Saturday, January 25, 2014

Haven't Had Power In Four Days

August 22 2013

We heard from the SMI team today! They haven't had power in four days, due to bad storms in the area. There are a lot of great things happening, and they are looking forward to sharing more details when they get back from Uganda.

The team finished well repairs last week, and has been spending much of their remaining time networking and building relationships. 

They discovered that the health education officer for the Ibanda District happens to live right across the street from the SMI land purchased in the spring, and we were able to meet with him to discuss health issues including malnutrition and drug resistant strains of malaria. (What are the odds – Kristen just completed her capstone project on drug resistant strains of malaria). When she did her research, they didn't have any data on this happening in sub-Saharan Africa. It is our hope that meetings like this one will create opportunities for further work in the future.

Thank you for all the encouraging comments! Follow us on twitter!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Opportunity To Learn Sustainable Skills

April 17, 2013
While most of the team visited wells on Monday, Mary and I visited Alpha and Omega Secondary school and spent time with Pastor Moses’ family. We spent time talking with the headmaster, Frank, and one of the teachers, gaining a deeper understanding of how their curriculum works and what they need. I was able to take lots of pictures at the school in order to document the conditions there. Mary took video interviews of several students. 

We hope that pictures and video will help those at home visualize what life is like here. At the beginning of the week, Mary taught everyone how to make beads out of colored paper and newspaper. The paper is rolled up and dipped in varnish before being hung up to dry. The materials are inexpensive and easily accessible to the community. The result is a professional looking product for very little cost. Our vision is to sell the jewelry in the U.S. for a decent profit by Ugandan standards. This will give students at Alpha and Omega the opportunity to learn a sustainable skill that will boost their confidence. The current dropout rate at the school is 20% due to lack of funding by parents during dry seasons when there are no crops. Students who are struggling to afford tuition will be given first priority. It is our hope that small steps like this one will lead into bigger opportunities. Expanding this initiative into the village churches could eventually lead to positive results such as the ability of church members to tithe, save, start savings accounts, and help fund future well maintenance. The churches could even use profits to initiate their own benevolence campaigns to reach surrounding communities.

Bacteria-Laden Water

April 16, 2013
Well, today was quite a powerful adventure!
We have been repairing wells to return clean water to communities. Over 500,000 person-days of water usage occurs each year; that is, each well serves between 1,500 to 2,000 people every day. Many of those served are children from the local schools, and most are drinking black-colored, bacteria-laden, dysentery-causing water, if the wells are not working.
We were up at 8 AM and we started work this morning at 9 AM when the well mechanic arrived at Pastor Moses’ house. Taursisis (or Teshi as Bart called him) was sent from God.  He jumped right into working with Andrew Okello –instructing the village workers while showing us how to disassemble the well pump head so that Andrew could learn how to become a well mechanic himself. Cat recorded the GPS data, and worked with Andrew to update the paperwork that will lead to the well inventory, and well repair and maintenance data. We are gathering the data for statistics regarding each well (e.g., population in the communities served by each well, the GPS location, the elevation, the frequency of inspections, the maintenance and repair records, the longevity of various pump parts). First, we worked on well #9, then we dropped off the well crew at well #10 so they could start identifying the problem(s) with the second well.
While they worked on the second well, we traveled to Mbarara. We have rented Pastor George Nsamba’s Toyota Land Cruiser for the ‘bush’ portion of our trip in and out of Kiburara – the 4-wheel drive and off-road suspension have been highly needed, well worth the fee, and greatly appreciated by us. There were three main reasons to take this 2.5 hour trip to Mbarara today:
1. To meet with the Mbarara Land Council to, hopefully for the last time, identify the specific documents that we need in order to buy land. This process has been difficult, as each district and region has its own procedures. We arrived at the offices at 4 PM (it was our understanding that they were open until 5 PM). They were closed, but the guard graciously allowed us to come in and we were able to chat with the Processing Attorney, who detailed the process that we need to follow.
2. To purchase the parts for the two wells that the well crew was working on. After leaving the Land Office with nothing but what else they wanted us to bring next time, we went to the plumbing shop in Mbarara. This is the entire plumbing department of Home Depot crammed into a 15’ x 15’ storefront – that only has one type of something, and if they don’t have it, you can’t get it. But we purchased EVERYTHING we needed there! Wow, George (the owner) was very helpful and found us everything we needed, after looking through a multitude of boxes. George had to cut the 10 — 20’ 1.25” pipes into 20 – 10’ lengths, and then used the dye to cut the threads, by hand into the cut ends of the pipe. We decided to go get something to eat while we waited, and have a Novita (a delicious carbonated pineapple drink).
3. To meet with Pastor George Byabagamby for dinner and discuss his business experience. George told us all about how he started  Savings and Credit Associations (SCA) with his communities. Cat had great questions about the micro-finance and SCA models. George explained that, while the first attempt failed, the second attempt worked well because the women and men invested their own money into the loan pool and lent out their own money. He found that they were more accountable with their own money. George also described how they are starting to form a bank and explained what they have learned from this process.
Moses is doing all our translation from ‘we need to have it this way’ American to ‘this is the way we do it here in Uganda’ Luganda or Runyankole. Moses is a gentle, loving, and joyful man. We love his friendship! He has become like family. God has even used Moses to speak friendship, patience, faith, and waiting-on-God’s time to us. We are truly thankful for him.
We have had a full day today; we have stretched all the hours to their maximum. Cat and John are asleep. We are on the way home. Tomorrow, we plan to finish repairing the first two wells, and then repair and maintain as many additional broken wells as possible.

Pray that God continues to favor our work!
Mukama Asiimwe