Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Greetings from Kampala 30 April 2016

Sam visiting with this local woman of Bitongo village who walked over four hours to find water

Students with new books from Pierz Elementary

These students love their new books and their 35,000 liters of water

Ladies carrying sand for their tank

The beginning of the next tank~10,000 liters

The base coming along
30 April 2016
Great news for the people of Resilient Uganda, for the second year in a row, Resilient Uganda has been awarded the One World Grant from the generous Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, Minnesota.
“Responding to the needs of the poor and marginalized is deeply rooted in our Franciscan charism. Your vision and commitment certainly mirrors our concept of global mission. We are honored to share in your ministry with this grant and with our ongoing prayers. Blessings to you as you continue your important work.”
I’m honored to have their blessings and their support and look forward to following their selfless and generous ways!
I’m writing you from Kampala, the big, noisy, hot, congested and dusty capital of Uganda. Spending a few days here visiting friends, searching for hotels and craft shops to sell our bags and most importantly enjoying the swimming pool and the hot showers!
I arrived on Thursday night after an 11 hour journey, with the bus overheating twice, the driver stopping to buy tomatoes, bananas, onions and any other shopping he wanted to do along the way and then finally crawling our way through the “jams” of traffic in the city for almost two hours to get to the bus station. I am curious what some regular maintenance to the bus might do to improve these journeys however I never let my mind wander to what kind of maintenance the brakes or tires have seen in their lifetime. I’m grateful to be here and can’t allow myself to think about the trip back!
The afternoon before I left for Kampala we had a tank dedication; the tank agreement was signed and we handed over the 20,000 liter tank to the village of Bitonga. The dancing, clapping, laughing and praising that took place that afternoon was beyond appreciation. I recognize that I may criticize and express difficulty understanding the way Ugandans work, reason and function. It is often a struggle for me to accept and comprehend such a different culture, but I apologize if I have ever made you believe that they are not exceptionally grateful for our assistance. I felt guilty taking all the credit for so many of you and your generosity and support. Please be assured our efforts are not wasted and are greatly appreciated; it’s moments like these that I wish I could share with you, so that you too could feel the impact we’re making; the joy in their faces, the gratitude in their dancing and the sheer delight of life. It (almost!) erased all doubt and frustrations of the past two months.
We gathered around the tank and the people of the village trickled in, they sat for nearly two hours in the blazing sun to hear what the conditions of the tank were and to celebrate its existence. The deal is simple; the village chairman has the keys, the tank will be open from 9-11 a.m. for fetching water (they decided on the time), the water is free, and they will all contribute as community members toward repairs or maintenance when necessary. These conditions took some time to discuss and agree upon. Eventually I asked if I could stand and say something, I explained who Resilient Uganda is, how we raised the money for this tank and then the details of our significant message, “A small family = Better Life”. I explained that their children and grandchildren will suffer significantly if the population of Uganda actually doubles to 70,000,000 in the next twenty years. I even described “the calendar method” for family planning. They were extremely receptive (or at least that’s my view!) and one woman even stood up and thanked me for bringing this important message to them. The majority are either against birth control or just don’t like the side effects, so this natural way seemed more acceptable.
It was an excellent day, even with the drunkard, (there’s at least one in every village!) who kept interrupting and shouting out questions or dancing whenever he felt so moved, he kept insisting the owner of the house was the only one who would reap the benefits of this tank. Of course Steven was kind enough to let us put the tank at his home, since he was the only one in the village who is building a “permanent” house, the rest are made of mud and won’t last as long as his brick house will, nor do they have as big of a roof for gathering the water. This has been part of our agreement from the beginning, that he would allow his fellow villagers into his compound to fetch the water. He eventually plans to put up a wall around his compound, which is the norm here, and we positioned the tap, our message and logo so that it will remain outside of the security wall when it’s built.
If you remember the photos I sent a few weeks back when we first visited this area, there was a photo of an old woman who had walked over four hours to find water. She was probably the biggest reason we chose this specific village to be the recipient of this tank. When she arrived at the dedication, she sat across the compound from me and kept waving to me, like a shy little girl. When I finally went to greet her she made a motion like she was zipping her lips and then covering her ears. I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to tell me so I called Didas over to help translate; “She does not hear your language, she does not speak your language, only that she has seen the goodness of the world through your help.” I can’t tell you exactly what she meant, but to me, at that moment, it meant I was in the place where I was meant to be and that we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing; helping those in need.
So far in 2016 we’ve brought 55,000 liters of water to the Resilient people of Uganda, that’s already 15,000 more liters than our initial plan of 40,000 (four 10,000 liter tanks)! But we’re not done yet, on Monday the village builder, Kazungu (who wasn’t so business savvy, but did excellent work on the 20,000 liter tank) started building our final tank this year. 10,000 more liters of water will soon be serving the people of Kisoro!
Thank you Franciscan Sisters, It is me who is humbled and inspired by your example and by your selfless dedication.
Love, blessings and countless Thanks to all,
"We can't do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that we can do."
Resilient Uganda
P.O. Box 7
Kisoro Uganda AFRICA

