Tuesday, 7 July 2009

'Welcome Our Dear Visitors'

Last Saturday I met up with other VSO volunteers from Mbarara and the neighbouring district of Bushenyi for a cluster group meeting. There are 4 VSO cluster groups in Uganda, the idea is for volunteers to meet regularly to support each other and it's a good excuse to have a few beers together. The clusters are given a budget from the VSO programme office to undertake some kind of community-based project activity.
The Mbarara/Bushenyi cluster are supporting a youth group, called the Kyabugimbi based Twerunguure Group, for disadvantaged young people. It's run by a guy called Amos, a colleague of 2 of the volunteers who work at a teacher training college in Bushenyi. The kids get involved in music, drama, craft making and horticulture. Many of them don't go to school because their families or guardians haven't got the money to pay for uniforms, books, pencils etc. Amos wants to raise funds to allow these kids access to school, so our cluster group decided to donate money (650,000 Ug Shillings, about £220) so they can build a chicken house, buy chickens and sell the eggs.
Above: Amos (centre) with some of the other VSOers
So on Saturday we went to visit the group, to tell them we would be supporting their efforts and to discuss plans for the chicken house. The kids put on a some entertainment for us to show off their singing and musical skills! I recorded one of their songs - 'Welcome our dear visitors' a well known song throughout Uganda.
Below: Danny presenting a dummie cheque to Amos

Below: Kids playing the adongo, it has a lovely sound, a bit like a harp.

Below: the youth group meet on a Saturday at a local school

Below: recording of 'Welcome our dear visitor' - the little girl in the blue dress was a real sweetie, I love her dancing!

Last week I was given my HCU work contract and my official work title - Community Development Co-ordinator (!), though to VSO I'm a Nutrition Advisor. It's not unusual for volunteers to find themselves doing something completely different to what VSO had intended, though I am responsible for putting together a nutritional education programme. I can't say I knew a lot about community development when I started but so far so good. My first community-based training event takes place on the 20th July - the handcraft flower-making project that I've been working on, which is part of HCU's income generating initiatives. I'm going to be doing the 5 days training myself, along with the community members. Well, I figure if when I return to the UK I can't find a job I can always fall back on my flower making skills......though I might have a problem sourcing banana fibres and maize husks in Birmingham! When I've told some people about the project, they ask about ' plain and wholemeal flour' - there are usually a few giggles when I tell them it actually making 'flowers'!
Above and below: the banana fibre and maize husk flowers

The project office is based on the edge of the university campus in Mbarara and it's quite common to see all sorts of drills and parades on the sports fields, but yesterday's was the funniest I've seen so far. I spotted the university groundsmen and gardeners, dressed in their uniform of navy tunic and trousers doing very serious drill exercises, while one of the local policemen shouted out commands, banging a stick on a plastic jerry can as he went along. But the most amusing thing was the gardeners were parading round with hoes on their shoulders!! When I asked what this was all about, I was told it was good for discipline! Do you think the Birmingham City Council gardeners would be up for a bit of Ugandan discipline before they start work every morning??!
I'm off to Kampala this weekend to meet up with some volunteer friends from Masindi..... looking forward to pizza and ice cream!! Then next week I'm doing motorbike training through VSO, it's not something I've ever considered doing before, but I was asked if I'd give it a go as it means I can get out into the community more if I have my own transport. I've been assured that I'll be given a light bike, a scooter-type I think, I was a bit concerned about having anything too heavy because of my wonky knee. Watch this space..............

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