Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cosmo Girl in Katosi

When I first moved to the village there were a lot of miscommunications which pretty much made my first night there as bad as it could possibly be. I live on the same compound as the headquarters for the Women's Trust that we work at. Anyway we were dropped of there and then this amazing man Fred who works for the trust walked us around the village for a while. It was so sad to see the level of poverty that these people are plagued with none of the children had shoes and if they did have clothing it was all tattered and torn. Also most of them had the swollen bellies I can't remember what they are actually called but they signal malnutrition and it just broke my heart. But the village is right on Lake Victoria which is honestly the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Anyway Fred dropped us off at our house and left so Kate and I were completely alone and it was dark so we didn't want to venture out again to get food. On top of that the power was out which is pretty much an every other day thing in Katosi. The worst part is that no one warned me about the conditions I would be living in and now that I've had time to adjust they're not that bad but...we don't have running water at all. I have to get water everyday from Rain water tanks and treat the water I drink. Witht that said there is no shower, it's cold bucket style like India. The worst part is that the 'toilet' which is just a hole in the ground is outside. And there are animals everywhere. For Katosi I'm staying in the best area like the gate is locked at night so it's really safe but the bad part for me is that lots of animals live within the gate. A goat a rooster (who starts calling at 4am and stops at about 6pm), two chickens (which scares me daily), and three cats.

Anyway like I said before it's not so bad now and I've realized that this experience will be really good for me. For one I will NEVER complain about having to unload the dishwasher after having to wash my dishes after every meal outside with rainwater. My work here is amazing. I'm truly impressed with the programs that the women's group has in place and I've already started many projects of my own. Even though I live at headquarters none of my work is there :( I usually walk about 8-10 miles everyday through the jungle to get to various schools and other villages. I work with Water Sanitation and Hygiene so I have two main jobs.
1. The trust has set up 28 shallow protected wells all around the district and they are all run by members of the trust. The member are supposed to collect a small fee montly from the families who use it which equates to about 25 cents a month. So I go to each well make sure it's functioning and check the members books. I record for headquarters how many families use the well, how much it costs them, the location, and anything else I see fit.
2. I help Kate with setting up Health Committees in the local schools. The women's trust works to give rain water tanks, eco-sand latrines, and these things call tippy taps which are jerry cans which tip over when you place your foot on the wood. they are designed to be handwashing stations after bathroom use which is really cool because you don't touch them to get the water out which greatly reduces contamination. Anyway I evaluate their usage of these facilities, teach classes about hygiene, and determine which schools need more facilities or which ones they need.
On my own I have set up a project to encourage drinking clean water. I buy water guard tablets which purify the water to make it 99% safe to drink and donate them to the school I work with so the children don't drink rain water. I give them a supply to last at least 6 months and then work with their budget so they can buy the next tablets on their own.

The people I work with are great and usually so nice. The biggest problem has been the language barrier only about 3 people who I work with speak English and 0 in the village speak it so I've been learning Luganda really fast! But the people who I have met through work are the nicest people. In the village it's still really hard just because according to Fred there has never EVER been an Indian person to come there. They've had a couple white PeaceCorp volunteers but the village is literally 100% Ugandan. So when I walk out of my compound usually about 6 children chase after me and try and touch me yelling "Muzungu" which means white person! The kids aren't bad though they are really nice and thrilled if I stop and talk to them. The adults thought...the men are horrible which I pretty much expected but when I walk past everyone literally stops whatever they are doing and just stares. Sometimes they even shut the music off so they can completely concentrate on me :( I'm hoping with time that will get better.

All in all I am starting to love it here. And even if I am never completely comfortable with where I live I absolutely love my work and can really see how appreciative everyone is of what I'm doing. So even though yesterday I had to walk 10 miles to a school at the top of a mountain where the headmaster wasn't even there so I had to turn around and walk 10 miles home, I'm starting to enjoy the walks a little! Being here has made me have to get rid of my fear of bugs and being dirty to while my daily 20 mile treks are out of character I haven't lost all of myself I'm still the only one trekking through the jungle with bright pink toe nails!

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