Monday, July 12, 2010

Kampala Bombings

Link to Article:  New York Times
     I am not sure how many people have heard about the bombings in Kampala. Yes that is right, Kampala had bombings last night. I went out with a couple of friends to watch the world cup finals at a bar called Iguana. We had almost finished watching the game (we saw Spain score the winning goal) when all of the staff had told us that we had to leave for our own safety. I was terribly confused. I thought that the owner thought there would be unrest since the Netherlands lost (the entire bar was decorated in Orange and there was not one Spanish fan in the bar). They told us that we all had to leave out the exits and that we could not watch the last few minutes of the game. It wasn't until someone had said that there was a bomb that I understood why we all had to leave. I was so confused; a bomb in Kampala? How is that possible? Kampala is not a dangerous city at all. There are parts that I wouldn't walk through by myself at night time, but that is true of Toronto as well.
     My friends and I walked home last night after we were told to leave the bar. There was not much transport left to take us anywhere because everyone was taking transport home. Luckly we only had a short walk home. At that time we were informed that the bombings were just outside of Kampala so I was not worried about the bombings. Once we got home we were googling to try to find more information about the bombings. There were rumers flying around everywhere. One source said that there were bombings only outside of the city, another said that there were bombings inside the city, another said that only a few people were killed and the next told us that more than 60 people were killed. It was difficult to decide who to trust. I went to bed not knowing what was going on.
     When I woke up I went out to grab a paper and it seems as if the Daily Monitor was no where to be seen. I trust the Daily Monitor more than New Vision because the latter is owned by the government. I could only find New Vision and grabbed a copy to see if I could get any more information than the bits and parts that I knew. New Vision did not seem to be helpful. They claimed that approximatly 13 people have been confirmed dead. A simple google search of the New York Times or the Daily Monitor after reveled that 63 people have been killed in the attacks. I never trust New Vision. It seems that no one knows who organized the attacks although there has been suspicion that it was a terrorist group from Samalia. They are still investigating however.
     The city does not seem to be very disturbed today, the day after the attacks. There are no police swarming the streets. It seems as though the bombings may have been an isolated attack and I believe that we have seen the end of them. Everyone can rest assured that I am safe and I do not feel as if I am in danger in Kampala. The bombings were a bit of a fright the night that they happened and it was an unfortunate event. My thoughts go out to those who have been injured and the family members of the deceased.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Madame Jackie Pt 2

Hello everyone, or everyone who reads this. Yes I am still alive if
you were wondering. I know that I haven’t been posting much but it
seems that life has been very hectic lately. I have just come back
from Kenya and that was an amazing trip. I saw many different animals
on the safari that we took in the Masi Mara. It was a fun trip but I
won’t go into too many details about the trip. I am happy to be back
in Kampala working again.

This past few weeks I have been teaching at Sr. Miriam Duggan Primary
School. I know that I have posted briefly about this in my last post.
Teaching has been one of the most enjoyable things that I have been
doing here. I started off teaching English lessons but I have moved on
from that. I teach from the Primary 5 – Primary 7 grades because they
can all understand my English a lot more than the lower grades. This
past week I was teaching peace. I had a lesson plan which involved
getting the students to discuss the idea of what peace is, then I
moved onto peace symbols and at the end I had them create an outline
of their hands. This lesson was not the easiest that I have ever had
to do mainly because the students at the school are not used to
participating. The students usually sit in their desks and they only
speak when they are called on to produce an answer. This means that
they are not used to entering into a discussion. Trying to get the
students to speak felt like I was pulling teeth at some times. I
started with the Primary 4 class and I was disheartened. I felt like
they did not understand what it was that I was saying or maybe they
just didn’t want to pay attention to my lesson. The next class was
much more interactive and they gave me some hope. I learned later that
the Primary 4 class could not understand my accent. So we continued
with the lessons. The upper classes, Primary 5 and Primary 6, had more
to say on the subject of peace and I was happy to see the students
participating in the lessons.

This week Andrew, one of the American volunteers, and I are going to be
teaching about different diseases: TB and Malaria. So far it seems
like the students understand malaria and we seemed to underestimate
their knowledge. I have created the TB lesson and I hope that it is a
lesson where they will be able to learn something that they didn’t
know before. One thing that I tend to struggle with here is the
students who are advanced to later classes when they should have been
held back. In the Primary 6 class there are students who are very
smart and there are students who seem to be struggling with the
material. Most of the lessons are said verbally so the students who
don’t know the answer wait until the students who do know the answer,
answer the questions. I have also seen the report cards of some of
these students and it makes me wonder how they are advanced when they
would not have been allowed to do so back at home. It is a struggle to
be able to comprehend if everyone understands our lessons when there
is such a big class too! There are 80 in the Primary 6 class. Time is
running short. Wish me luck with teaching!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Madame Jackie

     This week I was given the opportunity to teach. The idea of teaching made me both nervous and excited all at the same time. I had never really taught anyone before and my first time would be with a class of 60 students. Ahh! I was supposed to be teaching English to the children. I nervously prepared my lesson the night before (since I was given the topic right before I left work). While preparing I planned something evil, I planned to bribe the children with candy! I figured that everyone loves candy, and what would be a better motivator? So I went to the class prepared!
     African classrooms are nothing like North American classrooms, let me tell you that! First of all, the children all repeat things instead of writing them down. They do not have that many supplies so everything is said verbally. There are also an average of 60 children per class but it can go up to 80 children if the class is large. Trying to keep that many students engaged can be difficult. I started off the lesson about adjectives. I was not sure if my lesson was too difficult or not since I was given no pretext for what the children know and what they don't. This made planning for the lesson very interesting. In the end I think it went well though. I quizzed the students and the majority of them seemed to understand my lesson. The fact that they received a candy for correct answers probably helped my lesson. I am teaching that grade again on Monday. I hope that everything goes well. I will write more about teaching next week.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


On this past Thursday we had decided to head off to Rwanda! Krista and I were going to meet our two other Beyond Borders classmates, Cat and Nev, in Kigali. After a long time of traveling we finally made it to Kigali in one piece. We slept in the city for the first night in very cramped beds. We had decided to cram the four of us into a double room. Just a reminder to everyone, a double room consists of two single beds. Now just imagine how uncomfortable that is! I was very grateful though because the hostel had hot water. That was a treat that I was not expecting, hot showers. I had not realized until that moment how much I miss hot showers. I haven’t had a hot shower since I left Toronto, although in Kampala they are not sorely missed. In Kampala, by the time that I get home after riding in the extremely hot matatus (like a bus but it’s a crammed van) a cold shower is very welcoming. In Kigali however it is very chilly. I had to buy a sweater before I left, being warned about Rwanda’s cold weather, and I put that sweater to very good use throughout the trip.

