Archive for the ‘Uganda’ Category

Bikes – motor and pedal

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

We are amazed at everything that is carried on bicycles.  Everything from people — to furniture – to food – to miscellaneous cargo.  We include both motorcycles (called boda-boda) and pedal bicycles.  This post is just a variety of photos that we have been able to take this year.  There are many more scenes that we see every day but maybe you can get the idea of what its like.

Women’s “sewing” group

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Last August we blogged about a women’s group in western Uganda (near Kagadi) learning to make quilts and other crafts.  The group had formed through the efforts of a former IVEPer who learned the craft in Canada.  At that time we only had a very short time with the women because rain was threatening.  Since then MCC Uganda gave them a small grant to buy some sewing machines, thread, backing, batting, scissors, etc.  Sally Jo wanted to spend more time with the women.  Since December there was been no rain, so the roads were dry and it seemed a good time to travel there.

This time Sally Jo was able to spend half a day with the women.  After the obligatory formal speeches and gifts she was able to talk individually with most of the women.  About half of the women could speak some English and with the others “talking” involved many hand signals and smiles.  One woman was very patient in trying to teach her how to weave reed strips to make a mat.  Sally Jo was “all thumbs” and eventually had to give up.

Children accompanied their mothers, sleeping when needed, and eating when hungry.  Children from the local school were of course also very curious.


Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Atiak is a small dry, dusty town on the main road through Uganda to Juba, South Sudan.  It is heavily traveled, especially with passenger buses and trucks carrying goods to South Sudan. We saw a number of broken-down vehicles and some overturned ones.  We were traveling with the Sisters from Gulu – in their van and our car.  About 20 minutes from Atiak the van broken down—the rear axle broke.  We piled as many as we could in our car and continued.  (The others waited and eventually got a ride.)

Atiak is just 50 kms (31 miles) from the South Sudan border.  Residents remember the April 20, 1995 massacre by the LRA.  Three hundred men were executed and many young boys and girls were abducted to join the LRA ranks.

One of our partners from Gulu (St Monica’s Tailoring Centre) is beginning a project on the outskirts of Atiak.  They are expanding their vocational school so that young girls from this area can attend school closer to their homes.  On the site are also a health clinic, a maternity centre, and several huts for visitors.  A multipurpose building is started which will include a restaurant.  There are no petrol stations along the road between Gulu and the border (120 km) so our partner is planning on building a petrol station—out of plastic bottles.

Back in April 2011 in a blog about St Monica’s in Gulu we talked about the “bottle house” built there.  That house is completed and is being used.  It has been so successful that they are expanding the project.  There is one nearly completed expanded-design “bottle house” in Atiak, the petrol station will be built of bottles, and 4 guest houses will be built in Gulu.  It is a wonderful recycling project.

Ik Mobilization Day

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Our second blog from Uganda (March 2011) briefly described our visit to Ik land for their Mobilization Day.  It is so-called because it endeavors to “mobilize” the parents, government officials, community, and children to encourage education.  We again attended this celebration in Kamion at the end of January.  We also spent a short time in Kaabong where our partner gave us a history lesson of the Catholic missionaries in the area (through paintings on the wall of a community centre.)

Kamion sits on the escarpment looking to Kenya.  It is an awesome site to see the vastness.  Ik people are not cattle herders like their neighbors, the Karamajong of Uganda and Turkana of Kenya. Instead they are mainly “hunters and gatherers” with honey as a key crop.

Through the Global Families Program, MCC helps to pay for school fees and other necessities for over 40 Ik children who attend secondary school in Kaabong.  We also provide some basic necessities (soap, paper, pencils) to two village schools of over 1000 students of which Kamion is one.  Presently, we also have a special project of building a fence around the Kamion school to provide more security and privacy for the students and teachers.  Some of the secondary school boys cut poles for the fence to earn money for incidentals.

The day included many speeches and some dancing.  The flight there in the small MAF plane was awesome!  It is fascinating to see the very different landscape in  northeast Uganda and the Karamoja manyattas, where people live and keep their cattle, form interesting patterns from the air.  It is also encouraging to realize how much more of Kampala we can now recognize from the air—as compared to 10 months ago.

