we were able to take in the lush scenery including Lake Aoja, wide expanses of greenery where livestock grazed and rice paddies flourishing in the moist soils.  The Soroti TASO branch opened in 2005 and has already taken on a client load of 6,000.

Our team included Nova, Dr. Sakwa, Kevin, and me; Joe and Kelly were busy dropping off materials to the homes and building a coop. TASO Mbale counselor Nova works with the Therapuetic Feeding program for malnourished child clients.  Dr. Sakwa has been working with the Poultry Project since 2008 as our program Veterinarian.  He is 29 years old and graduated from Makere University, Uganda’s largest and most prestigious school.  He is always eager to join the team at workshops and never fails to deliver informative and detailed information to our participants on how to best keep their chickens.  When we arrived in Soroti we were given a warm welcome from Patrick, the TASO Soroti manager and long-time friend of Kelly.  He delivered a welcoming speech to new participants including stories of success from Mbale participants to increase interest in the project the children would soon be a part of.  While we snacked on warm chapati’s and freshly brewed black tea, we listened to the 3 hour lesson on proper chicken rearing.  Dr. Sakwa explained proper nutrition for the birds, how to mix feeds, the vaccination process, hygeine, housing and breeding. He said to the participants, “It’s not just me giving you my knowledge. You have knowledge about poultry too and I want to know about your experiences. We share knowledge.”

Just like the workshop in Tororo, the participants selected a chairperson. Mary Hellen Akol spoke throughout the workshop and when the time came to express interest in the chairperson role, her hand shot up and she enthusiastically volunteered for the position. Mary Hellen lives near the prominent, granite Soroti rock formation on the outskirts of town with her daughter, Cecilia Amunyir (Poultry Project beneficiary) and 5 younger children. The drop-off team told me that despite the heavy rain and messy mud, Mary Hellen and her children helped unload every piece of wood, mesh and papyrus for the coop. Her home is a small mud hut with a makeshift roof made of plastic tarps, tires, rice bags, grass and whatever else she can put there to keep the rains from coming in. Mary Hellen has kept chickens before, but disease and mismanagement affected her ability to ever make a significant profit from selling eggs. She told Dr. Sakwa that she learned a lot at the training and she is feeling confident about her ability to grow her 5 birds into a successful poultry business. The workshop ended with an overview from TASO counselors, discussing the next workshop time/date, distribution of bicycles and portraits by Kevin. The Soroti workshop didn’t run as smoothly as Tororo, but we are working with Peter to provide a little extra capacity building to ensure that the Soroti Poultry Project farmers have the support and resources they need to be successful.

While Kelly and Joe dropped off materials to 10 homes and Kevin and I facilitated the workshop, Emily A. worked with the build team (David, Eric and John) to build a coop for Poultry Project beneficiary, Vincent. Usually, the first coop build takes place at the chairperson’s home, but since Soroti is so far away and a chairperson hadn’t been selected it made sense to build a coop at a randomly selected home. Vincent is 14.  He lost his father to AIDS and now lives with his mother who is HIV+ and 6 siblings.  After his father passed, the family began to struggle paying for basic needs.  Borrowing and stealing in order to obtain enough food became a regular means of survival.  Stable housing is a luxury of the past.  Being a resourceful teen, Vincent began doing manual labor for a neighbor to earn extra money.  The neighbor later arranged for Vincent’s family to move into their home.  Although the home is safe, Vincent’s family worries about the future, should  the well-wisher decide the family of 8 should leave. It is our hope, that participation in the Poultry Project will help Vincent and his family earn enough income to become self-sufficient and not have to struggle to eat, go to school and pay medical fees. And maybe, they’ll make enough money to build their own home.

Kelly, Joe and TASO Soroti Project Manager Paul delivered coop materials to 10 homes. With one home nearly 60km from town and a late start, the drop-off took nearly 12 hours. Joe unloaded materials for 5 families in the rain (Kelly helped with a few, but she focused on meeting with the families and staying dry). Meanwhile, Emily A. and the build team waited at Vincent’s house for the truck. They finished building the coop around 6pm, but didn’t get picked up until 9pm. The family kept insisting that they spend the night and declining their generous hospitality proved uncomfortable for the build team, especially Emily A. She maintained her usual optimism and assured the family that the truck would be their soon to get them.  Emily and Kevin, back in Mbale  by 7pm, waited patiently for the team, unsure of their whereabouts or if they’d make it back that night.

