Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dancing, Mosquito Nets, Bore Holes, and Rain

The second half of our stay in Uganda was in the north. That was when we visited the project that probably had the biggest impact on us.

From the town where we stayed in the north, it was about a two hour drive. When our bus was just outside of the town we were headed to, we were met on the road by a large group. They were mostly women with a few men waving branches, playing instruments, singing, ululating, and dancing. They continued that way, slowly leading the bus toward the town. On the edge of town we were met by a second group of more women who joined the first, leading the bus in, around the roundabout, and up the road past the school and to the project. When we were almost there, our driver stopped the bus and most of us got out to join them, dancing the rest of the way and up to the church. There we were surrounded and greeted by another large group of women, the moms and grandmas of the children assisted by Compassion International. There was a lot more ululating and pressing of hands, Ugandan fashion, as the pastor and project workers directed us to our seats.

The church is an open building designed to provide shelter from sun and rain while maximizing the effect of cool breezes. As we sat during introductions, I noticed the large quantity of holes in the front wall. Most had been patched and some further down and around the edges had not. It occurred to me that they might be damage from bullets. I saw more, unpatched, in the walls of classrooms we visited later. What reinforced my opinion (I never confirmed it with anyone) was what the pastor told us. "You are safe here."

After introductions and reports from the staff was the dancing. And what incredible dancing it was. The first group of ladies came in singing and dancing with incredible expression in their movements that captured the emotion of the words in their songs. On their last song we got to stand up and join them. It was hard to keep up in spite of how simple it looked. They kind of shuffle, stomp, and jump, but the rhythm was fairly complex and so it was hard to tell when to do what. Besides, it was exhausting. A real cardiovascular workout.

The second group of ladies were much more sedate in their singing and dancing. The third group was even more energetic than the first. All lacked the self-consciousness or sexual connotation which is so often present in Western dancing.

I think the most powerful part of the day was the home visits and project tour.

"This village was part of the turmoil created by the Lord's Resistance Army. It was a refugee camp for awhile and most of the kids in the project were born in the bush (in hiding). There was no school until the project was started a year or two ago."

"As our group assembled around the pastor, he was talking to the co-leader of our tour. He said that many non-governmental organizations have been there to help them over time, but they all had a lot of corruption and came, did their thing, and left. They chose to ask Compassion to come help them start a program because of the lack of corruption and they felt that what Compassion had to offer would actually be of help to them."

"We were taken to three home visits and the bore hole. The homes were all small mud huts with mosquito nets and three people living in them. The first two were thatched and were quite cool, the last was roofed with tin and was hot. All the mosquito nets we saw were given to them by Compassion. We ended at the bore hole. There is another one down the road by the school, but it doesn't work very well most of the time. It's solar with too many parts to maintain in such a remote place. The pastor said the land for the new pump was donated and would not have been if anyone else had come to install it. It's one that uses a hand lever and works as long as the person using it is able. Some little girls were operating it when we were there. The 7 or 8 year old was pumping, jumping, and laughing as she did it while a younger girl used the water to wash herself, scrubbing her feet on the concrete."
(Excerpts from Ugandan journal.)

There is a drought in Uganda and so a reliable well that provides clean water is critical to this community. Both the mosquito nets and the well have reduced the amount of sickness that is experienced there. Such small things make such a huge difference.

We were told, when we got there, that it hadn't rained for some time. I know that I was not the only one quietly praying for rain that day and watching the sky as it turned gray with clouds. When we all gathered together before leaving, our tour leader asked me to pray to close out our time. Just as I finished, the clouds began to release their precious treasure... and it rained.

This is a hotel, but a typical structure for homes.

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