Andy Moulton: Andy Moulton’s CommUNITY News no. 1

We have been in Uganda for only 2 months thus far and already have gained countless experiences. Many feel as though they have come straight out of films from the International film festival.

Elly with a bunch of matoke
Here in rural Kakindo in the Kabaale District, West of Uganda, the first words that come to mind are, evergreen and lush. The two wet seasons a year guarantee an abundance of fresh plant, crop and animal life (although community members have mentioned a decrease in rain fall due to global warming). Most people here are still amazed and highly amused at the site of two young white females struggling to hoist a box of water on their heads, squatting over a camping stove to cook chapatti (a traditional Ugandan flat bread) crammed into a taxi van with 30+ others which is licensed to carry 12 and our “changing in colour” when we burn or tan. They have a name for us here, ‘mjungu’ (white person) which we have learned to accept and reply to. Although we prefer our given Runyoro names which are Akiiki (fortune teller) and Atenyi (snake). There is no electricity here which makes it difficult for the community to keep up with the advancement of technology outside the district. This has been both challenging and refreshing for us as although it is difficult to stay connected with the outside world, it means we get respite from the annoyances technology brings.

They have a name for us here, ‘mjungu’ (white person) which we have learned to accept and reply to. Although we prefer our given Runyoro names which are Akiiki (fortune teller) and Atenyi (snake).

Andy with some visitors at the KIDADE office
At this early stage we are still trying to work with community members to establish how our skills are best utilised in order for the community to benefit. Our most rewarding work at this time is facilitating activities for children aged between 3-7 years of age at St Paul’s Nursery and primary school. This is very challenging as communication is difficult and eighty children to the two of us can be tiring. Especially as they wrestle about, fighting over who gets to hold our hands. We try to introduce new songs which tend to end with the children mimicking our every word, even when we have stopped singing. So far the hokey pokey has been the firm favourite (the louder the better). But all the fun must eventually come to an end, especially when we are sweating like baboons in the hot tropical Ugandan sun. Getting the children back into class after the mjungu show is another matter entirely.

This is very challenging as communication is difficult and eighty children to the two of us can be tiring.

A parish worker tends to the piglets
In our short time here we have found that Palms’ mission statement of the importance of developing relationships with community members resonates with our experience. Meaningful and revealing relationships continue to develop as we open up to the community and they in turn generously share themselves and their intoxicating culture with us.  We hope to work closely with community members, to not only share our skills but to learn as much as our brains can possibly contain from everyone here, of all ages, genders and status. At this stage we feel as though we are learning a great deal more from the community than we are passing on to them. We hope to hear the stories of and work closely with those who are disadvantaged, including orphans and women’s groups who may not be aware of their rights. In our work we will endeavour to keep in mind Michelangelo’s words, “the greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

In the meantime we will take comfort in our housemates, the rats, bats, cats and lizards and will savour the view in our backyard of the swinging Colobus Monkeys, while munching on ourchapatti and matoke.  We will also enjoy the angelic singing of the girls living in the hostel and the intoxicating African drumming resinating in the distance.

Elly Akiiki & Andy Atenyi

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Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer. - Unknown