It was a long day, but we all know why we are here. We look at the families we’re working with and we are inspired and motivated by their courage, strength, endurance, and hope.

Cecilia in front of her home near Soroti rock.

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Tororo New Participant Workshop

May 19th, 2011

Over the past several months, the Poultry Project team has been planning an expansion of the project to other TASO branches. TASO counselors from the Mbale, Tororo and Soroti branches identified the most needy AIDS-affected children and visited them at their homes to conduct a baseline assessment survey. A total of thirty children (ten from each TASO branch mentioned) were selected to become new Poultry Project participants.

Tororo, a midsize town southeast of Mbale, lies near the Kenya border. Today, we traveled to TASO Tororo to meet the new participants and conduct their first training workshop. After an encouraging introduction from one of TASO Tororo’s doctors, the project veterinarian, Dr. Sakwa, led the children and their guardians in a participatory workshop on poultry management. Feeding, housing, hygiene, disease control, and breeding were the main topics. Eunice, a TASO Tororo counselor, spoke with the participants about record keeping and savings, dealing with fears and challenges related to the business, chair person selection and a general overview of the goals of the project. Eunice said to the participants, “We are helping you start. Then you walk. Then you run. On your own. Then we clap.” Some of the children’s grandparents sprung from their seats, quickly followed by the rest of the participants and the TASO counselors, and they sang and danced a traditional Ugandan song. Two girls gave another performance (you could see that they’ve been practicing their moves) with two songs- one of welcome, the other gratitude.

While we were at the workshop, Joe and Peter and Debra (another TASO Tororo counselor) delivered coop materials to all of the Tororo participants’ homes.

The new participants selected their chairperson, Tracy, and set their next meeting for May 31. They left the workshop with their new bikes and a commitment to their projects. Eunice reminded the group that the child  (the TASO client that has lost one or both of their parents) is the reason why we are here. She said, “Whatever you do, first ask yourself, how is this benefiting the child?”

[Photographs by Kevin Kopanski ]

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Steven, the Master Farmer

May 18th, 2011

One of the original Poultry Project beneficiaries, Akido Betty, lives with her uncle Steven. He became the guardian of Betty and her siblings after their parents died from AIDS-related illness. Steven has children of his own, so supporting another family means growing and buying more food, building extra shelter, providing emotional support, and paying school fees.

Since he started the project in 2006, Steven has grown the initial 4 hens and 1 cock to a flock of over 60 chickens, 2 cows and several goats. He continues to amaze us with his entrepreneurial prowess and poultry-keeping expertise. With the sale of eggs and chicks, Steven keeps all of his children in school. Betty will graduate high school this year and attend university next fall, which would not be possible without her uncle’s commitment to his poultry business.

Not only is he a super-dad, Steven is eager to help other Poultry Project farmers by sharing his knowledge and expertise. Watching him build his coop today was awesome. He proudly placed some of his birds in the finished coop and couldn’t stop smiling. He already has plans to build another coop for his large flock (the coop holds about 15 birds comfortably).

[ Photographs by Kevin Kopanski - our volunteer photographer extraordinaire!]

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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

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!

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training workshop & skype

March 30th, 2010

On March 14, Peter & other TASO Mbale staff worked with the GW MPH fellows to host a training workshop for poultry project participants.  The GW fellows brought along their laptops so we could Skype.  I haven’t seen everyone since 2007 – it was definitely the best late night phone call. EVER.  Shamim spoke perfect English and Eric looked so grown-up.  It was exhilarating to see & talk with everyone.   I’m so grateful for Peter, the TASO Mbale team and the GW fellows for the wonderful work they’re doing.  They are still working on the evaluation.  You can see some photos of the evaluation process (home visits) and the workshop on Facebook – click here.

Skype fun!

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Greetings from Mbale!

February 15th, 2010

Hello Everyone! My name is Kate Hesel and I am one of the current GWU fellows working at TASO. Kelly has asked me to occasionally blog about my experiences at TASO and in Uganda. Here is my first entry!

