Time in Uganda

Let's Get Started

OK. I think it is about time to populate this blog with accounts of the 2010 Onalaska Church of Christ / Good Shepherd Lutheran Church mission trip to Uganda. I have access to two journals and will create posts from these.

To start with, there will be day-by-day entries following the intinerary published below. Whenever I add the posts for a particular day, I'll change the color of the text in the list from gray to green. So, you'll know how far along we are.

With that, it is time to post... Updated May 15, 2010

The 2010 Trip - Day by Day

Day 1 ~ Thursday False start due to weather in La Crosse and Chicago

Day 2 ~ Friday La Crosse to Chicago and on the way to Brussels

Day 3 ~ Saturday Brussels to Kigali, Rwanda and on to Entebbe Arrive in Uganda at about 10:30 p.m.

Day 4 ~ Sunday Drive to Tororo; church service in the afternoon

Day 5 ~ Monday Bike repair service project at church and school; Visit to Aturukuku Primary School

Day 6 ~ Tuesday Visit Patewo Primary School; Lunch at Sam's mom's home; Attend service at Butaleja church

Day 7 ~ Wednesday Visit the Mbale Mission; Attend service at Kachumbala church

Day 8 ~ Thursday Visit prison near Tororo with Fabian; Women's program at Milca's

Day 9 ~ Friday Follow-up meeting at Aturukuku; Drive to Kampala

Days 10, 11, 12 ~ Saturday through Monday Visit Murchison Falls National Park and the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary; return to Kampala

Day 13 ~ Tuesday Shopping in Kampala; Depart for Brussels at 11:40 p.m.

Day 14 ~ Wednesday Brussels to Chicago to La Crosse; Home!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Winding Down

Entry from Jack's journal
Entry from Eileen's journal follows

Has it Been a Week? Has it Only Been a Week?
Friday, January 15

Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you...
Mark 5:19

One should keep one’s eyes on one’s destination, not on where one stumbled.
African proverb

It has been one week since we took off from La Crosse. A short week. A long week. Our last day as missionaries, such as we are. Today we return to Aturukuku to talk with the teachers. It turns out to be a disappointing meeting in a way, but possibly an important one for the future. We talk about our desire to do things that would give the students a better experience in the classroom, ask what the teachers need to make this happen. There is discussion of needs (another rock tossed up has hit its mark) and we talk about classroom supplies - wall charts, flash cards, etc.

End of the week meeting at Aturukuku

But at some point, one of the teachers begins to discuss the view of improving the school beyond the issues of supplies. There is a lot of talk about security: the need for a fence around the entire property, improvements in the way of steel doors and shuttered windows and limiting access to rooms through the eaves which are now open. And more teachers’ quarters. There is housing for only two teachers’ families on the grounds. And becoming a boarding school.

With the exception of some limited security improvements (we have already provided support to secure the small office space where the computer and printing equipment is used), these are not things we are willing to pursue - they belong to the parents and school district in our opinion. I understand; housing means the teachers can have rent-free accommodation and this is certainly a big deal for teachers who make as little as these do. A boarding school would attract more families, especially those that could afford the extra expense involved. This would increase both the teachers’ salaries and provide funds for much needed supplies. These would, for sure, provide a better environment for teachers and students.

Eileen finally explains that, as Christians, we are particularly interested in helping those most in need, in this case, poorer families in the area whose children attend Aturukuku. She says boarding schools in the U.S. are for more affluent families. Rafael Owere Oyango who, among other things, is an expert in “education planning” was visiting the meeting at Adrian’s invitation. Adrian, the head teacher at Aturukuku, tells us that he consults with Rafael from time to time and thought he would be interested in the discussions. At this point, he speaks for the first time. “Boarding schools are for the more affluent in Uganda as well.”

What the teachers want is not wrong or bad. Being neither an educator nor a Ugandan nor a parent of a child at Aturukuku nor on the staff there, I would not presume to dictate their vision for the future of the school. But I am convinced that the issues of improving the classroom experience and being available for the children they are now serving are things we should discuss. Openly. We should offer our opinions. We must be careful to listen, but shame on us if we do not strive to work together. To ask for change and be willing to change as needed to help the children who are our focus and, I believe, a real concern of the school staff as well.

Our feeling is that the school’s ambitious plan is not consistent with our vision. I won’t say we can’t do what they are asking. But it is a plan that has elements we have decided we will not be a part of. I thought this had been made pretty clear, especially the boarding school idea, as we told the school leaders in 2008 that it was outside the scope of our work and beyond the means that we are willing to commit.

I ask the teachers about the benefits of having the duplicating equipment. It has been used to print exams. That has been helpful. I ask about other uses, printing lessons for the students, for example. One of the teachers says that they spend a lot of time and effort writing lessons on the blackboard and that having the lessons duplicated would be a great help. “Why hasn’t this been done?” The reply, “Because we don’t have paper.” This because parents, who were supposed to provide paper, have not done so. Because they expected the Americans to do this.

