HIV Village Visit

This morning, we went to the “HIV community” nearby. As you probably know, HIV is much more widespread here than in the west. The group is led by a guy named Jackson. He formed the group in order to give those with HIV a ‘fellowship’. It consists of men, women and children that are HIV+. Many of the men and women are too weak to do a lot of manual labor (farming), and this is really the only work here, with few exceptions. And many of the children (and adults as well) are ostracized from others in society due to lack of understanding by all parties, so many do not attend school.

Singing Gorilla Project brought a number of water filters for use by the group, as well as many blankets and other clothing from England. We met members of the group and distributed the blankets and clothing. Also, someone from England gave $50 in cash, and the group said they were going to use it to buy a goat. They were very appreciative for everything they received! Needless to say, this experience by members of our group was humbling.

 

Bright Future School Visit

Saturday morning, we visited a local school. It wasn’t really a “”full” school day because it was a Saturday. Full days are Monday through Friday. A few photos follow. All of the school uniforms were out on the hill drying, as Saturday morning is the time that the kids launder the school uniforms. We saw the computer lab that Singing Gorilla Project had set up, all solar powered. They had about 8 laptops, I forget to get a photo of them. I also saw a few classrooms, as well as the dorms. Some of the children stay on site because it is way too difficult to walk every day. Virtually no one here has any mode of transportation except their feet. So the ones that live close enough to walk (close enough would be 2-6 miles each way, but some are as many as 9 miles) will walk to school. There is no flat land here so it is all up and down (sometimes big) hills. The average walk as a couple of hours each way. Lunch is provided for everyone, and the ones who stay get breakfast and dinner.

We saw the kitchen. All food is prepared with burning food under pots or the oven. No gas or propane. Lunch was cassava and beans. This is every day. If rice is in season, they might have that. FYI, everything that I have written above is about a PRIVATE SCHOOL. And this was a fairly nice private school.

The kids did a dance and presentation for us, in appreciation for all the support from the Singing Gorilla Project.

In one of the classrooms, I snapped a few photos of some of the illustrations in the chart book of teaching aids.

Water tank Arrival and Install

Well, today was one of the more interesting days I have had in a very long time. Those of you with the usual 10 second attention span for something posted on Facebook …. I walked about 6 miles on dirt paths (up and down lots of hills), got my clothes muddy because of the pouring rain, visited 2 Ugandan villages, got rained on, walked through mud and ate some local food that I have no idea what it was. Met lots of locals and learned some words. Interesting!

If you’ve read this far, grab a beer or coffee, I’ll tell you what I did today…. As background, within 2 hours drive of where I am, there is no infrastructure whatsoever, which means no electricity, no plumbing, no running water, no refrigeration, no paved roads, no cars (a few 4x4s). In addition, many of the things that we take for granted simply do not exist; like garbage collection, restaurants, Internet, TV, radios, stoves, ovens, coffee makers (or anything that runs on electricity or gas) No electricity means no TV, no NFL, no NHL, no 9:00pm news, no recorded music. And no light bulbs unless powered by a solar panel and small battery,. And no generator because if you have nothing that runs on electricity, you don’t need a generator 🙂

Note: I am staying in a basic lodge that caters to western tourists that come here to see the Mountain Gorillas (not far away) so electricity is a few power strips in the restaurant that are hooked to a battery that has a solar panel. No electricity in the rooms except solar powered lights. Internet is via cell phones that broadcast wifi signals and route the traffic onto the cell phone network.

Singing Gorilla Project does projects to better the lives of locals. One of the projects is the installation of water tanks in places that do not have running water, which is basically everyplace within 2 hours drive of where I am. Water tanks are important because they can catch rain water and store it. The alternative, which they are doing now, is to send the woman and children 2 hours round trip to the river, to get water and bring it back in containers on their heads. Why the women and children, why not the husbands? Because almost every able-bodied man is working in the capital (Kampala, 10 hours away) in order to make money. By putting in water tanks, Singing Gorilla Project thinks that the children will spend more time on school work. I’ll write more about what “school work” means here if anyone is interested.Let me know.

