Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Unplanned Safari

How nice it is to go home again!

It has really been a very long time since I visited Gulu on official programs. I have traveled about two times after the closure of our center there, but on private matters. It was also the same this time, though it later turned out to be the most interesting visit this year.

During the time I have been working there- the past three years or so, I developed serious friendship with very many of the people who were involved with us in one way or the other. So this time I felt so lonely not having these people around me and decided I needed to get in touch with them and guess what! this turned out to be the most interesting trips I have ever made since we closed the center.

I first gave a call to one of the officials of our members who have regrouped under a new name.This I will talk about later , because they are our true offspring and I know each one of them by name.

The most interesting group that I visited were the Koro people . I started with these people about three years ago as Invisible Children Bracelet makers. Here I had developed very good friends and whenever I meet them in town, they would always wonder why I do not visit them and yet it was me who brought "All these to us". So I decided I needed to call one of them and see what they were up to, he instantly said "Please come and have lunch with us". So I took a "boda boda"to their place about 6 kms away from town towards Kampala.

The "Akwo Ki Lweta Group"

The members getting ready for their weekly meeting.

These people are very organized, after our lunch at the chairperson's house, I was taken by the husband who is now the Executive director of the Akwo Ki Lweta Group (literally " it's my hands that I survive on") to their " office" , his unfinished building . I have really liked the name they have chosen because it shows that they are really focused on doing things by themselves and not so much looking at foreign assistance which really is a very healthy move and very much in line with our vision.

A lady paying back her loan

That day was a day for collecting money and paying back loans. They have grouped themselves and registered as a CBO and every week they would all put together some amount of money , which they later use as loan capital to be given to the most needy applicant among the members who would have applied earlier and has been approved by a committee. This seemed to be working very well and everyone looked happy during the whole process.

The Executive Director conducting the meeting

So I picked interest in it and thought this could be replicable in many such communities. I then asked them what their other objectives were and I was given a full book of their documents to read through and was even allowed to go with and continue reading whenever I would be free. well I know it's going to be a bit of time before I finish all this , but will let you know what other things they are up to.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Admin. home oF KJT

Today I had the pleasure to visit the administrative part of KJT which lies along the northern route of Kampala city at their offices which is situated on the compound of the school where most of their children go to ,(Bat Valley Primary School) It was a bit difficult last week since I was just recovering from a serious cough that had almost put me down.

A very interesting set up is this place. At the gate you would only imagine school children and nothing like an outside office set up. We have always related this place to the name (Bat Valley). Long before the place was fully inhabited; it was just a forest where I believe all the bats of the world used to live. The very tall eucalyptus forest which must have been planted during the colonial times, had no other living creature apart from the bats, which were later either destroyed or migrated due to the development in the area.

The school is one of the top government aided institutions and has produced some of the most prominent people in the country; this is one of the thoughts that brought me joy when I heard that these children were studying here. Knowing the town fairly well , I only gave Mansoor a call when I was at the gate and he came and picked me up. He led me to a small office on the third floor of the school building, where I was met by Fred and another man(Mr Wafula) whom I was told is very active with the children’s activities here in school. At one corner of the office, a table covered with trophies was standing and Mansoor didn’t take time to show me where they won all these different cups, one by one he lifted them up to read what was on each one of them. It was so amazing to see more than twenty cups sitting here and won by just children, some even below seven years.

Kabugo showing me the different cups won by the kids, looking on is Mr.Wafula

Later we visited the Headmistress’ office which is on the ground below this building. Here it was very organized and quiet. I sat with all of them for about thirty minutes. She told me she had all along doubted if there was something sensible that these boys were doing. According to her, she has been calling them very often to her office for the school fees issue , “ For the whole of this year they have paid nothing for these boys , and please do understand me, I have people whom I have to account to and they may take me for having some deal with these people” “ They have no promise at all , they just keep telling me to wait, so I have waited and the year has ended and now I cannot allow them to do their exams if their fees is not cleared.” I felt I really had nothing to say in defense neither could I promise anything, so I resorted to begging her to at least let them sit for their exams and retain their results until maybe when they are cleared. Though she never said anything in response to my plea, I thought she had accepted it, because she did not continue complaining. This is always the norm for all the disadvantaged children here; at a time like this nobody seems to care, even the authorities seem not to exist at all. Actually as I am talking now, about ten of them were already sent back home today for the same reason. Whatever will come after my meeting and pleading with her, is yet to be established.

At the Headmistress' office in front of her desk is Kabugo

Now remains the challenge of where this money which totals about UGS 100,000/=(about $60 at the current rate), for each child is going to come from, because she said that even if they are to do their exams , she "will not" accept them back next year if their fees is not cleared .This was the time when my initial joy disappeared and I left with a very heavy heart trying to figure out what the best thing would be to help these children continue with their studies.

Pictures to follow soon, the link is very poor right now and I can't upload any.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Redefining Life in Africa Foundation.

The last time I talked about the rebirth of Life in Africa, I jumbled it up to include all the three arms of LiA. It was talking about what their different functions were supposed to look like. And where each one of them operates from. For the past three years or so, the foundation has been working to set up some few model communities among which is the Kireka community whose Administrator you can get in touch with here; and now that this is more or less done, then is the time for us to get back to our original vision.

It may be of interest to know that as the different arms developed into autonomous entities, LIA foundation is left with the simple task of getting to know many more local organizations better and help them get connected to the outside world. So many people are trying their best in their simple ways to change the world, but their voices are unheard just because they do not have the means to do so. Thanks to the internet that is making the world one small village. Through the internet we shall help such organizations and other people from around the world who want to help in their own ways, get in touch with them and realize their dreams. There are many resources out there and when people have the opportunity to know one another better, they may be very useful.

Many people always try to give assistance to the people they support here, but end up failing because sometimes the said organizations are brief cased or are non existent and that marks the end of the road to the otherwise very well intentioned assistance. We would really like to help the people who have had such problems and those who may be intending to start doing something here, but are some how scared that it may not work because of the same reason. We are very well versed with the local communities here and have been traveling in different parts of the country, thus easy access to any kind of information that may be useful. We can also be able to help disbursed any funds when necessary, and if there’s any need for a 501(c) 3 status, we have our LIA USA arm which will be in a position to assist you in this field. When this is fully developed, we are very sure it will make work a lot easier for all of us.

This exciting development is just the tip of the iceberg. LIA Foundation has really a lot in store to help with connecting people in this internet world, and a lot of other activities found here on our website.

Let's continue meeting in this small global village.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Kireka Community

It's very interesting that you can live in a place and may not know many things that take place around you.
I have lived in Kampala for the past almost 20 years or more , because i had part of my education in this city, but it looks like i still know very little of it. This last month gave me a new idea of what my environment looks like. I moved from one village to the other and visited many places that I have never known before.

The last bit of my visit showed me to a small community called St. Theresa Women's group. This is a small community of women who live in an area called Kyebando in Kawempe division . In a swampy area lives some sisters of our lady of charity, they have helped these women get organized and one of their activities exists in the compound where the sisters live. They are so keen on everything . It's actually out of their little earnings that they have set up this community. They have a very good income generating activity(Poultry), They also train women in crafts , like paper beads making, needle work, baskets and many others. One challenge here though is the market for all their items. It has always anyway been the market problem for everything that people try to make here.It's always been the same question, "Is there a way you can help us sell our items ?"

Well my main area of activity has been the Kireka community which I may say has been my home from the very beginning of my life with LIA. I spent at least three days with them.A lot has changed here, not so many people are here as it used to be, but this did not blow off my sense of attachment with them. They still have a gallery though a bit small in size than what they had before.

The LIA Kireka gallery

At least a few activities have started again but this time with fewer people. The Ned beads program is the main one here with five ladies doing the beads. these will be shipped to the USA where Mark Grimes will try and look for market for them.

These are the Ned beaders

This seems promising, because the ladies had gone back to their stone quarrying which really is so hectic and when we began our program with them , most of them where relieved of this, but now they have no option but to go back to it.

A member of the Kireka community working at the stone quarry

There's also one new very interesting program. The hammocks sewing which is a program for Stitch Uganda together. Both these are trying to slowly raise the program to something that will become sustainable. there's hope that if the markets are up, more and more people will be employed for both . This has been an initiative of Corry Richardson after visiting our center in Gulu at the beginning of this year. So the first batch of the hammocks are being sewn and will later be shipped to Canada where Corry is trying to find markets for them.

Ladies at the kireka center sewing the hammocks

I feel that the major challenge that brought about all these disruption, is what Christina has described in her post here. but i am very optimistic that soon there will be the communty that she had thought of when she started all these and am very sure that it will bear some fruits one day if not very soon.

However as a comment to Christina, I would say please do take courage, it was not all in vain after all, you created Peter,me and many others who are doing very well elsewhere to try and change the world. just stand by and watch as the works of your hands bear fruits. Great thank you and Thumbs up for you in a special way ! I know that very many will agree with me on this.