Strong woman carrying stones

Hanging with the women of Bitongo Village

The tank dedication

Add caption

Sam addressing the community of Bitongo

Sweet, big sister

Dancing, giving thanks for the tank and stirring up the dust! 
20,000 liter tank for the village of Bitongo!

April in Uganda ~20 April 2016

Didas' family in front of their home

Sending me away with a branch of small, sweet bananas

Wilson learning how to use his new crank-powered flashlight

Wilson in my Dad's jacket

Sundays in the village trading center

Traffic Jam

Meat going on the BBQ

Inside the 20,000 liter tank

Didas touring villages

The daily market in Kisoro

High quality security for Wilson to keep his food safe

Wilson on his porch

In the classroom with books from Pierz Elementary

Reading books with Amazing Grace students

Happy students with new books!

The craft shop~stocked and ready for tourists!

20,000 liter tank nearly complete

Kazungu on top of the tank

Inside the tank, getting ready to pour the cement on the top

Sunday Funday....on a bike!

Beautiful Lake Mulehey

Big load for this little lady

Selfies with my new friends along the way

Lake Mulehey

Shepherd resting in the tree

Winding roads and grazing goats

Lunch time in the village!

Curious villagers

Fetching Water

Students at God's Miracle school dancing for me

Mt. Muhabura, village roads and banana trees 
Looks like a home is growing here!

Didas, myself and Sam modeling our newest fashions at the crafting co-op

Our special message is finally revealed!
Here we are already, the middle of April. The rainy season has returned with a vengeance, now the hot, sunny days are a welcome reprieve from the cold, wet days that have been filling the water tanks recently.
The ladies at the crafting co-op are plugging away. They continue to make beautiful bags and pillows for the tourists here and for me to bring home but we are also expanding their business to dresses and shirts for the locals. They go to the market toting their goods every Monday and Thursday, if we’re lucky they find a local who will pay them what the product is worth, but mostly people offer too little for their beautiful things, it won’t even cover the cost of the fabric. We are trying and as is the famous saying here, “slowly by slowly”, it’s the only way things happen around here.
I find myself frustrated with them, their quality of work and the lack of motivation to make money; I remind myself daily that they are so used to expecting nothing more for themselves and resigning to “this is just the way things are”. From little things, like not being able to afford to buy more thread and continue working so just sitting for days, without working because they don’t have thread to bigger things, like ruining a piece of fabric by writing on it, or by making a collar on a shirt large enough to fit around the neck of an elephant. We are working hard on quality and on things looking very “smart”. We all continue to learn, every single day.
Wilson is doing well; he is healthy and strong but tells me he has not been working. Why his family lied to me about him working is another mystery. He tells me that he sometimes walks to his old place of work to visit and they will sometimes give him a small amount of money to buy food. He explains that he is hungry, it’s not yet harvesting season and even his family that invited me into their home to eat with them, that sat and told me that they help Wilson with fetching water, firewood and even with food when he needs it does not help him at all. I struggle to understand this, a culture that shares everything and feeds their neighbors, does not feed their own uncle. When I showed up one Tuesday morning with a 10 kilo sack of corn flour and 4 kilos of beans he explained that his door doesn’t lock anymore and he was afraid his nephew’s wife would come and take his food. Didas and I went to the trading center and found a carpenter who could come and put a new lock on the door. These are real concerns and reality when people are hungry. The potatoes out of your garden are stolen; the beans out of your home are stolen. And, as Priscilla explained to me years ago, “there is one person in the whole world that you can maybe trust, and that is your mother.”
The first water tank is getting the finishing touches with our “special message” being painted on and the second tank is complete, just waiting for the artist to make his way there and spread Resilient Uganda’s important message, “A small family=A better life”. The size of Uganda is equal in size to the state of Oregon. Oregon’s population is around 4 million; Uganda’s population is about 34 million and expected to double in the next twenty years. Already people like Sylvia’s family and Wilson go with one meal a day, or one meal every few days because they don’t have space to grow their food, a small family really does equal a better life.
As always, nothing but love,
              You are rich, when you are content with what you have.