Sunday, September 25, 2011

A little late for a concluding post, but I’ve recently been in touch with Rehema and Frank, my host family, so I thought I would share. Having been home from Uganda for nearly two months and with school in full swing, it’s sometimes strange to think that I spent nine weeks in Africa this past summer. It was certainly a memorable experience, I’m glad that I went and I plan to return to Africa again. Rehema is currently a few weeks into a four month stay in Switzerland after receiving a scholarship to write her thesis for her Master’s Degree, which she will complete in December. She seems to be doing well. Frank and the kids are also doing fine, evidently staying healthier than they were while we were there (both Denise and Rachel got malaria while we were living with them). Overall it seems that they are doing great. Rehema reports that our piggery project at Katosi C/U is well under way. The sty was being built when she left and she would have Vaal send pictures once it is completed. I hope the kids get to enjoy the benefits while learning a useful skill and eventually developing a profitable, self-sustaining enterprise. Upon returning home, I loaned some money through a microfinance website, Kiva, to three individuals in Uganda who needed start-up capital for a business or motorcycle and then they will repay the loan within a few months. It’s cool after having the experience that I had to now feel invested in others there in such a way. I plan to continue to stay in touch with Rehema and Frank after all the help and support they offered us this summer. Farewell Uganda, I’ll be back someday.

- Grant

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Female Health and Reusable Menstrual Pads

As an AGRADU intern, I was required to design and implement a project during my eight week internship. The first half of my project, based around health and sanitation education, culminated in the highly successful Keep Katosi Clean Day. I was thrilled with the community response as for the next several days members of the community were commenting on my participation and thanking me and Katosi C/U Primary School for our work.

The second half of my project focused on Female Health and Reusable Menstrual Pads. The idea of the Reusable Menstrual Pad was first designed by Lizzie Kazan, a 2009-2011 Peace Corps Volunteer. I adapted her program to be more suitable for Katosi primary and secondary school girls.

Over the past two weeks, I have worked with 75 female students in the P4 and P5 classes at St. John Bosco Primary School and the P5 class at Katosi C/U. My Female Health and Reusable Menstrual Pad program had two parts. Past One consisted of a discussion on Female Health. In this session, I taught about puberty, the reproductive system, the menstrual cycle and menstruation, what to do when a girl has her period, pregnancy, infertility, and how to take care of one’s body. After I spoke, I held a question and answer session. Knowing many of the girls would not feel comfortable asking questions in front of their peers, I provided each student with a slip of paper where she could anonymously write her question in English or Luganda and I would answer.

I received many questions this way. Several girls asked about what to do when she has her period – what should I do when I see blood, what should I wear, how many pads should I have, can I still go to school – and, surprisingly, about infertility. Some questions showed how extremely misguided the girls are – “Can I get pregnant by standing next to a boy?” (In the local culture, girls and boys do not interact outside of the classroom. Girls play with girls, boys play with boys.) Other questions I could not fully answer, such as questions about Candida, a vaginal yeast infection common in Uganda because of the hot and humid climate. However, all of the questions were appropriate to the conversation and showed me that the girls understood what I was teaching and were curious about their bodies.

Reproductive health is not a topic widely taught in the Ugandan school system. Many teachers feel uncomfortable with the topic and will shy away from questions or answer with very little detail. As I was expressing my desire to do this program at St. John Bosco, I spoke to several of the female teachers trying to find one to assist me. One was clearly very uncomfortable even with the idea of the topic and couldn’t look me in the eye as I was telling her my intentions. Thankfully, the teacher I found, Juliet, was very excited and even made a reusable pad for herself. Each school has at least one Senior Woman and Senior Man, usually a teacher, who is responsible for teaching students about reproductive health and their bodies. At Katosi C/U and St/ John Bosco, the Senior Woman assisted me with my program by translating my lesson into Luganda to ensure full comprehension. It is very important to have a respected and trusted female role model present for comfort and security of the girls.