After we woke up from the cramped sleep we set off for the Rainforest National Park (not it’s formal title, but I forget the real name). Along the way we planned to stop off at the genocide memorial. This memorial had preserved the bodies of all of the Tutsi who were killed at the poly technical school in the area. The Tutsi were led to believe that they would be safe from the Hutu in this area. They were then kept in the school for a week without any food or water when they became very weak. When the Hutu rebels knew that they were weak they entered the school and slaughtered all of the Tutsi .The Tutsi were too weak to fight back and they all died: men, women and children. They were then put into mass graves before the Hutu rebels continued on. The memorial had dug up the bodies and preserved them so that people can witness the effects of the genocide.

When we got to the memorial we were the only people who were there. This could be because it is out of the city center, because it was an afternoon on a Friday or because it is not as well known. Whatever the reason, we were the only people who were there and so we were the only ones given a tour. There was not as much of a tour, rather we were given a short background of what happened and then we were led around from room to room. The sights were indescribable. There was room after room after room of the people who were killed and laid out. You could still see the marks on the skeletons where the machetes hit the people. Once you entered the room the smell of death entered into your nostrils. The people were not set up in any elaborate way; they were simply laid out on wooden platforms, all next to each other. The rooms which they were put in were small dark rooms with one window to let in a tiny fraction of light. Some of the skeletons had their faces distorted in a silent scream, which they would have forever. It was possible to start imagining the looks on their faces when the Hutu rebels came into the school. The last rooms, which made the memorial so powerful, were the rooms filled with the children. There were so many children who were killed at this school in Rwanda. I could not even imagine what these children’s last thoughts would have been. The memorial was extremely powerful in showing some of the darkest sides that human possess. As we left the memorial I could not help but letting a small tear make its way out of the corner of my eye. We drove away, stunned into silence for a long period of time.

The rest of our trip in Rwanda was filled with the magnificent views of the country side. The hills are absolutely gorgeous and the landscape can literally take your breath away. There were several times when we stopped and we got out of the car and looked out at the landscape. Rwanda is one of the most beautiful places on the face of this planet. Rwanda is a country which seems to be more developed than I assumed that it would be. I do not know if we never passed a slum area, although we did a lot of driving around, but it seemed as though areas in Kampala (and Nairobi too as I heard from Cat and Nev) were worse than what I was seeing. This needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because there are still many areas where the people do not have electricity and they do not have houses which would meet North American standards. The area seemed to be developing at a great pace. The roads were all paved (with no pot holes!) and the country did not have an excessive garbage problem. Rwanda is a beautiful country which I hope to return to one day.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

When it Rains it Pours...

     And I thought that the last day was a bad day! Wait until you hear about this dousy of a day (People say things always happen in threes, so maybe I should be on the lookout for a third bad day very very soon)! So what happened this time you ask? Well I went to the city on Saturday so that I could get a few books and what not. I did not have much money left and I wanted to pull out some from the bank (the big banks will accept international debit cards here). I went to the first bank, put in my debit card and waited for the prompts to begin. You can imagine how puzzled I was when I discovered that the ATM gave me the following message, "This transaction has been stopped by the ATM." I was so confused! With a funny look I thought that maybe there was something wrong with the machine, so I put my debit card back into the machine. I received the same message. I was about to attempt to do that for a third time when the guard stopped me and told me that if I got it wrong the third time the machine would eat up my card and would not give it back. I was so happy that he told me that, or else I wouldn't even have a bank card! So off I went to four banks, all of the machines giving me the same message. Finally one of the tellers told me that I needed to go to a bank that served Master Card. I went to the correct bank.

Standing at Stanbic I thought that this would be the time that I got money. I eagerly put my card into the machine. It asked me my pin and how much I wanted to take out. Bingo! Money! Right? Wrong. The ATM told me the same message, "The ATM could not process your transaction". Ok, so I just tried all of the major banks and none of them are accepting my card. Further than that no one in the banks can tell me why my card is not working. Great. I ask the teller if I can speak with the manager. There was one small thing that I forgot when I asked that question; we are in Africa. The manager is not in and no one knows if they are still there for the rest of the day or if they are just in a meeting somewhere. So it turns out that I cannot access my account from anywhere in Uganda.

Time to call my bank and figure out what is wrong. Uh-oh. I am in Uganda, 1-800 numbers are not toll free. Great, I have all of $0.50 CAD on my phone. I borrow my friends phone to quickly call home so that they can call me. It turns out, after 6.5 hours of waiting and more calls than one person should take in a day, that they cannot call me. They try to give me good news, I can call them collect. Ummmm, I don't know how to call collect in Canada never mind Uganda. I walk up to the front counter of a hostel in Uganda and ask the people at the desk, "How do you get the international operator here?". They don't understand. They have never heard of an operator and they do not understand collect calls. Great. Now I am 11714.6 KM away from Toronto and I have like no money. And I thought my day before was bad!

Now it dawns on me, I am in Uganda and with the money I have left, and how long it is going to take to get money I am going to be living off $2-3/day. Sound strangely familiar? I am going to be living on the same income that many people I work with in the community live off of. I can tell you first hand how depressed it can make you. I still feel horrible. My friend has graciously offered to lend me some money for the things that we are doing until I can get some cash. Taking money, all the time. Always asking for things that I want from someone else. It can make me feel even more depressed! It is a reminder every time that I do not have any money. Now I know that my situation is no where near that which the people I work with in the community experience, but it was a very humbling experience. I unfortunately do not have much time left to write this post (I am borrowing money to even get online!). I would have loved to explain how this experience truly affected me but I will have to write more later.

