If Its Tuesday, It Must Be Bubwa

I just got back from a whirlwind tour of orphanage/schools, technical secondary schools, and several villages in rural Uganda.  We saw much of country in a little over two weeks.  Between traveling and visiting, we put in 12-hour days, visiting Masaka, Kabale, Bubwa Island (in Lake Victoria), Katosi, Iganga, Tororo, Kaberamaido, Lira, Gulu, and Karuma Falls.  The poverty is overwelming, but the Ugandan spirit endures.

School children near Tororo

School children near Tororo

Uganda is sub-Saharan and landlocked, with most goods coming in from Kenya.  The country straddles the Equator, so the days and nights are of equal length.  Uganda doesn’t get a lot of tourists, so most of its residents are unjaded by travelers.  The country is reputed to have over 2,000,000 orphans (missing one or both parents), resulting from war, AIDs, and poverty.  The need is great because the population is growing too fast, and the subsequent subdividing of agricultural land is causing problems for subsistence farmers.

The tour involved representatives from:  the USU Student and GSL Professional Chapters of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Interethnic Health Alliance (IHA), Westminster College, and a recent civil engineering graduate from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.  It was an assessment trip to find and prioritize future opportunities for collaboration.  And there is no shortage of potential projects.

Mary of IHA reading to orphans

Mary of IHA reading to orphans

President Obama, whose father was born in nearby Kenya, is a huge hero in sub-Saharan Africa and a great source of regional pride.  There are photographs of him everywhere, with many wearing Obama T-shirts.  The director of IHA, who was traveling with us, is African American, and he was also very popular:  the descendant of slaves, getting a PhD, and being very successful.  Ugandans also liked hearing the story of our guide: a woman, a Makerere University graduate, and headed to the US to do graduate work at USU.  All served as important role models at the places we visited.

The schools and orphanages we visited included:

  • Byana Mary Hill Orphanage/School (Primary near Masaka)
  • Hope Children’s Center (Primary near Iganga)
  • St. Konrad’s Integrated Vocational College (Vocational near Kabale)
  • Lumino Community Polytechnic (Vocational in Busia)
  • Uganda Martyr’s Orphan Project (Primary and Secondary near Tororo)
  • Kaberabaido Children’s Village (Primary near Kaberabaido) 
  • Bobi Community Polytechnic (Secondary near Gulu)
  • PIT-TEK (Women’s) Vocation Training Centre (in Gulu)

Most of the schools and orphanages have adequate buildings, but are seriously lacking in teaching resources (ie. computers, power tools, sewing machines, etc.).  Some also need assistance with their water and/or power systems.

Perhaps the greatest challenges and opportunities are in the Gulu area of northern Uganda.  The area has been devastated by the recent rebel insurrection.  That war appears to be winding down, and the villagers are moving home from their relocation camps.  The villages are in need of reconstructed infrastructure.  Technical training is also needed.

We visited a primitive women’s training facility in Gulu:  PIT-TEK Vocation Training Centre.  At the time of our visit, the center was only providing tailoring  instructions.  All the sewing machines were treadle.  The women at the school were all single mothers, many the victims (including rape) of recent insurrections in northern Uganda.  Of all the places we visited, this one left the deepest memories.

Near Kampala, we visited a village on the island Bubwa in Lake Victoria.  The village has no power, no water (they haul it from the lake), and no schools.  Their fishing livelihood is in decline (because of dimishing yields from the lake), and they want their kids to start getting an education.  A local resident has donated a building for a future school.  While the setting of the village is very idyllic, the conditions are very primitive and the villagers are concerned about their future.

One of the more interesting experiences of the trip for me personally was a mass performed in Tororo.  I had asked Father Centurio, the force behind Uganda Martyr’s Orphan Project, if it was possible to have a special Friday evening mass.  He concented, and three of us visitors assembled with about 30 of the orphans for a small ceremony.  Father Centurio’s message was on target and the kids had a good time singing.  It was all very inspirational.  It was an evening I will long remember.

Our evening in Katosi, a fishing village not far from Kampala, was also interesting.  After inspecting the area for a proposed new school, evening started to fall.  As we looked up in the early evening sky, we could see Venus and Mars adjacent to each other . . . with a crecent moon just below.  The three made a celestial “smiley face” :).

One of the prettiest areas that we visited was Lake Bunyoni in the mountains above Kabale in southern Uganda.  The lake has an irregular shape and is dotted with islands.  It is also a popular vacation site, with several resorts located on and above the lake.  To get to the lake, we took a gravel road up into the mountains.  We drove past several outcrops where men, women, and children were quarrying rock and manually breaking them into standard sizes using small mallets.

