After living and working in Nansana, Uganda for five fairly eventful months, life has settled into some order. Like most people who venture into a different culture, I also have had many highs and lows. A low has certainly been the bombing of the rugby and Ethiopian clubs during the World Cup where 80 young people, both international and local, were killed. Nansana had several young people amongst the dead including my host Mathew’s niece.
I have lived with a host family for four months, which has been an invaluable experience as it has enabled me to not only learn but experience first hand the everyday lives of people in Nansana. The host family spoke very good English which was a great help at the beginning. Although English is the official language I have been a little surprised how few younger people speak it very well. I understand most schooling is written and spoken in English, however the majority of children are unable to have a conversation in this language.
One of the challenges in Uganda is school fees. There is no free schooling therefore if parents are unable to pay for their children’s school fees then those children can’t go to one of the few schools that exist. One of my own small activities has been, when walking to and from KIFAD, to take sometime to try and teach about ten or so children a little English. Each two or three days I have given them a new small sentence to learn, and to write, in the dirt, the numbers 1-10. Although only a tiny, tiny thing, it may help them if they get an opportunity in the future to attend school.
Uganda has very few free services even to the poorest of the poor. Although KIFAD clients who have tested positive receive their ARV (anti-retroviral medication) for HIV/AIDS free of charge or for a small amount of 500 shillings (25 cents), transport costs to and from treatment centres are a very big challenge for many. This in turn is a challenge for KIFAD which endeavors to assist in this area where possible.
I suppose one of the major challenges for me, in the area of daily living, has been the disposal of rubbish here in Nansana. Plastic bags and plastic bottles are causing a huge pollution problem as people endeavour sometimes to clean these; and of course goats, chickens etc. wander around and eat some of the rubbish, including plastic.
One of KIFAD’s main activities is mass HIV/AIDS testing and counseling. This testing is carried out at schools and churches and any other public activity. On some occasions 300 men, women and children can be tested.
Another activity of KIFAD’s is training young girls in sewing and machine knitting in order to earn a living. These girls are from families infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and most of the girls have dropped out of school early mostly because of money for school fees. The course is 12 months and on completion they have a graduation and fashion parade where they parade outfits they have made. There is much excitement about hairdos and makeup for the day.