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.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps you can teach these women to knit? Start a knitting class at the centre???? Ask Francis if there is a place where you can purchase knitting supplies to get them started???? Perhaps they can sell their newly knitted projects, even if it is knitting dish cloths,etc. If you like I can send you some smaller knitting projects for you to teach them. You do have a life skill that can help others, sweetie. Perhaps in this way you can spend a little of your own money and help a lot of people at the same time????

    Mom xxxxxo