Saturday, January 31, 2004

Email from Uganda Jan 31 04

Jan 31, 2004

Kampala, Uganda


Would you believe that we just spent an hour and a half writing an email to you and it got deleted, so here we go again. Hope we can remember what we said. The reasn it got deleted was that Hinda insisted on sending you some photos, and that messed things up. He's always blaming me for his mistakes. He just didn't know how to attach the photos so he deleted the email.

First, some more thoughts about Uganda and East Africa. We find the Ugandan people polite, gentle, kind, tolerant, cheerful, friendly, hospitable, and lots of other good things. We like it here very much and like all of the people that we work with and have met. People here try harder since they don't have very much. We had a flash card adapter for our laptop and it broke, at home we would have just thrown it away and bought a new one, but here we gave it to a friend and he pried it apart, fixed it and glued it back together and guess what, it works.

At work we have done a few things and are doing more. Here is what we have done so far. By this we mean that we have worked side by side with our Ugandan colleagues and have trained or mentored them on these projects:

(Just a note, that we are waiting for word on the money for ARV,s. It is unfortunate that these drugs can be produced for so little but they cost so much. The only people here who can get them are the rich or those in research projects)

- Set up a client registration system;

- Created a client chart and filing system,

- Set us a a client schedule system;

- Set up a data base for Reach Out's Operation School Fee Program and trained a data input person;

- Set up a data base for Reach Out's donors and trained a data input system;

- Set up a filing system for Reach Out's Food, School Fee, Donors, and Proposal files, and developed procedures for filing and trained the staff to use the system;

- And, we are doing lots of little computer training and other types of on the spot mentoring, etc.

In short, is fun, a pleasure and we are helping in whatever way we can.

Yet to do, and this will probably take us until we leave:

- Set up a new client numbering system. The numbers now are all mixed up, "balagan" as we say in Hebrew, and it is a problem as you can imagine. For example, 2 clients having the same number, and having their tests mixed up. Could be disastrous - seriously.

- In concert with that we are going to do client id cards with photos using a digital camera which one of the Reach Out volunteers just donated;

- Redo the food distribution program which is a large and complex program through the UN's World Food Program. At the request of both Reach Out and WFP we have been asked to revise the distribution and reporting system which is in arrears and can jeapordize the program.

We just returned from Jinja Town about 80 km East of Kampala which known in part for being the source of the Nile. The Nile is 4,000 miles along, and starts in Jinja in Lake Victoria and flows NORTH and finally ends up in the Mediterannean. It takes a drop of water 4 months to travel the length of the Nile. By the way, Lake Victoria is the second largest fresh water lake in the world, the largest is Lake Superior in the good old US of A. About 10 km from the source of the Nile are Bujagale Falls. This is where the Nile which is move than a mile wide at it source then narrows down to about 25 feet at these falls. WOW!! The road to get there was hardly a road, and more of a track. Somehow, we took the wrong turn and came in the back way which was quite a little trek, but we made it.

The place we stayed in at Jinja was very nice. Right on the East bank of the Nile, at the source. It is set up like an African Village. The rooms are in small round huts and the bed is on a concrete slab about 2 feet high. There is electricity from a generator from 7 pm to 11 pm and you tell the management when you want to have a hot shower and somehow they arrange hot water for that time. For eating, you pick what you want to eat and tell them what time you want to eat and the food is prepared at that time for you. Our overnight stay, including all food and the "misssionary" rate was about $65 or so. The flowers at our "resort" in Jinja, flowering trees and bushes, etc., were beautiful as they are all over this part of the world - the tropics, where anything grows in abundance. The fruits - mangoes, pineapples, papayas, jack fruit, etc. are all tree ripened and delicious. This is considered a 5 star hotel but by our standards it is probably a 3.

On the way to Jinja, we had to cross the Nile on a dam which provides all of Uganda's electricity and most of Kenya's. Peter got a speeding ticket for exceeding the approximately 12 mph speed limit. Ush 40,000, about $20 which has to be paid within the next 28 days. We got a stern, but polite lecture about speeding, etc. Peter now has gotten speeding tickets in Turkey and Uganda, and who knows where next.

We took a break from writing this and went to see "Out of Time" with Denzel Washington. It was our first movie experience here in Kampala and it was good. Sitting in the modern theatre we felt like we were at home.

We will sign off now, since our social life has picked up and tomorrow we are invited to brunch, lunch and then dinner all at different friends homes. Got to get some rest so we can eat all day. Our regards and love to all, keep in touch.

Love, Hinda and Peter

P.S. this is for the women on our email list. this afternoon I had a haircut, manicure and pedicure all for the grand total of $20, which included some good tips. Considering what I pay in the US for a haircut alone, this is quite a bargain. Hinda

P.S. 2 Check out the attached photos. Hope you can open them. Peter

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Email from Uganda Jan 21 04

Jan 21, 2004

Hi All,

Hope all is well with you as it is with us. We'll probably write this over several days as we need to find the time to do it. Hopefully you will receive it as the internet connection is mighty slow.

