the poultry project

Saving Peter’s Leg

August 7th, 2006

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Peter is an AIDS orphan living in Sibanga sub-county with his grandfather.
6 August 2006 Two weeks ago, one of the gatekeepers, John, at the CURE hospital asked me, “What are you doing here in Mbale?” I told him I was training/working at TASO Mbale, and we began discussing HIV/AIDS and how he’s been affected. John lost his sister to AIDS, and she left three children behind. That was three years ago. After losing his sister and learning about other orphaned children in his village, John decided to do something. John grew up in the Sibanga sub-county near Mbale. In 2002, with two village elders, John formed the Poverty Reduction Initiative for Development (PRID) with the goal of empowering child-headed and single mother households through sustainable agriculture projects – coffee, poultry, and fish farming. Coffee trees were planted and are beginning to fruit.
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John and the village elders, Boaz and Nathan – founders of PRID.
The first attempt at rearing chickens failed, as all the chicks died, supplemental feed was insufficient, and the new hatchlings were not vaccinated. The fish farming project has not been implemented. With limited resources, PRID has not reached its full potential.
John invited me to visit his village today. We travelled by bus, boda boda, and foot. We waited for PRID’s co-founders and senior members to join us. Boaz is the vice-chairperson. Dathan is the secretary. Boaz cares for 5 of his late son’s 10 children. Boaz and Dathan led us to the homes of some of the neediest families in the village. We trekked through gardens of beans, yams, groundnuts, bananas, and peas. It rained most of the time.
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Peter and his grandfather.
We arrived at Peter’s home; his grandfather cares for him and his three younger siblings. Peter is 15 years old, but looks 12. He hasn’t been to school in a while. He walked with a limp. A huge, pussy, severly infected abscess on his inner left calf caused the limp.
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The abscess on Peter’s leg.
Money kept Peter from visiting the nearby clinic for treatment. He did, however, manage to buy some kind of treatment that is supposed to be injected; he applied it directly to the sore, which was making it worse. The sore had been exposed for three months. We told Peter to go to the clinic…we’d meet him there after we finished our village tour.
Tabitha, a midwife, runs the village clinic. She’s a dynamic woman! She dressed Peter’s wound, gave him antibiotics, and gave him strict instructions to return to the clinic everyday until the abscess heals. For the next 7 days, Peter will receive antibiotics. Tabitha also noticed that Peter’s diet rarely included proteins, but that protein was essential for the proper healing of the sore. We went to the shop adjacent to the clinic to buy 30 eggs for Peter. Now, after visiting the clinic each day, he will go to the shop for an egg. We also bought him a pound of groundnuts to take home. Peter plans to return to school, now that he has proper treatment for his leg. The school is near the clinic, too! Peter was so happy.
He’s in good hands…
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Peter and Tabitha, the community health worker.

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Dinosaur birds

August 5th, 2006

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5 August 2006
“What is that thing?” I screamed when I saw the dinosaur birds in the dumpster.
“Those are wicked birds,” shouted Angela from Nigeria (hilarious).
Mary from Uganda corrected her, “No, they’re vultures. They eat trash. They’re disgusting.”
Disgusting is harsh; I like these huge, weird, pterodactyl-like creatures. They’re actually storks, not vultures; vultures are smaller. Marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus) is the name and rubbish is the staple food. I’m sure that’s not always been the case, but most of these birds are now found near dumpsters (that is, if there is a dumpster). The Marabou stork is one of the largest flying birds in the world. We saw these majestic, monster-bird trash collectors last weekend in Kampala. I think Marabou storks are beautiful!
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I was supposed to go up that mountain (see 8 July entry)today to deliver a soccer ball, courtesy of Colin. It rained all morning, so Moses, my friend and guide, cancelled. I hope to go next Sunday.

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I want to be a farmer

August 4th, 2006

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Sisal plants.
Camp Sunrise still needs donations to make the camp happen. There are so many children living in Northeast Ohio that have been affected in different ways by HIV/AIDS. This camp is their time to have fun, to be children, and to leave the stresses of their lives behind, if only for one week. If you can, please help make this camp possible for these children. And if you’re thinking, “they probably got everything they need already,” remember, that they can use the extra supplies for next year’s camp.
Here is a list of items that Camp Sunrise still needs:
Giant Eagle and Michael’s Gift Cards
Board games for the cabins – as many as we can get (jenga, catch
phrase,monopoly, uno, etc.) – these are helpful when it rains.
Supplies for free time activities – friendship bracelet floss,
lanyard,beads, stationary)
Supplies for cookie decorating – for 25 kids
Supplies for scrapbooking – for 25 kids
Dixie cups – 500
Kleenex – 4 boxes
Kotex maxi pads – 2 large packages
Tampons – 2 large boxes
Pull ups – 2 large bags (one for boys and one for girls)
Socks – boys and girls
Boys’ bathing suits – 2 small (ages 6-8)
Girls’ bathing suits – small sizes
Contact Katie McKee to find out how to get your donations to Camp Sunrise:
Katie McKee
Camp Sunrise Program Manager
AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
3210 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
kmckee@atfgc.org
Office: 216-432-9544
Fax: 216-622-7788
_______________________________________________________________________________
4 August 2006 Minimal progress made on the project today – finalized proposal and put in tentative bicycle order. The home visits planned for today were canceled due to lack of transportation. Transportation is a problem – roads are bad and gas is pricey. I don’t know if I’ve told you, but gas is like 2,350 Ush. per litre. 1 gallon = 3.78 litres. At 1 USD = 1,840 Ush., gas is close to $5 per gallon.
Charles’ house: not moving forward as fast as I would like, but we hope to start construction this week. I will be patient:)
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And the best news of all…
Hanania will be participating in the poultry project! I will visit him next week with his counselor, Charity. We agreed that it would be unfair to keep him from participating because of our fears about what COULD happen with his guardians. With the impending end of food aid, this project is just what they need.
About the end of the food aid program: an exit strategy is being implemented. About 40% of the 8,500 people getting food aid will receive training in sustainable agriculture to promote successful subsistence farming and generate income through smallscale produce sale.
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My mom has a fantastic garden. Her garden is full of flowers – every color, many scents, different shapes, and so many sizes. The gardens here don’t sprout tulips and poppies; they’re sprinkled with earth’s fruits – cabbage and groundnuts (peanuts), sweet potatoes and yams, carrots and peas, curry and ginger roots. Paw-paw, avocado, and mango trees shade village homes and supply the farmers with afternoon snacks after long hours of back-breaking work in the garden. Guavas and passionfruits, tomatoes and peppers, pumpkins and cucumbers. I want to be a farmer…