After all questions had been answered, I demonstrated how to make the reusable menstrual pads, step by step. There are many benefits to using these reusable pads. To name a few:
1. Low cost – Made from local materials that the girls can easily access.
2. Reusable – Disposable pads can be a financial burden on a girl’s family as they are expensive and cannot be reused.
3. Environmentally friendly – Disposable pads do not biodegrade, thus they tend to clog latrines and cause them to fill up quickly, rendering the latrine unusable.
4. Hygienic alternative – Many girls who cannot afford store-bought pads will use newspapers, old rags, etc. to stop the blood, increasing their risk of infection. Reusable pads offer a safe, cheap alternative.
5. Leak free – If used correctly, girls do not need to worry about leaks and can attend school worry-free for the duration of their period. Many girls skip school for the week of the period, causing them to fall far behind in their classes and putting them at a great disadvantage.

Part Two of the program is when the girls get to make their own personal reusable menstrual pad. We made ours out of old bed sheets and 100% cotton towels (needs to be a very absorbent material. An exercise book cover was used to create the template for the pad, and needles, thread, and a button were used to put it all together. I provided the girls with a list of other local and easily accessible items they can use as well.

I created a guide and information booklet on all of the material I covered which I left with the Senior Woman at the schools. It includes photos and diagrams of the reproductive system and menstrual cycle and is written using simple terms, easily understond by primary school students. A step by step guide, loaded with diagrams, on how to make a reusable menstrual pad from scratch is provided at the end of the booklet.

The girls thanked me profusely for imparting them with knowledge about female health and teaching them how to make reusable menstrual pads. I only wish I had been able to work with more schools, though I have left a book with Heidi to use with the women’s groups and for other schools, so that my program can continue.

* * *

Beyond working extremely hard on the female health program, I have continued teaching the sanitation clubs at the schools. Last Saturday, I went with a handful of students from Katosi C/U’s Sanitation Club, Christopher, and Charles to Bukwaya, a neighboring town (45 minutes walk), to build a stove at the house of one of my students. An all day ordeal, but with the help of all who came, we built a stove from scratch using bricks, dirt dust, sawdust, wood shavings, and sticks.

* * *

A few final thoughts

Every night when I go outside to brush my teeth, I look up at the sky. It’s amazing how much light the moon provides when the electricity is out, when there is no (or little) light pollution, or when there is not a plethora of man-made objects blocking one’s view. It’s always a peaceful moment for me, taking in the beauty of the night. Early morning and late nights are the times I use for personal reflection.

The last Tuesday night was the most remarkable night. No clouds and no electricity revealed the clearest sky I have ever seen. I felt like I was floating in space, inside the Milky Way. As Maama Gertrude had just walked outside, I made her stop and appreciate the evening with me. No matter where I am in the world, there is always the sky to me connect me with my international family.

For my final week in Katosi, I have been very nostalgic, reflecting on my time and beginning the farewells. I would love to stay longer to further my relationships, to expand my Female Health and Reusable Menstrual Pad program, to live as one with a community I have only known for eight weeks and yet one to which I feel deeply connected. I don’t think the women, students, teachers, and friends know what a profound impact they have made on my life. I would not trade my experience and my relationships for anything. As hard as it is to leave, I know I am not truly leaving. A part of me will forever remain in Katosi. One day, I hope to return to Katosi, and I know that one day I will.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Keep Katosi Clean

18th July 2011 marked the day of the Third Annual Keep Katosi Clean Day. This year, Katosi Church of Uganda Primary School scheduled a full day of activities to promote sanitation and hygiene in their community, homes, and schools. The day began at 8:00am as the students ensured all supplies had been gathered and prepared for their guests. Although the opening ceremony was delayed until the arrival of our guest of honor, we were honored by the visit of the Officer in Charge (O/C) of the Katosi Police Station with two fellow officers who wished the school a successful day and thanked everyone for their work in the community.

At 10:00am, the students in classes Primary Three though Primary Seven were lined up and ready to go. The students had been divided into five groups, and each group leader had been given a wheelbarrow with sixteen (16) brooms, two (2) rakes, one (1) slasher, one or two (1-2) sacks to be used as trash bags, and twenty (20) latex gloves. The first person in each line carried the Keep Katosi Clean Sanitation Club posters that the students had designed to encourage everyone to join us in keeping Katosi clean. Two students led the school to the town center by carrying the official Katosi Church of Uganda Primary School Sanitation Club banner high above their heads.

