Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mid Service Conference and Child Abuse

Child Abuse

We received a report the other day that one of our Compassion kids had been seriously beaten up by his brother, who is his caretaker since both of their parents passed away. He also happens to be one of our HIV children. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of this happening. The story went that the Compassion boy who is approximately 13 went out dancing one night (which he wasn’t supposed to do). When he came back his brother beat him severely. The punishment didn’t nearly fit the crime. Japheth, the director of Compassion, after consulting with his boss who is the local church leader, decided to take action. Now Japheth watches a lot of these Nigerian movies which are intensely popular among the Ugandans and all Africans from what I understand. They are poor quality and low budget soap operas basically but they are Africans, they speak an African dialect which the Ugandans understand better than American English and American films, they take place in African villages and they involve African themes (somehow). I believe that because Japheth watches so many of these videos that he uses cunning measures to take action in these circumstances. To capture this older brother without arousing suspicion he could have had the police sent to the brother’s house, but he probably would have had to pay for their transportation to get there (which is a bribe). Instead, he called to police and told them that he would summon the brother to the office and then call them to pick him up. So he sent for the brother. He came. Then he acted like he needed to get something out of the other office and he phoned the police They asked if they needed to bring their guns (AK-47 assault rifles). Japheth assured them that this was a simple boy and that he wouldn’t be any trouble. So they came and took him to prison. He was merely detained there for a time and they took a statement from him. (He may have been beaten too, I’m not sure) The entire ordeal was just done to shake him up a bit and to teach him a lesson, but it’s interesting to me that Japheth has enough clout to have him apprehended and taken to jail for ‘suspected’ child abuse.

Breakfast Club

The running club at the secondary school here has commenced. I began passing out shoes on Monday. Over the course of 6 months I’ve had 80 kids run with me, and it’s been an equal number of boys and girls. That’s impressive because the head teacher told me that girls don’t like to exercise and that I was wasting my time by trying to convince them to run. It didn’t take much convincing really. They just came.

When I was home in America I collected shoes from my brother and another friend who teaches. The problem I have now is that I typically have 30 or so runners each morning and I don’t have enough shoes in their sizes. Many of the shoes I have are size 10 and above, which are too big for these small African kids. I’ve contacted Runners World and they’ve sent me a list of organizations to contact who routinely donate shoes to Africa. I’ll keep you posted.

Mid Service Conference – Toothpick Awards

Since my group first swore in as PCVs, we’ve routinely done this thing called the Toothpick Awards. It’s a time when we recognize, not the important things that the others are doing (why would we want to do that?) but the strange, stupid and embarrassing things that our fellow PCVs have done. For example I received an award for the best receding hairline as well as for being Med Evac-ed to South Africa for what THEY called a vacation. It’s a great time to just share some very funny and embarrassing stories about each other. We use a toothpick because of it’s insignificance (ie cheapness) and significance of removing leftover food from one’s teeth.

It was truly great to see everyone and to also share in their other Peace Corps experiences. I’m truly amazed as I hear their stories. Some are starting libraries, teaching arts and crafts programs, directing women’s income generating groups, etc.

Another neat thing we did at Mid-Service was to read a letter that we had written ourselves one year ago at this time when we were still in training. Everyone’s letter was different of course. Mine was simply a reminder of where I was 2 years ago, working a dead end job as a store manager, unsure of what to do with my life. In desperation and frustration I wrote down 2 things on a piece of paper: What am I supposed to do with my life? Followed by: What about the Peace Corps? I filled out an application shortly thereafter. In the letter I also reminded myself of everything I had to go through to get to this point: Selling my house (barely) and truck, leaving friends and family, committing 2 years of my life to this. It’s all been worth it. The other cool thing I did was leave $10 in Ugandan currency in the letter for myself. When I was in college my dad used to write from time to time and I could always expect $20 in the letter. It usually came as I was finishing my last package of Raman noodles too!!


At 16 June, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a cool idea. I like the runners club/shoes thing.

At 16 June, 2007, Blogger Laura said...

It's great to hear about your life in Uganda, Brian. It's so different and yet so similar to my life in South Africa. For example, the walking without shoes. My friend (fellow PCV) tried that the other day. It didn't go so well.

I love the Toothpick Awards! I wish we did those. Maybe I should apply for another two years' service in Uganda once I'm finished here.


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