A question to my audience:
Have you ever experienced a time (more than a day) when you have not had any money and had to constantly borrow money for everything you do from a friend? How did it make you feel? Can this tell us something about international aid? Is there another way to help these people without possibly making them feel like a charity case? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bad Day

I knew that it had to happen at some point. I knew that this ugly day had to rear its ugly head at one point. What day is that which you are referring to you ask? A bad day. That's right ladies and gentlemen, I had a bad day. This was a truly horrid day. It started off with me having to take the taxi to work. In Uganda the taxis are not what we would expect to see at home. Our taxi is their special hire. A taxi in Uganda is like a mini van and they pick up people and drop people off. They do not really have a pre-set route, and they only call out a destination. Sometimes going on one of these things can be an adventure in itself. They aren't bad once you get used to them though. So I took the taxi to work (which I will have to do from now on because I cannot get a ride to work anymore). That wasn't so bad, I figured out when to get off. There was even an lady who heard where I was going when I got onto the taxi and she told me when we arrived to the point where I wanted to get off. All-in-all it wasn't a bad morning.

The afternoon then rolled around. I can get very frustrated at work. Extremly frustrated. The first thing that frustrates me so much is that people will speak Luganda to me very quickly. They know that I have no idea what they are saying and they expect a response. When I can't give a response I then feel very stupid. This never, ever puts me in a good mood. People hardly slow down what they are saying or take the time to teach me. This in itself can make me so frustrated that I want to cry sometimes. Then after that horrible experience was over my co-woker turns to me and says "ok now we have to write reports for those home visits that we did last week." This frustration was really all my fault. I should have taken notes when we went out into the field. Instead of having my reliable notes (and neat handwriting) I had to use my co-workers notes. She told me that she is very good at remembering people and so she really didn't have any notes at all. All she had were the names of people written down (which I couldn't read anyways). My co-worker was supposed to sit down with me to type the reports. She did not end up sitting with me and she went off somewhere saying "you'll be fine writing the reports yourself". Great. I pratically didn't remember anything! So great. I had my failed attempt at trying to make these reports. Around this time it was lunch. At least I can go and have a peaceful lunch right? Wrong.

So as the lunch hour rolled around it started to pour. Living in Uganda you get used to the constant rain. And I do mean constant. I hoped that the rain would stop so that I could go make it for lunch. If I waited too long they would pack up lunch and there goes my hope of getting food. It eventually stopped pouring but it was still spitting. I was determined to get lunch because I felt really hungry. So I went off up the muddy hill in search of food. Oh did I mention that I decided for some weird reason to wear flip-flops that day? Not a great choice. Going up the hill I was splashed by a bouda and stepped into a puddle. Great, now I am covered in mud. I go up eat my food and start to head back down. I get splashed again. Amazing. I was close to tears at this point. It was as if some higher power just wanted to give me a good excuse to go home. I really did want to go home at that point. I managed to finish the rest of the day dirty and smelly (when it rains here it's really humid so I sweat like a pig). I sat in the office until the end of the day.

The silver lining to this aweful day? I had a meeting with my boss and we made a schedule for my rounds. I will be going around to all of the different departments of Kamwokya Christian Caring Community (KCCC) to see what the organization does in the community. I am excited to get out a bit more. There is also a project ahead of me that I am able to start working on. I finally feel like I'm not completly useless.

So Karma you better hear me! I had a really bad day, so you owe me a really good one soon! I will write more later.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 17

     I have been working with Kamwokya Christian Caring Community (KCCC) for two weeks now and I have been in Africa for 17 days. That doesn't sound like such a long time does it? Well it feels like I have been here for a month or two already. I'll talk about what it is exactly that I do at KCCC. When I first arrived I was placed in the offices with the social workers. For the first few days all I did was file. My first thoughts were, "they sent me to file? I could be making $13/hour filing back at home!" I was in a strange country, everyone wanted to constantly hold my hand while I walked around, and I didn't understand the language. This is a recipe for the worst culture shock. The next few days I sat in a workshop that was fully in Luganda, the language spoken by the majority of the people here. It was 6 hours of not knowing one damn word that anyone said. The week ended with more filing. I helped some children write letters to their sponsors on and off. This wasn't exactly the glamorous life that I envisioned coming here. Now comes the next week:

     Week 2 started the same way Week 1 did, filing and workshops. It wasn't until half way through the week that I started to experience more. This week I was able to meet with the director of KCCC, also named Francis. He said that he wanted to get to know me a bit better. We sat down and talked a little bit and this talk made the rest of my days, up to now, a lot easier. He described the city to me and gave me some warnings. Do not go into taxis alone if I can help it, do not get into a taxi that looks empty because they could be pretending to be a taxi and then rob me, do not get on a bouda-bouda, do not eat the fruit sold on the side of the street for sanitation reasons, etc. I have heard a great deal of these warnings from my African father Francis, but it was nice to know that my African Father is not the only one who believes this. Then he asked me what I have been doing and I told him about the workshops and the filing. He explained that the children were in the middle of a holiday when I came to Uganda and that is why I haven't really seen much of the school or done anything else. He promised to start getting me to have home visits so that I can really see what Ugandan culture and life is like and that I would start helping at the school. He even mentioned that I may be able to teach! I was really excited at that news. He said that I could do something small, maybe for an hour a day or something like that. That honestly made me very excited and nervous. I left the meeting with a smile on my face and ever since my spirits have been lifted. I know that things like filing really need to happen for the office to run smoothly and I have no problem doing office duties every once in a while, but I was excited to be able to experience more than filing.

     The next few days I went on some home visits. I was really nervous when I was told that I would be going on these home visits. They told me that if I wanted to ask any questions that I would be allowed to. I went on the home visits with Reetah, my new African sister (sorry Steph, you aren't the only one now!). Everything had to be translated because the community members only speak Luganda except for maybe a few phrases in English such as "good morning". I was honestly overwhelmed when we went on the home visits. The first house that we went to was the home of 4-5 people and it was smaller than what we put our criminals in for jail. There were two beds squashed together and laundry hanging from the ceiling. The first thing that I noticed was a combination of the smell and the heat. That itself was overwhelming. The three children came into the house and sat next to the mother on one bed and the rest of us were sitting on another bed. The house was incredibly dark and just being in there started to bring out the negative side of your emotions.As Reetah spoke to the lady about her family background she had to stop and translate for me every once in a while. They both spoke so quickly it was hard to get any questions in, although I wasn't sure of what questions to ask. I didn't want to offend anyone. We were making home visits to try to assess the family and see what type of assistance that we could offer the family to help support the family, especially the children. One question that baffled me which Reetah asked each family was, "what could you do to increase your household income?" The women usually answered that they wanted to start a small business doing things like selling sweets. Then she would ask them "how much money would you need to start that business?" The answers are what astounded me. The woman answered with a range of 10 000-50 000 shillings which is $5-25USD. I could honestly have easily given each family that money out of my own pocket right then and there.

