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The Stacey's Travel to Uganda: Part 1

Monday, February 03, 2014

Written by Ted & Jennifer Stacey

This post might make you cry. It was a difficult day, emotionally, to say the least. We woke up to a thunderstorm this morning, the first time any of our seasoned volunteers had even seen rain in Jinja. The day cooled off and stayed overcast all morning, which made today much easier, at least physically.



We split into two groups, and some of us went into the market to purchase lunch supplies, and the others stayed with the truck and picked up family kit supplies. These include, a mattress, a jerry can to carry water, a pot, a bowl, a long bar of soap (about 12" long), a mosquito net, some salt, and a blanket. They loaded the supplies on the truck that we hired for the day, and we proceeded into the outlying villages.


When we arrived, we got off the bus, and were immediately greeted by the elders who had chosen the families that the 20 kits would be delivered to, as well as a throng of children who had chased the bus from further down the road. 
The elders were ecstatic that we were there, but their energy paled beside that of the children. They were dressed in clothes that had clearly been donated from North America, as there were Dora pictures, Lightning McQueen pictures, and a bevy of other characters seen on the fronts of their shirts. They obviously, had no idea who any of these characters were that they were wearing. 
Those who were wearing shirts, were wearing what would have passed at sometime for a shirt in North America. One boy had so many holes in his shirt, that he frequently chose different ones to put his arm through. Another boy had an umbilical hernia that showed prominently through the huge gaping whole in his shirt. They were all dirty.  None of the babies had pants on, some of the children didn't wear shirts at all. This was a day, where Ugandan citizens found the weather cold, due to the rain from earlier today.  Our Ugandan volunteers were very chilly and some wore jackets. Of course, all of the rest of us were sweating from the humidity... LOL.
We pulled out our cameras to take pictures of the kids, and they stood confused at us as we snapped away. Only when we turned the cameras around to show them the pictures, did they scream with excitement, pointing out their friends. Most of them didn't know which person was them, having never seen pictures of themselves, or mirrors before.



It didn't take them long to figure out what buttons we were pushing on the camera, and suddenly we had 20 hands all over the buttons trying to push them and see other pictures. If we knelt down to show them the pictures, we were quickly mobbed by the group, each pushing another child out of the way so that they could see. At this point in the picture, the kids were calling out Mazumba, Mazumba (which means White Person) so that they could get my attention to take another picture.  LOL
We each took a turn delivering the items to the locals, who only spoke Lugandan.  We had translators with us to help us communicate. We went into their mud-huts and set up the mattress, the mosquito net, and gave them the other items. Some of the huts were so small, we could barely get 2 people in there to set-up the mosquito nets, and our pictures from inside just don't show how small and sad these dwellings were.  For one old man, we came upon him cooking with an open fire in the ground inside his grass/mud hut, and the translators quickly pointed out that he should not be cooking inside, in case of fire. He shrugged them off. Likely, he has rebuilt his hut before, and will again. 
The picture below is really one of the better built huts, made from branches with mud packed into the openings.



I was in a hut with the woman (a grandmother) and the other volunteer who was installing the mosquito net, and I was commenting by gesturing with my hands at how nice her home was. She just kept hugging me and thanking me.  Her granddaughter came in, and she said something to her and pointed to the floor. Her granddaughter promptly dropped to her knees, and reached out for my hand, obviously to offer thanks. I teared up, and promptly came to my knees to hug her and thank her for letting us see her home.
It seems like we were the ones getting a better lesson here. About not taking anything for granted, and being appreciative for the scant items you might have in your life, and learning to just appreciate being alive.
We still have much to learn.


Tomorrow will be constructing a rain water collection system, while also painting, building a frame structure to contain some kind of mulch material for the base of a playground, and we'll be visiting Jinja Connection, which is my friend's NOG for street boys in Jinja. Since most of the kids went off to boarding school from the last group she had, this group will be newer kids, still showing up high off car fumes, because they won't be familiar with the program. Another emotional day, perhaps.

Ted & Jennifer's Ugandan journey continues... Part 2