So much has happened in the past week!
We got to go out to the communities and took our first “taxi” to get there. We had heard that they tend to put a few more people in them than you would typically see in Canada. Four of us squeezed in the back, and four in the front! (We were traveling with Vivian as well, and there was an additional person sitting next to the driver). Vivian told us that it is not uncommon for them to have up to 6 people in the backseat, although I’m not quite sure I can picture it. It was already a tight fit!
Our first stop was to visit Joseph (an extension worked from FAOC)’s home and see the goat pen he has built. He is well known in the communities and has also received paravet training and does a great deal to help the beneficiaries. From there, we made our way to our first parish meeting in Kyenyangi. We were very welcomed by the women there and were very excited to meet some of the beneficiaries for the first time. Kyenyangi is one of the more well-off communities that we will work with this summer, and it was very encouraging for us to see that this project has this kind of potential to be successful. It was a good first meeting to attend as it also gave us more input on how a successful community can run, and how we can help the families here.
On Tuesday we had the opportunity to head to NARO (National Agricultural Research Organization) where we will be carrying out some our our brucellosis testing (a disease that has been eradicated in our domestic cattle but is still causing abortion and infertility in the livestock in Uganda). We got to meet the director Dr. David Balikowa who was very excited about working with us and showing us their farms.
We had originally scheduled another town meeting for that afternoon, but unfortunately one of the paravet’s father had passed away and they would be having the burial that afternoon. Devon and I attended with Vivian and Boaz (the director at FAOC) to represent out group and pay our respects. There were at least 400 people there which was way more than either Devon or I would have expected. People from all the surrounding communities attended. Vivian brought the pastor the condolence letter that we signed, and as is done typically it was read out. The pastor apparently misread the letter and all we understood was “…mzungu…” followed by the whole crowd laughing and turning to find us. We definitely stood out in the crowd! We were invited to toss some flowers onto the casket (there were so many!) to show our respect and the ceremony ended shortly afterwards.
The next day we started our morning off by heading into Kikokwa to visit the beneficiaries before their afternoon meeting. The first household we came across belonged to an orphan named Brian and his family. Brian is 5 years old and is HIV positive, although only has the stature of a toddler. Thanks to previous VWB members who travelled to Uganda he was been able to receive treatment and his condition improved. He was malnourished and doing quite poorly when they met him. We are happy to say that Brian seems to be doing well and is able to laugh, run, and play with his cousins. To read more about Brian’s story please see the following blog posts made by the previous VWB members.
From there we we decided to split our group in two so that we would be able to cover more ground while in Kikokwa. Devon, Katie and I went with Vivian and Tara and Elad headed off with Joseph. It’s unbelievable how well Vivian is able to navigate the hills through the matooke plantations to get to the beneficiaries homes! I don’t know if I’d be able to find my way around even if I was given a detailed map (that, and my sense of direction is quite poor).
The first beneficiary we visited, Farazia, was a lovely elderly woman who had been given two goats last year. She had a very sturdy well built goat pen and we could see several goats in the yard when we walked up. She told us she had to sell and replace one of the goats because it would not conceive, and she still had the other goat and one of its kids! She was also housing some of her sons goats. She even told us that she was able to sell two goats and buy a small piece of land, and has been able to pass-on a goat to the project! It was a very encouraging first visit.
One of the next women we visited was Jadrice, a grandmother who cares for her 3 young grandchildren. She had received two goats and had managed to successfully pass a kid on. Unfortunately, shortly after the pass-out, the goat died despite her and the local paravets efforts. The other goat that remained was stolen. She was left with no goats and was very discouraged and dismantled her goat pen. We told her that that since she did everything right and even paid back some of her loan that she would be eligible to receive new goats. We hope to help her get access to a more secure pen, or even be able to share one with one of the neighbours.
These visits seem to be quite typical of the other beneficiaries we visited that day, some quite successful, others facing many challenges and a range in between.
We joined back up with Tara, Elad and Joseph in the afternoon for the parish meeting.Walking up to the meeting, I noticed a feed bag on the ground which seemed to be moving around and grunting. I asked Vivian what it was about and she said it was a pig that was going to be passed on to a member at the meeting! Again the women were very welcoming and appreciative that we took the time to visit their homes and families. The meeting went very well and we learned a lot about some of the problems they were facing and what we could do to help.
We also visited 2 other communities and went to their meetings this week, and got to meet Scovia and Tom who also work for FAOC and served as our translators. This parish had more pigs than goats so it was interesting to see some of the problems associated with the pig-pass on project (scabies and greasy pig disease among them!). More to come on these parishes this summer!
Some lessons learned this week: never ask a farmer how many cows he has, and don’t roll up a mat that’s been offered for you to sit on (Katie will have more on this one!)