Boscoe’s Village

Meet Boscoe. IMG_2965-EditHe should have a village named after him. He runs a children’s home, but he is the only director that we visited who acknowledged the problem of runaway youth in Jinja and beyond.

While Boscoe isn’t picky about the backgrounds of the kids he works with, his program seems to attract children from the Karamajong (Karimajong) tribe. The Karamajong are a nomadic people within Uganda and neighboring countries.

These children have been abused and run away from their families, longing for a better life. It isn’t easy for the Karamajong. They stand out from other kids and are often bullied. Boscoe has found that the best thing he can do is use the older children to mentor the younger ones with the hope that they will learn more about their culture than they might otherwise experience.

IMG_2966-EditBoscoe’s program provides shelter, food and an education for about 250 kids, mostly from the Karamajong tribe.  The children are scattered throughout the community in 11 different houses.

Facilities are very rudimentary. An outdoor cooking area at this one provides the meals. Nearby is a latrine. Boscoe showed us the facility and explained the leach field that helps to disburse the liquids from the solids. He explained how a truck can come in and clean out the solid materials. It kind of reminded me of growing up in a one-room country school with outhouses.

Boscoe took us to a second location. There was a park in the center of several houses. One of the houses belonged to his program. As we pulled up children of all ages came running up to greet us. Boscoe informed us that the kids wanted to do an impromptu dance for us. He said that we would have to travel several hundred kilometers to see a performance like this by the tribe represented in these youth.

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The first dance was a welcome dance, inviting us into their world. It was followed by several other dances including a wedding dance of sorts. Philip explained that the Karamajong perform this dance and during the dance the male forcefully takes his bride without her affirmation. He grabs her wrist and pulls her to his tent and has sex with her regardless of her wishes in order to claim her as his wife.

The teen girls performing this example of the dance would likely be married and with at least one child if they were in their traditional tribal setting. Boscoe has been working to educate the kids on the importance of heritage while acknowledging the rights of women.

After the dancing ended the kids gathered around for their photos. While this group of kids are among the lowest class of people in Uganda, those we encountered seemed to be among the most well-adjusted to their circumstances. They were utilizing the schools to better themselves, they were learning their culture, and they were taking steps to better their community. All of them presented themselves with a smile, greeting us, welcoming us into their courtyard and their lives.

Kiyindi Revisited

After bidding Joshua farewell, Phillip, Mary Jo, David, Moses and I went back to Kiyindi for our final visit to one of the leadership training centers. These meetings have always had some connection to all three goals of Gospel Mission Africa and this one was no different.

After David and Mary Jo finished their talks, the women of the village had to show them the crafts that they have been working on with the materials provided to them by GMA. What isn’t evident from this photo is that everyone is standing around the school that these children attend.IMG_2947-Edit

These women may have made the best use of the beads provided. As you can see from the picture below they have made a number of purses, focusing on the empowerment of women that these materials provide.

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As you’ve browsed these pages related to Uganda you may be asking why there is such a strong emphasis on empowering women. Traditionally Ugandan women do all the work. They go to the fields and raise the food. They care for the children. Men on the other hand make use of the privileges given to them in their culture, the privilege to not work and the privilege to drink the locally distilled, cheap and poisonous alcohol. GMA hopes that they can provide women with opportunities to earn more income with less hard labor and encourage men to share the responsibility of earning the food.

The children in Kiyindi are just like all the others I have come across. Shy at first but once they realize that the camera will show them what they look like, they swarm around any one person that they think I’m about to photograph. It is difficult to capture an image of just one or two children.

As with most any child in any culture you will find attitude. I came across this girl standing in the doorway to her home. A knife with no handle in her hand, chipping away at a piece of sugarcane. I motion to her that I’d like to take her picture and she seems indignant at first. Moving toward her I motion again and her body language shows that she is agreeable. After taking the shot she drops her hands to her side and marches toward me and in unbroken English says “I have GOT to see what I look like.”IMG_2961-Edit

Not surprisingly, there are things that could be done to help this church and school. The church has a tin roof with holes in it. The walls of the school are incomplete and falling apart. Yet, the alphabet is written on the outside walls for the children to see whenever they are in the area.

Kiyindi, the gateway to the island of Buvuma. Kiyindi, a village with its own issues. This is the last of these gatherings that we will take in this trip. It is hard to imagine it quickly coming to an end.

Hospitals, Schools, and More

Today has turned out different than it appeared on our agenda, but before we get there we added a new team member.IMG_2322

Joshua has known David and Mary Jo for a few years. He comes from the Seattle area and has helped the mission with some of their building projects. He came along in order to see what might be involved in building a new children’s home.

