Sunday, February 24, 2008

18 through 24 February

18 – 24 February 2008

As these seven weeks in Uganda fly by I’m becoming more and more immersed in the everyday realities of life in equatorial Africa. Western reality is just not the same. People are simple, yet industrious and most are hard working. Yes, there are the exceptions. I’m told that many men drink their day away and show up for meals and bed, but those I see are quite diligent and frown on those with less responsibility. An education is very desireable. Primary 1 through Primary 6 are offered tuition-free in the government schools. Unfortunately there are many children to be seen in the villages during the school day. It’s free, but not mandatory. Secondary grades 1-6 requires tuition, books and uniforms. Numerous church sponsored schools may have an edge in quality education. And there are colleges and universities. These exist in very humble physical circumstances. I hope to visit at least one of each before leaving.

On 19 February Father Paul Buyela and I met with Angela Bwiza, Focal Point Officer for the Mbale region (TSU #4) to discuss successful projects and to map out a visitation schedule. She pointed out that success is entirely dependent upon the local community’s interpretation of the project and that it would be best to talk to several committees in the villages (LC1 level of government). We discussed visitations in three districts to get a first-hand look at different types of water circumstances in differing terrain. We settled on Manafwa, Pallisa and Tororo over the next week and a half. Then I hope to meet with key engineers and the Minister of Water in Kampala.

On Wednesday I took a walk to the closest borehole. My guess is that it is 2 or 2 ½ km. And people walk or ride bikes 3 to 4 km to get their drinking and cooking water in jerry cans! I saw first hand a missing bolt from the flange of the hand pump. An ox collar must have needed it. I met the Town Agent (government level LC3) on the way back from the borehole. Once he was satisfied that I had the authority to be here, we were on good terms. I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been staying with the archbishop or been able to reference a number of higher government officials? Introductions, references and credentials are of the utmost importance here.

On Thursday I was a guest at a Founder’s Day event at the Tororo Boy Scout Headquarters. It was complete with music, a dance and a skit. I’m sure that the Scout Office would appreciate anything that US Scouts might be able to contribute toward the completion of their new headquarters building, but I made no promises or statements of possibility. I entrusted the Assistant District Commissioner with the distribution of Baden-Powell Council world jamboree patches, an important collectors item given by the Baden-Powell Council as a gesture of fellowship from the BSA.

The director of the Benedictine Eye Hospital (just down the road from the archbishop’s house) turned out to be an American named Charles Howard. He and his wife and now two daughters have been in Uganda for 7 years. We hope to get together for dinner before I leave. Meanwhile he gave me contact information which I’ve passed along to an Endicott ophthalmologists who is interested in some mission type work.

Rotary in Tororo is actively trying to improve the local communities and opportunities for youth. One of their members is drafting a proposal to send to the Endwell Rotary Club to partner on a project.

It’s almost time to leave for Mbale, so God bless until the next installment. Keep this effort in your prayers.