Monday, 31 August 2009

More flowers....!

More photos of flowers! This was the 2nd training session for the flower making project, but it was very different from the first one. For starters the group was quite small, only 19 in total and they were all women. This group of CORPs are quite well known - they have set up a women only goat rearing business, they have over 100 goats! They are a force to be reckoned with, believe me. They'd expected about 30 people for the training so were quite disappointed when just over half of them turned up, as it meant they still had to pay the trainer for 30 participants. On the first day, once they realised they were so few, they had a meeting under the tree to decide what they should do, but they finally agreed that they really wanted to do it so agreed to pay the difference from their joint goat rearing account.

The training 'venue' was a scrap of dry land on top of a hill - there was a tiny little hut (the parish headquarters) but it was incredible dark, so we fortunately only had to retreat there when it rained one day. The woman sat on the ground for hours without complaint - it got quite windy at times, so the maize husks were blown around a bit. The conditions were far from ideal, but they did really well amd produced some really good flowers. Most of the woman had walked quite long distances, mostly up hill, to get there - there were very houses within sight and definitely no where to buy food, so they all brought a packed lunch and shared with each other. Now matoke, kaloo (cooked millet flour - resembles a lump of raw brown bread dough!) and maize porridge are pretty hard to stomach when they're hot, but when it's cold it's revolting! I made some banana drop scones to share with them, they went down very well, so much so I had to try to explain in Runyankole how to make them (not easy!), though I think they got the gest of it.

Above: Working under a tree

Above: Hard at work
Above: Singing the CORP song - each parish has it's own version of the song, this one was fantastic. I recorded it but because it was so windy the sound quality is pretty poor. All CORPs wear a blue  HCU t-shirt but this group decided to distinguish themselves even further and made matching skirts.
The flowers have been selling really well, I thought I'd have a hard time selling them but because they are such a unique product, the response to them has been really positive. I approached a number of 'gift'-type' shops in town with limited sucess, but then I visited the biggest hotel in Mbarara, The Lake View - they have a gift shop  (it turned out to be a pretty poor shop) which I thought might be interested in buying them, and by chance I met the General Manager, who happens to love flowers. So far they've bought over 150 flowers and have put them in 5 of their suites (presidental suite included) and the GM even bought some for this office and the housekeeper for her house. When I went back today I suggested he should buy some for his house and he did! It's really odd, because they keep thanking me for selling the flowers and supporting the local communities, whereas I'm thanking them for giving me the business.
Above: Flowers in the presidental suite at The Lake View Hotel - I've put a little card beside them with a bit of project info and contact details on it.... so I'm expecting a phone call from the man himself or the first lady any day now!
Above: These flowers were bought by a small papercraft shop on the Equator - needless to say the equator (about 1 hour outside Kampala on the way to Mbarara) is a great tourist attraction and there's a huge number of traditional craft and gift shops. There was lots of interest but I'll have to visit again as I didn't have enough flowers with me.
There was supposed to be another training session this week but unfortunately the group didn't manage to get all their money together in time - although 10,000/= (about £3) doesn't seem a lot of money, for many village people it's a lot, especially as children go back to school soon and there'll be school fees to pay. We had decided not to use the trainer from Kampala again, as she didn't quite hit it off with the local people, so Patricia and myself were promoted to the role of 'master flower trainers'! I feel a whole new career coming you think UCB would be interested in starting a new course..... how about 'Hospitality & Flower Management  (think of the table decorations they could have!!)
Up date on Lucy, Jimmy and Jeremy! - They're doing really well, seven weeks old today and now weighing 3.9kg each. Lucy is exhausted, it's hard breast feeding twins but it's the cheapest, healthiest and safest option for her and the twins. It's recommended that she should breastfeed exclusively till they are at least 6 months but she doesn't think she'll manage it - the other options are formula or cow's milk. Unfortunately, formula is expensive and with two to feed is not really an option for her, also many mothers are unsure now to use it and often made it up incorrectly. So cow's milk, which is plentiful in the region, seems to be the best option - she'll have to dilute it with water and make sure both the water and milk (it's raw milk) are boiled well. Mothers are told to feed using a cup rather than a bottle as there they will rarely have any means of keeping bottles and teets sterile. More Lucy hasn't left her two rooms in 7 weeks other than to go to the hospital last week for immunisations - she had a young village girl (she said she was 15yrs, but I think she was younger) helping her with the babies, washing and cooking etc, but unfortunately the girl hadn't told her parents where she was and once they found out she had to go back home. Lucy will go back to work in November and wants to have a someone trained to look after the twins by then. She told me yesterday that she'll be working 7 days a week from 8.00 - 5.00 for the mighty sum of 250,000 Ugandan shillings, which is about £75 a month! But even though she has it tough, she's always smiling when I go to see her and she's a really good mother.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Jimmy and Jeremy

