A Travellerspoint blog

Keeping Busy in Kampala

On Saturday, we visited Agape orphanage again. I was there to meet up with some other volunteers from Denmark. They were very friendly, and, it turns out, have been working with one of the very organizations I was keen to investigate a little further. When they heard of my interest, they were quick to offer to connect me with the people there.

So I think the pictures we took say a lot about our visit and will let them to most of the "talking". I was happy to see my kids interacting with the Agape kids and glad that Erica had the opportunity to meet my friends there. I have a great video I would love to post, but am having some trouble uploading it.

Erica and the Agape kids

Erica and the Agape kids


Discussing mosquito nets

Discussing mosquito nets


Making ourselves right at home

Making ourselves right at home


Sweet little girl

Sweet little girl


Me and Mara and the sweet little girl

Me and Mara and the sweet little girl


Washing clothes in basins

Washing clothes in basins


No easy task getting this timid little guy to smile for the camera

No easy task getting this timid little guy to smile for the camera

After our visit to the orphanage, we went to observe some activities at In Movement, which, as I said earlier, is an organization that uses art and dance and creative writing to bring about social change. The centre works with a few different schools and orphanages, bringing kids in for after-school and weekend workshops. I was so impressed with what we saw and am excited about the possibility of having our volunteers train with the talented and knowledgeable people at In Movement. Again, I had a cute video to post but I guess it will just have to wait until Travellerspoint is willing to co-operate. In the meantime, here are a few more photos.

"Stretching...it's good for you, and so is water," the kids were told

"Stretching...it's good for you, and so is water," the kids were told


Large outdoor dining room at In Movement

Large outdoor dining room at In Movement


Greg gets cozy with one of the staff members

Greg gets cozy with one of the staff members

Posted by BriteLite 13:41 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Walking the Pipe

My sister-in-law Erica arrived Thursday night. Funny story...I read the itinerary wrong (guess after all these years, I still can't read the 24-hour clock) and after sitting on the edges of our seats at the airport for about half an hour, I finally double-checked the arrivals board only to discover we were a full two hours early! So by 10:30 pm when an excited Erica walked through the arrivals gate, me and my kids were an exhausted heap on the airport floor. Greg had even fallen asleep on my lap! It didn't take long for us to get our second wind though. It's so great to have family and visitors from home; there were big hugs all around and in no time everyone was talking a mile a minute, trying to catch up eight months of lost time. As we made our way to the parking lot, we heard drumming and singing and I had a pretty good idea what was must be going on (no, while Ugandans love their traditional dances and music, these kind of celebrations aren't everyday occurrences in the airport parking lot :)). There had been a lively group of Ugandans there to welcome a group of Americans and I figured they had probably arranged a special presentation for their much-loved visitors. Sure enough, when we got closer, we saw men and women in traditional outfits ululating, dancing, and gathering their friends into the celebration circle. So typical of these lovely people!

We didn't give Erica much time to get over her jet-leg; Friday was a packed day with homeschool co-op in the morning, Friday market shopping in the afternoon and movie night at the resource centre after supper. Just before dusk, we walked through the neighbourhood, inviting families to attend the film we were showing. Our canvassing brought us to The Pipe – among the locals, it's a well-used route across the marsh and my kids things it's great fun to walk across. They insisted that Erica give it a try. Unfortunately, not long ago a sixteen-year-old boy died here when he fell off the pipe into the swampy waters below and somehow got tangled up and drowned.

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Soon to follow...another blog with photos and videos (if I can get them to upload) about our visit to Agape orphanage and In Movement, an organization that uses creative movement and visual art to implement social change.

Posted by BriteLite 20:45 Archived in Uganda Comments (2)

Packing Party

For those in and around the Kelowna area, who'd like to help out our centre in a practical way, please read the following email from Niteo founder, Karine Veldhoen. They have a big container with all kinds of books and other resources for our centre. It's been packed once but wasn't how it needed to be to clear customs here in Uganda, so the whole thing has to be repacked before it can be shipped. We can't wait for it to get here!!

Dear Friends,

Here is my first stab at slotting those people in that I could think of for a packing party. We are repacking a TON of books...literally!! Many are for the BRAND NEW KANSANGA RESOURCE CENTRE!

Kara and Jocelyne, how can we mobilize people in your circles for their help. I'd love it if people only had to do 1-2 shifts. There are many shifts still to fill. Maybe a youth pastor wants to take a Wednesday evening shift for a service opportunity?

Global Missions, I have Bob and his strong back slotted in there a number of times. Thanks Faye for your help! I'm hoping that Darwin and Linda are back, because I have Darwin there too!

Bethel Church is putting together some crews over the next week.

The ladies and I need some really strong backs still on March 12 still, however, I'm hoping that we won't need ALL of these shifts.

The idea is to put on some tunes, bring your coffee and snacks, and make it fun! Teenagers welcome.

Let me know if you'd like to participate via the Comment box below and I will be sure to connect you with the people in Kelowna!

Posted by BriteLite 19:48 Comments (2)

Sending out an S.O.S.

Well, that may be a little dramatic, but is has a nice ring to it!