Two weeks of travel

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

During the last two weeks we traveled to many parts of the country for partner visits. Straight blue lines on the map show air flights and wiggly green lines show routes by land. The red stars indicate all of our stops.

Jan 27-30 – flew to Kaabong (2 hr), next day drove to Kamion (2 hr), Ik day celebration, and drove to Kotido (5 hrs), church and visited numerous people on Sunday. Monday flew back to Kampala (2 hr) – more photos later.

stop in Moroto on way to Kaabong

students dancing at Ik Day

Feb 4-7 – drove to Gulu (5 hrs), next day drove to Atiak (2 hrs & return); on the 6th met with another partner and on the 7th drove home (5 hrs) stopping at one of our schools (Stella Matutina) and arriving home by 7:30 p.m. – more description later about Atiak.

road to Atiak

brick laying classroom, Gulu

working on new 3-year plan

Feb 8-9 – Sally Jo left home at 6 am  with our Program Manager and drove to Kagadi (5 hr),  She met with a Women’s group and then had a meeting with another partner arriving at the hotel at 6 p.m.  Returned home the next day (5 hrs) – blog post coming.

learning local craft

Feb 11 – Ron left home at 6 am and drove to Kamuli (3hr)  with 2 MCC staff members to do a financial review and gather stories for newsletters with our partners there, home by 6 pm.  Photo below shows Ron with staff of partner organization.

doing a financial review

Feb 15 – R-Day!  All our Reports for Akron must be in the database.  We are madly trying to finish them in-between other activities.

Most of the time we love our work–especially the opportunity to travel and meet wonderful people.  We do get tired!


Friday, February 3rd, 2012

We have visited Namugongo several times but have not written about it yet.  The story of Namugongo is the story of the Uganda Martyrs, who in 1886 only a few years into their new-found religion, chose to burn on the pyre rather than follow the King of Buganda’s traditional/”pagan” ways.  It is perhaps East Africa’s most important place of Christian pilgrimage.  I will try to briefly relate the story.

Christianity was brought to Uganda by missionaries from the Church Missionary Society and by the Catholic White Fathers in 1877 and 1878.  They were first welcomed by the Buganda Kabaka Muteesa I, who liked the new faith because it didn’t require him to spill blood in circumcision as Islam.  This caused discontent between the new Christians and the Muslims and the traditionalists.  Soon Kabaka Muteesa ordered the killing of 72 Muslims for refusing to eat meat of an animal not slaughtered by a Muslim.  They were executed at Namugongo.  (There is a mosque near Namugongo in memory of these Muslims.  We have not yet visited.)

Muteesa I died and his young son, Kabaka Mwanga who also had sympathy for the Christians took the throne.  There were tensions in the Buganda kingdom between the Christians and the traditionalists.  Mwanga practiced both faiths.  One of the first converts to Christianity was Balikuddembe the person in charge of the king’s private quarters.  Many other converts were royal servants and pages in the king’s court.  When the Kabaka called for the pages and Balikuddembe suspected the Kabaka wanted them to participate in pagan activities, he would report to the Kabaka that they were absent.  The Kabaka was not happy and ordered Balikuddembe killed.  Mwanga called the pages together and ordered the non-Christians to move to his side.  Only one person did.  Mwanga threatened to arrest Christians but didn’t but he continued in a foul mood.

The Kabaka’s wrath peaked on May 25, 1886  He had gone on a hippo-hunting expedition which proved unfruitful.  He returned early to his residence only to find that there were no pages to serve him as they had all gone for religious study.  When they returned he began questioning them and started to kill them.  He rampaged through his palace and butchered several Christian pages that he found.  In the morning he ordered all the Christians to line up and ordered his executioners to tie them up.  By evening they began their march toward Namugongo.  Several pages were killed along the route, trying to convince the Christians to give up their faith.  At Namugongo the men were wrapped in reeds, placed in a circle with their feet touching and a fire was lit at the center.  Thirty-one martyrs died that day.  During the two years (1885-1887) of persecution more Christians were killed—23 Protestants and 22 Catholics.  The executioner later became a Christian.

