Friday, December 12, 2014

Where has the past month gone?

Sorry friends for not posting more consistently about my time in Uganda. The last few weeks have been very busy with assignments as well as several weekend trips so updating my blog has gotten pushed aside.

Nov. 7-9th
We took a trip to Lira (Northern Uganda) to visit three different organizations involved in peace and conflict issues. The 20+ year war involving the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) impacted the lives of thousands of men, women and children. Current organizations and efforts in this region are still struggling to address numerous issues the war brought about.
  • Children of the Nations (COTN)-Uganda
    • partners with nationals to provide holistic, Christ-centered care for orphaned and destitute children, enabling them to create positive and lasting change in their nations
  • Alternative to Violence Organisation for Humanity (AVCOH)
    • promoting youth through sustainable development were they engage in income generating activities through  vocational training
  • Solidarity Uganda
    • Seeks to empower communities with alternative transformational educational experiences useful for cultivating holistic peace and justice throughout Uganda
    • directed by a former USP student
    • utilizes non-violent training methods to promote peace and justice
Nov. 15-16th Safari trip-Murchison Falls National Park
Nov. 28th celebrated Thanksgiving (it was good, just not the same as home) 
  • feast: shredded cabbage, sliced avocado/tomato, turkey, mashed potatoes, cooked green beans/carrots, gravy, sauce from turkey juice, green bean casserole, stuffing, canned corn, rolls, fresh vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, red/yellow peppers)
    • dessert: apple pies, cookies-peanut butter, sugar and pumpkin chocolate chip, pumpkin bars, peanut clusters
Dec. 1-5th last week of classes (3 final papers in place of final exams)

Dec. 12th- last day at ROTOM

  • Christmas party for volunteers and seniors (about 300 in attendance)
  • staff members were sad to see me go since they greatly enjoyed working with me for the last 3 months
  • I enjoyed my time at ROTOM learning about the practices and profession of social work in the Ugandan context. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to interact with older Ugandan men and women. Though many are materially poor they are rich in relationships within their family and communities. Many are able to live full and dignified lives despite physical limitations, through the help and support of ROTOM. 
Dec. 13th-depart for Entebbe (debrief/re-entry retreat)

Dec. 16-17th flying home

Please pray for safety traveling and for a willingness to allow God to use this experience for His honor and glory once I return. Thanks for your continual prayers and interest. See you soon!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rural homestay-Kapchorwa

Oct. 17th-We left for our week long rural homestay. We drove to Kapchorwa, located in Eastern Uganda. It's about a 5 hour drive from the Ugandan Christian University (UCU) campus. (It takes a while to travel anywhere here due to rough roads and/or traffic jams not because of traveling a great distance). We got to see the Nile River on our way as we drove through Jinja, the source of the Nile.

I was dropped at my home about 3:30. David and Judith Tweituk were my host parents. David worked as a district accountant for 30 years. Since his retirement in 2010, David and Judith have started a large coffee plantation. They own about 1500 trees and are hoping to expand to 2000 in the coming seasons.  Coffee is the main cash crop in Eastern Uganda. Harvesting occurs from June-Jan. I had the opportunity to see the process of making coffee from start to finish, and I was involved in nearly every step of the process during my stay.

For those who are interested this is a link to the company buying the Tweituk's dried coffee beans to be roasted, ground and sold in Kampala and the US.

Oct. 18-24th Brief description of how my week went:
  • David and Judith were gracious in allowing to wake up whenever. It was wonderful to I wake up without an alarm, around 8-8:30 am each morning. It was great to be able to catch up on some sleep. 
  • We took tea and breakfast shortly afterward 
    • typical breakfast- milk tea for David and Judith and black tea for me (milk tea-base is hot milk instead of hot water), mini bananas, posho porridge (ground maize and water-doesn't have much flavor/very bland), boiled egg, passion fruit juice
    • some mornings also had avocado, carrots, tangerine, and leftovers from dinner such as Irish potatoes, cabbage, g-nut sauce with bitter eggplants or beans and papaya 
  • After breakfast, and washing dishes Judith and David attended to various tasks around the farm or with coffee process. I constantly offered to help out, and my offers were sometimes accepted but often refused since I was a visitor. This was a bit frustrating at times since I wanted to be treated more like a member of the family rather than a visitor. I didn't force the issue very much since this is a demonstration of Ugandan hospitality as well as to honor and respect a white (mzungu) visitor.
    • Helped out with simple tasks:
      • washed dishes (inside or outside depending on the rain)
      • coffee process: washing, rinsing and drying the coffee 
        • repeatedly filled up a jerry can to wash the coffee 
      • raking leaves using a bundle of small twigs to push them into the compost pile
      • helping with a few meal preparations-sorted rice (removing rocks and grass pieces), cutting up tomatoes and onions to be cooked with the rice, cooking rice, peeling Irish potatoes and matooke (similar to plantains, but very sticky/messy process), shelling beans, holding a chicken while Judith removed non edible parts and cut it up
      • milked a cow one morning
It was a great experience and I enjoyed the opportunity to see and experience rural Ugandan life! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The past few weeks...