Assembled in the town center, a student led the school in singing the Uganda National Anthem, the School Anthem and the Sanitation Club Anthem. Our guest, Mukasa Jane Ssozi, the District Woman Councilor of the Local Council 5 (LC5), welcomed us all and announced that she would be leading a group. Also, the Officer in Charge Kirikumwino Janipher of the Katosi Police Post gave a speech and stayed with us throughout the day. Christopher Luwaga, the Head Sanitation Club teacher, announced the designated areas that each group was to clean and sent us off one group at a time in the direction of our area.

Assigning sections of the town of Katosi to each of the five groups ensured that all areas of Katosi were reached and cleaned during the event. Group One began in the town center, went down Bunakija Road, turned left at the junction toward the church, turned left again at Paradise Hall and continued to Mukono Road. Group Two was responsible for the section of Mukono Road from the town center to Mutebi Road and along Mutebi Road. Group Three went down Mukono Road from the town center until the Katosi C/U school sign post, then turned left and cleaned past St. Joseph’s Primary School and up to Mutebi Road. Group Four began in the town center and cleaned the road toward Katosi C/U P/S and turned right towards Mutebi Road. And finally, Group Five cleaned from the town center to the landing site and along the road to the police post. As each group stuck to their designated roads and sections of Katosi, the entire town benefited from our efforts of increasing sanitation and the awareness of the importance of maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in order to improve health and prevent diseases.

Over the course of the next hour and a half, the three hundred students in the Primary Three through Primary Seven classes, their teachers, our distinguished guests, Kristen Babirye, and Leslie Nakato swept, raked, moved, piled, and burned rubbish from the main roads and walkways of Katosi. From dirty to clean we made Katosi. Each student did his or her part in our efforts to Keep Katosi Clean. While we were cleaning, a selected member of each group carried a tin to ask for donations and support from community members as we passed by their homes and businesses. Receiving some generous donations, the students raised Ush46,900 to go toward long-term sanitation and hygiene in the school and community. The money was used to buy brushes, squeezers, and basins to be used in the cleaning of latrines.

At 12:00pm, the five sanitation groups reconvened outside the BMU Landing Site for speeches and an awards ceremony. An intercom system was set up to project our speeches so that we were more accessible to the community, the main reason why we moved our ceremony to the landing site instead of having it at the school.

The Headmaster Reverend Yosamu Kintu, O/C Kirilumwino Janipher, the Health Officer Katosi Town Board who is in charge of sanitation in the town, the Guest of Honor Katosi Town Clerk Kalagi E. Bukanya, Sir Christopher Luwaga, and Leslie Nakato gave speeches to the members of the school and the community thanking them for their work and participation while encouraging them to maintain Katosi’s cleanliness and to practice proper sanitation in their homes, schools, and community.

Additionally, awards were presented to the classes and individual students who have exhibited the best sanitation in the school. For the month leading up to Keep Katosi Clean Day, the P1-P7 classes at Katosi C/U P/S have been competing in an Inter-Class Sanitation Competition. They have been judged on the cleanliness of their classroom and assigned compound area, as well as on their personal hygiene. Points were awarded based on the extent of effort that was put into improving the condition of these three categories. After the speeches, the rankings were announced and the winners were congratulated. In second place with a score of 405 points was Primary Seven, and the winner, with 415 points, was Primary Three. Leslie Nakato and Kristen Babirye with the Headmaster Yosamu Kintu and the Guest of Honor Kalagi E. Bukenya presented a framed Outstanding Sanitation Award certificate to the Primary Three Class Monitor. Congratulations to Primary Three and thank you to all classes for participating in the competition to improve the sanitation of the school grounds and the personal hygiene of individual students! From now on, the Inter-Class Sanitation Competition will continue every term with a new winning class. This will set a good example for the numerous other schools in Katosi to follow.