The past three days we have been away from the center, and out in the field, which I’ve been thrilled about. The first day we went out, we were accompanied by 4 doctors, 6 nurses, 5 counselors, pharmacists, managers, and organizational staff. We all oaded into several TASO Land Cruisers and went to a government-run clinic about 40 minutes North-East of Mbale. The government allows TASO to come to the clinic once a month to hold its outreach clinics—designed for TASO’s clients that are too sick, poor, busy, or live too far away to attend the center in Mbale for services (TASO holds these twice a week, Wednesdays and Fridays, in different locations around the Mbale district). The clinic runs exactly like the centers do – patients see doctors, counselors, and receive medication. TASO also brings other services to the clinics, such as massage, aromatherapy, and CD4 counts. We had several roles that day, but mainly spent the day measuring out medication and distributing it to the people waiting. We sorted everything from Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Magnesium, Amoxicillin, Erythromycin, several anti-depressants, Flagyl, Septrin, and ARVs (Anti-Retro Virals, the medicine used to fight HIV). We also handed out food, registered patients, performed triage, and helped out wherever we were needed. It was a tiring day, but completely fulfilling and exactly what I have been waiting to do since I arrived in Uganda.

The next day we went out for home visits to see people who are benefiting from TASO’s Sustainable Livelihood Projects (SLPs). SLPs are given to people or families who are infected with or affected by HIV. They are designed as income generating activities that can enhance the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS. The Poultry Project is one of these activities. TASO has partnered with other organizations such as Heifer International to give land, seeds, animals, sewing machines, etc, so that people can earn extra money while fighting the disease. We first went to visit a man named Joseph, who was “resurrected” by TASO (his own words). Joseph worked on the border of Uganda and Kenya before diagnosed with HIV and returning home to his village in Mbale. His CD4 count was at two (basically death’s door) before he went on ARVs through TASO, which also gave him some money to purchase some land around his house. He now has multiple fields growing all sorts of local foods, all of which he sells to make a substantial living and support his entire extended family. He is one of TASO’s biggest success stories. He thought us three white girls visiting him at his house were hilarious and wouldn’t let go of my hand the entire time we were at his house and in his fields. It was a great experience.

We made two more visits to other households during the day, one to a girl who TASO is supporting by paying her school fees, and another family that is being supported with school fees and by the provision of several hoes so they can make a garden in their backyard. The head of that household was an orphan who already had two children of her own and was taking care of her brothers and sisters. One of her own children was born with an excess of fluid in her brain and even now, as she is six years old, has a gigantic head that needs continuous medicine to keep the fluid draining. Unfortunately, “continuous” medicine is hard to come by when you live 45 minutes away from the nearest hospital by car, and you don’t own a car, or a bike. Nothing here has a quick cure, almost no one lives near enough to a hospital, let alone a doctor. TASO’s field officers spend their days in trucks and dirt bikes trying to reach these people. I can see the work is exhausting but extremely rewarding.

AIDS is everywhere in Uganda, and subsequently TASO is a household name. TASO is almost singlehandedly responsible for controlling the disease within the past 20 years in Uganda; it’s a feat that is so unbelievable many people believe that TASO practices witchcraft – this success could only be from higher powers. Our guard, Tom, spent last night telling us about how his sister is HIV+ and her children are sponsored by TASO to go to school. Everyone seems to have a story like this – the disease affects everyone, directly or indirectly; there aren’t limits to its reach like back home. It was particularly moving at the outreach on Wednesday when we were surrounded by about 300 HIV+ people – I can’t even count the people I know back home who are HIV+ on one hand. In any event, the past few days have been very fulfilling and have given me such a great appreciation of the work TASO does here.

This coming week we will be spending more time at the center, designing the monitoring and evaluation plan for the SLPs, and for Kelly’s poultry project. I will blog again with more specifics about how that process comes along! Thanks for reading!

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4th qtr report 2009

January 27th, 2010

Our Poultry Project General Manager, Peter Weilkhe, compiled the following report detailing participants’ progress over the last quarter of 2009.  Currently, Peter’s reporting is the only monitoring and evaluation mechanism we have to assess the efficacy and impact of the Poultry Project.  I am posting the report to keep the Poultry Project accountable to its donors and participants.  I invite readers to offer feedback, suggestions, and commentary.


The Poultry Project that was started in 2006 for initially 20 OVC has had to expand and touch the lives of over 20 OVC and their siblings. It has been noted that the success of the program has caused recognition from government
authorities at local level, caused competition and served as a learning point for many around these areas among other strong points. By far the poultry project has had a big impact on the lives of the OVC, and their families as illustrated in this report, many have had their hope restored, got involved and learnt a lot in sustainable livelihood programming among others.  To give you a better beginning of evaluating our success, below were and are still the objectives of the program since 2006
· To ameliorate the dire situation orphans and vulnerable children find themselves
in by empowering them to become self-sufficient through active participation in
an income generating activity.
· To provide sustainable support for child-headed families and HIV+ children
through income generating activity (smallholder poultry production – layers)
· To develop skills and confidence among participants through dedicated,
responsible participation in this program, while fulfilling the mission of TASO -
contribute to a process of restoring the quality of life of persons and communities
infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
We are hopeful the future programming is going to be more informed!