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I love Uganda

August 3rd, 2006

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Rebecca and Pemina, sisters and orphans, playing football.
3 August 2006 I went through a range of emotions today, as usual. Joy, helplessness, sorrow, excitement, gratitude, anger, satisfaction, emptiness, fulfillment, and Happiness.
I’ll just tell you the happy stories…
Robert (TASO counselor), Enos (TASO driver), Betty (TASO Day Center staff), and I went to Kumi district to visit 4 of the child-headed families participating in the smallholder poultry project. But, before we went to their homes, we stopped to order the hens. We’re purchasing them from TEDDO (Teso Diocesan Development Organization). TEDDO organizes and trains communities in all kinds of sustainable, income generating agricultural projects. James, our contact at TEDDO, agreed to facilitate our training workshop as well. We may buy the exotic cocks from TEDDO depending on the price he gives us…we found another farmer today offering vaccinated cocks for 12,000 Ush. and TEDDO wanted 15,000 Ush. – we’ll negotiate:)
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On the way to TEDDO, we stopped to buy sweet potatoes.
Other Smallholder Poultry Project Updates: “Keeping Poultry” manuals are printed and bound! The caterer, date, location, and facilitator of the training workshop are set! And all the families we visited today glowed with gratitude and excitement. I think we’ll get the bicycles and birds delivered before I leave!
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The Crested Crane (B. r. gibbericeps) – Uganda’s national bird; this one is somebody’s pet.
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Peter takes care of his four brothers. He’s 15, and he left school in 2004 after his parents died. Some NGO built a beautiful house for Peter and his family and they gave him groundnut (peanut) seeds to harvest. Peter is excited about the project, and has experience rearing chickens. None of these children are HIV+, and so Peter didn’t know how to get to TASO Mbale for the training, so the TASO community nurse for Peter’s region volunteered to escort Peter to the training next Saturday. I’m amazed at the profound impact TASO has had at the community level.
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Peter and Robert.
Enos suddenly stopped the car on the dusty, red-dirt road when he spotted a man riding a bike. Enos and Robert smiled widely and got out of the truck to greet and hug the man. His name is Charles, and one year ago, he was on his deathbed, severely anemic and unable to walk. On a home visit, Robert and Enos saw the way Charles’ brothers were neglecting him. They went to the nearest hospital to organize an immediate blood transfusion for Charles. With lots of work and patience, Robert and Enos managed to get Charles to the hospital for the procedure (in Uganda, and other developing countries, medical procedures like this don’t just “happen”; the hospital in Mbale doesn’t even have oxygen). At that time, Charles was 27 years old and weighed 37 kg. After the blood transfusion, Charles started taking ARVs. Today, a year later, he weighs 62kg, is married, and works hard harvesting maize and selling charcoal. Enos and Robert saved his life. Seeing Charles happy, healthy, and full of life inspires hope in Robert and Enos – and me.
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Robert, Charles, and Enos.
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The family of late Moses Imolot, Helen Orin, and Eunice Malinga.
Grandma takes care of her eleven grandchildren. Her son died on 28 June 2006, after the deaths of his two wives and youngest child. Auntie, also a TASO client, helps Grandma with the children. Auntie, along with Agnes, the eldest daughter, will work together on the smallholder poultry project. Grandma showed me the graves for her son, his wives, and her grandchild. I just held Grandma’s hand, and we both bowed our heads. There really wasn’t anything to say. The silence felt right.
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Grandma.
As I opened the TASO truck door to climb in, I noticed one of the boys tying sisal rope around a huge wad of black plastic bags. He was making a soccer ball. I tossed him one of the soccer balls Colin sent. Agnes, Rebecca, Ben, Pemina, Peter, Geresom, Isaac, Majeni, Naomi, Esther, and Deborah ran for the ball after Ben kicked it with his knee. Neighbor children joined in. Grandma smiled.
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Colin -
Agnes, Rebecca, Ben, Pemina, Peter, Geresom, Isaac, Majeni, Naomi, Esther, and Deborah told me to tell you, “THANK YOU!”