Jimmy and Jeremy are one month old twin boys - don't be fooled by the pink hats. Babies are dressed in all sorts of clothes here and they're definitely not fussy when it comes to colour. Their Mum Lucy, lives just around the corner from my house. Before she had the boys she worked as a security guard at Mbarara University so we'd often meet on our walk to work in the mornings. Lucy is 31 yrs. old and Jimmy and Jeremy are her 'first borns' - the Ugandan term for the first child - and as Ugandan mothers go, 31 is quite old to have a first child or children in Lucy's case. She herself is a twin, as is her mother and her grandmother. There seems to be lots of twins in Uganda, it can be quite common for a mother to have 2 sets. Yesterday I met a lady called Doreen, she has just moved into my compound, she too has twins, a girl called Melanie and a boy called Melvyn who are 3 mths old - Melvyn was dressed in a little green frilly dress, so I'm glad she told me he was a boy!

Lucy lives with Sam, the father of her babies in what are called 'boys quarters' - usually one or two rooms behind a main house. She has two tiny rooms - a living room and a bedroom, she does her cooking outside on either a charcoal or paraffin stove and she shares a latrine which is behind her rooms, with about 4 or 5 other people. The bedroom just about fits a small double bed and a wicker shelving unit, the living room is also a tight squeeze with a small wooden sofa, another shelving unit with all her kitchen bits and a tv on it. During the day, Jimmy and Jeremy sleep on a single foam mattress on the floor in the living room. I recently gave Lucy a spare bed net that I had, so they're covered and protected from mosquitoes. At night they sleep in bed with her - babies tend not to sleep in cots, even when they are born mothers will prefer to have them in their bed or on a mattress on the floor.
Unfortunately Lucy doesn't have a lot, so I've been trying to help her out. Sam is not working and I think Lucy probably earns very little money. She had the babies when I was in Kampala doing my motorbike training, so I saw them for the first time when I got back. I'd bought her some baby clothes and also got her two baby sacks, at that stage she had no blankets and very few clothes for them. Her family have been helping her out a bit, but money is tight for them too. It's quite normal for babies not to wear nappies here (disposables are available but expensive for most parents and when there's two even more so), they tend to be wrapped up in bits of bed sheets, just left bare, or they just wee and poop in their clothes, which means Lucy is constantly washing baby clothes, by hand. So when they're picked up you never know what surprise you're going to get. Last Friday Jeremy kindly 'shu shued' (had a wee) on me and yesterday Melanie, from the other set of twins obliged by weeing on me as well - I was told by Lucy that this is good as it means I'm going to have a baby!!

Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months if they can, poor Lucy is dreading this, it's not easy with two, but she's doing really well, though she hasn't left her 2 rooms in the last month. I asked Angella, one of the HCU health care trainers, who knows Lucy, to come with me to check she and the boys were doing ok, Lucy was delighted and was also able to ask Angella lots of questions. Hopefully as long as Lucy continues to eat well and produces enough breast milk, Jimmy and Jeremy should be fine.

Now, I have a small favour to ask...... if anyone reading this blog has any baby clothes that they no longer need or knows of anyone who has, and you are willing to post them to me, I can find a really good home for them. Lucy and Sam would appreciate them and it would really help them out. My postal address is P.O. Box 897, Mbarara, Uganda.

I'll keep you posted on their progress......