(1)FAITH- Bukedea.
Faith is now a happy young and healthy girl. She is happy to receive visitors and shows a great improvement in the way she does her work. She has been promoted to primary three in the coming year 2010. The family has so far acquired a cow from the 6 goats that they had early in the year. The cow is currently pregnant. The family has retained one hen which is now laying.  How the project has benefited the family · The bicycle has helped the family transport themselves and faith to the hospital whenever they fall sick.
· The sale of 10 hens helped them meet medical bills and food for the family.
· The family has been having a balanced diet because of the eggs they eat at least 3 times a week.
· The chicken droppings have been used for manure in the kitchen garden.
· The family was able to raise 50.000= fifty thousand shillings as pocket money for Kedi Ben who is now doing a bachelor of commerce distance programme at makerere university year one
Over all the family is very happy and have hope.
Is always at school but the uncle has been running the project on her behalf when ever she is at school. Poultry is doing very well so far the family has 184 hens and harvests 12 eggs a day .and makes a tray in 3 days.  Because of his hard work in the project, he was selected by the community to benefit from the NAADS (National Agricultural Advisory Services) who have given him a fencing wire for his compound.  He sold 3 goats and paid school fees for Betty at 150.000= for the previous term. And 1 goat died.
· He was selected as a lead farmer in his area by the NAADS programme.-this he attributes to the project.
· Payment of fees for the whole year.
· Having a balanced diet for the whole family at least an egg in 2 days.
· Has a stable income of 6000= UGShs every 3 days.
· Has been able to support other siblings in basic supplies.
· Hopes to buy a cow from the hens soon.
(3)PETER-child headed home.
The home is now clean and habitable .the hens are 9 and 9 chicks and 1 goat the family. The family has been able to eat some eggs regularly although they could not remember exactly how many. The bicycle is still in running condition and supports in domestic work besides helping peter take his firewood to the market and family to health unit besides collecting food for peter and his family. He sold 2 sheep and 3 goats to buy food for the family during the famine period
in the area. There was a lot of drought that affected the crops and yield was so poor. The family is happy the project rescued them.  The eggs supplement locally grown food.  Peter is now happy and busy tilling the land again for next year.
His major challenge is the jealous villagers who want to encroach on his land.
Has been promoted to senior four although with a poor grade div 4.  The family has used the aggregate they bought from the ground nut business to put up a ring beam on their house.  They lost all their birds to Newcastle disease and so far have 2 goats.  The challenge was during drought, most of the profits from the business were used to buy food for the family which is so extended totalling to 11.  Agnes also looks to be struggling in school. We are planning a discussion with
her director of studies early next year to see if we could iron out the issues surrounding her performance especially that she is going to a candidate class senior 4.the other option will be to support her do a skills course if she is not able
to handle the formal education.
Jude has 2, cocks, 6 hens and 1 goat. From their garden, the harvest was not so much only a basin of ground nuts due to drought. The family currently survives on the cassava and potatoes they had planted. Jude got only 4 points at school out of a possible 19 points. He attributed that performance to the many issues at home where his little sister Maria who was attending a primary teacher’s course at ST Mary’s eloped with a man, got pregnant and sold some food wanting to abort. She later moved away from home to unknown destination but rumours indicate she has eloped with a boyfriend who is yet to be identified.  The other challenge to the family was the grandmothers house got burnt and after collective support from the community, a new one was built which barely lasted 5 days and was burnt by a wild candle bringing the number to 2 burnt houses in an environment of OVC who have little they can do.
Achievements from the project.
· Sells some eggs to buy the domestic requirements to support Christy.
· Source of food.
· Have a cassava garden which is serving them hopefully up to Jan 2010
3 hens and 18 chicks. She has also acquired a sheep at 45000= and has enabled the family enjoy a balanced diet when it comes to selling and eating the eggs and the proceeds of the sales.  Esther is also doing well in school and has been promoted to senior 3.  Esther’s untie has also started a ground nut business as can be seen in the photo that will be sent in Jpeg.she says she started this business after acquiring the ideas from the workshop and meetings with colleagues.
Her siblings have fully embraced the project and so far have 16 hens. And 1 goat.  The bicycle is supporting them with domestic work as the person who was ridding got another business to do.they have always sold eggs to get food and
also eating part of them. They look healthy and happy.