On October 18, 1964, Pope Paul VI proclaimed the 22 martyrs saints.  He also paid tribute to the Protestant martyrs.  One of the survivors donated land for the Catholic Shrine, which is built in the shape of a traditional Baganda hut.  Inside the shrine are 22 stained glass-pictures with the names of the martyrs and under the altar is the spot marked with a concrete star where the then leader of the Catholic church in Buganda was burnt over a slow fire on the morning of June 3, 1886.  Pope Paul VI consecrated the shrine in 1969. (We were living in Kenya at the time and remember the Pope’s visit to Uganda.)

Below the shrine in a valley is a man-made lake with pavilions on both sides and a platform in the middle where mass is celebrated.  Trees surround the area giving it a serene atmosphere.

The Protestant shrine is about 500 meters from the Catholic shrine.  It is not as impressive but also has history connected to it.  The remains of the martyrs that perished in the main pyre were collected and buried here.  Later an altar and a church were built on top of the grave.  The tree where people were tied and tortured before being executed is also here.

June 3 is a Ugandan public holiday.  Every year thousands of pilgrims from all over East Africa – some walking hundreds of kilometers – converge to pay homage to the Uganda Martyrs. The grounds are also used at other times for large religious gatherings by different Christian groups.

Experiences this weekend—for which photos do not suffice

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Often we have experiences which we wish we could share with others—but how?  No photos can capture the experience.  Words can’t capture everything—but we will try to describe several experiences this weekend which we wish we could share with you.

Waiting—Uganda-style.  We flew to a distant spot of the country to meet a partner.  We expected him to pick us up at the airstrip when we arrived about 11 in the morning.  However, he phoned saying he was still in his town 1 ½  hours away and would leave after 1:00.  He arranged for someone to pick us up.  O.K.  We were taken to our place of lodging, settled in, had some lunch, and sat down to wait.  We waited and waited and waited and waited.  We watched the birds; we waited; we talked about what we hoped to discuss with our partner; we waited; we thought about our plans for the weekend; we waited; we talked about several reports we were working on; we waited.; we talked and thought about nothing; and we waited.  He finally arrived about 6:30.  No problem!

Stars.  Our partner had arrived and said we needed to meet an official to talk about the agenda for the next day.  We will meet him at a Women’s Center just down the road.  We walk there.  Official arrives.  We will go to a place where we can sit and talk and drink sodas.  We go down the road to a friend’s house.  We sit around in an open yard, talking, drinking sodas, as it gets dark.  There are absolutely no lights.  The conversation was to be about the next day’s agenda, but it rambles and circles and many things are discussed.  Ron and I contemplated the sky—the most beautiful sky there can be—brilliant stars, a sliver of moon—and the peaceful environment of no lights and no sounds.

More waiting.  We are told that we would leave promptly at 8:00 the next morning to travel to the site of the celebration.  The program would start at 10 so that lunch can be served by 1 or 2. We must be eating lunch by 1 or 2 so that we can return and travel to our next destination before dark.  We are ready at 8 but leave at 9:00.  We arrive at the destination by 10:30 and only a handful of people are there.  We sit around and wait.  People start trickling in.  By the time we leave there are about 200 there.  Program begins at 1:00.  We sit and listen to many speeches until 5:00.  We finally eat “lunch” and leave.  We travel 3 hours to our final destination, half of the journey in the dark and all of it on very bumpy road.

Community discussion.  The event we are attending was to be a “discussion.”  However,  all people who are somewhat important must make a speech.  The same things are said over and over.  At one point a woman calls out “when do we get to speak?”  There is an uproar by others present—this is a woman! She should not be speaking!  Everyone calms down and the MC gives her time to talk.  The Education Dept representative talks.  There is an uproar—why is he speaking?  The money meant for this community has not come!  Eventually, there is calm.  As the afternoon drags on there are often outbursts or at least rumblings because something is said they don’t agree with or they are just tired, hungry and would like something important to be decided!

