I cannot believe that July is already here. It feels like we arrived yesterday. I am no where near ready to be over half done the project. Uganda feels like home to me and I don’t know how I am going to leave in August. There is just so much work to be done but I am enjoying every single moment of it.
We had quite an interesting week this past week. To start, the weather has been extremely variable. Every day, the weather would change from blue cloudless skies to black skies that were lit up by lightening and thunder so loud the ground shakes followed by torrential rain showers that lasted for hours. Although the storms have been very beautiful, they have been very powerful. The lightening this past week killed over 60 students in schools (the schools here are not well protected from lightening) and injured hundreds.
The storms also made the driving conditions quite bad. Once the rain had stopped on Tuesday, we headed out to do some field work, only to get stuck on the muddy roads. It took us quite a long time to dig our way out, but the little Suzuki we drive sure did impress us!
We accomplished many things this week. We purchased 17 goats that we will hand out in the upcoming weeks (likely during a celebration). We also found suitable candidates for our para-vet training in all of the new parishes (Para-vets are members in the FAOC groups that are trained in animal health and management and provide care to animals in regions were veterinarians are not accessible). We were also able to distribute nails to many worthy members and assess many other members to ensure they had a goat pen built prior to being able to receive a goat.
We also visited 2 of the old parishes (more established groups) and carried out monitoring of their households and their goats. The members of Nyamuyanja are very hard working. Some members have to travel over 3 hours a day just to collect water. As if they didn’t have enough work to do! Even still, many members have goat pens, use their para-vets regularly and are working hard to ensure they can pay their children’s school fees. It is extremely important to them that their children are in school which is so nice to see. They sell off their animals or borrow money. They will do anything to ensure their children get an education. Two of the members have daughters that just recently graduated university! Some of the things that we will be working to do in the upcoming weeks is provide training to this group on disease prevention in their goats (especially through vaccination), and arrange a revolving fund or loan scheme so that members can start to purchase and build water tanks!
I wanted to share with you the story of one of the beneficiaries that I met in Nyamuyanja. She is a widow with 3 children. Her husband passed away 10 years ago and left behind her and her children as well as another wife (the first wife) and their children. After the death of the husband, the step-children came and destroyed this ladies kitchen, took all of her belongings and tried to kill her. They blame her for the death of their father. For the past 10 years, they have been taunting her, coming to her house at night and threaten to kill her. She cooks inside her house (which is dangerous and hazardous to her health) because she fears being killed or poisoned. She said the step children are now old and are now trying to sell her land because they claim it is theirs. At first, I thought that there is no way this could be true. However, after talking with her and other members in the community and members of FAOC, it apparently happens in the villages, sometime too commonly. Some people who want to seek revenge continue until they get it. Even though 10 years have passes, these step-children are still causing this poor lady daily grief. FAOC will try to do what they can to help protect her but I fear it will not be enough. Unfortunately she is too impoverished to shift to a new plot of land and relies on her land to generate income (with matoke aka plantains, fruits and vegetables). We did inform her of her rights to her land and told her to contact FAOC if she runs into any problems (for example if the step-children try to sell her land). We are also helping her to build a secure goat pen by providing her with nails and a lock one the pen is done so that she can keep her goats safe. I hope things work out for her!
There are so many stories that need to be shared. They are different for each member but most of them share the same theme: lack of rights and poverty. We will continue our work each day to try to make a dint in some of these problems, one household at a time.
I hope all is well with everyone! We are off to Lake Bunyoni after work tomorrow to celebrate Canada Day at the Lake.
Laura & Jessica