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More ARVs at TASO Mbale

August 2nd, 2006

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Sunset Mbale.
2 August 2006 Today, TASO Mbale began the process of offering ARVs to clients again. It’s been nearly a year since TASO Mbale filled the 1000 ARV slots, but they’ve been given 500 more to fill between 1 August 2006 and 1 March 2007 (this includes both adult and pediatric clients). After TASO Mbale reaches the ceiling number, clients are referred to other NGOs or government hospitals for ARVs, but TASO Mbale has the most slots (some regional hospitals have ARVs for 50 people). It’s not enough. It took too long to bring ARVs to Uganda and other African countries, way too long. There were issues of intellectual property (pharmaceutical companies slow to relinquish patents for generic manufacture of ARVs) and reservations about the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of distributing ARVs in resource-poor regions. Twenty-five years into the epidemic and the worst hit region in the world is still struggling to provide treatment to millions of people infected with HIV, and prevent mother-to-child transmission. Here’s a good article by Paul Farmer about ARVs in resource-poor countries: Download file
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In the Children’s Clinic…
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Dr. Sylvia and Hanania waiting at the TASO Mbale pharmacy for his ARVs.
“I thought I was here to give drugs, not handle all this…I thought it was gonna be a good day,” sighed one of the doctors, Dr. Sylvia, as she tried to grasp the horrible things Hanania just told her. Hanania missed his last appointment for ARV refills and hasn’t taken his meds in three weeks. He said that he gets headaches when he’s hungry. His guardians, grandparents and other relatives, usually prepare CSB (corn-soya blend food aid) for meals. He is severly malnourished. He weighs only 29 kg, and he is 17 years old. He looks like he’s 10. His lives up on the mountain near Kapchorwa and getting money for transport is a problem. I suggested to the doctor and the counselor, Charity, that we involve Hanania in the poultry project. Hanania smiled at the idea, but then told us about the time he was rearing rabbits and his grandparents slaughtered and ate them, without asking or paying. It’s likely that they’d kill and eat the birds, too. The land is fertile near the mountain; Dr. Sylvia says his guardians are lazy. They depend on Hanania’s food aid (USAID Title II program – administered by ACDI/VOCA), which officially ends in September. Dr. Sylvia and Charity were visibly overwhelmed – how can they help these children when the guardians are perpetuating the problems. Another child, John, also deals with stigma, discrimination, and neglect at home. He lives with his uncle’s family. All of his cousins go to school and he stays home to clean and work, despite his physical condition. Charity is working on getting him back in school; her biggest barrier…the uncle.
Hanania got his ARVs, money for transport, and some extra money that we told him to hide from his guardians. Hopefully, he’ll make it back to TASO Mbale for his refill and checkup. I’ll try to visit him before I leave.
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Hanania and me.
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GOOD NEWS!
I’m happy to report that Meghan McEwen, Loretta Bowlby, and my sister, Emily Pavlick, have motivated people they know to support the reconstruction of Charles and James’ home and the TASO Mbale Smallholder Poultry Project for Vulnerable Children…Thank You! I also want to extend my gratitude to all the people that supported me and made this experience in Uganda possible…Thank You!
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It’s not too late to make donations to Camp Sunrise (ATGC) – Cleveland, Ohio. Review the previous blog entries (27 July and 31 July) for an updated list of what they need and Camp Sunrise contact info.

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Building a stronger home for Charles and James

August 1st, 2006

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1 August 2006 I went to visit Charles and James! We are moving forward with plans to plaster his home with cement, install a cement floor and veranda, and possibly paint the exterior. I went with one of the TASO Mbale counselors, Robert, and the driver, Enos. First, we stopped at the primary school to pick up Charles. He was not at school today, so his younger brother, Joseph, escorted us to their home. One of the teachers, Issa, came along to help assess costs of construction.
I was happy to see that they live on a decent piece of land, have three pigs, one dog, and a 4-room house. The house does not need to be rebuilt…this is good.
We began touring the home and estimating costs. Neighbor women with their babies in their arms, children, and some of Charles’ brothers gathered around to listen and watch as Robert and Issa calculated the amount of cement and sand needed. James smiled when he saw me; he looked better than he did when I met him a couple weeks ago. James will start ARVs as soon as his TB subsides.
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He is taking medicine for his TB now – I saw it in one of the rooms, neatly placed on a chair next to the jerry can of water and a bottle of Waterguard (water purifier). I saw other things in the house that exhibited the tremendous love Charles has for his brothers – six toothbrushes sticking out of the mud-brick walls, mosquito nets hanging above the two mattresses, neatly kept kitchen, clean dirt floors, and an Addungu (traditional Ugandan harp) lying next to the chair slash table. He is so responsible! Issa said Charles misses school often…he has too much work to do at home.
Charles finally arrived from the market and smiled wide when he saw us. We told him about the plans to cement his home and the poultry project. He reverted to dad mode and concentrated on the discussion of his home’s repairs. James went straight to Charles’ side, and he was welcomed with loving arms.
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I gave Charles and his brothers one of the soccer balls…thanks Colin!
The estimates for the project were much higher than I expected. Cement is 18,000 Ush per bag, and we may need 30 bags, plus labor, plus sand to mix w/ cement for floor, plus transport of supplies, and maybe some paint. It will cost around $700 (the teacher’s estimate was $1000). James needs to sleep on a cement floor – he is so vulnerable to bacteria and disease and living in a clean house is one way he can avoid contracting deadly opportunistic infections. Tomorrow, we will meet with the building engineer that is working on a project at TASO. We’ll take him to the house so he can give us a more reasonable estimate. We will try to find ways to reduce the cost. The goal is to start construction before the weekend – it’ll take about 3 or 4 days to complete.
On Thursday, we’ll visit all of the families participating in the poultry project.
If you have time, send a Giant Eagle or Michael’s gift card to Camp Sunrise :)
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The river and The city