Travelling.  Imagine sitting in the back of a closed cargo truck, with two tiny windows for air, in the dark for 2 hours over rough roads.  This followed an already 1 ½ hr ride in a pick-up over the roughest roads you can imagine.  We don’t think you have been on such roads unless you have lived in Africa.

Heat.  On the afternoon of our third day we lay on our beds trying to rest.  It is 90 degrees in the room with no breeze.  But that is preferable to being outside where it is 105+!  On the other hand, early mornings and late evenings are gorgeous outside with temperatures in the 70s.

GLI (Great Lakes Institute)

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

We recently participated part-time in a 5-day leadership institute in Kampala, Uganda, offering participants an opportunity to interact with and learn from Christian leaders from the “Great Lakes” region of East Africa.  The Institute is organized by the Center for Reconciliation of Duke University and has been supported by World Vision, ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries), and MCC.  About 120 Christian leaders (inter-confessional, Catholic and Protestant of many varieties)  from Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda came  together for a time of rest, community, and learning rooted in the biblical vision of reconciliation.  This region of Africa has experienced (and is experiencing) some of the worst cases of civil unrest, war, genocide and poverty.  The struggle continues for peace, healing, social transformation and reconciliation.

The Institute was held at Ggaba National Catholic Seminary with its restful green lawns, trees, and brick buildings southeast of Kampala city center.  Mornings began with worship, followed by a plenary session, morning tea, and another plenary session.  All sessions were held in English and French.  Lunch was a slightly longer break during which time Sally Jo ran a book table for the participants.  We left after this to return to the office to get some needed MCC work done.  At the Seminary there were seminars for the participants and worship ended the day.  There was a pilgrimage to Namugongo Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine one day.  (We have now been there four times and hopefully that will be the subject of our next blog!)

Living with Shalom Celebration

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Back in March we had a short blog about one of our partners—Living with shalom—based in Hoima.  Every January groups of youth from various parts of Uganda are brought together for 3 weeks of learning what it means to “live with shalom” within themselves, with others, and with God.  There are six young people from nine different areas of the country—Masaka, Hoima, Masindi, Kitgum, Gulu, Lira, Kotido, Soroti, and Kamuli.  These represent different ethnic groups.

They work at peace by breaking down stereotypes of others and learning how to deal with conflict.  They work at peace with themselves through life skills and learning about HIV Aids.  They work at peace with the environment through conservation, especially in the form of energy-efficient stoves and the planting of trees.  They make three field trips during these weeks.  This year they visited a resettlement area, an orphanage, and Murchison Falls National Park.

At the end of the three weeks they have a celebration which we attended.  The day began with a parade, including a police escort and a small band, through the town of Hoima.  During the parade they carry signs encouraging acceptance of those with HIV Aids, warning against deforestation, and asking people not to litter.   As they moved through town they picked up the trash.  In the afternoon there were dances, songs, and skits by the various groups.  (Dancers do not hold still; so yes, our photos are blurry!)  There was one skit about accepting those who often are not accepted—prisoner, HIV victim, disabled and another skit about domestic violence.  The day ended with the obligatory speeches!

During the day we had a chance to talk with some of the participants.  One said that before these weeks, he didn’t know people from other parts of the country and was even suspicious or afraid of them.  Now he has friends wherever he goes! The significance of this statement cannot be underestimated in a country where loyalty to clan or ethnic group tends to far exceed loyalty to the country.

This three-week training will be followed by reciprocal visits during the coming year by the groups of youth to each other’s home areas.


Sunday, January 15th, 2012

While staying at Sipi Falls we made a visit to a small Women’s Coffee Cooperative nearby.  We saw the process from the initial seedlings to the final roasting. (We forgot to take photos of all the steps!)   It takes about three years for a coffee seedling to grow and produce coffee.  Here on the mountain the seedlings are often intercropped with banana plants.  After picking the coffee berries, the outer shell is removed and a moist bean is revealed.  These beans are then laid out to dry.  They are pounded to remove another shell and then roasted in a pot over an open fire.

As we watched the roasting the community children enjoyed looking at these “wazungu” (us) and seeing the photos that we took of them.