So remember that time I thought I was a blogger? Yeah, sorry. I know some of you liked it? I don't really know. But I figured that writing about being over here would be better than watching Shawshank and Good Will Hunting on repeat and oogling Harvey Specter. Don't get me wrong, that's not all I do over here (as you'll see if I keep going or if I ever post this) but at night there's down time.
Forgive me readers, for I have delayed, it have been 8 months since my last blog post. I haven't been writing because it just turned into a “complain” space and I didn't want to be the whiny, cynical, tired, PCV. My struggles are my struggles and while sharing them is helpful for everyone I guess, it's poisonous if that's all I have to stay. A few months ago I decided to actively change the way I think. I'm really not a pessimist by nature, but the blog and the freedom to say whatever I wanted really started to bring that out of me.
I also started to actively think about how I viewed this experience. Why am I here? As I've complained about before, we get a lot of short term volunteers who think that the 2 hours a week they spend with our kids is going to change the world. I mean, ever small thing counts but I can't stand the selfies that say “look at me with the poor little orphan, tell me what a good person I am”. A line from Rent sticks out in my head, especially when I think about applying to Med School-- “My life is not for you to make a name for yourself.” So I felt guilty about that for a long time.
So that's why I haven't been writing, but here's what I've been doing!
Goose, the kitten 8 months ago is now a big ol' Tomcat (fixed, thank god). He survived an attack by 3 dogs and against her better judgment, one of my neighbors saved his life. She acts like she can't stand Goose (culturally, Ugandans don't keep pets) but she knew how said I'd be if he went missing. Against MY better judgment I got attached to this cat. He could be beaten to death, killed by dogs, or poisoned any day and I need to be ok with it. This is not America. But one night he went missing and two of the guards saw me looking for him and decided to help me out. My neighbors love me enough to watch out for my cat. So that makes me very very happy.
- Create standard operating procedures that are used throughout the home to include:
- child development
- hygiene (Nappy Project)
- nutrition standards
- Establish a successful Income Generating Activity
- Reform resettlement practices– Nappy Project– Chicken or Fish– Quilting?
- Enhance staff morale– Village Savings and Loan Program
The diaper project is off to a very slow start but it's going. I thought it'd be finished by now, shows how naive I was as an early PCV. The staff isn't nearly as excited about it as they were in February when I submitted the grant. That's really discouraging. In February, you couldn't get anyone to do anything BUT sew. But it took so long to get the grant money and then the fabric that everyone lost interest.
They're continuing with the project, but I've started exploring other options. I remember in high school how everyone got addicted to quilting. We made these “Trip Around the World” quilts and you couldn't get kids to leave the sewing room (God Bless Mrs. Haskell). So I gathered old sheets from the thrift store and some scraps of kyitengue from my dresses and I'm working a demonstration quilt. The quilts are really simple and perfect for beginners. I'll get this one finished, and show it to them in a few months when the diaper project is wrapping up. See where it goes. These photos were taken by the grant committee from Washington and our grant coordinator from Peace Corps. Apparently the project caused quite the stir in the capital. Who knew?
The chicken project has been a bit of a nightmare, so I decided to explore fish farming since the turn over is so high. I toured farms, contacted peace corps, met with fish experts and water engineers and it's all very possible. However, it's new and different and that's scary to the Kizito Staff. But in my fish exploration I found a farm in Komonkali with the most delightful family. I've met them about 3 times and we're already family. That's what I LOVE about Uganda. Genuine hospitality. Every time I show up, they make up a bed for me so I can stay the night. I never do because in true American fashion, I always have about a million things to do, but it's just so nice that the offer is there. I want to recommend the site for PCV because there's a lot of opportunity and the family is so driven for change. That is most frustrating thing is that we come here, all full of that JFK can do spirit, and no one wants to do a damn thing. Can you blame them? Do you want to do more after you work a full day? After you carry water and cook for your family of 100? I get it, but it's still frustrating. The lady of the house is constantly asking me to come to her health center to teach. She asked me what I was working and I told her about the diaper project. She wants her daughters (who are tailors) to learn how to make them too! So that's pretty cool. She's invited me to come to her health center to give a demonstration of the cost effectiveness of reusable diapers and the dangers of diarrhea in young children...yay! The family has this giant successful farm as well. And get this...chickens! So the son is helping come up with an accurate cost of production for me and we came up with a MUCH cheaper way to expand the poultry farm. I've also looked into fundraisng locally instead of writing a grant through peace corps. The schilling sucks and outside money is just going to make it worse. And I want to help foster this idea that ugandans are capable of saving themselves. They don't need the big western man to come down and give them anything. So we'll see!