July 31st, 2006

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School children admire the mighty river Nile.
31 July 2006 I was on ‘holiday’ in Kampala to celebrate the end of our TEACH program. We stopped at the source of the Nile river in Jinga en route. Jinga, decorated with palm trees and whitewashed colonial homes, sits on the Nile river and welcomes many more tourists than Mbale – my new small town home in Uganda. A group of primary school children were visiting the Nile also. I enjoyed watching them watch the powerful, ancient river flow.
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Kampala-Jinga road fastfood restaurant.
The road from Jinga to Kampala is very busy and narrow and scary. Semi-trucks and VW buses and tour buses and small cars and motorbikes – all speeding, all trying to pass, all risking the lives of their passengers to get to the source of the best truckstop food. Nearly everyone traveling the road knows where to stop for a snack – we’ll just call it the chicken-on-a-stick drive-thru.
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Chicken-on-a-stick.
That’s where we had dinner. Before the car was in park, hands jabbed bunches of chicken-on-a-stick, cokes, and passionfruits through the windows. Women carried roasted plantains in baskets atop their heads. Kids carried sodas and waters in shower caddies. Liver and intestine on a stick was also offered through the window.
I had huge bouquets of meat in my face, and I thought of my sister and imagined her horror.
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Goat meat-on-a-stick and in my face.
I took some plantains – a bag of 5 for 500 shillings (no liver for me). You bargain with the meat men, if you don’t like their price, there’s someone near the bumper with a better offer. That is the drive-thru on Kampala-Jinga road – fast, friendly service.
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A boda boda driver gives a woman a ride.

As we got closer to the city, I started getting dizzy. Cities fascinate me, and have since I was a little girl. I get overwhelmed when I see a city for the first time. I want to see it all. I know there isn’t enough time. I try to figure out a way. I fail. How can I maximize my time here? How can I get a taste of Kampala? How can I understand and know this city in 5 days? And the shopping…when would I get to Owino market? I totally lost control of my mind – I forgot why I came to Uganda. Cities do this to me, but only if I’m intrigued at first sight. Kampala was one of those cities. I looked longingly out the window, wanting to jump out, wanting to explore each block, each street, each market we passed. I was trapped in the vehicle, though, alone with my worry of not being able to ‘see it all’. The fruits were aligned on the streets in neat, mountain piles. Atop a truckload of foam mattresses, I saw a Chinese man laughing with Ugandan men. Boda-bodas everywhere. Traffic. Noise. Music. COLOR. Beautiful women walking with their babies on their backs and baskets of bananas on their heads. The school kids in uniform. An Indian man standing outside his electronics store. Muzungus walking with their Northface backpacks, flowy skirts, and Chaco sandals. Tall buildings, colonial buildings, mosques, and cathedrals. Women perched on sidewalks selling candy, peanuts, jewelry, nail clippers, books, and hankerchiefs. Men shining shoes. Another man sitting behind a sewing machine, putting the last stitch in some woman’s dress. I love Kampala!
(read Moses Isegawa’s Abyssinian Chronicles for impeccable descriptions of Kampala and a look at life in Uganda during the Amin years).
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Taxi park.
A few weeks ago, I heard about the Owino Market. It’s the biggest market in East Africa with close to 100,000 people shopping/selling at the height of business on any given day. I heard that Owino was where you could buy a circa-70s Dior belt and a pair of shelltoe adidas for $1. Owino is a thrift store heaven with leftovers from closets from all over the globe. Owino is opposite one of Kampala’s taxi parks, where taxi’s set off for all destinations in Uganda. Kampala sits on seven hills; the taxi park and Owino lie in one of the valleys.
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One of many entrances to the Owino Market maze.
Entering Owino reminded me of going into a haunted house. It’s an intricate labyrinth of wood stalls with clothes everywhere, shoes hanging from the rafters, and iron sheets and tarps blocking the rain and sunlight. Men sleep on their piles of fake Timberland boots. Women rest on a cushion of baby clothes. Other vendors holler for you to look at their skirts while another vendor grabs your arm to pull you towards his treasures. There are no aisles or straight paths. The trail winds like a snake through stalls, with the entrance lost and the exit nowhere to be seen. You suddenly feel trapped. You can’t decide where to look. You want to keep moving to see what else lies ahead, but you know that you’ll never find your way back to where you are now. You want to take pictures but there aren’t many smiles here. It’s a tense environment – competitive and mysterious. Julia and Barbara wanted to leave. I admit, I did too. My eyes hurt, my head throbbed, and I needed to rest my overworked senses. We pushed towards an exit, and we emerged safe and free from the Owino abyss. The Dior belt wasn’t $1 (2000 shillings), not for me (muzungu and unable to bargain in local language). The second hand merchandise is prized and pricey, while the new stuff, imports from China and India, is cheap and disposable. I decided that proper Owino exploration required two full days, fluency in Lugandan, and lots of water. Since I lacked some of those vital Owino shopping requirements, I retired my desire to search for all the treasures I might find within the magical mazes of Owino. I’ll come back later…
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Rainbow of belts at Owino.

I am back in Mbale with loads of work to do. Charles’ house needs to be rebuilt. I have soccer balls, courtesy of my boyfriend – Colin McEwen – to deliver to various children, including the kids that live up on the mountain. And this poultry project – must buy vaccinated birds, organize training session, and get all supplies delivered to each family before I leave on August 22.
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Camp Sunrise still needs donations to make the camp happen. There are so many children living in Northeast Ohio that have been affected in different ways by HIV/AIDS. This camp is their time to have fun, to be children, and to leave the stresses of their lives behind, if only for one week. If you can, please help make this camp possible for these children.

Here is a list of items that Camp Sunrise still needs:

Giant Eagle and Michael’s Gift Cards (easy, fast way to donate, if you don’t have time to go to the store for these items:)
Board games for the cabins – as many as we can get (jenga, catch
phrase,monopoly, uno, etc.) – these are helpful when it rains.
Supplies for free time activities – friendship bracelet floss,
lanyard,beads, stationary)
Supplies for cookie decorating – for 25 kids
Supplies for scrapbooking – for 25 kids
Dixie cups – 500
Kleenex – 4 boxes
Kotex maxi pads – 2 large packages
Tampons – 2 large boxes
Pull ups – 2 large bags (one for boys and one for girls)
Socks – boys and girls
Boys’ bathing suits – 2 small (ages 6-8)
Girls’ bathing suits – small sizes
Contact Katie McKee to find out how to get your donations to Camp Sunrise:
Katie McKee
Camp Sunrise Program Manager
AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
3210 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
kmckee@atfgc.org
Office: 216-432-9544
Fax: 216-622-7788

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Camp Sunrise needs your help…

July 27th, 2006

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Big, magic trees near the mountain.
27 July 2006 When I started school last fall, I also started an internship at the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland – that internship changed the course of my life. I wouldn’t be here, in Uganda, if it wasn’t for the strength and encouragement of all the people that influenced and inspired me at the AIDS Taskforce (ATGC).
Recently, ATGC became the home of a wonderful program, Camp Sunrise, which holds an overnight week-long camp each summer for Ohio children affected and infected with HIV/AIDS. This summer, the camp will be held mid August, but they need some supplies to make it happen.
Here is a list of what Camp Sunrise needs:
Small plastic bins for cabin art supplies – 10 total
Bottled water for Club med – 5 cases
Board games for the cabins – as many as we can get (jenga, catch phrase, monopoly, uno, etc.) – these are helpful when it rains.
Supplies for free time activities – friendship bracelet floss, lanyard, beads, stationary)
Supplies for cookie decorating – for 25 kids
Supplies for scrapbooking – for 25 kids
Bug Repellant – 8 bottles
Sunscreen SPF 30 + – 10 bottles
Tylenol – 1 bottle of 100
Advil – 1 bottle of 100
Ice Packs – 4 total
Dixie cups – 500
Kleenex – 4 boxes
Kotex maxi pads – 2 large packages
Tampons – 2 large boxes
Pull ups – 2 large bags (one for boys and one for girls)
Socks – boys and girls
Boys’ bathing suits – 2 small (ages 6-8)
Girls’ bathing suits – small sizes
5 gallon buckets for drumming program – 15
If you want to make a donation, contact:
Katie McKee, Camp Sunrise Program Manager
c/o AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
3210 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
kmckee@atfgc.org
Office: 216-432-9544

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This time, I’ll write…

July 25th, 2006

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Walkin’ home from school on the train tracks.
25 July 2006 There was something so familiar about my morning walk to TASO, but it was not until last night that I realized why. Each morning, I walk a short distance to TASO and on the way, nearly everyone I pass greets me. They don’t say, ‘hi’ or ‘Good morning’; they sing a song, and it goes like this, ‘muzungu how are you, muzungu how are you, muzungu how are you’ (rhyming the last u in muzungu with you). This comforting morning Mbale serenade reminds me of the “bonjour” song from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
People seem to be having trouble pronouncing my name, Kelly. Sometimes when they say my name it sounds like they’re saying Gary or Karen. Recognizing the confusion my name causes, Francis (a TASO Counselor) decided to give me a proper Bugisu (Ugandan tribe) name… Nambozo. The name isn’t catching on, though, and people still call me muzungu and Gary and Carwe.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m working with some of the TASO staff and another American student, Julian Harris, on developing a pilot project to help AIDS orphans and HIV+ youth make some money as smallholder poultry farmers. We’re calling our project the TASO Mbale Smallholder Poultry Project for Vulnerable Youth. The goal of this project is to ameliorate the dire situation these children find themselves in – a situation of hunger, sickness, despair, and hopelessness – by empowering them to become self-sufficient through active participation in an income generating activity. Each family will receive training in smallholder poultry farming (focus on the semi-scavenging model) & marketing/business skills for egg sales, 4 vaccinated local hens, 1 vaccinated exotic cock, supplemental feed, supplies to build simple housing structure for the chickens, and a bicycle. Poultry farming on a small-scale is relatively low-maintenance and the inputs are minimal, as local chickens can rely on scavenged feed for most of their diet. Disease is the big problem poultry farmers face, which is why we will spend considerable time on disease prevention, control and vaccination at the training. We want to equip these families with the skills and resources they need to create a small egg-selling business so they can have a reliable, regular source of income to meet their most basic needs – food, shelter, water, clothes, education, healthcare, transportation. If everything works as planned, the chickens, bikes, etc. will be delivered to the families before I return to the states. This project will be funded, in part, by all the generous individuals that donated money to help me get to Mbale. More on this project as it unfolds…
Follow the link this link to learn more about smallholder poultry farming and poverty alleviation.