The last few weeks have been quite busy, so I have not been able to post as much I would have liked. Here is an update on what I doing and experiencing in the past 3 weeks.

Week #4 The food and income security program seeks to provide jajas and volunteers with the knowledge and skills necessary to generate income. I had the opportunity to participate in two days of farm/garden visits to observe the growth of crops and animals. ROTOM encourages the use of mulch (banana leaves and other compost material), manure as well as planting in rows (instead of mounds which has been the traditional means of farming but are very difficult for jajas to maintain). These methods significantly increase crop yields during the harvest.

Week#5 Oct.1st has been set aside by the UN to recognize older persons. The Mukono District observed the International Older Persons Day on Oct. 6th and several ROTOM staff and jajas were in attendance. Another USP student and I also attended the celebration. After being delayed several hours the event started late in the afternoon. ROTOM is the only organization working to care for, support and meet the needs of this population group. Sadly significant gaps continue to exist in providing funds, as well as the necessary services and resources needed by the jaja population. This was an eye opening afternoon for me and exposed the importance of advocating for human rights. Jajas are poor,vulnerable and neglected individuals in need of support, care and empowerment, which ROTOM is trying its best to accomplish. The needs of the Ugandan jaja population are increasing but policies and programs are significantly lacking to adequately address the needs of jajas. The other day spent at ROTOM involved editing sponsor letters.

Week #6 Both days this week I had the opportunity to participate in a medical outreach to a rural village in the Mukono district. I spent my time asking questions as well as helping pass out medications for minor medical conditions. It has been very interesting to observe and be involved in the various projects and programs of ROTOM, which is seeking to provide older persons with full and dignified lives.

Upcoming week: I am leaving for a 10 day rural homestay tomorrow morning. I will be experiencing Ugandan daily life in a rural setting. I will not be attending classes or my internship since I will be about 5 hours away from the UCU campus. I will be in the area of Kapchorwa and Sipi Falls. I am excited for this experience but a bit nervous as well. It will be nice to get away from campus and classes but comes with a bit of anxiety since I don't know really to expect. I am looking forward to experiencing daily life (possibility of milking cows, killing chickens, harvesting coffee beans) as well as being welcomed into another Ugandan family.

Please pray for journey mercies, flexibility, willingness to be present and to try new things, as well as for patience. Thanks for your prayer and continual support and interest.        

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Social Work Internship-ROTOM

(Originally posted on Sept. 29, 2014)
Aside from my classes, a significant amount of my time and energy has been directed towards my internship since we returned from Rwanda. I am interning at the organization ROTOM (Reach One Touch One Ministries). This organization seeks to provide care, friendship, hope and support to the disadvantaged elderly in Uganda. I have been going two days each week (7-8 hrs each day to meet my requirement of 150 hrs). Here is the link to ROTOM’s website if you are interested in learning more about this organization
Week #1 involved a bit of orientation to the organization as well as the various programs/services provided by ROTOM. I went with four ROTOM staff members out to the field the first day to observe senior fellowship groups. These groups provide the seniors with the opportunity to gather with other seniors from their village to sing, dance, praise God and pray/support/encourage one another. In luganda jaja means grandparent which is used to communicate respect to an older individual and is the term we use to communicate with the seniors. After my first day I was very unsure of my role at ROTOM, and which program I would be involved in. In Uganda you just jump right into practical work without receiving a significant amount of clear direction or instruction, which can be a bit frustrating to work with.  The next day I stayed at the office and typed up presentation notes on relationships and tagged along on a school to one of the ROTOM champions. This is a program that provides care, support and encouragement to grandchildren of ROTOM sponsored seniors. Theses champions, currently about 20 granddaughters, are dependent on a jaja for their basic needs to be met mainly due to being orphaned.
Week#2-3 I was in the field both days each week, observing home visits in rural areas in and around Mukono. Jaja from the fellowship groups are visited in their homes for about three weeks each month. On these home visits ROTOM is evaluating/monitoring health and hygiene, Christian growth/spiritual involvement and food/income security. Home visits are a large part of my internship/practical experience. I am learning quite a bit through observation, asking questions of the jaja’s and staff to understand needs as well as environmental factors preventing jaja from being able to live dignified and fulfilled lives.
I am beginning my fourth week this week and I will probably continue to be actively involved with home visits. Please keep praying that I will be open and flexible to engage and learn from the jaja and staff I am interacting with. The language barrier is very evident and frustrating in working with jaja from rural areas, so I would ask that you also pray for patience. Most often one of the staff members will generally translate for me but it can be frustrating to be completely out of the loop at times and I am unable to connect on a deeper level with the jaja’s. Thanks for your continual prayers and interest!