The tanks need to be purchased from the capital and delivered here. Then rain gutters have to be created and affixed to the sheet metal roofs, along with the pipes to divert the water to the tanks. Concrete pads have to be poured to support the tanks. And some plumbing has to added to get the water out of the tanks. Singing Gorilla Projects takes donations and pays for the cost of all of this (about $1000 per tank) but the village needs to do ALL of the labor to get the tanks delivered and installed. It is a JOINT project. There is no government support for any of this … if anyone is interested in why, I’ll be glad to elaborate. 🙂

Today, we went out to see how it is going. We also had two other items on the agenda, but this is Africa, so everything takes 3 times as long as planned and we never got elsewhere. Tomorrow, maybe.

We set out at 10:00am in a 4×4 and traveled til the roads were too impassible or narrow, then took off on foot, We walked for about an 90 minutes (with at least three 500 foot changes in elevation) and got to a village that was having one of the water tanks installed. 5 or 6 guys carried the empty, huge water tanks through the same paths we walked and delivered the tank, with much celebration from everyone! The concrete pad for the tank was still being prepared. The locals insisted we eat lunch, which was some sort of potato-like stew. See the picture. As D would say, it was made with love!

We then walked another few miles up and down more hills, and watched the delivery of a second tank in a different village. As they say, pictures are worth a thousand words so I;I’ll post a few pics, and video later if anyone is interested.
We walked a few miles back to the 4×4 in constant rain on muddy paths. A 30 minute drive and we got back about 4:00pm.

If you’ve read this far, you get rewarded with a few interesting anecdotes … This first village was unique because it had a woman that was about 98 years old. They told me that they are not sure of her exact age because no one else was alive when she was born, and she does not remember how old she is. Yes, that is what they told me. She looked great for 98. The second village also had a unique person; it was a woman who they said has been blind for 40 years. This woman helps deliver babies, but they said she does not know what the babies look like, she just delivers them. She looked older than 40 but I’m not sure if she has been blind her whole life, but my question about this only got a blank saying “that’s the stupidest question I’ve ever heard”. She seemed nice so I let it go.

The video (1 min 30 sec) shows the arrival of a water tank to Soma village. It starts out a bit dark but it gets bright quickly. The song that is sung is common during any type of celebration for something good that has happened. This tank will be able to store water so the journeys for water during the dry seasons should be less frequent.  This is the final result of a lot of work by many people.

In Uganda – finally!

I am in Nkuringo village in Uganda. 6 of us came on this trip, all the others are British. This is in the extreme SW corner of the country, near the border of the DR Congo and Rwanda. I flew 8 hours to London, 8.5 hours to Nairobi, then 1 hour to Kigali, Rwanda. I met the others there and then we took a 4×4 across the Rwanda/Uganda border and then up to the village which took about 5 hours, half of it on unpaved and sometimes muddy roads.

A friend of mine heads a charity organization called Singing Gorilla Project and they have “adopted” this village, helping them with various things like improving the school, building a music school, installing water tanks, etc. I’m here for a week to help out where I can. I’ll post a few things along the way.

Today (Friday), I am taking part in the installation of a water tank, and some clothes distribution to some of the women of the village. In the afternoon, we’re going to check on 4 students that are HIV-infected from birth, and are having their schooling sponsored by the charity. Supposed to stop by the school today too

The first photo is one I took from outside my “room” this morning just after sunrise, the others were taken yesterday. More to come.

In London

Had a nice flight over to London via Toronto (really cheap ticket with the stop for dinner in Air Canada lounge in Toronto).  It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, so it’s time for a pint for happy hour. Come to think of it, it’s 5 o’clock here! Waiting in the pub for my friend Sue to finish her math lesson. Beautiful day here in London Town. Great beer selection, most of it is even cold. lol

Off to Uganda

In early October, I will be spending 10 days in Uganda, with a stop in London on the way, and transiting through Kenya and Rwanda.  This entries in this blog reflect the dates of the post, not necessarily the dates the photos were taken.

If anyone would like more information about Singing Gorilla Projects and what they are doing in Uganda to help people, please visit their website here: www.dthomas.co.uk/singinggorilla/foundation.shtml

If you are interested in joining Singing Gorilla Projects on a trip, please let me know and I’d be happy to discuss it with you. It will change your view on life.

If you’d like to make a donation to them, or fundraise (like a 5K run, etc.), you can do so here:  www.justgiving.com/singing-gorilla