Believe it or not it has taken over 2 hours to write the title. I am fully submerged into Ugandan life and finding any spare time to blog is as hard as ever. I’m finally getting out my laptop and I have an excitable 11-year-old next to me who won’t let my concentration drift even for a minute. We have discussed the reason for a belly button; worked out basic mental arithmetic and pretended to talk without teeth. Needless to say, it makes writing a little tricky; when school term starts in a fortnight it may become a little easier, but I’m not too convinced.
Life in Africa is exactly as expected, everything runs at a slower pace, on African time. The nearest town to where I am staying is Ntungamo, in Western Uganda, near the Rwandan border. The people of Uganda are friendly and inviting and as area I’m working in is fairly remote, it is still rare to come across white people which makes everyone is excited to see you! They point, stare and wave shouting ‘Muzungu’: white person.
Whilst staying in Africa I’m residing at a guesthouse adjacent to a school and when not working at the local hospital or health centre, free time is spent renovating the school before term starts and rounding up and playing with the local children whenever possible.
In addition to a school, the guesthouse I am attached to has a medical centre over the road and a development building which has brick making, sewing machines, shoe making and a barber to teach local trades. Much of this is still under development and they are hoping to set up more vocational style work for children to go into, that are unable to study at secondary school due to academic or financial reasons.
The whole development was started by a single, remarkable man named Denis. As a child he did not attend school, along with many other children in the area and the at the age of 13, became a child soldier. Now he is older, he still works for the Ugandan army but has started up this entire project with the aim to ensure that every child in his neighbourhood can get an education and access to health care.
The money Denis makes through various projects and volunteer opportunities is all reinvested into the community with any money being contributed to the school’s development and bursaries for the local children that cannot afford it. All the government schools in Uganda charge for attendance about 35 000/ term, this is approx. £7GBP. As this is a private school the fees are a little higher, also offering the addition to board for children from further away, however as this is heavily subsidised by charitable donations it generally works out at a similar price to the government run schools. Any families that cannot afford to pay cash are often allowed to pay in goods, for example beans or bananas and as long as it can be utilised by the school they are happy to accept it.
As mentioned, fees can be heavily subsidised, children at the school can be sponsored to attend and bursaries given to poorer households. Yet despite this, some children still cannot afford to attend. The area I am in is predominantly farming land and this also contributes to the main conditions seen at the health centre.
Due to the poverty there are limited water supplies and water is collected by children and families from water sources often polluted with animal waste, this gives rise to high incidences of typhoid and H-pylori. On my first morning at the clinic, every child that attended had one of these conditions and it is generally related to poor water access and not boiling water before drinking.
Other conditions common at the clinic include malaria and mosquito born pathologies. To reduce incidences of malaria in Uganda the government have issued free mosquito nets to families however, despite this they are seldom used. Often when visiting homes mosquito nets are found unused, for storage or even on occasion as fishing nets. This leads to large quantities of people catching malaria, however, as it can be fairly easily treated if caught early, the locals treat it in the same manner as catching a cold in the UK.
If you want to read more about the types of medical conditions I’ve seen then read my posts on [The Local Hospital] and Ugandan Community Visits.