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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Gulu to Entebbe, let's stop in Murchison Falls National Park.

We were exhausted after leaving St. Monica's. We had worked long days caring for children and adults in the community. The bus ride would be long back to Entebbe (10 hours?), but we thought a visit to Murchison Falls National Park would give us an opportunity to see what most people travel to Africa to see-native animals.

African Queen was filmed here at Murchison Falls National Park and the park was visited by Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway. The Nile flows through the Park and Lake Albert fronts on the Park as well.

Our plan was a quick ride through the Park to see what animals were out during the middle of the day. (not choice time for sure!) As we drove into the park, we saw the Ugandan kob, warthog, elephants, baboons, cape buffalo, hartebeest and giraffe. Pretty spectacular for a quick visit!

This put us a bit behind schedule and by then we had been on the bus all day. Keep in mind the bus is not a luxury liner, but more like a cheap school bus, complete with fold down seats. Air conditioning? Who needs it! We love having our hair wrapped around our heads three times!

The Nile River. I'll post more picture after I receive them from those on the "right" side of the bus.
Majestic elephant.

We saw a number of majestic giraffes. Aren't they beautiful?
Students were walking home from school. The public schools are not good, but most parents have no alternative. There is little money for food, let alone private schools, no matter how inexpensive.  Many private schools are funded from private donations.
Despite the long days and close quarters, we look pretty happy, don't we?

We drove by many small villages. Usually homes are in a group with retail in front of the homes on the main road. Families try to make a living growing bananas, sweet potatoes, passion fruit or corn. The families prefer to sell their crop than eat the crops themselves. Survival is difficult.
Bananas are transferred on the bike to the city and crops are sold in the larger cities, such as Masaka.

Avocados are plentiful here. These avocados need more time to ripen. We had avocado at every meal! Yum!

Did I mention the roads were really bad? Sometimes there is a bit of pavement, but with the heavy rains (First rainy season begins in March), the roads often wash out.  We saw a number of buses along the road as well as trucks. People travel many miles on a motorbike with as many as 5 people on board one bike.
Motorcycles abound. As we pass through villages, we see shops

Just hanging out along the road. Head feeling a bit heavy today.
The non-western toilet is beginning to look a bit too familiar. Should have worked out those quads a bit more.
Northern Gulu homes are constructed as shown. In the South, the homes are brick and are not round.

I'm not even sure if this is right side up or even working, but this was such an amazing experience! After we left Murchison Falls National Park, we drove toward Kampala toward the airport at Entebbe. There are no major roads or highways.....just roads and more roads......and traffic.  We knew we could never make the airport on time, despite leaving Gulu at 9AM. Most of our flights were after midnight or later.

Alan, our security officer knew we were in trouble with out timing and took matters into his own hands (which he did through our entire trip). Alan directed the bus driver onto the sidewalk and literally got out of the bus and told cars to move out of our way. When a police truck stopped us, within 2 minutes, we had a police escort to the airport! We had an hour and a half escort to Entebbe! Sirens blaring! The police truck intimidated cars to move and Alan at times jumped out of the police truck and threatened drivers! We all made our flights with fond memories of our time in Uganda.

Alan will soon be done with his Phd, and is working to be President of Uganda someday. We believe Alan will be President! He can do anything!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mercy's Village -Gulu-you see, you can make a difference!

A Californian woman visited Uganda and wanted to make a difference. She started Mercy's Village with her own money and that donated by her friends and family. She continues to collect donations for the school through a 501 3c and visits once or twice a year personally. She wants to meet the Pros for Africa team in Gulu, if we are willing to visit next year and care for the children.
The children had such a great time jumping rope. We will bring more jump ropes next year.

The children wear uniforms to school and are extremely well behaved. They could give lessons to our kids. Hey who is that big kid in the class?
At Mercy's Village the children eat beans and a corn mush. The Director looked at adding sweet potatoes but the cost would increase four fold. Not in the cards right now. These children are much healthier than the children at Blessings of Joy. No comparison.
Betsy is doing a demonstration for a class with the teacher as translator.

The children sang a good bye song for us.
The Director is a woman from California who signed a 2 year contract to run the school. She travels by motorcycle and gave me a ride to the school down narrow trails.

 Sarah was leading us back to the school as the road narrows to a path, so whe offered to give someone a ride. Whose hand went up? Fun 35 minute ride through Gulu and the countryside.
A new ball! Thanks Pros for Africa!
Sorry, I can't figure out how to rotate this picture, but she is so cute!


Awesome - Sister Rosemary St. Monica's Gulu

We passed over the Equator on the way to Gulu. 
Have you ever seen how water is clockwise on one side of the Equator and counter clockwise on the other?
We are a bunch of happy faces on the bus, despite the long 5+ hour ride to Gulu!
Awesome describes our experience at Sister Rosemary's school, St. Monica's. Students are educated, but even more they are taught a skill, so that they may be independent for life. Sister Rosemary was the 2007 recipient of the CNN Hero award.