p.s. There’s this book called, “Lords of Poverty: The Freewheeling Lifestyles, Power, Prestige and Corruption of the Multibillion Dollar Aid Business” by Graham Hancock. It was written way back in 1989, when people like me were probably fighting for an end to poverty by the year 2000. Here’s an excerpt from page 1, a poem by Ross Coggins:
Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet-
I’m off to join the Development Set;
My bags are packed, and I’ve had all my shots,
I have travellers cheques and pills for the trots.
The Development Set is bright and noble,
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes,
Our thoughts are always with the masses.
In Sheraton hotels in scattered nations,
We damn multinational corporations;
Injustice seems so easy to protest,
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.
We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with an open mouth.
We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution-
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.
The language of the Develoopment Set,
Stretches the English alphabet;
We use swell words like ‘epigenetic’,
‘Micro’, ‘Macro’, and ‘logarithmetic’.
Development Set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the rich and the poor.
Enough of these verses – on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray to God the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you…
(note: nambozo, a.k.a. carwe, does not belong to the development set)

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Kapchorwa, Mt. Elgon and Sipi Falls

July 25th, 2006

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Children hanging on a Mt. Elgon National Park sign in Kapchorwa.
25 July 2006 The internet left me for a few days – it’s back and I am happy!
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The view from Kapchorwa.
On Sunday, the TEACH participants from TASO Mbale and TASO Tororo went on a field trip to Sipi Falls, Mt. Elgon, and Kapchorwa.
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TEACH Tororo & TEACH Mbale participants.
Sipi Falls was beautiful; although, I’ve never seen an ugly waterfall.
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Sipi Falls.
Great views. Fresh, cool air. Magical flowers. Banana leaves and cabbage plants. Everything nice.
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Sorry for the short story, but I’m off to TASO. The TEACH program ends on Friday. We’ll travel to Kampala to present our reports and discuss what we learned and all that good stuff. After that, I’ll return to Mbale to continue working on an income generating poultry project for some of the child-headed families and HIV+ children at TASO. I’ll explain the project in more detail later.
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Shamim (shuh-meem)

July 21st, 2006

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21 July 2006 Went to visit sweet Shamim. She lives near Budadiri with her grandparents and other relatives. Shamim, like Charles and James, is an orphan. We met Shamim a couple weeks ago at the TASO Mbale children’s clinic. She came to TASO less than a year ago after approaching a TASO staff person she saw in her village – she said, “Look at me, I am sick. Something is wrong with me and there is no one to look after me.” Shamim has been receiving counseling and medical care at TASO ever since. She is taking ARVs, and getting to her TASO appointments regularly.
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Shamim and her TASO counselor, Charity.
Shamim is the cutest! She has so much charisma and spunk. Everyone at TASO knows her. She sings songs, gives great hugs, and rarely frowns; she’s a charmer. We all fell in love with Shamim that day. We insisted that Barbara, our TEACH coordinator, take us to Shamim’s home for a visit.
We brought Shamim some food, sweets, and school supplies. It was refreshing to see that Shamim is living in a nice home, surrounded by love. Her grandfather told us that he’s lost four of his children to AIDS. He often worries about losing Shamim. “She brings me so much happiness,” he said.
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Shamim ties her head scarf as her grandfather watches her with admiration, hope, and love.

I left Shamim’s home feeling rejuvenated and energetic. I can’t explain it, her aura. She makes you feel good. She makes you smile. She makes you feel safe and calm. She lets you know, without saying anything, that she’s gonna be alright. She is only 6 years old. She must have an old soul.
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Happy Birthday Dad

July 21st, 2006

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21 July 2006 I’m so grateful to have a dad like you! Thank you for always making me laugh, supporting me in all I do, and showing me how to be a good person. I love you.
Happy Birthday Dad!

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Charles

July 19th, 2006

19 July 2006 I met an angel today. His name is Charles, and he agreed to let me share his story with you.
I met Charles at the TASO Children’s Clinic. He wasn’t there as a client, he was there as a guardian. Charles’ parents died of AIDS. He is the eldest of 6 boys. The youngest boy, James (age 5) is HIV+. Charles took off school today to bring James to the clinic. James clung to Charles, like a child clings to a mother. Charles is only 14 years old. He has so much on his mind – caring for 5 children, cooking dinner every night, making sure James gets the proper medical care, cleaning, and going to school. When Charles goes to school, James stays home alone. The home they live in is unsafe; it’s made with mud and bricks, and could easily collapse during the rainy season. Charles can’t afford to cement his home, he must first feed his family.
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Charles works hard. Charles stands tall and carries on. He looks and acts much older than 14. I suppose he became a parent long before his mother and father actually died. When I looked at Charles and saw his resilience, his stamina, his courage, his complete selflessness, his spirit, I wondered, what does he wish for? what does he want to be when he grows up? does he laugh anymore? or sing? how does he do it? does he know how wonderful he is? does he know he’s an angel? He will wake up tomorrow and face another day. It’s too bad, though, that he has to do this alone. He has no support, no one to comfort him. He is the mother and the father, and he is a child.
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love language