Mukono home stay

(Originally posted on Sept. 29, 2014)
On Saturday Sept. 23rd the ten USP students living on campus left for our Mukono home stays. We were placed with a family to gain a better understanding of what Ugandan daily life really looks like. Each of our families live relatively close to campus, anywhere from a 10 to 30 minute walk.
My host family consisted of my host mama Edith and her eldest daughter Edna. Mama Edith has three other children, who are in boarding schools in Kampala. Mama Edith works as a housekeeper and babysitter for an American doctor and her family. Dr. Reid is one of the physicians working at the UCU health clinic and her husband works as an architect for UCU. Edna is in her second year in the agricultural program at UCU. (pictured below)
The two week that I spent with mama Edith and Edna were great and I have many fond memories from my experience. I was welcomed very warmly into their home, lives and family. Hospitality is a trait of Ugandan culture that I have enjoyed the opportunity to experience it first hand.
Aspects of my experience:
  • taking a bath/shower with a small jerry can (a bit interesting with the length of my hair)
  • using a pit latrine
  •  trying new Ugandan foods/dishes-pumpkin, cassava (a root similar to potatoes), cassava flour pancakes, millet bread, sugarcane, gluten/milk free banana bread made with cassava flour
  •  roasting g-nut (similar to peanuts), making popcorn
  • cooking on a charcoal stove
  • taught Edna a few games: UNO, war and speed, played crazy eights and spot it with mama Edith
  • walking to classes with Edna-about 15 min. walk to campus
  • helping rinse dishes
  • helped cook and/or prepare dinner (given the task of cutting up tomatoes, onions, carrots, and green peppers)
  • electricity going out just about every night while Edna and I made dinner
  • good conversations with Edna about various aspects of Ugandan life and culture (she even taught me a few basic phrases in Luganda, which was very fun for both of us)
  • sitting outside while dinner was cooking-looking at the stars, identify shapes/objects in the clouds at night, sharing times of silence
  • making french toast for dinner one night-it was a great hit!
  • watching mama Edith and Edna open the gifts I brought from the US, they were very grateful
Mama Edith and Edna were a bit sad to see me return to campus on Friday Sept.27th. I was a bit torn between returning to campus (getting to know my roommate and Ugandan Honors college peers better) and  leaving my Ugandan mama and sister. I am going to try to visit them as much as possible on Sundays. (I didn’t take any pictures while I was with mama Edith and Edna, but I planning to take some with them throughout the semester)