This is something that I was struggling with.So many people come up to me and ask for money because they are hungry or they are thirsty. On each individual basis I could easily help someone out, but on a collective basis I would not be able to help anyone out because I am only a student and I cannot just give away all of my money and become poor and unable to survive myself. While I was speaking to the director, Francis, he told me that people will approach me because I am white. People assume that I have lots of money that I can give away. And it is not only the white people who are approached, he himself was approached asking for money to feed a family. He told me that you have to become comfortable saying "No, I'm sorry I cannot help you". This is really hard to do when a fellow human being is staring you in the eyes and they are so hungry but they cannot afford to eat and you have more than enough to feed them with your pocket change you bring to work. This is something that I know I am going to be struggling with the entire time that I am here. I asked Reetah if these women would be able to go and receive a micro-finance loan to be able to start their business. She told me that the women would not be able to go to micro-finance because the micro-finance banks here have become large and they now want security that the women will be able to pay back the loan. These woman are the poorest of the poor and they do not have any security. They do not even own the small shacks that they live in. It is so disheartening to see that these women are not able to access a micro-finance loan when the whole purpose that it was created was to be able to help people in these women's position. I want to look more into the micro-financing that KCCC has, because I read that they did have a branch. I feel horrible for these women who have mostly been left by their men and left with many children to take care of. I just know this is going to bother me the entire time that I am here in Uganda.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Greetings from Kampala!

Hi everyone!
I made it to Kampala safe and sound after the craziest flight path that I have ever taken! I left Toronto at 11:00 on the 5th and flew to London for 8 hours, had an 8 hour layover, flew to Nairobi for 8 hours and had a 1.5 hour layover and then I flew to Entebbe for an hour, then after that I was driven for an hour to my new home. I arrived home at 10:30am on the 7th. It is safe to say that I was very tired after that. Krista had some fun exploring London and a few of the sights (I will have to upload pictures later sadly because I do not have a camera here with me). Then once we landed in Kampala I found my ride home easily but Krista didn't have a ride home at all! No one was there to pick her up from the airport! That was a scary moment. My Ugandan father told her that he would drive her home and he got her there safe and sound.

Once I got home I was introduce to a little five year old boy who is now my "brother". He is very cute but he asks me what everything is! He also likes to follow me around and wants to play all of the time. I do not know how that little boy has so much energy! For most of the weekend I just slept. The jet lag hit me so hard that I could not stay awake long at my home. So sleep it was! The weekend passed pretty uneventfully.The house that I live at is very nice. There are three children, Francis, his wife and two house helps and of course there is also myself. So it is a very full house. The children are all nice but they are still in their "omg there is a white person in the house" phase. They have recently starting talking to me a bit more but at first I was more gawked at rather than talked to. My Ugandan father is very, very protective. My family will be happy to note that I feel like I am 16 again. I have to ask if I am able to go out. I know that it's all because of safety that I have to ask if some things are ok but it has been an adjustment to get used to asking again! He is very caring and very concerned. I really am treated like a part of the family! Everyone there is so kind. I feel like I am living the high life in my home because the house helps do everything there! They even clean my sneakers off for me in the morning, make food, do the dishes, do my laundry. Ummmm, aren't I in a developing country? I can defiantly say that I am living a lot better off than many of the people who live here.

Once I got to work it really hit me, Jacquelyn you are not in Canada anymore. When I go to work in Kamwokya (I live in Ntinda) that is when I see the poverty that many Ugandans live with. I work in one of the worst slums in Kampala. I have been assigned to the social workers office to help there. The one difficulty with working in Kampala is that many of the people, although they can speak English, speak Lugandan. The only way that the children open up to the social workers is in their native tongue. This is not limited to the people who come into the office but the social workers themselves mostly speak in Lugandan. This makes it very difficult to assess what is going on and what my office really deals with. I hope to start learning Lugandan soon.

Mostly at work what I do is help the children write letters to their sponsors in the developed world. I hope to start branching off and being able to do more. My boss, Maggie, told me that I will be able to start helping with support groups soon. Mostly I've just been observing what is going on in the office and what the social workers do. I have made one home visit and have walked around Kamwokya a little bit. From what I have seen it is so very different from the life I lead. The families have ten people in one small house which is usually made of cement and a tin roof. There are not beds, just mats laid out for people to sleep on the floor. A lot of the times children will be running around without any clothes on or just a t-shirt. It has been a real shock to be living among all of this when I go home and I have my tea prepared for me after I take a shower and change my clothes. I am excited to continue working at my office and I hope that I can comment a little more about my work a little later on.

I don't know how much more I'm going to write (although this is a long enough post as it is!). I am very, very, very tired and I can't really think too straight. I will write more (and more coherently) when I post next time! Until then,

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Summer Address

Hello everyone!
I am leaving today for my grand adventure down to Uganda. I am currently running around like a chicken who just had it's head cut off! So there will be no thought provoking or long post today, just simply an address. If anyone wants to send me letters:

Jacquelyn Bellissimo
P.O.Box 60
Ntinda, Kampala


Wednesday, April 28, 2010


     Today I have heard something said a few times in a few different ways: take care of yourself first before you take care of other people. I can understand why people in Canada would think this, but at the same time it can make me so frustrated that people can take this way of living to an extreme. I can understand wanting to make sure that we all have everything that we need to survive but at the same time we should remember that our community and what our collective needs to survive. Maybe it is because of our lack of community that is easy to not find in Canada (or parts of it at least). We seem to forget that we need our community as much as it needs us in order to survive. As humans we need companionship to be able to function. This is why we have punishments which involve solitary confinement. This is also why we have a common fear at some point that we are going to end up alone. We need our fellow human beings and we need a sense of belonging in a community. Why is it then, that we Canadians have become so skilled at pushing away those people and that community that we need?