Meeting Joshua yesterday afternoon took me by surprise. He gave an American handshake. I realized during the introduction that greetings are much more significant outside of the U.S. Handshakes last forever in Africa, it’s kind of nice. Someone described that a handshake and greeting involve a blessing of the person you are connecting with.

I also have to say that just in the first few hours of meeting Joshua he is a pretty cool guy. This picture makes him look tough and intimidating, but he’s not. He has a big heart for mission work. He helped build a school in South Sudan a few years ago. He said he travels a lot. He will work for several months and then head off to some other part of the world.

Joshua, David, Mary Jo and I went to breakfast at the hotel. We were all going to visit a school this morning. After breakfast, David became dizzy. Philip came to pick us up and it took all of us to convince David he should probably go to the International Hospital in Jinja to be safe.

After dropping David off at the hospital, Joshua and I joined up with Lana and Lawrence at Naranbhai Primary School. IMG_2343-EditThe visit was arranged by Elizabeth, also known as Madam Beth to the students. She and I talked quite a bit about education in Uganda, trying to compare it to schools in the U.S.

I honestly still don’t understand how the grades operate, but what I do know is that the student to teacher ratio in Uganda is even more disturbing than back home. I told her that most schools try to have about 1 teacher for every 25 students. She said that the law states they have to have 1 teacher for every 45 students. She went on to tell me that they have a couple of teachers who are running about 1 to 65 and that there are some schools where it is even 1 teacher for ever 90 students. She walked Joshua and me around and showed us that they are building a “University” within their compound. IMG_2327-Edit

Lawrence and Lana held the kids’ attention quite well. Lawrence did a presentation on HIV and AIDS prevention. The rate of HIV and AIDS has been on the decline from the research I found before the trip. The research suggested that it is because of programs like this that are in the schools. Still it is a huge problem in the region and Philip has mentioned that we will see more of it in coming days.

Afterward, Joshua and I were invited up to introduce ourselves. Joshua has a way with the kids, you can tell where his heart is.

Madam Beth and Joshua then gave out sunglasses and Lana gave them candy. Of course all of these things are wrapped in plastic and, in case you haven’t noticed it, Uganda has a significant problem with pollution. There is little regard for the environment and with such a large population there is garbage everywhere. IMG_2333-EditThe first thing Joshua told them prior to handing out the gifts was that they could not just drop the wrappers on the ground, they had to find a trashcan and throw away the garbage. I don’t know if it was a lesson learned, but it is one that needs to be taught.

When Philip came to pick us up, David and Mary Jo were in the van with him. Prognosis was dehydration. Still the group decided not to go back out during the afternoon, giving everyone a chance to rest up a bit.

In spite of the health issues, today was a good day and ended well. Joshua and I had dinner together since David and Mary Jo weren’t feeling up to it. It really gave us a chance to connect and talk. Joshua is a great guy, with a big heart. He asks questions and prods you to think and at the end of the day I think he knows more about me than many people I’ve known for years.

 

Hope in Soweto

This afternoon we went to a small school in the Soweto of Jinja. This is one of the two largest slum regions of the city. Help Primary School was started by a man whose name I forget. The meaning of his name will stick forever.

The Traveler.IMG_2275-EditHe grew up on the streets of the Soweto. At some point in his childhood living on the streets he contracted cerebral malaria. He walks with a limp and a crutch. He persevered through struggles in a community that is known for disease and poverty to start Help Primary School in order to give the children of Masese an education and help them find hope for their future.IMG_2224-Edit

In order to get there, though, you have to travel through the slums. You wonder how people live in a place that resembles the destruction of a tornado. But they do. If they are lucky, they have some form of a store in the front of this building that also serves as their home. If they aren’t, there is no store and no home. Some live inIMG_2226-Edit buildings made from cargo containers, setting up shop to sell what they can.

Once you pass through the gates of Help Primary School you would wonder if you are in the same community. Yes, like the entire country of Uganda, HPS shows signs of a poor economy, but they also provide a place for the students that might in fact be a place of rest from the struggles of the outside world.

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As I took this picture of the school building it hit me. Everything in Uganda is the color of terracotta. The grounds were not overrun with grass and weeds like outside the walls of the compound. The kids laughed and some were kicking a flattened soccer ball around. IMG_2266-Edit

School, Help Primary School to be exact, turns out to be a place where an education, where time in school, may give a chance for someone who started out as a traveler to in fact leave the slum that has been their life with the help of Traveler.