Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas in Uganda

Christmas is upon us, but you wouldn’t know it from the looks of things. It’s just another day. My favorite restaurant, Sky Blue, just today (December 20th) put up about 3 Christmas decorations. I’ve heard 3 Christmas songs on the local radio so far this month and I saw 3 French hens in Kampala last week (not really, but I needed another “3” to throw in). The only other indication that it’s Christmas is the occasional flyer in the newspaper from Game, the country’s only Wal-Mart type store in Kampala, a mere 5 hour drive from here.

The Big Question

Corruption. How bad is it? Recently Jacob was asked an interesting question by an Australian man. “If you wanted to give money to a person or organization and you had to go through a Ugandan that you didn’t know very well, how many Ugandans would mis-manage that money and pocket some?” Get a number in your head before you continue to read. Guess for yourself what percentage of Ugandans would pocket some of that money which is supposed to pay someone’s school fees or go toward building an orphanage for needy kids. Got it?

I’ve posed this same question to Ugandans and their answer is shocking. The answer is typically within the same range of one another and the answer comes quickly, as if they need no time to even consider it. The answer: 90% Ninety percent. 9 out of 10 people would help themselves first before putting the money towards who it is supposed to go to, regardless of how needy they are. This is the answer across the board. So the question that begs to be asked is, why?

“We live in poverty. We are more needy than those people in America and we have extended family to look after and provide for,” was one answer I received. “Won’t you feel guilty for taking school fees from some child?” “Most people wouldn’t. But we would still put that child in a school, but they would be sent to a lesser school than what the money was sent for.”

So maybe the question to ask you is: What percentages of Americans would do the same?

In the nearly 2 years I’ve been with Compassion I haven’t once seen money go where it shouldn’t go. I haven’t once seen the staff get something for themselves or try to work the system. Whether it’s money for the kids or money that’s going into the community center. The people I work with are very trustworthy and show a lot of integrity.

12 Days of Christmas. How to save money for Christmas by living like a Ugandan

#2 & #1. I have to do two because I skipped a week of blogging in there somewhere.

#2. Recycle everything imaginable. Plastic bags can be wadded up and tied together to make cheap soccer balls. The rubber from inner tubes can be cut into long strips and used as bungee cords. And you would be shocked by the amount of uses you can get from banana trees and leaves!

#1. Raise goats. Sure your neighbors might think it’s strange that you live in town and have goats grazing in your front yard, but goats multiply quickly. If you have 5 goats, in a year you may have 15. The meat is tasty, they can help you mow your lawn and the droppings make great fertilizer.