     Since I have volunteered at St. John's Kitchen I can already feel the difference and the impact that this experience has had on my life. I feel like I am making small changes in my daily behaviours. They are tiny baby steps but at least they are in a good direction. I have previously described how homeless people sometimes made me nervous when I passed them in the streets of Toronto. I would not even acknowledge them! Think about that for a few moments, I would not acknowledge a fellow human being just as I would an object that I was passing by. Now I understand and have grown for my experiences that I have had at St. John's. I recognize how important it is to embrace our community with open arms. I was stunned with how the community does not try to shun you but they open their arms right back and accept you. Being in that community was a different way of being. Everyone was friendly and was willing to have company as they ate their meal. There was no sense of people who were better looking down on those who were not. It was an amazing environment to be present in, even if I was not able to be there as much as I would like to have been now that I look back on this past term.

     Now taking this thought pattern and bringing it back a little bit more. We should not be thinking solely of our needs with no regard to our community. Our community has so much that it is able to offer us. I, personally, have grown up for a large part of my life without a sense of community where I was living. When I moved away from my childhood home I was torn away from my original community where the neighbours were friendly and everyone knew everyone's name. I have moved several times and have seen a difference from my first home. There is no sense of community where I move and people keep to their own homes. Many times I have heard that we should take care of ourselves before we try to reach out to others but I do not believe that this is true! We always have something that we can offer our community and there will always be something that our community has to offer us back. I understand that communities cannot be created overnight but there are some baby steps that we all need to start to make. We should stop judging people because of what stereotype that they fall under, a person from a developing nation, a person who is homeless or our neighbour. We need to open our arms to everyone in our community because we are all humans and we all need that community to help support us. Everyone needs something and we can grow as a community if we all start thinking of each other and working towards bettering our community. We all have so much that we are able to share with each other.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Havoc in Europe?

Article Link

The article which is linked above is about the volcano which has erupted and has disturbed many flights. For the past few days I have been watching TV with an intensity, focusing on the news. There seems to be a volcano which has been creating havoc in Europe. Passengers have not been able to go to Europe and passengers have not been able to leave Europe. It is said that volcanoes erupt for one to two months at a time. This creates a bit of an issue for all of us who have a connecting flight in England and most importantly for my classmate who is going to Eastern Europe. I hope that everything clears up for us to leave this summer! We can only wait and see what happens.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane

Here is a nice update for everyone or an exam break for some. Finding everything that I am going to need for Africa in my true thrifty manner has proved to be interesting. I am trying to find out what needs to be bought high end and what can be bought at the dollar store. I never thought that these expenses would tally up the way that they have been! Luckily the bracelet sales have given a little extra money after the expenses of fundraising. A tip to future BBers: keep fundraising well after the $2 000, you will find ways to make it useful in travelling supplies which need to be bought! One of the most expensive things that I have purchased so far is my backpack. It cost $100 for a 65L pack. I bought this one second hand. There are other things such as water purification which needs to be bought still. I need three or four of them! I have been spending my last month walking around my house and noticing things that I fully take for granted. Exhibit A: Running clean tap water. I am not going to have the luxury of clean running tap water for four months! I keep wondering what that is going to be like. For those of you who may not know me very well there is one thing that you should know: I drink a lot of water. When I say a lot I don’t mean like two glasses at dinner, I mean 5-6 glasses of water at dinner sometimes. It’s hard to believe that so many people are not entitled to the same luxury that we take for granted every day. I know right now that it will be the hardest obstacle for me to face, to be responsible for continuously purifying my own water.
Other things I take for granted: laundry. I get to put all of my clothes into a laundry machine and add a little soap, leave and when I return all of my clothes are clean. It’s amazing isn’t it? That is another luxury that I am going to have to learn to live without. I keep thinking about how I need to start imagining new ways that I am going to have to do everything. I have been camping before but it was for three days at the most and by the time we got back we were happy. I know this isn’t going to be like living in the bush with no luxuries at all, but there are going to be changes which are going to need to be made. I am interested to see what changes are going to have to be made.
I was on youtube looking up the Kamwokya Christian Caring Community. This is an amazing video that I found. The video focuses on the HIV/AIDS program but it made me excited for working in the community:

Monday, April 5, 2010

I Am Done!

I am done my fundraising! It is such a relief to be able to say that! I would just like to say thank-you to everyone who helped, everyone who joined a facebook group, everyone who gave an extra dollar, everyone who helped to carry boxes and everyone who just came by when we were holding a fundraising event. For everything that everyone has done, thank-you.

Since I'm such a blogging nerd you will probably hear from me before I leave again. Thank-you for all of you who follow this blog!


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Warning! Danger!

                My update comes a little early this week since tomorrow morning I will be going under for the removal of my wisdom teeth! The dreaded day is fast approaching. So while I still have common sense and am able to articulate an idea I will write my blog. I have been getting ready for my trip which is also quickly approaching. I have a few dozen forms which need to be filled out and sent in and cheques which need to be written. I have things that need to be bought and many more things which need to be done! It’s going to be an interesting few weeks while I prepare. Before we leave we have to do a chart which analyzes the risks and makes us think about what we will do if we are faced by those risks. I found it pretty interesting so I’ll post what I found below:

Personal Safety Risk Assessment

What is the Risk?
How likely am I to encounter this risk – not likely, likely, very likely? Why?
How severe is this risk? Rank it – low, moderate, or high. Give your reasons.
What will I do to manage this risk?
Crime – Armed robberies have increased and can happen during daylight and in public areas. Highway travel is dangerous at night time. Petty crime, including pickpocketing, purse and jewellery snatching and theft form vehicles is common.
Very likely – pickpocketing will be highly likely in busy areas.
Moderate – petty crime is more likely than armed robbery
I will not venture out alone after dark in dimly lit or unlit back streets. I will travel in groups to make me be less of a target. While travelling in a vehicle I will ensure that the doors remain locked. If there is an emergency I will call the emergency number – 999.
Drugged food or drinks offered from strangers, it may be drugged
Unknown – there is nothing stated about the likelihood of this occurring
High – unknown if there will be anything that happens if the food is drugged
I will not accept food or drinks from strangers.
Marburg Haemorrhagic Fever
Not likely – I am not planning to go into caves during my visit to Uganda
High – a Dutch tourist died of Marburg haemorrhagic fever in June of 2008.
There is no commercially available vaccine or medication to prevent infection.
I will avoid going into caves where bats may be present
Photography of security forces, diplomatic sites (including Owen Falls Dam at the source of the Nile near Jinja), government installations or airports, is prohibited. This could result in a jail sentence.
Not likely – I will not take pictures of people in military-style or camouflage clothing
Moderate -  This action may result in a jail sentence
I will not take picture of military-style or camouflage clothing.
Pedestrians/ Vehicles
Likely – I will be walking quite frequently around Kampala.

