Wednesday, February 06, 2008

COS Confrence and a visit from a friend

We had our COS Conference this past week. COS stands for Close Of Service. it's nice because we stay in a $100 a night hotel. Sort of the Peace Corps way of rewarding us for making it to the end. Basically it’s a series of meetings getting us prepared to finish our time here. We go over everything from what to expect after Peace Corps to getting paid once we return home (we receive around $6,000 for what’s called re-adjustment allowance), to getting cash in lieu of our plane ticket home so that we can travel around. There was a panel of 5 ex-pats, 4 of which were RPCVs who talked about what it was like when they returned and what they’ve done since the Peace Corps. It was interesting and very helpful to hear about their experiences and expectations. I remember that one of them said that she just felt like after her Peace Corps experience that she would be able to transition immediately into an international development position but what she found that she was competing against people with 15 years of the same experience and that she had to start at the bottom and work her way up.

A Visiting Friend

My good friend Leslie Whitehead just happened to be in Kampala recently. She came with a group to do some short term mission work and just happened to chose Kampala to do it in. Leslie is a college friend whom I haven’t seen in several years so it was great to see her again. How she found out about this particular mission trip is also interesting. She was telling me that she was looking for a short term mission trip to do in Africa dealing with orphans. She put that exact criteria into a search, entered the dates she wanted to come and came up with a short list of mission trips already in the works. From there it was just a matter of picking the country and which trip to do. The group she came with was from all over: Australia, Canada and all over the US. They all basically met in London for the first time before flying to Uganda. They all came with a woman named Sherry who resides in California. Sherry first visited Uganda a few years ago. She and her husband immediately fell in love with the people and the place. She has since gone on to open her own orphanage in Kampala. But it’s far from your typical orphanage.

Orphanages here tend to be crowded compounds with wall to wall beds and kids of all ages. Sherry decided to do something different and in her own style. She found 8 children in need of help, 4 boys and 4 girls between the ages of 6 and 10 I’d say. She rents a nice home on 1 acre of land where these kids have a nice big yard to play in. Three ‘moms’ rotate in and out in shifts to take care of these kids. There is also a night watchman and a maintenance man. It’s a beautiful compound and a beautiful house. The kids each have their own things ranging from bicycles to umbrellas. They have nice clothes to wear that aren’t thread bare like so many of the children around and they are home schooled by the ‘moms’. Sherry has such a heart for these kids and they’re so loved and cared for. All 4 of the little girls had hair extensions (a popular thing here) and their ears pierced and the kids were so well mannered. It’s just a very different and refreshing way of tackling the problem of poverty and need.

Culture Shock

I don’t get culture shock here any more. Most of the romantic feelings of being in Africa have long since gone, but I did get a taste of something new this past week. Leslie’s group and I went to KPC, Kampala Pentecostal Church. It’s located downtown Kampala. From the moment I walked in I sensed that I wasn’t in Uganda any more. I’m so used to churches in the village. On stage was a full band warming up for worship. The patrons there weren’t dressed in the traditional Ugandan dresses and suits that I was accustomed to. The girls were actually wearing pants instead of skirts which is a little taboo in my area, but much more common in Kampala, and the church was filled with young people in their 20’s. I just couldn’t believe that this was in Uganda. I was sure I had found a wormhole back to the US. I didn’t know the worship music, but it was performed so well and it resembled ‘worship’ that I was more accustomed to with people really offering up worship to God, again something I’m not used to.

PCV Uganda Projects

There are a couple Peace Corps Volunteers in my group that are seeking funds through the Peace Corps Partnership program. A young, married couple here are trying to get a Borehole (well) constructed for a village that will service 350 men, women and children. Another project is for a tree nursery at a local primary school with the intention of teaching the students career skills in agriculture, art, and business aiding the local environment and improving the academic performance and experience of the student with a school income. Please take some time to consider helping these friends of mine with their Peace Corps projects as well as helping these Ugandan villages in their development.

Demons Hit School

Here's an interesting article from the local news paper about demons invading a primary school. You may have to subscribe to the New Vision to view it.


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