In addition to acknowledging the most sanitary class, the top two students who have shown outstanding personal hygiene throughout the duration of the competition were recognized. Mutebi Lawrence and Nakabugo Juliet were awarded a new uniform tailored by a Katosi C/U parent, Joyce.

Returning to the school, students in the Primary Three through Primary Seven classes assembled in the church for the reading of student-written compositions about sanitation and a drama production performed by the students in the Sanitation Club. Seven students submitted writings to the Sanitation Writing Competition and were allowed to read their compositions to their fellow students at this assembly. Mutebi Lawrence, the Vice Chairperson of the Sanitation Club, also gave an opening speech welcoming everyone and thanking them for their participation and inviting them to join us in Keeping Katosi Clean.

The drama production, written, produced, and performed by Sanitation Club members, kept the audience engaged with its humor, songs, and phenomenal acting. A message about the importance of being knowledgeable of proper sanitation and good hygiene practices and the importance of sharing this knowledge with others was taken away from the production.

Much effort was put into making the Third Annual Keep Katosi Clean a huge success. The day ended with lunch, including the addition of sugar to the students’ porridge. It was a celebration and achievement shared by all.

Thank you to everyone who worked in the preparations for Keep Katosi Clean, who made donations, who participated in the day’s activities, and who have vowed to improve and maintain proper sanitation in the community. Thank you to our guests and our speakers for taking your time to acknowledge the importance of proper sanitation and hygiene in our homes, schools, and community by supporting our efforts of community awareness and the eradication of diseases in the town of Katosi. Thank you to the members of Katosi Church of Uganda Primary School Sanitation Club and the teachers of Katosi C/U for your hard work and support. The Third Annual Keep Katosi Clean Day would not have been successful without all of you!

Thank you,
Leslie Nakato Willis

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cleaning and Cows

            Today was my first day in Katosi after being sick, and I am so thrilled that it was.  One of the schools that we work with, Katosi Church of Uganda School, had “Keep Katosi Clean Day”.  The students made signs and marched through Katosi cleaning up trash.  Leslie organized most of it and it turned out wonderfully.  We had wheelbarrows, brooms, and hoes donated and the children cleaned for two hours.  I donated latex gloves for everyone and we even had an escort from the police station.  The program lasted from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. so it was quite a long day.  The school has had “Keep Katosi Clean Day” for the past three years but they said that this was definitely their best year so far.  Everything from the opening ceremony to the closing assembly went smoothly and I have to admit that I got a little teary eyed watching the kids.  They are really playing an active role in their community and it was wonderful to see.  In addition to the cleaning of the community, Leslie and I have been judging the students for the past month on sanitation.  Each class was judged on the cleanliness of their classroom, personal hygiene, and the compound area they are responsible for cleaning.  The third grade won so we presented them with a plaque and the entire class received a toothbrush, pencil, pencil sharpener and notebook.  They were so excited and I am glad that we could help encourage the kids to take an active role in sanitation both in their community and personally.  The school decided that next year they would have the sanitation competition again and pass on the plaque we made to the winner next year.  So even though we did not start the “Keep Katosi Clean Day,” we added the sanitation competition and the award in addition to organizing the program today which further legitimized the program in the minds of the community and the kids.  The sanitation club did a skit on good sanitation practices at the final assembly and ten students wrote poems on sanitation and read them at the assembly as well.  Needless to say it was an inspirational day and I am so glad I was able to participate.  Leslie and I have been judging for the past month so it was a great close to one of our projects.  I cannot believe that I only have 12 days left, but I look forward to finishing our garden, the bio sand water filters, and my sanitation guide.  This has really been a wonderful experience.

