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Kitega community center,,,,rafting the nile!

UGANDA | Monday, 15 February 2010 | Views [1035] | Comments [2]

 I decided to take a venture out of Kampala district and headed for the Lugazi area to a town called Kitega…pronounced Chitega. Our first days there took us out to do home visits with parents of the Katungulu (nearby village) children. What we saw was quite amazing. One boy explained at night he slept in his bed, but by day the hen took over…the evidence was found as we saw the eggs lying near his pillow. Another woman admitted to sharing her kitchen with the goats at night so they weren’t stolen. Becoming sick the woman had told the doctor of her illness and as usual the healthcare system is very inconsiderate most the time here and they sent her away with a diagnosis of animal fever and gave her medications that weren’t very relevant and came with no suggested method for consumption. This is a usual situation as doctors are often untrained, uncaring, and unable to see patients as anything other than a source of money. Others we visited provided stories of horrible malaria complications where children now suffer permanent brain damage, hearing loss, or physical damage. This is very common as many people cannot afford the high medical cost of malaria medicine, and even when they can, inappropriate care is provided by the doctors who often show low concern for the case.


In the same village, children and families must visit a well deep in a valley daily to retrieve water. The well is only 3ft deep and water is a silvery grey color not appropriate for drinking unless treated but they must as it is their only water source. We hear of children falling into the well and drowning as they are unable to swim. Others walk into the valley and if unaccompanied become the prey of local witch doctors who capture them for child sacrifices. Although the incidence of children being killed for black magic ritual has lessoned due to lawful restrictions, we know it still exists as children go missing yearly. I heard a bbc interview with a former Ugandan witch doctor who admitted he’d sacrificed over 80 children in his lifetime. I can only imagine that the law is going to take a long time before it can fully prevent this horrid incidence. I even have a friend in Kampala who admitted to finding her 4year old sister head but never locating the body. This brought a reality so far from my imagination I could barely listen.


The group I worked with called the Kitega community center, focuses on children with disabilities most often as a result of complicated, mistreated or untreated malaria cases. Many have hearing loss, brain damage, physical difficulties, or slow learning capacity in the classroom. The focus of Kitega has been to provide life skills and artisan training to the children so they can become independent as they age. The artisan skills included trainings to make things like mingling sticks where they will take a log and a machete and chop away to make spoons used in the kitchen. Others sit weaving beautifully colored mats out of natural materials purchased in the market. I was even able to take with me a beautiful woven basket made from banana fibers. These skills will last a lifetime and can help provide the children, who would most likely be unable to complete full education in school, to gain an income. As Kitega grew they realized other children in vulnerable positions like the very poor and orphaned, were in need as well and now Kitega has a center for gather along with a team of teachers in a nearby school (Katungulu) where they help support projects and educationally based skills.


While in Kitega I enjoyed providing my artistic hand at making teaching aids for the Katungulu school who had nearly no books even for the teachers to use so they were having to write on the unsturdy chalkboards which are barely visible to the large classes they are entertaining. The school is in the process of being built and needs much help from funding to complete it but they are thankful for the space provided. The walls are not yet in so I found 4 classes sharing a large room where they each turned a different direction to listen to the teacher at the head of their class. Unfortunately this is highly distracting and makes learning difficult. Not to mention that the kids are forced to sit on wobbly unreliable benches that often topple over with 10kids on it. When asked to write anything down, if they are lucky enough to have paper they kneel in the dust and write on the small bench. Others are forced to write into the dirt with sticks. This wouldn’t be such an issue except that the dust floors provided a great breeding ground for the local pest called jiggers. This is a human flea that can enter the body and consume entire limbs if untreated. This is highly dangerous as most children don’t even have shoes, and they often have to kneel into the dust several times a day. But without complaint they continue as they are thankful for the chance to learn.


The school choir entertained me with the best song and dance performance I've seen since I’ve been in Africa. Their little bodies produce the strongest voices I’ve heard in some time. The stories they tell about their lives in the village, about their religious backgrounds, the unfortunate facts of child labor, kidnappings, and sacrifices bring reality to the forefront as their souls bare all through their inspiring movement tone. They sang me a welcoming song which really allowed me to exist as part of their community and I wished I had the opportunity to get them a professional trainer and have them travel with these skills as a voice for awareness in the world. I did however get the chance to trade a song with them as the entire school gathered for a lesson of “monkeys jumping on the bed” you know that old classic…it made them giggle as they struggled to understand my accent but by the end of my stay they had mastered it and performed it with ease. Very kind!


While in Kitega, I stayed with a family with two beautiful little girls who kept me busy with laughter as their natural charisma called all the children in the neighborhood each night to play on our rounded hill of grass. One night we even had at least 30 kids of all ages spinning in circles, picking each other on their backs/heads/shoulders, using their bodies as a jump rope, human wheel barreling, and overall playing and giggling uncontrollably for at least 20minutes with no particular organization. It was a pure spontaneous act of happiness. I also could not help but laugh as the spirit of the air transformed us into innocent earth creatures just content to be with one another. To some they might say these children in raggedy torn and dirty clothes had nearly nothing, but they have each other and for them that is EVERYTHING!


My final days in Kitega I spent a few hours teaching at least 30 women how to make hot boxes, I call them fireless stoves which can re-invent their cooking process. Basically it allows them to cook meals for a short time on the fire, remove the meal and put it in an insulated container like a basket, or a hole filled with banana fibers to cook for the remaining time. The women first of all thought it was crazy that I would know how to do such a thing, and second of all, they thought it wouldn’t work. Very funny to see them questioning my technique. But in the end they said “Banange” . which is like saying oh my god in Lugandan. They loved it loved it and im so happy I could affect at least 30 families by this new safe and quick technique.


Tags: adventure, jinja, luganda, nile, soul, uganda, white water rafting




Hey Kena!
Loved reading your most recent blog posts! The cooking method you describe is awesome, wish I could be there with you to share in your experiences. Miss you lots,
Lisa and Brett

  Lisa Marie Feb 16, 2010 8:08 AM


Hey Kena,
It was nice having you at Kitega. You have stayed with us and seen our plight, and joys amidst the suffering. People like you give us hope and encourgaemtn to deal with life. As you noticed the children were very happy to have you around and with their rugged clothing but their hearts are pure full of laughter.You are part of us, our sister!
All the best as you explore more about us.
Peace Edith

  Edith Mar 13, 2010 10:00 AM

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