Sunday, July 4, 2010

tippy taps, stars, and a rhino named obama

Last week was one of the best weeks in Uganda so far! Avery and I helped start a sanitation and health club at the school we have been teaching at, St. John Bosco. Most of the schools in Uganda have Sanitation Clubs, but St. John Bosco is a school for orphans, and they don't have much extra money to dedicate to clubs and things like that, even though sanitation is so important!

Anyway, so we asked the P4 (fourth grade) teacher if he thought a sanitation club would be a good idea, and if he did, if he would be willing to be the lead teacher of the club. He agreed! But first we had to see if the students were interested, which they were (about 75 out of 80 kids in the 3rd and 4th grade wanted to join!), and then we had to get the approval from the headmaster and the elder of the school since we don't want to be imposing anything on the school. The headmaster was really open to the idea, but the elder was a little worried that we would be taking away too much classtime from the students (which is definitely understandable!). But we compromised so that we take a little class time each week, and a little of their break time each week for anyone that wants to to meet for sanitation club!

Our first project was to build tippy taps, which are really cool contraption things that are an easy and clean way for kids to wash their hands (it is basically a can of water hanging from a structure of sticks, attached to a string and piece of wood that act like a pedal). St. John Bosco only had one bucket of dirty water for over 300 students to wash their hands before our tippy tap project started. Now they have five clean places to wash their hands! First, we demonstrated how to build a tippy tap and everyone watched quietly and attentively while Teacher Martin translated for us. Then we divided the students into groups with each of the four interns as the leaders (it was a little chaotic at first, since there were like 80 kids!). We sent them to collect sticks, dig holes in the ground so the sticks could stand up, and tie string to the water can to make a pedal. It ended up taking only about 30 minutes to build four tippy taps!

The students probably never really needed our help in the first place; they just needed some guidance and resources. Everyone, even kids, are so resourceful here and they can pretty much figure out how to do anything they need to do (one group even invented a drainage system for the extra water, and the boys used the leftover sticks to builds their own soccer goals!). Everyone seemed really excited to participate, it was one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of. It helped that we gave the students some incentives, like for my intern project called Kicks for Katosi I am going to give out shoes to the students who participate most actively in Sanitation Club. I really like my shoe idea, especially because last year the interns gave kids shoes based on their grades in school (eek!!). But I am also a bit worried about having to decide who to give shoes to! Teacher Martin said he would pay attention to who was participating and tell me who to give shoes to, and I plan on leaving some shoes so that next term when I am gone the students that work hard can still get shoes. still though, i dont think i can give shoes to just a few kids, i wish i had enough money to buy 80 pairs of shoes!! I am applying for a grant from an American youth organization that gives out $500 every week, but if I dont get it, i am going to have to figure something else out. Any ideas???

Anyway, I thought the Tippy Taps were really successful! By the end of the day, everyone was using them because the big kids had taught the little kids how to use them too! Now perhaps the kids will go home and build Tippy Taps for their families and communities to use! This week for sanitation club, we are going to start school gardens so that students can grow their own food and eat it for lunch! The week after that, we are going to paint murals about the importance of health and sanitation. At the end of the summer, Avery and I are going to type up a booklet with instructions for a lot of sanitation projects and donate them to as many schools as possible in Katosi. I hope it goes well!

That night after the tippy taps, Lauren, Avery and I celebrated by looking at the stars! The stars are seriously SO beautiful in Katosi, I honestly felt like I was at the Morehead Planetarium. We could see the southern cross, which is apparently like the big dipper of the southern hemisphere (even though we are not quite in the southern hemisphere..?), and we could even see the bands of the milkyway! Um, and this is even cooler...we could see satellites rotating around the earth! The look basically like stars, but they are just moving slowly and steadily across the sky. It was a pretty baller night!

Oh yeah, and last weekend I went on a safari in Murchison Falls National Parks. Everything was absolutely awesome, aside from the tsetse flies that were biting us (they really really hurt!). We saw waterfalls and a lot of really cool animals like hippos, giraffes, elephants, and leopards! Then we went rhino tracking, where we had to walk through the grassland/jungle and search for two rhinos, one of which was named obama! The baby rhino we saw was named obama because his rhino mother was from Animal Kingdom/Disneyworld in America and his rhino father was from kenya. Just like the president obama's mom was from the US and dad was from Kenya! I wonder if Obama know he has a kick-ass rhino in Uganda named after him...?!

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