I'm still teaching once a week and on the job. We also started making our own washing towels to make sure we're washing bottoms between diaper changes. There's a new bottle room made from old plywood and a bookcase so that's nice. Sanitary. Professional.
We've also spent the past few months working a list of demands from the Uganda Ministry of Health. So I've been writing training manuals and care manuals and all sorts of things. I'm still pushing for them to do more work with the resettlement program...but not budging yet. Funds, ya know?
I'm also trying to implement a better record keeping system to monitor the malnutrition. A lot of the time, children become malnourished and no one notices until it's really bad. So we're trying to implement the WHO growth standards. We've already identified children who are nearing danger zones and to look at them you really wouldn't know.
Alright, so that's what I've got for Kizito.
Still giving lessons at the nearby health center. I teach a lot about complementary feeding and nutrition. I do make shift cooking demonstrations. The In-Charge at the Health Center also approached me to get more involved in the Health Center to get more foot traffic through there. So we are organizing a net distribution that will include education on cleaning the net, repairing the net, and hanging the net properly. He also wants to start a Youth Health Club. So that's about to take up a ton of my time...but it's exciting!
My malaria club is the light of my life. They demand that I meet with them 3 times a week and they call me, come to my house and ask me to teach them more. I promise, I'm not lying, lol! They're even on vacation for the next two weeks and yesterday they came to my house to tell me that two weeks was too long to go without doing work. So we have lessons tomorrow. We've done 3 performances of the STOMP malaria skit and they've really enjoyed it. The next few performances will include the students teaching a lesson on malaria. Woo!
This is the happiest kid to ever slam a bucket lid.
I also did a week long Reusable menstrual pad session. It was a nightmare. So incredibly stressful 375 kids. They were stealing towels and buttons and I was screaming like a maniac to get their attention. However, there were some shining moments. I once they all got going, I really didn't have to do anything. I taught a small group first, and that small group became leaders and they went around to their own small groups and taught them. Some of them really enjoyed it and asked to be leaders the rest of the week. We did the session as a part of gender equality too. We had boys and girls making the pads and male teachers. So even though it was a HUGE CHALLENGE, it was still very very worth it. The boys took the pads home to their mothers and they were very excited to give them to them. Also, I brought a new pair of granny pannies and demonstrated how to properly use this RUMP, don't worry.
Peace Corps work:
I co-taught Gender and Sexual Reproductive Health for the new group of trainees.
I was elected to the Volunteer Advocacy Committee
Joined another volunteer support group
And was selected as Malaria Think Tank Grant Coordinator
My water has been out since May. It doesn't bother me, but my bucket bath game is weak so I'm real dirty. And you definitely notice how much water you use when you have to carry it all. Washing long hair in a bucket is just the worst and I almost drown all the time. So for safety reasons I only wash my hair once a week.
Still cooking on a sigiri-- currently making brownies dutch oven style to give to my sewing group!
I killed a snake in my bedroom with a hammer.
Oh, and I saw gorillas!
Things for my little brothers and the kids that come over to my house to destroy my things. Coloring books, matchbox cars, soccer balls. Glow sticks.
BOOKS! Paperbacks. I loose power and then the tablet/computer is useless. Anything that as a human being you should have read by now.
Always hair conditioner. Always.
Flea collar for the cat.
Instant food anything.
That is all.
"Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans"