Kibuye Project overview

AASU’s first community project is focusing on the village of Kibuye in North Eastern Kamuli, on the shores of the Victoria Nile. Kibuye has an estimated population of 60,000 people and is spread over 27 by 35km. The majority of the population is highly dependent on subsistence farming and barter trade within village in order to survive.

Before the project began, Kibuye was dependent upon one borehole for safe drinking water. Due to long lines when collecting water many have been choosing to fetch water from the river, which has caused illness through water born diseases. The village also only has one school, consisting of two classrooms accommodating roughly 600 children. The children that can’t walk the distance to the school simply don’t attend. The majority of children do not attend school, either due to distance or family circumstance, consequentially 80% of Ugandans over the age of 15 are illiterate.

So far within the Kibuye project AASU has been able to buy four acres of land at the East end of the village on which we have built a bore hole and are currently building classrooms for the Arise and Shine Nursery and Primary School which is due to open for the start of the school year in February 2011.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sophie and her team.

We’ve spent the majority of this past week in a remote village called Kibuye, which is about three hours drive from Jinja.  Kibuye is a beautiful place: green and lush, and possessing an incredibly profound sense of space.  In our entourage were six female interns, and the project cordinator of our NGO, a Ugandan called Juma.  Juma is a lovely man, of playful and jovial temperament, and always eager to impart a gem of wisdom or various, cryptic Ugandan proverbs on us interns. During the car ride, every now and again he would turn around from his front seat in the car grinning and expressing words of encouragement (whilst being seemingly bemused at our inability to handle the rough drive).  Several redeeming aspects of the rough trip were the beautiful landscapes and forests we passed, and the children that would run out to see the car, smiling and waving. 
The conditions in the village were very basic, as was to be expected. There was no running water or electricity, and thus no sewerage or apparent irrigation systems. But things weren’t chaotic, far from it. Things were slow, drawn out, and interestingly orderly. We slept in mud huts under the silent sky, resplendent with stars. Meals are simple; cooked over a makeshift stove or fire at our campsite, and we all had fun fumbling around in the dark, trying to put together a decent dinner! In the morning, it was peaceful and pleasant to wake up to the sound of children playing around the huts, and to the smells of Ugandan women cooking Chapati for breakfast. And the people were so beautiful, so warm. You couldn’t walk past a gathering of women without them drawing you into their circle, hugging you and holding your hand, uttering warm words in their limited English and continuing on in the same way in their local dialect. They seemed to host an ultimate sense of respect for workers from the NGO. This leaves one feeling incredibly honoured, but also hugely responsible; a live reaffirmation that what we were doing had large and direct impacts of the lives of these people.
For the moment, interns are working on three main projects: those pertaining to Adult Literacy, Sexual Reproductive Health, and Social Entrepreneurship.  All of these projects present different challenges and difficulties, but are equally as rewarding when progress is made.
It was great to start working in the communities, but an overwhelming sense of what progress still needs to be made soon became prominent. As they were so isolated, life in the villages was so very basic. Families were very large (and often polygamous), and so the people poor, and the education (other than the NGO’s school) seemed almost non-existent. To illustrate this particular point; our adult literacy consists of working with the adults in the community to improve their English. The advanced class can, maybe, write the letters of the alphabet. The beginner’s class are just learning how to hold a pen.  The process of teaching for us was rendered slightly more difficult with the language barrier; the people communicated almost solely in Lusoga (their local dialect), but our translators were patient, and we got our points across when we needed to. The motivation and curiosity of the people was very encouraging, as they would come to classes with focus, determination and good spirits, very eager to learn.  And the positivity of the people was so enlightening: setting aside the obvious indications of extreme poverty, I could easily say that these people are some of the happiest I’ve ever met.  As the classrooms were not in the best of conditions, next week we hope to make them more presentable, and the environment more conducive to successful learning.  It was inspiring to learn that the women were so motivated despite their slow progress: they seemed to know that even if they wouldn’t reap the benefits of their current learnings, perhaps their children, or their grand children would.
The aforementioned social entrepreneurship program that we’re implementing was also progressing nicely. This program helps the women to make jewellery in a very cost effective way. They make beads from free paper that we obtain from Telecommunication, or various other companies. This is not only cheap, but also environmentally responsible, as paper that would otherwise be thrown away or burnt, is recycled. In explanation: we teach the women how to make the beads, and then the necklaces, and subsequently find local and international markets for their products.  This allows them to generate some income, and support their families and agricultural plots.
The sexual reproductive health project is also in a transitory period. The mornings we would spend doing sensitisation, which consisted of walking around to different households in the villages, and raising awareness on various topics of importance. And then in the afternoons, people would come and see us at the intern base in the village, and we would inform them on them programs and services that we were currently working on, and gauge their interest regarding the programs.  For sensitisation we were mostly working on birth control and family planning. Sophie had the idea of exploring the feasibility of introducing different forms of birth control in the village, and namely the method of Implanon. For those not familiar with the product, it’s a single-rod implantable contraceptive, providing more than 99% effective contraception for up to three years, and various WHO reports have researched and proved the efficacy of this method in developing contexts.  We spent time describing, and evaluating the reactions and opinions of people regarding the contraceptive. Our findings were overwhelmingly positive; most reactions went along the lines of – ‘I need this, after having 11 children, I’m tired’, or ‘Do you have this with you? Can we have it now?’, which was very reassuring.  The work was hugely rewarding, but also quite tiring. And of course, it’s important to take things slowly, and to be aware of the limitations and cultural differences present that make the introduction and implementation of new programmes lengthy and difficult.
All in all, last week was a very enriching one! We felt that progress was made on each of the projects, and had some wonderful moments with the people in the villages. We hope to be updating you very soon, in summary of the coming week! Thanks for reading,
The interns of AASU.

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