I will also be using services such as the boda-bouda.
High – there is a high likelihood of being in a traffic accident. There is a high amount of accidents which occur every year.
The intercity bus (including overnight long distance buses) should be avoided due to reckless driving, excessive speed and poor vehicle maintenance.
I will be cautious when walking and while crossing roads.
I will ensure that the vehicle is in good condition before departure and ensure to wear a helmet at all times.

Political Risk Assessment

What is the Risk?
How likely am I to encounter this risk – not likely, likely, very likely? Why?
How severe is this risk? Rank it – low, moderate, or high. Give your reasons.
What will I do to manage this risk?
Riots, political unrest; most recent at the Kasubi tombs on March 16, 2010
Likely – I may see protests occurring. The Kasubi tombs are located in Kampala, which is the same city that I will be living in.
High – a UNESCO world heritage site was burned down and there were casualties
I will monitor the situation; avoid large crowds and any demonstrations.
Violent incidents in Murchison falls National Park, Mgahinga National Park, Kidepo Park, or Semuliki National Park
Not likely – because I will follow all guidelines and proceed with caution if I choose to go to any of those areas. I am not located in those areas so I am able to avoid them if necessary.
High – there have been violent incidents
I will monitor the situation, and if I travel to Kidepo National Park I will proceed to do that by air.
Political unrest on the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the northern border of Uganda – Sudan
Very likely if I am in those areas.
High – the Lord’s Resistance Army is located in Northern Uganda and is a terrorist group. The Lord’s Resistance Army continues to be a serious threat in the following districts despite a ceasefire signed in 2006: Adjumani, Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira, and Apac districts.
I will avoid the high risk areas and will not travel into northern Uganda. If travelling in northern Uganda it is advised to use extreme caution and follow the advice of local authorities.

Environmental Risk Assessment

What is the Risk?
How likely am I to encounter this risk – not likely, likely, very likely? Why?
How severe is this risk? Rank it – low, moderate, or high. Give your reasons.
What will I do to manage this risk?
Heavy Rains and Flooding
Not likely – The first month that I move to Uganda will be during a high rain season; the next two months will  not be during the rainy season
Potentially high risk – during the rainy season the flooding and mud slides can cause evacuations, casualties and damage to infrastructure
I will watch the weather report and ensure that I do not go out during a day when mud slides are at a high likelihood of occurring.
I will stay out of high risk zones where the flooding occurs.

Those are some mighty big risks! I know this much, I have to be careful when I am in Uganda, it won’t be like Toronto. I have taken a special note for what to watch when I am in Kampala and where there is a danger zone. Besides the riots and the petty crime Kampala doesn’t seem to be such a scary place. The more I hear about the city the more I feel like moving there will be an adventure. I do not believe that I will be experiencing any heavy rains or flooding in the country since I will be coming at the end of the rainy season and at the beginning of the dry season. I know that there are risks associated with travelling to Kampala but I am trying my best to minimize those risks (the 5 shots in my left arm will agree with me on that point). Hopefully all of this reading, being a pin cushion and preparing is going to help me when I am in Africa to make sure that I don’t get into too much trouble!
                I cannot wait to arrive in Kampala and to find out what it is, exactly, that I will be doing there or even where I will be living. I saw some of the other girl’s placement homes and they look amazing, defiantly not what I thought (or others for that matter!). They are not the “tiki huts” that everyone has been picturing, some are nicer than my house that I’m currently living in! With all of this said, I’m still not sure where I will be living or what my living conditions are going to be like. I don’t have a problem with things like squat toilets but it would be nice to know ahead of time just to prepare myself! I wish I had the luxury of information that a lot of my classmates know. I don’t even know what field I will be working in this summer! Everyone knows at least that they will be doing things like working with sustainability, teaching how to sew, promoting local artists, or working with HIV infected people. I wish I had that luxury of information. I guess that I will have to be very adaptable! Until I know what I’m doing I can promise this: I will continue to be very nervous (more so than getting my teeth out!). Well I am sorry this is such a short post (minus the huge table of course)! I need to go prepare for the unexpected.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hello, My Name is Jacquelyn. I am a Human Being.

                This weekend our group held a yard sale and a pancake breakfast. We made quite a large chunk of change and this event has taught me so much. First thing I learned: never take the lead on something if you aren’t going to be able to dedicate yourself 100% to the project. I know that everyone pitched in but so much of the planning and the organizing weighed down my already burdened shoulders. I would just like to thank all of you who helped; I came close to my breaking point almost every day while planning this event. It was those little things that really went a long way. Now with all this said and done, I can relax (as much as possible because this is pretty much full steam ahead).
Another thing I learned: corruption. I have heard the story of the person who saw corruption in third world countries. A delivery is made and the recipients take more resources than they are supposed to. A westerner’s response: “How could they do that? Don’t they know how many children are hungry and would appreciate that food?” I can’t lie, I have had the same reaction to this story. How does this relate? Well while planning the event I was entrusted with keeping the food at my house until the event was able to start. I can’t lie, I ran out of margarine at my house and I went into my fridge and took out a butter package to use it for myself. This happened 3 or 4 times before the event started. I know that this is not on the same scale as some other situations but it taught me something valuable. Corruption is something that occurs so easily, especially when you really need something and it’s all right in front of you. Everyone is a human and as much as we think we are not capable of something we are just as capable as that person. Most people do not believe that they would hurt their fellow neighbours but in the Milgram experiment the participants, who were citizens of the United States, administered electrical shocks to their fellow American, as they were led to believe. The participants were following authority and they were led to believe that they were actually giving electrical pulses to someone on the other side of the wall and many of the participants went up to a lethal level of electricity because someone told them to. This shows exactly what humans are capable of. We cannot sit in our comfy homes, sipping our lattes and judge why there is corruption in the third world. We really do have to walk for a mile in their shoes in order to really understand what is going on. As a North American I am not exempt from this type of behaviour. While preparing for our event I exhibited corruption by consuming something that was not mine and I did not pay for those butters that I took. I know that I may come across this type of corruption while I am in Uganda, or maybe later on in life, but I have to remember to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before I so easily judge them. There are different circumstances which put people in different positions and we are all susceptible to these types of actions.
On another note getting ready to leave has left me feeling like I am running, out of breath, about to fall over and I can’t stop and take a walk to catch my breath. There is so much that needs to be done: the regular stress of getting all of my assignments in on time for classes, making sure my shots have all been given to me, making sure that all of my shots are up to date, starting to shop around for supplies that I need to take on my trip and making sure that I get the best bang for my buck, and making sure that I still have some down time so that I don’t go crazy. Everything just feels insane. I am getting to the point where I am looking forward to facing one of my biggest fears, getting my wisdom teeth out, just so that I have a medical excuse to be made to relax for a few days. I will be on doctor’s orders to recoup after the procedure. I know that in all of this time where I should be relaxing I will be doing all that I am able to do so that I do not miss a minute of studying. Here is a note to my future self when I am freaking out: breathe, everything will be ok. What gets done is what gets done. You are only human and you can only do so much. Relax. 