(Originally posted on Sept. 7, 2014)
After being at UCU (Uganda Christian University) for about a week we left for Rwanda on Aug. 29th. We left campus about 5 am since we had about an 18 hour drive to reach our first destination in Rwanda. This trip to Rwanda is a part of one of my classes-Faith and Action in the Uganda Context. This class focuses specifically on promoting and enhancing our cross culture experience while in Uganda. This trip  helped us to gain a better understanding of recent history surrounding Rwanda, including the genocide and current efforts directed towards reconciliation and forgiveness.
Our first stop in Rwanda was the Anglican Church of Rwanda at the Kibungo diocese. Throughout the entire country of Rwanda the last Saturday of every month is set aside as a community workday, called an umuganda. This translates as ‘coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome’. We had the opportunity to carry water and mix cement to be used to lay a floor in a newly constructed building. The members of this parish were very grateful for our willingness to pitch in, even if that meant getting dirty. I didn’t get very dirty since I was part of a chain to transport water from the holding tank at the bottom of a hill, up to where the cement was being poured.  The next day  (Sun. Aug.31st) we were asked to lead a church service at three rural Anglican churches.  Our contribution included leading worship and providing a message or testimonies. It was an enriching experience to be able to worship with and pray for these Rwandese brothers and sisters in Christ. Communication was hindered a bit due to a language barrier but was  resolved with translations from Kinyarwanda to English.
On Mon. (Sept.1st) we visited a rural community practicing micro-finance methods. These pillars are necessary for the success of a micro- finance project: savings, loans with low interest rates, and a long term focus. Rwandans did not have an understanding of these concepts prior to the genocide. Due to the nature of the genocide poverty increased; individuals were robbed of their property and no longer had as many able-bodied individuals to help out with various income generating activities. Individuals are trained in the practices of saving, and loaning with a long term focus to finance small development projects. The group we observed was made up of 29 members. To become a member, each individual must pay 5,000 Rwandan franks {690 Rwandan franks= 1 US dollar}. Then each week each member is obligated to pay 100 Rwandan franks to the group. This money pools among the members and is used to finance small projects to generate income, such as the means to buy land to farm/garden or livestock. This was very interesting to observe, and is having a powerful impact on numerous lives/families and is assisting in the growth of rural Rwandan communities.
On Sept. 2nd we traveled to the capital of Kigali. We visited an art center, which was interesting to see beauty and growth occurring in the midst of the horrific events of the genocide 20 years ago. The next  day was solely focused on the genocide. This  link provides a brief summary of the genocide ( A period of 100 days in 1994 (April 6th-July4th) about 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis and some moderate Hutus were murdered. Tutsis, Hutu (determined by wealth/land ownership) and Twa were the three classifications given by Germans and Belgiums upon colonization. These identities had been ingrained into their minds and determined rights and privileges. This ignited hate and resentment between the two groups and boiled over in 1994. Healing from the genocide is going to take many years and generations. We visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial and Nyamata Church, a memorial site where about 11,000 lives were lost. These memorial sites were hard to handle emotionally but were necessary to provide a understanding of where Rwandans have come from  as well as efforts directed towards forgiveness and reconciliation.
Sept. 3 focused on efforts of reconciliation. The organization CARSA (Christian Action for Reconciliation and Social Assistance) is bringing to together perpretrators and surviving family members for reconciliation and forgiveness to be genuinely achieved. There is something to be said about working alongside an individual responsible for inflicting personal injury and/or killing several members of their families. This was a beautiful to observe and assist in. We carried sand/dirt to make cement down a hill to be used to make cement for a small house addition. The next few days were spent traveling back to Uganda. We spent two days on an island surrounded by beautiful lake to spent time personally and as a group processing and debriefing various aspects of our Rwandan trip. We arrived back to the UCU campus about 6 pm yesterday afternoon. Classes start tomorrow and my internship will start sometime this week as well. (I will receive more information about it in out tomorrow).  I am excited to get into a routine and am a bit nervous about starting internship.
I am sorry for the length of the post but there was a lot to cover from this past week. I am hoping to  post pictures latter this week. Thanks for your continual prayers and interest!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Arrival in Uganda

(Originally posted Aug. 28, 2014)
Hello from Uganda! I arrived safely  to the Ugandan Christian University in Mukono,Uganda on Sunday morning (8/24) about 5 am.The wi-fi on campus is not always very constant along with the power, so communication can be a bit more challenging at times. We were not approved for wi-fi until yesterday so that is why I have not posted anything to my blog since before I left.
This first week has been filled up with various orientation sessions, for both the university and the Uganda Studies Program. Also getting settled into our new home for the next four months has been a major priority. I am staying in one of the Honors College dorms and will have a Ugandan roommate in about two weeks, when classes actually start. On Sunday afternoon we hiked up Monkey Hill, and were able to see great views of Mukono.  I have been surprised by the lush plants and trees as well as the hilly terrain on campus and the surrounding community. The views are beautiful in their own unique way.  
View of Mukono from Monkey Hill
 On Tuesday, my Uganda Studies Program (USP) peers went on a scavenger hunt around Mukono Town to locate specific items/ places. We were asked to find yogurt (which I was surprised to find in some of the larger  shops), what the word  muzungu means (white person), where to get laundry soap, clothes pins, and other such items. The main task was to load airtime (minutes) onto our USP phones. This experience was a bit interesting since it was raining for most of our trek into town. In Uganda everything shuts down when it rains, and as Americans we were not bothered by the rain since we had umbrellas or rain jackets. Several Ugandans thought this was pretty comical. After our scavenger hunt we had the opportunity to explore around Mukono a bit more. A few of us got to experience a Ugandan open air market with shops lining the street as far as you can see in the midst of shoulder to shoulder people. It was a sight to be a part of and observe. (I hope to go back and take a picture at some point.)
Today I learned where I will be completing my social work internship. The organization is Reach One, Touch One Ministries (ROTOM). This organization provides care, friendship, hope and support to the disadvantaged elderly in Uganda. I am excited to have the incredible opportunity to work, serve, and learn from this organization, my supervisors and this unique population group. I entered this experience with an open mind as to where I would be place, and I am sure that God has placed me exactly where he wants me.
I will be leaving for Rwanda on Fri. for about a 10 day trip to learn more about the genocide and the current efforts towards reconciliation.  This trip has the potential to be very emotionally tasking so your prayers are greatly appreciated. Here are a few things to be praying for this week:
  • safe travels to and from Rwanda( 18 hr bus ride to our destination in Rwanda, and then back to campus)
  •  grace and patience with my USP peers (both American and Ugandan-7 honors college students are going with us as part of their UCU requirements)
  •  a willingness to actively learn from the people we meet as well as the memorial sites/organizations we visit