This makes me angry. I know that the families here do not have much and that we need to recognize that there is much already being done - there is, after all, a school and an underpaid staff who nonetheless prepare and deliver lessons as best they can. There are now over 400 students, many of whom are in class even though I know they have many responsibilities at home. But I would expect that what must be several hundred families could collectively make paper available. If this were shared amongst 200 families, I figure it would require about $1.00 a year from each. I do not share this at the meeting, because I cannot in all honesty say I know or can even imagine living in a place where the average income is under $300 per year. And the life expectancy is less than 50 years. Still… Oh well. It is clear that I have a long way to go and a lot to learn.

I ask Adrian to show us the books that were delivered last summer. We have been told that students were able to take books home during the last school session and were read by students and parents as well. However, the state of the “library” now is not good. The books are piled along one wall in a storage room at one of the on-campus teacher’s quarters. Most are still in the boxes they were shipped in. It is a sad sight. I want to cry. Or shout at Adrian, Shaban and the teachers. But I just ask, “Why? Why are they here, in boxes, inaccessible?”

Books in boxes, stored away...

School is not in session and with the security concerns, they felt it best to put the books where they could be locked up. This makes sense, but we are left wondering why the facilities at the school itself were not put to better use - the secure room where the computer and duplicating equipment are located, for example.

We are learning valuable lessons - recall the story that Shawn told us about how they arrived at a successful mission ministry in Mbale. They made a lot of mistakes. And they learned from them. We have stumbled, but need to keep our eyes on the destination. Once again I have to say we have a long way to go and much to learn.

We reconvene under the tree with very little time left to meet. Samuel has collected Milca and she is in the van, waiting to ride with us to Kampala. She has a doctor’s appointment and has been fasting since last night. It will be at least five hours to Kampala. We do need to leave, for her sake.

I did not note what we said to wrap up the meeting, but Rafael offered some closing remarks, directed to the staff:

“A library is an important addition to the school. You should take care of the books. And, Mr. headmaster and teachers, you must provide the students an opportunity to collect books and a chance to spend time reading them.” And, he went on, “You should not make Aturukuku into a boarding school.”

With that, we gather our notebooks, our backpacks, our water bottles and our thoughts and leave the field in which we had come to serve only seven days earlier.

Entry from Eileen's journal
Friday, January 15
We meet with the teachers at Aturukuku School while Samuel talks to Adrian and Shaban [why did he have to show up!!!] about the library room. The teachers have an extensive list of wants. Security keeps coming up. Finally Samuel, Adrian, Shaban, and another man introduced as Adrian’s mentor, Raphael, return. Shaban starts in. Parents quit bringing reams of paper because they figure the bazungus will provide. Which is also why the city has not done what they could. The bazungu Americans have come. Even the water and power bills are not being paid – the school has bazungu Americans. They think Adrian has received money from us that he is keeping for himself. If the school could have security and housing for the teachers, it could become a boarding school. What? WHOA! When Shaban gets to the boarding school part I figure out the agenda and interrupt, “Mr. Shaban, in our country boarding schools are for the rich.”

“Here, too,” says Raphael quickly.

“But as Christians,” I say, “we want to help the poor and orphans. Not the rich.” Raphael then tells Adrian they have a library room and books and that’s where their focus should be, using those resources. Later Samuel tells us, even though the money to create a secure room for the cycle machine was sent over a year ago, the work was not done until a week ago. What??? Why not? We have much to discuss. Bill and I definitely think we need to step away from providing for schools. Maybe offer gifts of goodwill when Samuel or Sylvia return home, but that’s it. We cannot solve all the school issues. We can provide scholarships for Bible teaching though.

Gordy trades places with me and I sit in the middle section of the van rather than the back. Now I can see out, plus the jolting is not as severe. Milca and I share a seat as we all head to Kampala. John is beside us. She is fasting to have lab work done. Our time at the school has gone longer than expected and Bill and I worry Milca has gone too long without food. Bill persuades Samuel we should stop for lunch. Earlier in the week Samuel explained that people here do not complain, just tough it out. TIO. Milca has not complained. We drop her at her sister’s and then head for Paul and Rebecca’s house. And showers. Cold water, but still, showers! Sylvia’s friend, Miriam, comes by. We met her when she visited in La Crosse. She is a lawyer and like Sylvia, very beautiful.

I am not patient.
To compensate I multi-task – depending
on circumstances, it distracts or focuses me.
I draw pictures during Gordon’s sermons,
work sudokus at the clinic,
sing through red lights.
Here in Uganda I am overwhelmed by people standing by,
leaning on buildings,
Men with elbows on knees,
mothers holding babies,
children under mango trees.

What do they wait for?
The day to pass?
A hot sun to shift,
a turn at the bore hole,
a crop to grow,
someone to buy the papayas, jackfruit, tomatoes?
Are they waiting for work?
A roof,
message of hope?

My insight?
Impatience is not African.
Waiting patiently is.
I wonder, are they waiting for me?

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