Friday, March 19, 2010


                So an update on my life as I prepare for getting ready to leave, every week I have a new needle that I have to get. Did I ever mention that at the beginning of the year I was afraid of needles? I don’t mean like I get a little scared, I mean like I would start shaking head to foot and have a small panic attack at the thought of a needle. Slowly and surely I have been facing this fear, or been forced to face this fear rather, and have been getting all needles that I need for this trip and then a few that I thought would be important to get. One thing that this program never really advertises: costs. Yes they tell you about the $1400 that you have to pay and then $2000 that you have to raise. Here is what they don’t tell you, you need to pay a lot more for things you need when you go over there. Yes you would think that I would have thought that I would be going over with supplies but until the costs hit you it never really enters into your consciousness. Here’s a small list of things you need to get: shots (most are covered but if you don’t have separate insurance other than school insurance, you are not really covered too well), rehydration salts, water purification tablets, protein bars to bring over (in case you get lost and hungry), clothes which are appropriate for wearing over in your placement, mosquito nets, DEET, hygienic things for when you are over there (soap, etc), medications that you may need (tums, immodium, advil, etc), etc. The list goes on and on and it is one that makes your head spin around in circles. What is the bright side of all of this? Air Miles. I am going to get a lot of those this year.
                Beyond Borders has taught me a lot so far this year. I have learned how to organize better than I have ever done before. Every week my agenda is packed with a million things to do and somehow they all get done. Time management has become a speciality for me to be able to do. I can balance homework, planning a fundraiser event, volunteering, writing essays, doctor appointments, sleep, social events (to help keep me sane) and the random unexpected thing that comes out of left field. I have also learned how to work in a team for a long period of time and how to get things done effectively in group dynamics. I have also started to look at things a little differently. My entire university career has been teaching me how to look at the world differently and this course offers nothing less than what I have been enjoying for three years. Peace and Conflict Studies is an amazing program that really makes you look twice at everything, to the point where you will refuse to eat a banana because it is not fair trade. My family has already noticed the difference. One person in my family asked if I could go back to normal. I just thought, what is normal? In my program we learn a great deal about wars, the global south, alternative dispute resolution, etc. This program has opened my eyes more than I could have ever thought possible.
I am excited about the idea of going away this summer. Right now, however, I am so busy that I don’t really have time to be excited right now. I’m still a little nervous. I don’t know much about my placement. I know that it is in Kampala, Uganda. It is called the Kamowkya Christian Caring Community. I know that they work with health, education, micro financing and advocacy. That is all I know. I am not hiding anything else from you. You now know as much as I do. I do not know what I am going to be doing, or who I am staying with, or how many people live in the family. I don’t know anything. It is making me incredibly nervous. I am going to a strange country and I hardly know anything. This little information is unsettling. I am very uncomfortable not knowing anything. I evidently will not know anything until I go to my country regarding all of the previous questions. This makes me very, very, very nervous. I will have to learn one more thing form Beyond Borders: how to let it go with the flow.
An update on the fundraising events before I sign off this blog entry! The band night went very well! The bands which came include: Junca (Junka?), IVS and Stone Fox. They were all amazing bands and we were excited to see everyone out at the band night! The event raised quite a bit of money for our group. A special thank-you to David Perrin for his continuous support that we have received throughout the year! Our next event is a yard sale which is going to take place on Sunday. We are collecting donations and will hold the sale on Sunday March 21st from 8:30 – 2:00! There will also be a pancake breakfast for all of those who are hungry! Please come out and support us!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


My fears are always difficult to discuss with other people; I don't like to seem weak. The easiest way for me to portray my feelings is through stories. With this said the story can apply to many different aspects in life and travel abroad. Anyways, enough of my babbling. I hope you enjoy:

                The wind playfully brushes against my hair and blows it into my face, and I carefully push it back out of the way so that I can have a full view. I look out on the horizon while the wind blows a warm breeze that blankets me and makes my skin tingle. I am standing alone on the edge of a cliff, watching the sun paint the sky with its beautiful brush strokes. The colours surround me. Orange is playing with the pink in the sky and the pink is mixing with the blues. The sky is light up in a symphony of colours. I soak up all that the sun has left to offer during this peaceful moment; the warmth, the light, the hope, the happiness. I try to focus on all that is positive around me while gazing out upon the vast land which surrounds me, stained with colour. There is so much to see, and so many possibilities all within my eye’s view. The sight is a sad beauty to behold.
                It is so funny how quickly it happens. One moment you are surrounded by warmth, love, light the next moment you are in unfamiliar territory. I am scared to step anywhere and any wrong move could be certain danger. My vision has been lost, I cannot see and the world seems so dark. Goose bumps start to crawl all over my skin as I pull my sweater closer to myself for warmth. Panic starts to rise up within me and I wonder, who will save me? I am truly alone. Despair and hopelessness seep into my body, like the darkness that is constantly spreading, further and further. What will I do? Where will I go? Who can I trust? I feel numb from the cold now. I try to peer down to the bottom of the cliff; how far was it until the bottom? The bottom. The bottom of the cliff somehow seems close to me, as if I can just step down. I could play with all of the animals who live down there: the snakes and the horned animals. How kind the animals seem, they are calling out my name. There is a party that they threw in my honour, I can hear the drums playing. It isn’t far away now, the bottom. I can feel it starting to suck me in. I cannot go a moment without thinking about it. What harm would it do to be sucked into this world? There is no more light, no more hope.
                These thoughts tumble in my head, over and over the questions are asked. Who would miss me if I went to the bottom? Is anyone else even here? As I contemplate these thoughts trying to peer into the bottom of the cliff. There is light creeping up over the horizon! Is it just my eyes playing tricks on me? Have I been plunged in darkness for that long? No! It is light, there are colours dancing in the sky. The pinks and the oranges start to make their grand entrance into the world. All at once life starts to flow back into my body. The animals in the bottom of the cliff are starting to disappear. Were they ever really there to begin with or was my mind playing tricks on me? I can clearly see the bottom of the cliff now. I have to take a few steps back, for fear of how close I am to the edge. The sun continues to rise; it is a new day. Day. Warmth, light, hope, and happiness come back to me like old friends that I have not seen for a long time. I turn and head away from the cliff, now on sure footing, to continue my journey. There will be other cliffs that I will have to face and other dangers to encounter but I am reminded that even though the night may seem long, the sun always raises.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

First Days

                First days are always difficult for me. I never know what to do, where to go, or even where I am going. This week I started, very late I know, volunteering! I went to St. John’s Kitchen. Here’s a little recap of how it all went:
12:05am – Calling my friend.
Them: “Hello?”
Me: “Hi.”
Them: “What’s up?”
Me: “I’m nervous.”
Them: “About?”
Me: “What if I go there and I didn’t dress the right way and then everyone gangs up on me and then I end up freaking out, which only makes the planet spin on its axis faster, making the days go by quicker, which causes global warming to occur faster, which ends up killing everyone that I was trying to help in the first place, and me!” (This was said very quickly)
Them: “...”
Me: “...”
Them: “You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
Me: “But I’ve always been a little scared of homeless people.”
*This is where Joanne’s voice chirped in my head reminding me that everyone is human.*
Me: “You know what! Tomorrow I am going to go in and be the best volunteer there! And I will smile at everyone and treat them like people!”

Ok so now to explain this skit out a little bit. I grew up in Mississauga, a land where there really aren’t that many homeless people. Growing up close to Toronto means that I have seen them but usually when I go to the city for the day. I was taught by society well: keep your eyes ahead of you, don’t look, pretend it isn’t there. We do not treat these people as humans but rather we don’t think about their existence and we continue on to whatever we were going to do in our lives. I know this is wrong but it has been taught to me so well that breaking out of that cycle can be difficult. In our class we read many different books on a wide variety of subjects. One of the subjects regards treating people as human. For this subject we read Jean Vanier’s Becoming Human. While this book does tie in well with what I was experiencing the book did not touch me like it did others. One of the books that has taught me so much about humanity and what it means to be human is Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie. This book always helps be when I feel scared or when I feel like I need a reminder of what human feels like. In this book there is a main character that is dying and he frequently speaks about what it is like to be human. The important message to relate to in all of this is that these people are human just like me. I should not be scared of them because there is a chance that I could one day be in their shoes (especially with all the school bills). So I went to sleep with all of these rolling around in my head.
                I get so nervous before first days that I can never sleep. I constantly wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweats. I have insane dreams where the whole world ends because of what I am doing. Who would not be nervous when their subconscious tells them that I would be the cause of 1.6 billion people’s suffering?!? So nerves in check I left the house the next morning and headed out to the bus stop. I got the bus and headed down to Kitchener. I ended up wandering around Kitchener wondering where this place could be. I ended up calling a friend to Google map for me. The entire time I was wondering around I kept thinking “In Uganda I won’t have a dial-a-friend option. I will not be travelling around with a GPS.” It scared me a lot. I am so reliant on technology. I love it, I Google map everything. I even use street view now so I know what I should be passing. Well I eventually got to my final destination. I went inside and I found someone wearing an apron and nervously said “Ummm...I’m the new volunteer?” I was so nervous! I didn’t know where to look or what to do. I felt so uncomfortable the entire time. I was asked to sort the lettuce and the entire time I was so nervous. What if I screw up? What if I am not good enough?! These thoughts always go through my head on the first day. I get so incredibly nervous. So I tried to be extra careful. I worked for an hour and a half and I was so relieved to know that other Beyond Borders students were there. Cat and Lara showed up! I felt a lot more relieved. The rest of the day went by without that much excitement. When I was giving out food I smiled at everyone and said hello. I made a point to be friendly with everyone I met. With all of this said and done I will still very quiet. Even the head of the kitchen noticed and asked if I was really that quiet.

When it was time for my break I sat by myself in the corner and read the paper. I enjoy being by myself and I tend to like to find a quiet safe corner to go to. That is exactly what I did. This made me start to think of Uganda as well. Will I seek out solidarity there as well? Will I want to find my safe space? What if I withdraw during my culture shock and never come out of that safe corner? I tend to want to go to my safe space when I am uncomfortable or scared. I need to start to extend further out and push myself to not withdraw the way that I am so accustomed to. Anyways by the end of the day it was long but insightful.
Last update! (This is a long post I know) The AEF and the Band Night! Today OliviaRaquel and I went up in front of the AEF board and pleaded why we thought we should be granted funding. We luckily were not given a tough time with questions, as the previous students did with the AEF. We spoke and answered questions within the time that we were allowed. They seemed to be willing to grant us the extra $250 for the sound technician for our band night. We also told them that if we have more than 100 people coming to the event that we would require further funding. Everything seemed to go well though (knocks on wood) and hopefully we’ll hear something back from them shortly. The Band Night (Music with a Mission II) seems to be planned well right now. We are meeting on Monday to discuss the event further and hopefully we will be able to see many people out to the event! If you would like a ticket message me in the comment section and I will be able to meet with you to sell the tickets. Thank-you for making it through this long post!