Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Look what the cats dragged in


A volunteer friend of mine was telling me about events within his organization. They provide assistance to groups of the poorest people deep in the village, but in order to do so they rely on native volunteers to report to them who is in most need of assistance. Recently they found out that these native (Ugandan) volunteers were charging these poor people to be on the list to receive support! -Social Injustice. Another way this organization supports poor children is by donating block grants. Instead of giving money to a school, for example, they donate items in exchange for a certain number of orphans to attend school for free. Recently they found out that the head teacher received these items and was also charging the students to attend the school. –Social Injustice.

I hate to even have to tell this story but my running kids, upon receiving donated shoes that were sent from the US, quit running. They had to run with me 10 times to receive the shoes but disappeared after receiving them. I had to go back to the school and explain to them that they were given to them to run in and then threaten to take them away if they didn’t run again with me a certain number of times. Upon explaining this to my Ugandan friend, he exclaimed, with a smile, “Ah, you forgot that this is Africa.”

You forgot that this is Africa? What is that supposed to mean? I didn’t forget that this is Africa, I was just hoping that people would be more honest than that. The fact that he even said that got me fired up. By saying You forgot that this is Africa it just excuses people to continue to behave that way. When does this stop being Africa and start being a civilized society that loves thy neighbor as thyself.

I hate writing about corruption because that seems to be all that people hear and thus think about when talking about Africa. I even ask myself what I would do if I were in the same situation. Making very little money and using whatever means necessary to get ahead in life. It makes it difficult to work in such an environment. It makes it difficult to trust anyone. There’s also the “Muzungu price” which is to say that white people get charged 2 and 3 and 5 times the regular price of things because they are assumed to have money.

I guess I think that is why staying is so important. Fleeing is the easy answer. Leaving and saying, “I can’t deal with people who don’t want help” isn’t the right answer but instead, staying, struggling and creatively solving the problem is a better solution. There is a whole lot of help that is needed here and giving up won’t alleviate the poverty situation.

Where I work

I haven’t seen any corruption within my organization in the year and a half I’ve been here. When I first got here someone was taking some food items (sugar and flour) home with them from our storeroom, but it was stopped right away. There are a lot of checks and balances in place within Compassion to keep those things in check. They have frequent internal audits plus checks must be signed by several individuals before they can be cashed or banked. There’s a lot of red tape but in a way it’s good.

“I was just trying to be a good mother”

That’s a line from Into the Woods. That’s how I felt last week when my cat brought into my bedroom the 2nd half-dead rat to teach her babies how to hunt and eat meat.

Rain, Rain Go Away

Another Saturday when the Compassion kids came and another rainout. We have such a need for a building. Meeting outside isn’t the solution. The rain forced us into our small offices and our day’s plan was then discarded. Fortunately we had power and I was able to show them my friend Shelly’s video she made on Life Skills, specifically learning about the facts of HIV and making healthy relationship decisions. Then that was followed by The Gods Must Be Crazy, so I guess it wasn’t a total waste of a day.

Here is a link to the recent article I submitted to my local paper regarding fundraising for our new building.


12 Days of Christmas. How to live like a Ugandan and save money for Christmas.

#7 Pay-as-you-go Phones. It’s hard to mail a phone bill to a mud hut on a dirt path. So instead, people buy airtime ahead of time. You buy a little card and scratch to reveal the pin number. Phone conversations typically last about 10 seconds because you’re charged for each second you talk. Incoming calls, however, are free. There are no free nights or free weekends and you can’t call network to network for free either (though one company did have that promotion going on for a while). I was paying $75 a month for my cell phone. Here I pay about $15 a month.


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