We have been here in Kampala for about a week and a half and we have lots of stuff to tell you about - some personal, some funny and anecdotal, some about work, (some of which is both happy and unhappy), so here goes. Please excuse the fragmented organization because we made notes on the run and they are not in any particular order. If you find this too long to read at one time, you can read it in segments or not at all, as you wish.

As you know, we started off living with the Camboni Sisters, a Catholic order of missionary nuns from Italy, but after 2 days, we left and found this very nice apartment. The Sisters were fine, but the room we had, as dark as a dungeon and as small as a medieval torture chamber. On the first morning, I (Peter shaved with toothpaste) mistaking it in the dim light for shaving cream), and the hot water was turned off by one of the sisters because she didn't know what the switch was for. So, we found this very nice 1 BR apartment in a very nice part of Kampala, (Kololo) where all of the embassies and embassy residences as well as UN and other NGO agencies are located. The rent is a bit more than with the sisters but we have our own bathroom, plenty of light, a kitchen, and beautiful garden, etc. It also comes with a maid who comes twice a week to clean and do laundry, including ironing everything in sight, all for $7 per week.

The day after we came to work for the first time was the last day that Father Joseph of Our Lady of Africa Catholic Church was going to be here. He is the man that founded Reach Out, and after only knowing him for a couple of days, we nearly cried along with everyone else when he left to return to Italy for back surgery. In that he is 69, folks don't think that he will return, but we all hope that he does. He has been replaced by Father Robert who is one tough cookie as compared to Father Joseph who is more angel than mortal.

Speaking of Reach Out, let us tell you something about it. First off, we are very impressed because 99% of everyone who works there and who works with the now 800 clients are volunteers. We don't mean an hour here or there, but 40 hours a week - hands down! And some are clients themselves who are HIV+ or have AIDS. One such person is Rose who is in charge of reception. We are working with her to redesign the patient record and registration system. Rose has A'IDS but you can't tell by looking at her. She looks as healthy as a horse as they say, but that is because she is now taking ARV's (anti retro viral). Before we met her, we guess several months ago she was in pretty bad shape. That is one example of how Reach Out and ARV's can help a person. Rose was married to a man and once in a while he felt sick. They had a child, and after several months, the child died. They then had a second child and it died after 2 years. When Rose began to feel ill, she had herself tested and she was HIV+, however, her husband refused to get tested and insisted he was ok. Rose told us that he was the only man she ever slept with. She told her husband that she could no longer sleep with him because she was positive and didn't want to infect him. They continued to live together but she would not sleep with him so he married another woman. He became so ill that he had to be hospitalized and 2 days before he died, he confessed to Rose that he knew all along that he had AIDS, even before he married her. That is what happens here, and elsewhere around the world, and one of the things that Reach Out is trying to do is to educate people about AIDS.

Jan 22, 2004

Here are some fun things, and then back to more serious stuff:

- “Slope down” = Downhill

- “Left it behind” = Passed it or missed the turn,

- “ An unfortunate situation” = uh oh, as in your mobile phone is broken.

Here are some of the things we are doing at Reach Out. In some cases we are working together, and in some cases, separately:

- Mentoring several of the volunteer people who work here with computers, grant writing, basic letter writing;

- Preparing to teach formal classes in Excel, Windows, Typing;

- We have set up Reach Out’s first ever email connection. FY!,

- Developed Reach Out’s first job description form, and interviewing people one by one to do their job descriptions;

- Set up laptops we brought for use with email and other applications;

- Taught one of the people we are mentoring to design a basic data base for his program, and how to enter data. Next, how to manipulate the data.

- Reviewing their food donation program and helping improve it, including teaching some management skills that we are able to slip in. Includes follow up, assignments, etc.

- Putting all systems in place for registration, reception and record retention for the medical clinic. (We desperately need the front office staff from Richmond Clinic to put this place in shape)

The people that we work with here are very nice and obviously very dedicated. In addition to the Ugandan volunteers, there are quite a few “Mizungu” (non African) volunteers, many of who are the wives of people who work for the UN, diplomats, foreign NGO’s, and the like. Several of them are doctors. In general, Reach Out is quite varied with a clinical program, food program, a sewing/income generating program, community education, social support, and micro loans.. The philosophy is to help people in a holistic way, thus the social support, income generation, and food. We are very hopeful of getting a very large grant in the next few days from the USA – CDC Program, from the Bush Administration effort to combat AIDS in Africa and elsewhere. Call your congressman and tell them to vote the appropriation!! Just kidding, but you can if you want to and it certainly can help.

We like Ugandans. They are very polite and friendly, and we feel very comfortable here in Kampala. Have already learned a few words of Luganda, one of the languages spoken here, primarily in this part of the country.

As you know from looking at your world atlas, we are on the equator, and it is very hot because of the sun’s direct rays, thus everyone moves verrrrrrrrrry slowlllllllllllllllllll here. Even we are beginning to slow down. As for the rest of the weather, it is overcast often in the mornings, clears up in the late morning, and then often in the afternoons, it rains like hell! Really rains, so hard, that it is like a solid wall of water. Those of you who have been in a monsoon area know what we mean, but then it get nice again. Also, often at night, there is an electrical storm.

Next time we’ll tell you about the food, and also, how we are progressing in our work.

Love, peace, hugs, and kisses from Hinda and Peter