Saturday, June 28, 2008

Really Truly Grassroots

Yesterday I helped build a fuel efficient stove from bricks and mud with grass mixed into it. This mixture was created to maximize insulation. Banana stems were used to provide a mold to connect the heating surfaces together to maximize use of the fire, which will be lit through a little opening in the side of the stove. A chimney was also constructed to expel the fumes from the stove out of the kitchen.

This is the first time that I've helped build something as part of community service. I never thought I would want to help out in this way, but it felt very raw and natural to get my hands dirty and work with bricks and mud for three hours. They were the most productive three hours I've had since I've been in Uganda. It was hard work. I can't help but admire people that work like that for days on end.

The day before that, I helped make necklaces from varnished beads made out of magazines. I was working with the support group for women with HIV/AIDS. They all had a debilitating disease, but they were laughing throughout the meeting. I enjoyed being in that atmosphere and examining the beads they had made for the ones that were good enough for necklaces. We had to discard a lot of beads. I didn't realized the amount of effort that goes into making magazine jewelry.

Many people in the US would not consider tasks like building stoves and making magazine necklaces as meaningful internship experiences. I think that the opposite is true. I think it is critical to have some experience participating in the daily activities of people working to sustain their own development because only then can one have an idea of what it's like to be in their shoes. Of course, there is no way a person could possibly know what it's like to be in their position, but I think it's important to try. From my experience, they really appreciate it. People enjoy seeing that Mzungus aren't above doing certain tasks.

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