July 17th, 2006

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17 July 2006 On the way to TASO, I walked behind some school boys – brothers, I think. They were holding hands and laughing. The eldest started tucking his shirt, and the little one quickly followed suit. So much love…
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We piled into the TASO truck to go visit rural clients on ARVs. One woman was weak and dehydrated. Her husband has been dead for some time, and her two children are off at school. Her mother listened carefully as the TASO clinician gave her instructions on how and when to administer her daughter’s drugs. Her love for her daughter is undying. So much love…
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Another client, Florence, was experiencing side effects from Stavudine, and she was having trouble eating because of oral thrush. Her husband is also HIV+, but he’s strong and able to care for her and their two daughters. The family has two new puppies that were sleeping peacefully together under the homemade wooden chair. Florence’s husband looked at her lovingly as she looked and smiled at the dogs. So much love…
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After driving a few miles on a railroad track, we arrived at another client’s home. She sat on a straw mat under a huge mango tree. She lost sight in both of her eyes, and has recurring discharge from her left eye. Her caretaker is her 14 yr old daughter, Marianne. Marianne helps her mother take her ARVs, and she’s agreed to help clean her mother’s eye. Marianne is in school. Her mother, though sick and blind, continues to work in the garden to keep her daughter in school. As soon as we packed up to leave, Marianne’s mother resumed her work, picking the peanuts off the branches she gathered earlier. So much love…
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puffy sleeves

July 16th, 2006

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15 July 2006 Mary #2 invited us to her introduction ceremony in Tororo. Mary is in the TEACH program with me, Mary #1 from Nigeria, and Julia from Ghana. The introduction ceremony is like an engagement party. The bride’s family meets the groom and his peoples and they negotiate a bride price. The groom’s family presents the bride’s family with many gifts. The bride and groom exchange rings and vows. A wedding date is set.
We arrived in Tororo around 1pm. As soon as we got off the bus this young man, about 17 years old, recognized Mary #1 and Julia – he saw them at church in Mbale last week. He said he’d help us get to Mary #2′s house, and he called a car for us. Mary #2′s house was about 18km away – I’m so glad we didn’t walk.
Huge banana leaves created a path from the road to the two big tents where guests were seated. Fuchsia flowers and banana leaves decorated the tents. There were nearly one hundred guests.
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One of Mary #2′s cousins escorted us to the dressing room. Mary #2 and about 12 other women were getting ready, powdering their faces and tying the sashes around their gomesi dresses.
The gomesi is the “traditional” dress for Ugandan women in this region, but I’m gonna assume that it’s design has western influences (like 1980s prom gear). The gomesi is very elaborate, with a square neck adorned with two buttons, pointy sleeves, full skirt, and a huge sash (like an obi around a kimono). Actually, I read that the gomesi was first a uniform at an all girls boarding school (early 20th century). The designer was an Asian – last name, Gomesi. They put me in a gomesi.
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They wanted me to walk in the procession, but I declined. I was already the muzungu – I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself. So, I took it off. The event was emceed by Mary #2′s brother. She is one of seven children and they’re all really tall. I think her dad is like 6’8.
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Sodas were served during the ceremony, and after about 4 hours of introduction stuff, we ate dinner. I got to sit near Mary #2′s maternal grandmother – she’s in her 90s.
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It was an amazing experience, and Mary #2′s family was so kind and grateful to have us there. The best part, though, was that the young man that helped us get to Mary #2′s house stayed for the entire ceremony! It was awkward, because everyone kept asking us who he was. He talked the whole time and he kept pestering Julia about wanting to go to Ghana. Julia was getting angry. Mary #1 ignored him. I think it’s really funny. He didn’t really know any of us. He didn’t know Mary #2 at all. He ate some good food and got a free ride home. He’s a resourceful kid, and he’s a got a great story to tell his friends when he gets back to school.
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July 14th, 2006

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14 July 2006 We went to an outreach clinic today in Bukedea. We visited two bedridden clients at their homes. The first man, Simon, was completely emaciated. He lived in a two-room cement house with his two wives, both HIV+, and four young children (not tested yet). Simon was too weak to get out of bed; he struggled to sit up. All seven of them sleep in the same room, in three beds. The nurse from TASO and the TASO-trained community nurse urged Simon to take his Septrine and to eat more fruits and beans. The ACW (AIDS Community Worker) told us that Simon is looking much better.
The upside of this story is that with the distribution of ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) there aren’t as many clients like Simon – finally, people in Uganda have the option of living with HIV, instead of dying too soon of AIDS. ARVs have not solved the problem, though, as they are basically useless if they’re taken without regular food intake. The poverty here is real and people are going to bed without eating. ARVs cannot nourish, too. It’s very overwhelming.
At Simon’s house, I felt so helpless. The other two TEACH participants are nurses, and they offered Simon advice about nutrition and exercise and adherence to Septrine. I couldn’t offer any medical assistance. I went outside the room and started drawing pictures for the children. Then I drew a picture for Simon. He thanked me and smiled. I didn’t know what else to do.
Next week, we’ll start visiting the orphans and the HIV+ children. I keep reminding myself of something a friend tells me whenever I freak out about the war in Iraq, Bush, Walmart, POVERTY, anti-condom advocates, the arms trade, “free” trade, AIDS – he says, “Kelly, the world is a mess, and it’s perfect.”
One of the members of the TASO drama group has an eleven year old daughter. She went to Kampala today to talk to donors and execs at TASO headquarters. She will recite a poem she wrote about living with HIV and living positively. Before she left, she recited the poem for me. It was the happiest part of my day – a beautiful young girl sharing her experience, strength, and hope!

