March stirring its tail

Tuesday 22 march 2016

So we are another month on. In the Netherlands we say “March is stirring its tail” and that’s the way it is here. A few days very warm and after that a refreshing rain shower which we use a lot to take a shower.
In the morning everyone is working in the fields again, digging around, planting new seeds and hoping that the weather gods will be kind to us this season.

I am now training for the marathon in June, 10 Kilometres I want to run to raise money for the department for malnourished children. Just last year I was encouraging the runners and thinking that I will never do this in my lifetime…now I run every other day on the red sand roads and I see the sun rise in this beautiful country. And I enjoy it too! On the way I meet many children who are on their way to school and see the red, sweaty, anything but sexy Mzungu (white man) running. It’s no wonder they think we’re not quite spurs. Ugandans don’t like walking when they don’t have to.
Especially the little hill is disappointing but it is getting better and better and today I bought some nice sports shoes because I am not going to make it on my trainers.
The department has been sponsored by a Scottish fund for the past 4 years, this fund will slowly withdraw over the next two years. This year we will get 80% of the required budget and next year 50%. Because the department is getting more and more patients and the staff has to be paid for the work that is being done it would be a shame if this all collapses after all that hard work. I am now trying to raise money in a different way so that the department can continue to operate without being too dependent on funds.
It would be great if more people would come running this year or next year for charity and then maybe put a well-deserved holiday on it to come and explore all the beauty that Uganda has to offer.

This year I have decided to focus more on the children, some of them have finished school (Peter) others will go to high school next year (Veronica), the adoption of Babirye and Rosah, buying a piece of land for every child and the future of all of them….Rosah is going through a difficult period, she is going to ask questions about her biological mother and what exactly happened. This little girl has a lot of anger in her and that manifests itself by slamming doors very loudly, knocking the forward one out, attacking anger and shouting very loudly that I am not her mother. Now I hear from other girlfriends that their daughters would like to exchange their mother for another one on a regular basis while these are their biological children so that reassures me a bit. But Rosah has a right to the truth and needs to be prepared for that because nobody likes to hear that you have been left behind by your mother. In the meantime we have found a sweet psychologist who uses play therapy to get behind Rosah’s bad dreams and try to come to terms with them.
I take it right away and book a session for myself after it. Apparently life here doesn’t get me in my cold clothes, you see and experience a lot of dishonesty, fear is a bad counsellor, the death of a number of loved ones, a robbery that cuts in more than I expected. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to go to someone who listens and can help. So many people here could make good use of that, but they do not get the chance.
So we are in the mischief camp.

To conclude the update, I would like to tell the story of Tom. This time Tom is in the spotlight because for me Tom is the example of “I have nothing but I am happy”. About three years ago we were visiting a family when Tom’s grandmother came to ask us if we wanted to have a look at her grandson. We found an 18 year old boy who looked like 12 years old sitting on his bare ass outside in front of their little house. He could not walk, had brown hair and swollen legs and feet due to malnutrition. We can’t do much for disabled children, there are so many underlying causes that are difficult to treat here (heart problems, malaria that hasn’t been treated properly etc) Yet we took Tom to the hospital to at least do something about the malnutrition. A lovely boy who turned his newly acquired radio to volume 100 at 6am so everyone knew he was awake and that it was time to get up. Because we are only a small ward and have no specialised staff he was transferred to another hospital after three weeks and no positive result. There they found out that he was up to the ridge (stomach) full of stools and was finally relieved with an intestinal flush, which was quite a relief. Now we come by every week to relieve Tom with a bowel flush, just behind the house with a self made chair. In the meantime, we have collected a lot of clothes and he is sitting very comfortable. Not at all handy for Tom because he can’t walk to the toilet so he pees in his trousers and sits in the wet all day long. That is another typical Mzungu thought that it is nicer for that boy to wear trousers. Tom has a meal one day and I find it difficult when I drop by at 3 o’clock to hear that he hasn’t drunk or eaten anything yet. Grandma passed away last year, those two were a beautiful couple. Grandma is always complaining about pains and the lack of sugar for tea and Tom just loves to be with family. Now Tom’s father lives in the house and sometimes a brother or two. I can’t expect them to have a nice breakfast in front of Tom at 10 o’clock because they don’t have much to eat and are working during the day. I can complain about that or bring food to Tom myself but that’s all I have with me. I’m not going to be able to take care of Tom and it’s very nice that he can be with family and that he will be taken care of. And in the end he remains a responsibility for the family as soon as you take that out of your hands there is no end to it and you make it very easy for the family. We never find him in a neglected state, he is washed and fed. Tom is used to being at home alone and sleeping on a mattress on the ground. If we put a bed in front of him he can’t put himself in a sitting position and he will fall out of bed when nobody is around to help him up again. Much more convenient to do it the Ugandan way.
I have never seen Tom sad, I think he is satisfied with what he has and of course he loves to be pampered with some extra treats when we drop by. Despite the fact that Tom doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak much Ugandan we have fun and I like to visit Tom. I also realise that if I am no longer able to visit Tom his health will deteriorate because no one will take on that responsibility and cost to continue to visit Tom. I am glad that we have been able to help him over the last few years and that we have been able to relieve his stomach aches and pains.
Tom puts me back on my feet for a while and then you realise again that you don’t need much to be happy.
That’s why this time I put Tom in the sun because he is a sun in that little house somewhere in the middle of nowhere!