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 Hello again from Northern Uganda,

All the snow driving in NE Washington, has been a great help during this rainy season in navigating the slippery red clay to the villages on pathways often wide enough for just one person or bicycle.   In the town of Lira, every day, there are roads which have not been paved since the Obote regime over 30 years ago, being widened, graded and many are being paved.  One thing they use here extensively to get drivers to slow down is “humps”.  They are in the “speed bump” family we have in the US, but these are often mammoth in size, speed bumps on steroids, and launch a vehicle Evil Kenival style if one isn’t paying attention. 

The first interviews of the original graduates of the Hands Across Nations Tailoring School have taken place with both good news and difficulties coming to light.  All of the women were using their skills learned at the school and still owned their machines rather than selling them for quick cash.  All felt that they had been well trained in cutting out and sewing women’s and girls’ dresses, skirts and blouses, but lacked confidence in sewing men’s and boy’s clothing.    The training was extended an extra 3 months for the most recent class to give more time for all clothing styles.  All of the original group interviewed, though they had been provided free sewing machines thanks to generous US donors, were caught in the cycle of not having enough money to buy the first pieces of fabric to make clothes to take to the market to sell themselves at a fair price.  The graduates were most often contracted by market sellers who brought them fabric and had them make girl’s dresses for the seller to then market at a good profit.  The pay for their labor…..25 cents!  Strategies for this challenge are in the works.   As we examined their quality of work, all were quite passable and several were very good.   Each graduate expressed happiness in having learned their tailoring skills, and felt that their lives were improved significantly as they can now purchase many of the necessities they had previously gone without.  Their pride in their work was heart warming. 

Lango College, a boys high school where Hands Across Nations facilitated student planting of fruit and pine trees last year, showed they could keep most of them alive and earned the opportunity to plant over 250 trees and 100 coffee plants this year, provided by Hands Across Nations.  Our friend and fellow Rotarian Levi Abongo who is an English teacher at the school has enlisted the student arm of Rotary Club called Interact, in an “adopt-2-trees” program with a competition for the healthiest trees at the end of the year.  The hope is for future fruit provided by the orchard for a better student diet, and the pines to provide timber to use for carpentry class and to sell when funds are needed.  

This week was the start of the Colville Rotary Club project in a village in the middle of nowhere.  The government is asking the people to leave their refugee camps and return to their home village land after 30 years in the camp.  There’s nothing on the land though some have planted some crops, and their fears of being attacked by cattle rustlers remains.  Soldiers are out at night to shoot at any neighboring Karamajong tribes men who are trying to steal cows.  Most cows are chained at night to large trees cut into pieces and laid on the ground.  Our project was to complete a bank of 5 latrines with local “volunteer” help.  In our American minds we thought that people getting a really nice set of toilets for the school would be appreciated and the town would turn out.  The actual scenario was quite different.  First of all, in Uganda, the term “volunteer” does not mean a person doing work for free.  It means a person who isn’t on salary, but who does temporary work at a lesser pay and is also expecting to be given a lunch!    Secondly, there have been so many charities and organizations who have made huge donations to the people in these camps for the past 3 decades, bringing trucks with food, blankets, cooking utensils and pots that it’s difficult for them to return to the “work for food” mentality that was there before camp life.   Our latrine project and promise of a deep well once the rainy season is over next month was accepted with some appreciation, but any suggestion of their work or putting in even a few coins to join together for a greater cause than themselves, was met with a fair amount of resistance, and in the end, only 4 people in the whole area were consistently working with us on the project.

 The school’s other bank of 5 latrines which we had seen 2 weeks earlier had become unsafe and collapsed into the pit below it! 

The rains had weakened the ground around the structure and poor construction led to the sudden destruction.  In 4 days, the latrine crew completed 75% of the reconstruction and will return to finish it in the next couple of weeks. 

It was a good experience for me to live with a family for those 4 days, using a pit latrine and having to walk a fair distance to the one bore hole well  in the entire area for reasonably clean water, eating the twice a day posho (corn flour, water and salt) and beans, sleeping on the floor of a hut with several families (I’m sure) of rats keeping us “company” at night and even the thrill of defeating a young puff adder  poisonous snake which was attempting to join us in our cozy home. This was an adventure for me, but is daily life, year in, year out for them.  I could leave and come back to the safety of a friend’s home.  They are living with rotted crops in the ground from the heavy rains, and soggy floors in their huts.  Maybe I wouldn’t want to “volunteer” for latrine construction duty if I was walking in their shoes. 

Sharing the love of Christ with the men, women and children of Adacar and Acuru was a challenge in knowing how to turn them toward God in their struggles.   Truly it is not our words but what we do and how we treat people that speaks of His love for all of us.  So we continue to let them know that truth through practical means as well as words.

Sharing the Love of Christ in practical ways,

Carolyn

Carolyn's Journal November 9, 2010

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