Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tara's Visit

It’s hard to believe that the Gulu trip was already two weeks ago. Although time has no real significance here in Uganda, my time has been flying by.

When I returned from Gulu, Tara, a friend from New York, came to visit for her Spring Break. I took the week to show Tara the more authentic side of Kampala. We didn’t do any of the touristy stuff—the tours, safaris, or really any sort of traveling outside the city. Instead, we spent our time visiting different communities within Kampala, going on a tour of health clinics, and working on some of my projects for Reach Out. They were the things I do on a daily basis, and things that a typical tourist wouldn’t have the resources or access to experience on a first hand basis.

The clinics were incredible to see. Kampala City Council (KCC) ran the ones we visited, and I wasn’t sure what to except. When we arrived, on a non-HIV day, and thus a “non-busy” day, there appeared to be hundreds of people waiting to be attended to. Old, young, mothers with children, everyone was there. There was even a shelter outside to house the over-fill of patients who could not fit in the main building. I was actually quite impressed with the facilities of the clinics, they were of a higher standard than what I was expecting, but still would never be acceptable in a North American setting. The most shocking was the labour ward, which consisted of two hospital beds, probably dating back 50 years, lying side by side in a very small, very cramped room. Once the women gave birth they were transported to a recovery room, where there were about 8 beds, and stats were written in marker on a poster, regarding info about the different birth rates (children born with HIV, fatalities, etc.) for all to see.

The work at Reach Out/Roses of Mbuya has been progressing—slowly. There have been many hiccups along the way, but we are finally moving forward. They have decided on a logo that we developed together, and have already sent plans for a sign for the shop to be made. The next step is to get tags put on all their products. The supervisor of Roses is very excited to work on all these different tasks, but she is so overstretched that she just doesn’t have the time or resources to do everything that she’d like to get done. For me, it’s a great learning experience to see how different cultures operate, and how what I think may be considered common sense, or the natural next step of a project, other people may not feel the same. But the progress we’ve made lately is so exciting and thrilling for me, I actually feel as if I’ve accomplished something here!

The opposite of Roses in terms of progress, because they are moving forward very rapidly, would be One Mango Tree (see last post). I went with Halle, the founder of OMT, and Tim, the CEO of Greater Good, to the only organic cotton factory in Uganda, Phenix Logistics. Edun, the eco-clothing line with a mission to drive sustainable employment in developing countries, is an example of a company that works with Phenix, to provide them with organic t-shirts. The Phenix plant was very impressive. They were so open with us, showing us the entire manufacturing process, and answering any and all questions. I don’t think any plant in North America would have welcomed and opened all doors to us so easily. It sounds like some amazing things will be coming out of OMT and Greater Good in the near future, so keep your ears open for that!

And that’s only a brief summary of what’s been going on lately. Kelsey, my friend who’s been in Malawi for the last few months, is arriving in Kampala today, so we are going to have to figure out what to do while she’s here—maybe we will get to travel to Tanzania or Kenya and see a bit more of East Africa, which I would really enjoy! I’ll keep you posted!

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