Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Giant Run-Down on Projects

Can I first just tell you that there is a chicken pecking at my feet right now? Cause there is.

Anyway, projects! Man, there has been a lot happening this summer. The main project I've been working on is the library project. The team had started it before I got here but I jumped right on when I heard about it. Our goal is to establish a community library in Lugazi because the closest ones are about an hour away. The demand for information resources is so high here and almost none of the schools in the area have their own libraries. A lot of the students don't even have the textbooks they need and they have to share with their teachers to be able to do their homework. We've completed community and schools assessments to see what the people here wanted to see in a library. We also created a business plan and budget that allows the library to be self-sustainable. Of course, we've run into a lot of problems along the way. The hardest thing is that we are really trying to get the community involved. We want the project to grow organically instead of us coming in and pumping money into the project. Plus, we don't even have any money haha. So, we've been trying to get the local government and some of the bigger companies involved, but we've had little success so far, even though so many people have expressed their desire to have a library. At the moment, we're working on getting books here for next year. We're also setting up a Board of Directors who can help next year's HELP team to really get things going. It has been a challenging project and definitely not immediately gratifying, but we'll keep working hard on it and it will be great to see our efforts bring such an important asset to the community.

The two other projects that I've been working on are Proud to be a Girl and Happy Child International. Proud To Be A Girl is probably one of the best and worst projects there is. We have been going around to the local secondary schools and talking the the girls about goal setting, self-confidence, feminine hygiene, and relationships and just about everything else girls want to talk about. We have also been partnering with a local organization who helps with talking to the boys about the things they're facing. In the culture here, men truly believe they are better than women. It sucks. We've been trying really hard to get the boys to respect girls and to also convince the girls that they deserve respect. Also, the women don't talk to each other or their daughters about anything that has to do with what happens to girls when they are maturing and so there are a ton of myths flying around that get the girls scared. After we do our presentation we let all of the girls either raise their hands and ask questions or come up to us in private and ask questions. Some of the questions are just crazy because they seem like common sense for the rest of us. It's hard to think that so many of these girls live in fear of things they don't have to and it's horrible that they have no one to turn to. We're hoping to talk to some of the girls in our partner organization to continue the project after we leave. It has been a really cool project so far and I really hope it continues. 

Happy Child is a program set up for kids in the area who are orphans or have problems at home. They come to one of the local churches every Sunday and we have a lesson for them. Then we get into groups and play games. Our local partners keep track of all the children and know where they live and how they live so that if they need, they can help in any way possible. The local partners have a lot of volunteers who also come to the  Sunday activities so that they can carry on the project while we're gone. We're also having a two day training session in two weeks for the volunteers who will be staying all year. It has been really fun because you get to hang out with the kids and learn all of their Ugandan games and it's also a project that can be around for a long time. 

The team has had a ton of projects this summer including a business class that is finishing up with a grand graduation this Monday, an eye and dental camp, Musana Jewelry classes for some of the women in the community, a TOMS shoes project, building a school room for the Ssanyu school, constructing a piggery and all sorts of outreaches to villages and islands. I think there were probably some others that I can't remember right now because it feels like we've just done so much this summer. I've been so lucky to get to be here for all of it. I've learned so much about development and how to make long-lasting projects. 

So that's that. It's hard to wrap everything up and to realize I have to come home soon. I've loved everything about being here. It has been an experience I'll never forget.

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