Tailoring is the primary skill, but students can also learn the hospitality industry by working at the school. Girls have varied life experiences, but many were sex slaves during the war. One young lady told me how she was taken at 5 and had "been with many, many men". She was a beautiful young woman. Other girls returned with children and could not find their families after the war or were not accepted into their families. Sister Rosemary's arms were open. She, in fact, protected girls during the war on her compound and refused the soldiers demands for the girls. She told the soldiers they would have to kill her first. The soldiers never returned.

The girls danced for us and with us on more than one occasion.
Sister Rosemary joins in the dancing.  Her charisma and constant smile has a contagious effect on the girls

Every night Stan led "reflections". We each spoke about what we had seen or learned that day. Sometimes our discussions were philosophical, but the attempt was to expand our experience.
Betsy Morath is a friend from Fenton.  We had dinner with Betsy and her husband Jim a number of weeks before we left for Africa and she expressed her sincere interest at accompanying us. An opening came up and Betsy was in!  She is a Dental Hygienist and was extremely useful. She brought over 300 toothbrushes/toothpaste. She demonstrated good hygiene to each class and usually a teacher session as well. She is a light that shines 24/7.  So glad she joined us.
Alan is one amazing guy. He is a police officer, working on his PHD.  His father was a high level government executive and is now retired. His mother is an attorney. Alan carries two guns tucked in the back of his pants. He is constantly aware and amazing in time of need. Alan expressed he hopes to be President of Uganda. All of us believe he will someday get his wish.
This Sister is from South Sudan. She has tribal markings on her forehead. The nuns in S. Sudan wear white with red piping.
This is Sister Rosemary's purse, made from pop tops from cans and made into a purse by Ugandan women.
The girls danced for us while beating these gourds.  They asked us to join in. We are not so great, but they didn't care. They smiled from ear to ear!
Who is that old lady with the white hair. Since Ugandans seldom have any white hair, one of the children said I must be really old. Righto!

Stan brought us scrubs. The back is inscribed - Pros for Africa. Don't we look professional?
All clothing, sheets and towels are washed by hand and hung on the line to dry. Half of the group stayed at St. Monica and the sheets were washed daily.  Anything you wanted washed could be left on your bed and it would be returned clean, later in the day.
Notice the woman with the blue basket on her head. The women are masters of carrying extremely heavy things on their heads. We often saw women with huge yellow jugs on their heads.
Betsy shared a room with Amrita, a Pediatrics resident and a 4th year medical student accepted into an OB/GYN program. The mosquito nets are a requirement in Uganda.
The Pharmacy traveled with us to each location and Barb Grogg is probably the most organized person I have ever met. She remembers where every item is stored. The drugs were purchased or donated in the US.
James is an Emergency Doctor and Mike is an ENT. Mike looked into every child's ears.  He is also the Sticker Man.
This is a woman from the community who came to visit the doctor.
My little buddy, Margaret, who helped me with translation. She is so beautiful inside and out!
These are the purses made from can pop tops. Small, large, with or without straps and in a multitude of colors. Love them!

Doesn't Isaac look excited about the purses? They go well with his AK-47, don't you think?
Dr. Henryne Louden, from New Orleans, LA.  Aunt of Tommy Harris of football fame.
Mike and Harriet Shaw from Tulsa. Mike is an ENT and Harriet is skeletal/muscular specialist. They both graduated from MSU!
Scott Drew, Dermatologist from Ohio. This is how we all felt at the end of the day. Exhausting!
Is that beer the Sister's are drinking? You bet it is. Sister Rosemary said  "the evening is better with a beer."




Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hope North - remember Last King of Scotland?

Did you see the 2006 movie Last King of Scotland starring Forest Whitaker? On our way up to Gulu (located in the north of Uganda), we stopped to visit Hope North.

Hope North was started by Okello Sam. (Names in Uganda include first, the tribal name given by the parents, then the English baptismal name.) Sam founded the school after the Ugandan Civil War to help orphans and former child soldiers. Many of the boys were kidnapped at young ages and forced to perform horrible acts of violence.

The facility has received significant contributions from Forest Whitaker after working with Sam filming the Last King of Scotland. Forest Whitaker continues to visit and make contributions, though the school is in great need of funds.
The students planted and maintain these aloe plants and they have matured for 2 years. In one more year they will harvest the plants.
The students gathered to meet us. There are a few girls in the group.

The ground and facilities are basic. These are the homes where the teachers live.
Classes may have as many as 120 students in a class.
The sum total of the books available for their classes. Perhaps Forest Whitaker could round up some of his Hollywood friends and buy more books for the students.
Forest visited Hope North in December and brought a number of computers and tablets.
The children learn to cook. All our meals at St. Monica (in Gulu) were cooked on charcoal.

                                                                     Dormitory facility.
I hope you can open this video. The dancing is amazing and the joy on the faces of these children and young adults tells it all. Despite being captured by the Lords Resistance Army or being orphaned, these children express great joy. Their manners are impressive.
This picture is posted in the main office in Kampala. Okello Sam is on the left. He was an actor in the movie.

Next visit by Pros for Africa to Hope North will be significantly more extensive. We were only able to care for a few children and at next visit we hope to do physicals on all the children. There is a great opportunity for the future at Hope North.