Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The struggle & about being 'trained'

I received a phone call the other day from Olivia, a Ugandan friend of mine who used to manage the Sky Blue restaurant. She was calling to tell me that she had succeeded in raising just over $100 for her post secondary school fees. A majority of that came from her uncle. Her mother died in an auto accident over a year ago and her father is a peasant farmer. She was calling to ask me if I would give her some money. I had already given her some, but she needed more if she was going to be able to attend school. She probably needed an additional $50.

That’s life in Uganda. I’ve received several such phone calls and letters from people asking for ‘top-up’ money for school fees or other things. They come by way of not only phone calls but text messages and notes under my door. Once a man came into my office because he heard there was a white man there and he proceeded to tell me that his wife was sick and he needed money to get her to a hospital. I generally give away a fair portion of my Peace Corps income each month. I don’t really feel like it’s my money. It’s your money. Tax payers money. And it’s such a small amount that trying to save it up to ‘get ahead’ would be like trying to fill a swimming pool with a thimble.

It’s even futile to get a job and try to work to save up money. The going rate for a worker in a restaurant is about $1 a day and if you go to school and try to work in the evenings it’s even less than that. Many school students eat beans and rice for every single lunch and dinner (our equivalent of Raman noodles?). Breakfast is similar. Not to mention that if you’re a female then you’re subject to sexual harassment which runs rampant here with very few laws to protect women, not to mention the general stereotype of women’s inferiority. The belief here is that if a woman wears the wrong clothing (pants or a skirt that shows her knees) then she is asking to be raped and that it’s HER fault if she is.

You know, I think on these things and I always go back to what a land of opportunity America is. How despite what we would consider high unemployment rates, there are jobs available for people willing to work. There are opportunities to succeed and get ahead.

Nutritional Supplement

Jacob moved across town several months ago so our chats have been sporadic. No longer do we just sit around with time to kill talking about anything feasibly interesting and terribly mundane. The other day, however, he came over looking for a particular type of tree he had seen before. This tree has very nutritious leaves. The leaves can be mixed into a number of meals. By weight, he said, the leaves contain 4x the Vitamin A as a carrot and 4x the calcium of milk, thus acting as a nutritional supplement for people whose diet is mainly rice and beans.

Drama Kings & Queens

Our Compassion kids recently competed in a drama competition that was held for the Compassion centers in this region. I was very impressed with the way in which it was organized. Instead of shipping 20 or so kids from each center to a central place to have all of the dramas, which would have been a costly ordeal, albeit exciting. They instead drove around and video taped each 10 minute performance. The kids were to write a drama about “What general thoughts do you have about Compassion.” Or something like that. I tried to volunteer to work with the kids to do dramas but I was told that I wasn’t qualified and they needed a ‘trained’ person to teach them. OK, I thought to myself. I don’t know if all of Uganda is like this but I’ve run across it a number of times. For example, we have a lady here who comes and teaches the kids when they are here. She’s a wonderful teacher, especially with younger kids which I think takes a special talent. However, she isn’t a ‘qualified’ teacher. She isn’t ‘trained’, though she’s one of our better teachers. So, when it comes time to hire teachers next time around, I’m quite certain she won’t be among those hired, because she isn’t ‘trained’.

Back to the Drama Kids. They won the competition! They were the best group, and it’s no surprise. They are amazing, bright kids with loads of talent. Give credit to their ‘trained’ drama teacher. Maybe there is something to hiring a ‘trained’ person after all…


At 23 January, 2008, Blogger Adam said...

We miss those kids

At 23 January, 2008, Anonymous Ann said...

I miss them too!

At 31 January, 2008, Blogger Michelle said...

Pervis, I wanted to tell you that I've been thinking about you lately and wanted you to know that I really miss our chats that we had when I came back to Uganda! I hope you are well and I really enjoy reading your blog! Please know that even though people may come in and out of your life....you touch all of them! Keep Smiling, Shelly


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