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HIV/AIDS Stigma

July 12th, 2006

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11 July 2006 One of the greatest obstacles we face in the response to HIV/AIDS is stigma. The drama group is a popular way, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, to confront and dispel HIV/AIDS stigma through song, dance, and storytelling. We followed TASO Mbale’s drama group to Iki-Iki, where they performed for the Iki-Iki Integrated Primary School.
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The act included songs, narratives, question & answer, and dancing.
The school children were captivated by the performance, and encouraged to “take the message home.” To show their dedication to promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and confronting stigma, some of the older students led a song and dance. It was incredible, I got goosebumps!
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Children’s Clinic

July 12th, 2006

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10 July 2006 Each Monday and Wednesday at TASO, children gather inside an old World Food Programme trailer to discuss their fears, likes & dislikes, hopes & dreams; to meet with their counselors; to get their ARVs; to be weighed; to meet with their doctors.
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The trailer is decorated with HIV/AIDS awareness posters and the children’s art work. There are some toys, too – boys get trucks and girls get dolls. They color and play while they wait for the doctor or the counselor. They sit quietly, hardly ever talking to each other. They must be scared. They are dealing with disease, loss, being different from other children, physical pain and discomfort, poverty…
Next week, I will visit some of these children at their homes. Some of them still live with their parents; others have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS.
Keep these children in your thoughts, meditations, and prayers.
Learn more about Pedatric AIDS
Learn more about AIDS Orphans
Learn more about TASO

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Thinking of titles for blog entries is hard

July 8th, 2006

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Saturday 8 July 2006. Today we climbed the mountain near Mbale. People live all over the mountain and they grow bananas, cabbage, corn, chili peppers, coffee, tobacco, tomatoes, papaya, jackfruit, cassava, yams, carrots – it’s incredible! I saw waterfalls and monkeys, too. And tons of butterflies! It was a difficult climb, but a climb that the mountain’s inhabitants take everyday (with 40kgs of something on their heads).
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At the steepest part, there was a ladder that led to the top.
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Children were gathering cabbage, while their parents chopped wood.
The machetes they carry in the photo are not weapons, but farming tools. One of the boys is holding a socceer ball in the other hand.
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I don’t know what the mountain is called, but it’s not Mt. Elgon; however, it is part of Mt. Elgon National Park.
p.s. I encourage all of you reading this to contact your legislators and ask them to support the PATHWAY Act (Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2006).
Email your member of Congress today and ask him/her to co-sponsor the Act.
Find out how to reach your representative at the following link:
http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/organizationsORG/change/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=3828

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July 6th, 2006

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I met some muzungu (white people) today – they’re from Texas.

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TASO Mbale – community outreach

July 6th, 2006

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5 July 2006. Today we went out into the field. After a couple of hours of waiting and chatting and getting to know one another, we hopped aboard the taso land cruiser. We set off for Buseta, the furthest community served by taso mbale. It was a long bumpy ride. We arrived around 11am at the town center. We saw about a hundred people gathered around the massive tree and tent. As we came closer, we noticed that most of the people were waiting in very straight lines. Some were lined up behind a man in a chair with a scale at his feet, but most of the people were in line by the tent, awaiting food assistance.
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Once a month taso mbale brings all of their services to the community – clients can get food assistance, medical care, arvs and other meds, counseling, even reflexology. It’s remarkable. And although everything is happening in the grass under big old wise trees, the system is very organized and extremely efficient.
The food assistance is a joint effort between taso and usaid’s food for peace programme. To get the food assistance, individuals must be hiv positive. After learning their status and registering with taso, if they are positive, they are given id cards specifically for the food assistance. The food assistance is a large can of vegetable oil and some corn meal. All the oil cans and grain bags are marked USA. The food is usually the first stop for clients, then they proceed to the big old wise tree where they wait to meet with their counselor for a one-on-one session.
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This taso community based initiative is managed primarily by the designated sub-county aids committees (SACs) and parish aids committees (PACs), which recruit, train, and manage the staff of ACWs (aids community workers); advocate; proposal write; seek funding in addition to taso funds; and hold regular meetings with taso mbale management.
Each of my TEACH team members was fascinated with this system of community based hiv aids care and support. They all want to copy taso in their own countries.
We then visited one of the ACYC youth project at the Nabumali high school. The students (many are children of TASO clients) use drama, music and poetry to promote awareness and understanding about HIV/AIDS.

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pretty yellow building

July 3rd, 2006

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mbale

July 3rd, 2006

Mbale. Surrounded by mountains and vibrant green trees. Bicycles and people crowd the streets. The air smells of charcoal. Reggae-like music is playing somewhere always. And everyone is smiling. It’s hot, though. I think I told everyone it was winter here. It is not winter here – not even close.
I visited TASO today. They enrolled me in the TASO Experiential Attachment to Combat HIV/AIDS (TEACH) program, and I begin tomorrow along with other students/professionals from Nigeria, Uganda, and Ghana. It’s a 4 week experiential learning program and we’ll be working out in the community/villages – “this isn’t TASO, TASO is out there” TASO-Mbale’s director said to me, pointing out his office window. TASO is next door to the Joint Clinical Research Center, Marie Stopes International, ActionAID, and the AIDS Information Center (this is good).
I have housemates, too! Grace is a nurse from Lira, and she’s working at CURE during her school holiday. Yesterday, Helen and Jen arrived from Kenya. Helen and I went shopping yesterday for candles. They sold candles, tons of long, skinny candles; but, no candle holders. So, I bought the skinny candles and a soap dish, and I tried to join the two together. I made a huge mess – Katie would be pleased. I saw three butterflies and two lizards today. Oh, some folks asked me to investigate the way toliets flush south of the equator. I’ve looked and I have no idea. It all looks the same to me. I’ll ask around, though.
One more thing – the staple food in Uganda is matoke. Matoke is a green banana and it’s served mashed with meats and chickens and other stuff on top. HHHMMMM.

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boda boda

July 3rd, 2006

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boda boda

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June 30th, 2006

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act now