            And speaking of happy endings, Anna, our cow, finally had her calf today.  She gave birth early this morning to a beautiful female.  It was very exciting, but I feel bad for poor Anna because they put the calf in a separate pen.  They do this because if Anna feeds her calf she will not let anyone milk her.  They obviously want to milk her for revenue so the calf is about ten feet away in a separate pen, and Anna will not stop mooing.  She is so loud! I hope that the protective mother in Anna dies down a little in the next few days or I will be getting up at 5:30 a.m. every day when she starts her symphony.   I say symphony because she wakes up the rooster who wakes up the rest of the chickens as well as the people in the house that Anna did not wake up.  But it is the experience right? J Until next time.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Things are progressing right along here in Uganda. Our work in the office mainly consists of editing proposals, brochures, and various applications before they are sent off as well as browsing websites looking for potential donors with goals compatible to those of KWDT, and sending reports with information about these possibilities to our superiors, who then decide whether or not to pursue the application further. We are working with some teachers in Katosi C/U on the details of the budget for our piggery project. More goes into such an endeavor than I expected and the project will be more costly than our initial estimate (pigs require vaccination against diseases, eat quite a bit, and the cost of building a quality, sanitary pen is not insignificant), but we are working out the particulars now.

In other news, our weekends and past week’s travels have been fun. A few weekends ago we went on a safari in Murchison Falls National Park, the largest park in Uganda. The game drive yielded a number of giraffes, hippos, buffaloes, baboons, warthogs, elephants from a distance, and various antelopes. Later on the boat ride we saw some crocodiles on the shore, a lone elephant which we got quite close to, several varieties of large birds, and a nice view of the waterfall after which the park is named. The following morning’s hike around the falls resulted in some great views as well. Overall it was an excellent time. The following weekend Zach and I accompanied our host family to their Seventh Day Adventist Church, which was quite an experience. The main service was over four hours and was preceded by a smaller-group Bible Study. We headed into town after a pot-luck lunch, but Frank, Rehema, Denise, and Rachel stayed for more meetings and Children’s Church. It’s a marathon Saturday in the life of a devout Seventh Day Adventist in Uganda. Later that weekend was the US Embassy’s 4th of July party, a rather exciting event featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, and fireworks, among other things. The next weekend we returned to the beloved Backpacker’s Hostel in Jinja for a healthy dose of adventure in the form of white-water rafting down the Nile, which was an absolute blast. It differed slightly from the white-water rafting I am familiar with in that here the depth of the river results in far less dangerous rocks near the surface, meaning that there is no problem attacking the rapid head-on, flipping the raft, and swimming halfway down. In fact this is precisely what happened for at least three out of the eight major rapids on the day. I would describe it as considerably more fun than rafting with the absolute goal of staying inside the raft.

After Jinja, Zach and I headed out on our own adventure of sorts. Due to a flurry of conferences in Rome and Paris that our KWDT staff were attending, the office was going to be virtually empty last week and commuting to work would have been challenging for us since Rehema was in Rome. So, Zach and I made a quick stop at home to pack some things on Sunday, and then turned around and headed to the southwest region of Uganda, which received substantial praise from our trusty guide book and indeed lived up to expectations. After enjoying Lake Bunyonyi in the southwest corner of the country, we moved north towards Queen Elizabeth National Park, where we saw a number of elephants from close range and three spotted hyenas dragging along an antelope they had just killed. We then set up shop in a nice campsite just outside the grounds of the national park in Rwenzori Mountains and enjoyed spectacular views and some self-directed hiking, which I do not especially recommend for reasons Zach articulated on in his post below. Finally, we proceeded to Fort Portal, a very nice mid-sized town, and crashed there for a night before getting up and taking the all-day bus ride back to Kampala yesterday.

Only two weeks remain for us in Uganda, and I hope to make the most of them. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here thus far and expect to finish strong and help out in whatever way possible the next couple of weeks.

Travels throughout SW Uganda

Over the course of the last 7 days, Grant and I took it upon us to explore southwestern Uganda and to investigate what the region had to offer. We did not come away disappointed. Coincidentally, our supervisors Margaret and Rehema had two conferences, in Paris and in Rome respectively, leaving the office empty and Grant and I without a reliable way to get to work. So…we decided it would be a convenient time to leave work and do some travelling. (In exchange for having a week off, upon returning home I will use UNC's grant database center to search for relevant foundations, and to send my findings to KWDT). Recommendations from our guidebook and random travelers quickly gave us a route to follow over the course of 6 days. As previously mentioned, we have already been to Murchison Falls for a Safari and to Jinja to do whitewater rafting. The northern parts of the country are extremely remote, lack reliable and efficient transportation, and possibly have security issues, so we instead headed South.