My sister-in-law will be traveling to Uganda before month's end and I am hoping to load her up with all kinds of goodies for the resource centre. Good quality new or used sports equipment is at the top of my wish list. We desperately need soccer balls but a few basketballs and volleyballs would come in handy as well. If anyone knows of a place where we might get our hands on some plastic hockey sticks (or even just the blades -- we can make the sticks here) for road hockey that would be great, too! We're also about to launch an art club and could use some sketching materials and painting supplies. Please email Erica Baker at baker.garyanderica@gmail.com for more info or to drop off donations. Thanks!

Posted by BriteLite 10:38 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Grow Where You're Planted

When I returned to Uganda in March of 2008, aflame with a passion to change the world, one country at a time beginning in Uganda, I spent countless hours online researching volunteer opportunities. It was a discouraging endeavour since most organizations seemed to be targeting young, single professionals. Hmmm. Am I young? I used to think so. Single? Sort of -- if you don't include the four kids. A professional? Well, I make a pretty good domestic engineer!

Finally, after some deep digging, I discovered a great grass-roots organization that caught my interest. I followed the progress of the Uganda Rural Fund for a couple of years and felt I could really buy into their philosophy and approach. I decided I was ready to fill out the volunteer application forms. I had telephone conversations with the founder, and, at one point, was prepared to hop on a plane to Uganda on a fact-finding mission in preparation for a full-fledged move with the whole family.

The only problem? Masaka, URF's headquarters is a three-hour drive from Kampala, where Pat and Kara, my close friends and my only support network while I would be living in Uganda, had been assigned. The more I weighed the pros and cons, I realized I really needed to be near them. Instinctively, though, I rebelled at the thought of living in the capital city with all its pollution and congestion for an entire year. I was sure once I got here, I'd find an escape route to a more rural location.

Those who have been following this blog will know that I moved here in July of last year. Early on, I attended a meeting of URF's Kampala chapter but nothing really came of it. In fact, there were really no other leads to any rural volunteer opportunities, and, as weeks turned into months, I realized that Kampala was destined to be my "permanent" home. I've been here seven (wow! has it been SEVEN?!) months and a couple of days ago I had a bit of an epiphany. "Grow where you're planted" were the words that brought my stay here into sudden focus. I guess I feel that's what has happened. I was planted here in Kampala, not because I necessarily wanted to be, but rather as a matter of circumstance. And slowly by slowly (that's a Ugandan expression, by the way) I've spread my roots and sent up shoots. One branch, one leaf at a time. And suddenly, like a plant that blooms overnight, there's real fruit on the tree. It's so exciting to see what happens when you mix together a little bit of vision, a little bit of faith and a fair bit of effort.

Just this week, I met with the founder of a local health clinic to discuss some form of a partnership with our resource centre. He, in turn, gave me several other useful contacts, informed me of grants to the tune of $10,000 which are available to applicants involved in income-generating projects, and suggested the idea of using bark cloth to make dolls. That suggestion led me to a woman from Texas who has launched a Bark Cloth Project to promote the use and preservation of Ugandan bark cloth. She has partnered with a very successful artist from Kampala has founded an initiative called Let Art Talk which aims to strengthen leadership, advocate reconciliation, and impart problem solving skills (the same objectives we have for our resource centre). It turns out the artist is already involved in making doll clothing out of bark cloth and is looking to partner with other organizations. We are meeting tomorrow!

In other news, we had our first school visit the centre today and, due to a miscommunication somewhere along the line, they sent most of the school (over 150 students) instead of just one class! We could here the children chanting as they approached the centre on foot and from the volume of their chorus, Kara and I knew we were in over our heads. When they arrived, we attempted to sort them by class level but soon realized that class level by no means corresponds with age. As we directed the P3s and P4s into the playroom where we house the lego, we were a little shocked to see fourteen year-old former Sudanese soldiers (some of them close to six-feet tall!) file in alongside the usual eight- and nine-year olds. It was soon evident that we needed a new strategy!

In the end, the centre was the prefect picture of chaos and confusion... but blissfully so. Children filled every occupiable space, both inside and outside of the centre. Everywhere I looked, I saw smiling children -- playing netball or frisbee, reading books, working on puzzles, building with lego, manipulating tangrams. Many of the children thanked me for letting them read our "beautiful books" and were asking when they could visit again. Another school is scheduled to visit on Monday: this time we'll be sure to limit the numbers.

Also today, my two house helpers ventured to our weekly Ambrosoli chips and salsa sale on their own! They did great. I'm so proud of them, and I could hear the excitement in their voices as they told me how well the sale had gone. When I arrived home this afternoon, I found a note which said, "Madam Jocelyne, Thanks a lot for the good work ur doin for us." I reflected on how little I have done really; these women are extremely hard-working individuals and it is their own drive that will get them where they want to go. They just needed that first little step up, and now they're on their way. This aspect of my stay here has been so rewarding.

Tonight, Kara and I set up a sheet of plywood against one of the walls at the centre and played Tom and Jerry cartoons on the big screen for some of the neighbourhood kids. I loved hearing the sound of their laughter; it made me feel like we were giving them a chance to just be kids -- to escape, even if only for an hour, the challenges of living in poverty and to forget, for awhile, their chores and studies and responsibilities (though several of the girls had little ones on their hips). Here are some of the children who attended:

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Kara sorting out the technical side of things

Kara sorting out the technical side of things


Alima settles the dust

Alima settles the dust

Posted by BriteLite 12:29 Archived in Uganda Comments (3)

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