Given their location, poultry is always stolen. They have resorted to using their bicycle to do casual work for a pay which they use to feed themselves. They have been supplementing that with cassava from their garden. The boys are not
interested in going to school for formal education as they say they are too big for the classes and some times they don’t pick what the teachers are teaching. In our assessment if possible we are thinking of linking one of the boys to a skills
builder for example a tailor to help him get the basic skills and there after support him do some business which the rest can support/be supported .
Was not at home for the last time we visited and according to reports she could have gone to Kampala to work as a house girl. Kampala is the capital city of Uganda where many young girls and boys admire to go. The care taker says from the sale of the bicycle, they bought 2 goats.
Is a happy and hopeful young child. she was promoted to primary two and so far has 2 goats and 3 hens.shamim and the grand mother have always had a balanced diet and supplemented their food with an egg once a week.
They hope that with time, they will get a cow from their project.
TO VISIT IN January when the ground is dry.
(12)DOREEN -not visited due to bad weather. We hope to visit in January when the ground is dry.
The family has 5 hens .the bicycle has been able to support them pay fees for Sandra,. the fees include lunch and breakfast. They have also been able to provide for her scholastic materials from the bicycle earnings. They appreciate the poultry project so much for it has helped them reduce on the dependence burden.
They have moved to another place which is yet to be located .
So far has 12 hens and had their goat stolen. They however plan to buy another one from the chicken they have. They have now moved to the new site after the land issue was resolved and the old woman together with Rashid allowed to stay
in the proposed site.a temporary structure was erected as Juma about to complete the roofing of the other structure .photos will be coming early January.
Was 9th in class out of 67 and promoted to primary six in the coming year 2010.his other sibling Joan had and average 40 in class and was also promoted to primary 2,the other sister Evelyn sat for primary leaving examinations. The family is now happy in their new house .they have one goat and 3 hens.they sold 2 hens and supported themselves with food when conditions were too hard. As of now the family is happy and planning to set up a kitchen and structure for the goat.
Was not available at home during the first quarter report as he had gone to Kampala to look for some jobs there but came back as he was not getting. He has 1 goat and a calf from the bicycle. He is hopeful the two items can help him
have some bigger assets in the coming future. Currently he is planning to hire some gardens and plant some crops for next year. As par the other domestic social bit of life, he divorced with his wife and that is one of the reasons the home was deserted in the early part of the year 2009
(18) YEKOSOPHAT-sironko
Was promoted to primary four with an average of 90% in eight subjects.yekosophat is hardworking at home as well as he spends most of the time looking for food for his two bulls. He also has 1 hen. Most of the last three months, the mother khainza has been attending to the young one who has been sick but by the time o the visit, the baby was fine. The family is very hopeful that come next year their bulls will be paired with other bulls inn the village to do ploughing and all that comes with increased food security for the family. They appreciate the project so much.
(19) ERIC
Had cough at the time of visit 17th Dec 2009 but was happy and able to perform other duties at home. Eric so far has two cows at home .the proceeds from the bicycle was added on to the goats and another bull was bought. This means Eric has a heifer and a bull from the project. The family also has 8hens and 2 goats from the project. He did not perform well in primary one and will repeat next year. Eric’s mother Sophie is planning to marry again early next year to another person of the same status. She has requested for drama group to be there on her ceremony and will update you on the developments.
Happy with the project and so far has 12 hens .her bicycle has been supporting to take her to the clinic quite often and has been supplementing her diet from the poultry project, eats an egg in 2 days and is healthier despite the many trips to
the clinic.
His sibling together with the grand mother have been able to continue with the project and so far have 3 goats from the project. This goat was procured from the sale of chicken when it was pregnant. The two kittens were born after as will be
seen in the jpeg that will be sent separately. Simon who replaced late Anania was promoted to primary six .

(22)MICHAEL.  The family encountered a misfortune early December when their house was burnt to ashes. They are currently at a neighbors place until early next year as we plan rehabilitation exercise.

The family has 12 hens and has been happy to have sold eggs to buy domestic requirements. Emma repeated primary seven and sat for his exams. We wait for his results early 2010.the family has also been mobile a little during November
and December while attending to their sick grandmother

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