Baskets with cow shit on my head

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Hello, everyone,

Busy, busy yes, even here in Uganda. I regularly say to western society that we don’t have time for each other, but life here is hectic at the moment. My house is a big mess and it needs to be cleaned thoroughly. The days when I was spinning beads with Maureen and could take a walk to the next village for milk are over. Now I tear from hot to hot again on my moped or in the car and try to keep everything on track. The country takes a lot of time and finally the department in the hospital is taking shape. Then there is also a family to run and that means long days but a lot of satisfaction.

A friend from the Netherlands visited us for two weeks and she had brought all kinds of goodies (apple syrup, gingerbread and syrup waffles) with her. Anneke went to work and painted a large part of the house. The garage and the bedrooms have a new colour and it brightens up nicely. Of course it was also very nice to have someone in the house.
Once a month I go with Be More to Entebbe to pick up new, enthusiastic volunteers. That’s just “me time”, sleeping in and sometimes reading a book by the pool. Last time I only woke up at half past three in the afternoon, how wonderful, no dogs, pussies, children who have to eat on time and just do my thing…. Many mothers don’t have that luxury here, they don’t look forward to a holiday or a day off. Rather they go to a party in the neighbourhood where they can swing.

The days fly by and it’s so cool to see that everything is going to turn a little bit.
There are 3 staff members hired for the hospital and they have just completed a one month training on a malnourished children’s ward in a hospital in Masaka.
They are ready to start working on their own and I am happy with this team.
2 Nice sisters and a therapist who also acts as a contact person and helps with the administration. Maureen has also done the training and will be working in the communities. The department has been painted by volunteers and has become very beautiful. Now there are beds, mattresses, cooking utensils and, of course, patients. I hope that we can officially start in January. I had to write an annual report for Scotland (the big donor), oh how I hate that. Especially when you find out that you are way behind with the administration and have to sort everything out. Luckily my friend from Scotland helps me enormously and makes a nice story out of the chaos… Now we keep our fingers crossed that we will get the budget for this year…

We are working hard on the land. Finally the rain came and then the tractor.
5 Family members of families with a malnourished child that we have helped in the region over the past year come to work 3 times a week. Unbelievable how strong the women are and they are all enormously motivated and enthusiastic. They want to learn and be part of a project. The seeds are being planned and we hope for a good harvest. The cow shit is no longer stolen now that we have a security guard who keeps an eye on it all. A small house has been built for him and he also does his bit by knocking down large termite mounds during the day to find out that there were 3 mega snakes in there….
We are now in the process of building a bigger house where people who live too far away can stay for a certain period of time and work on the land, without having to travel enormous distances every day. A hole is being dug for the toilet… incredibly deep, very dangerous and heavy work and that for 2 euros the meter … the hole is about 20 to 30 metres deep.

In the beginning I walked with baskets of cow shit on my head to help the ladies and gentlemen. Now it is too busy but I hope in the future we can plan a lot of activities like trainings and workshops. People will learn how and what they can best plant and give tools for their own family life. Of course I also hope to spoil them a bit. I already see it as a good idea to offer the women a beauty day, we are going to paint fine nails and hold fashion shows with all the clothes volunteers have left behind. I am very happy with the therapist in the team, he can listen to their stories and give advice. Many families have worries and problems and a listening ear can never hurt.

At the moment, the team is mainly introducing the project. We visit local mayors, clinics and women’s groups and ask them to contact us if malnourished children are spotted. We want to involve the communities. This week we had a very good meeting. Thirty-five women showed up. They were given food training and then information about contraceptives (pill, spiral, stick in arm that releases hormones). The women were very grateful and as many as 10 went for the axe to put a stick in their arm so that they won’t get pregnant in the next 5 years. Some of them had to do that secretly because many men are against it. The women are tired of being pregnant and are ready after 7 children. In the end they are often the ones who take care of the whole family. There was even a woman who wanted an IUD, no problem lady, just lie down on this coffee table in this house and with some light from a torch an IUD was professionally inserted. You don’t need a sterile doctor’s room or an appointment for that, just like that in the village on a Wednesday afternoon in a house with hardly any furniture.

Yes, life remains beautiful here, long days but with a lot of satisfaction. At the moment we have triplets in the hospital in Masaka. Two are severely malnourished, one has a swollen tongue and could not drink normally from birth, today he has had surgery. When we asked the mother carefully if she didn’t want to attend the family planning after 7 children she answered “I am tired of having children but if my husband wants another one I am prepared”, unbelievable…. This guy doesn’t crowl at his family and we are the ones who are taking care of him now. Next week we are going to visit the gentleman and wash his ears thoroughly.

I hope that the plants will grow nicely and that we will have a good harvest. While the mosquitoes are buzzing in my ears I say goodbye and dive into my bed…. Tomorrow another beautiful day!