Lake Bunyoni in southern Uganda

Lake Bunyoni in southern Uganda

Busting rocks near Kabale

Busting rocks near Kabale

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8 Responses to If Its Tuesday, It Must Be Bubwa

  1. Roger Hansen says:

    The following H. Parker Blount quote is from Sunstone (December 2008, p. 42 and 43):

    “‘Families are either supported or destroyed by the social and natural environments around them,’ writes Susan Griffin in an Orion review of the documentary Darwin’s Nightmare. The film ‘shows how the destruction of Lake Victoria’s ecology by the experimental introduction of predator perch, which proceeded to eat all the other fish, has resulted in the dissolution of the lives of those who have lived around the lake for generations. As fishermen are dying or abandoning their families in great numbers, women turn to prostitution to feed their children, and as these women die of AIDS in great numbers, the gangs of homeless orphans living around the lake grow.'”

  2. Roger Hansen says:

    The following is from NG (June 2009, p. 48):

    “Africa is the continent where Homo sapiens was born, and with its worn-out soils, fitful rain, and rising population, it could very well offer a glimpse of our species’ future. For numerous reason–lack of infrastructure, corruption, inaccessible markets–the green revolution never made it here. Agricultural production per capita actually declined in sub-Saharan Africa between 1970 and 2000, while the population soared, leaving an average 10-million-ton annual food deficit. It’s now home to more than a quarter of the world’s hungriest people.”

  3. Roger Hansen says:

    The following is from NG (February 2009, p. 14):

    “In a remote corner of the country (Uganda), near the border with the DRC, I found it (Lake Katwe). At first light, hundreds of people appeared on the steep ridges around the lake. Slowly they made their way down toward the salt pans, the scores of square harvesting pools cordoned off by mud walls and sticks. Even at dawn the lake–four to six feet deep, a mile and a half long,so corrosively salty it hardly feels like water–was ominous.

    I had come to see this natural wonder, this crater lake the explorer Henry Morton Stanley had written about, but I found my lens drawn more to the men, women, and children who brave it. Most bore scars or open sores that the water won’t let heal, yet all come back, day after day. For some, the seasonal rains offer the only respite. For many, as for their ancestor, this dangerous painful, and exhausting work is the onl way to survive.

    Andre McConnell (andrewmcconnell.com)

  4. Grace Musyoka says:

    Hi,
    My name is Grace Musyoka, a Marketing Management Consultant based in Nairobi, Kenya.
    At the moment, I am working on a project from Nedap (in Netherlands), to supply water purification units across East and Central Africa. I am still setting up the basics, and building contacts in Nairobi, as it will provide the backbabone and business strenght to enter the rest of East Africa, then Central Africa (in 6 and 12 months respectively).
    From your blog, I see that you have a passion for working with pupils inUganda, especially those in very marginallied areas. From this, I deduce that your passion and projects also mean you are constantly looking for projects and people with similar desires, to make life better for the pupils.
    I am therefore extending a networking hand, with possiblity to work together, as I enter the Ugandan Market. In Kenya, we are working with the Ministry of Water, Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Education to run a pilot program, where we plan to give purified water to 1000 schools in the next twelve months.
    I am hoping for more of the same, in Uganda (with emphasis on more due to some issues I have been noting), and I hope to work with you on this, if you are willing.
    Kindyl contact me, and let us see how to proceed.
    Thanks.
    Grace

  5. rogerdhansen says:

    Grace, please provide me your email address, and I will be in touch. What variety of water treatment units are you providing? What technology? Roger

  6. Grace Musyoka says:

    Roger,
    We are selling the Naiade Water Purification Units, made in Netherlands by Nedap Technologies.
    The units use Solar energy to filter then Purify water using UV treatment. These Units are made to serve small communities of up to 400 people per day. Certified by both WHO and UNICEF, Naiade has been in use in many developing countries in Asia, Southern America, and even Africa. Schools, vulnerable and under-funded to provide basic clean water are some of our main priority. We are trying to look for donors and well wishers to work with Primary Schools and organized financing (Asset Finance – with Micro-financial institutions and banks) to supply Secondary Schools who have the capacity to buy these units as required.
    As well, we are also targeting other members of the profile ‘poor, rural residents’ who are able to use Naiade as an income generating venture. Normally, a litre of water costs between 60 and 90 Kenya Shillings (with minimal differences around East and Central Africa). This amount is a dollar, something way below average day earnings. Therefore, we are looking to work with youth groups and women, who can buy these units (or are financed through our corporate partnerships with leading banks and micro-finance lending institutions), and use the purified water as a commodity to sell. A litre of water will be able to go for about 15 Kenya Shillings, which is affordable to many rural residents. They can also use their containers to fill in the water – which will drive down the cost per litre to 7 Kenya Shillings!
    I hope this information helps.
    Grace
    My email is: gracemusyoka@gmail.com

  7. rogerdhansen says:

    Thanx for the info. I will look up the specifics on your
    water treatment system and get back in touch with you. How often do the bulbs on the UV system need to be changed? I assume there will be a supplier for the bulbs in east-central Africa.

    It looks like I will be returning to Uganda in July.

    • Grace Musyoka says:

      The Bulbs and UV System are often serviced every two years. We do not yet have a supplier for this, but we have a meeting with Chloride Exide, who are willing to come on board for that partnership.
      I will update you on this progress as we proceed.
      Thank you

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