After a day of riding buses we arrived on the shores of Lake Bunyoni-around 6-7 hours away from Kampala and very close to the border of Rwanda and Tanzania. A mistaken text from our cell provider welcoming us to Rwanda informed us of our proximity. Lake Bunyoni-advertised as the most beautiful lake in Uganda and a fitting retreat from the hustle and bustle of Kampala, lived up to its reputation. The lake encompasses 20+ islands, nearly all accessible by a short canoe ride or even shorter boat ride, and we opted for the former to take us to our lodge where we stayed Monday and Tuesday night. We spent the next two days walking around the island, swimming in the lake (one of the few lakes where hippos, crocs, and water-born illnesses are absent) and enjoying the surroundings.


On Wednesday, with our minds set on going on another wildlife drive and hopefully spotting a lion in the wild, we headed for Queen Elizabeth National Park. We hired a local driver to take us on a 3 hour drive, and although we spotted elephants, hyenas, warthogs, and many others…the lions were nowhere to be found. Slightly disappointing….After the national park, we hopped on a minibus and made our way to Kasese and eventually to the Rwenzori Mountains. The ride to Kasese merits some comment: We are used to travelling in Uganda and have become accustomed to being crammed in minibuses that are intended to carry 14 passengers yet carry quite a few more. However, I think this bus might have been trying to set a record for carrying capacity. At one count, and the numbers are constantly fluctuating as people come and go, there were no less than 27 people in the car. We could really do nothing, literally, could not hardly move, except be thankful that the ride was only 50ish km and that this was an experience we did not have to endure often. Unfortunately, that is how the majority of Ugandans travel, and though it gets them where they need to go, it is horribly uncomfortable and a very undignified way to travel. Of course, it is also the cheapest, and in many areas, the only way to travel. Though it does provide a service that the people could not live without, it would be nice if there was another, more comfortable way for people to travel.


So…we arrived at the base of the Rwenzori mountains-Uganda's tallest mountains, peaking at 16,000 feet, and reportedly more difficult to trek than Mt. Kilimanjaro-though we did not test it out. We stayed at a great lodge, built right into the slope of the mountain, where we could enjoy fantastic views of the mountains and where we could take off on shorter day hikes to see the area. We took a 4 hr hike on a nearby mountain only to end up losing the trail, getting attacked by the most vicious ants I have been bitten by-within seconds they were in my shirt, on my legs, and in my shoes- so naturally I took off running up the trail, slapping the parts of my body I felt stinging, and throwing off my shirt to get rid of the ants biting me while jumping up and down. I imagine it would have been a funny sight to an observer. We probably should have hired a local guide to show us around…When not hiking, most of time was spent reading and hanging out.


When Saturday came around, we headed to Fort Portal-the largest commercial center in the region, to buy tickets for the most comfortable bus ride we could find for the 5-6 hour ride back to Kampala on Sunday. Now we are back in Kampala and getting reacquainted with life in the office.


We have two more weeks here in Kampala, and I suspect my next post will be up by the middle to end of next week.



Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Gift of Life

This morning, as the sun was breaking through the early morning clouds, throwing a golden light on the ground, Ana, our cow, gave birth to a healthy baby girl. After an hour and a half of heavy breathing and strained mooing, Camille was born. I did not watch the birth, but I did see the calf shortly thereafter. She is a much smaller version of her mother, with the same coloring and build, and absolutely adorable. The gift of life is a glorious thing.

This week has been full of adventures. On Sunday, Kristen was diagnosed with malaria and so she has been staying in Mukono with Georgia and Njeri. She has recovered now though she is still very tired. Heidi and Raymond left on Wednesday morning to meet Heidi’s family and travel. I have been left to hold down the fort, feeding the chickens, making yogurt in the evening and morning, in addition to my daily activities at the schools.

At St. John Bosco, we, the students and I, have finished the gardens except for actually planting the eggplant and sukuma wiki (collard greens). However, I have led the students in planting the seeds in make-shift nursery beds made out of cut water bottles. Once the seeds have germinated, we will transfer them to the gardens. I have left a few members of the P5 class with the responsibility of watering the plants and storing them at night. Some of the seeds have already sprouted and so we are all very hopeful. I have also been teaching the P3 class at St. John Bosco. It’s amazing how different the schools I work with are. I feel that the 70 students in this P3 class understand my English better than the 47 students in my P5 class at Katosi C/U. However, all of the students I work with are very bright and we all recognize the difficulty my accent poses for them. Patience is virtue.

Tomorrow is Keep Katosi Clean Day. I have been spending much time preparing for this event. The Katosi C/U Sanitation Club is hosting a community-wide cleaning day where groups of students, each led by a teacher, will go around the community cleaning rubbish and promoting good sanitation and hygiene. This week we have made posters, students have written short speeches that they will read to the audience at the end of the ceremony, and a group of students have even created a drama production on sanitation. Christopher, the head teacher of the Sanitation Club, and I have delivered letters to key officials in the community asking for their support. We have also gone around to local businesses asking for donations. The Headmaster wrote an announcement that has been read over the community intercom everyday since Thursday advertising our activity and encouraging all citizens to join us. This day will also mark the end of the Inter-class Sanitation Competition. For the past month, P1-P7 have been competing to be the class with the cleanest classroom, compound area, and personal hygiene. As the judge, I have randomly gone and judged the classes on these three areas, awarding points based on how clean and sanitary they are. Yesterday, Christopher and I went to the market and bought prizes for the top two classes who will be recognized at the Keep Katosi Clean Ceremony tomorrow. Every term, Katosi will continue the Inter-class Sanitation Competition in order to maintain a healthy school ground and to improve the health of the students.

On Monday, Heidi and I visited the Nakisunga women’s group, the newest of the thirteen KWDT groups. We taught a group of twenty members how to bake the basic yellow cake. It is quite the ordeal considering we baked it over a three stone stove with the wind blowing around it. The three stone stove is made with three large rocks creating a base for the cooking pot. Firewood is placed under the pot and between the stones to heat the pots. To build our oven, we put a second pot facedown on top of the first. It took over two hours to bake the cake instead of the typical 40 minutes, but this did not stop the women and few men from being extremely excited. Once, as we took the top pot off to check on the progress of the cake, the women tried to put on the icing! Once it was ready, it was thoroughly enjoyed by all members.

Heidi and I stayed the night with Ester Margaret, the treasurer of the Nakisunga group, and an absolutely lovely, hospitable lady. I admire her for her strength and her devotion to her life. Ester Margaret has been married fourteen years to a kind, understanding man and yet she has not born any children. In a society where children are the symbol of wealth and prosperity, Ester Margaret and her husband have remained strong together. Five years ago, Ester Margaret was in a vehicle accident, and since then, she has been having pains in her chest and stomach. Although her chest pains have been relieved, her stomach pains are getting worse. The results from a scan reveal a spot in her side, possibly in her uterus, which may explain why she cannot get pregnant. The pain prevents her from carrying heavy items, including jerry cans of water. She is thus no longer able to fetch water, an activity crucial to survival in the area as it is the only way to access water. (KDWT has graciously allowed her to take out a loan to build a water tank at her house. The tank is finished and has been helping her enormously over the past year or two.) Now, she is faced with making a decision about surgery. The surgery would be quite expensive and finding the money will prove difficult. Additionally, she is also afraid of the surgery, but she values her life and desires to have children. I know that she will do what is right for her, and if she chooses to have the surgery, she and her husband will find a way to make it happen. She left us with a phrase she holds close to her heart: “Don’t tell people your problems because 1/3 will laugh at you, 1/4 will not care, and the rest have more problems than you. Tell God, He will listen.” She was not telling us her problems, she was asking for advice and support of which she received both.

Ester Margaret is a woman who fights every day for her health. She is a role model for any woman. She recognizes that life is a gift and that sometimes the choices we have to make are not easy.

I end this blog with the lyrics from a song that we all know but one that has come to have a very dear meaning to me:

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘til I’m going to need somebody to lean on.”

Life is the most precious gift that a person can ever give or receive.