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Congolese Business Trainings, Nile River, Kin Reunion

UGANDA | Sunday, 1 April 2012 | Views [878] | Comments [1]

The Refugee group, who we are now calling RIP (Refugee Initiative Projects) worked me very hard during my stay. I had to teach myself in order to teach them, and it was a grueling process. Staying with the family also proved to be a challenge and a blessing in disguise. My stay with the family in our small two bedroom home, found me in  room on a mattress laid on the cement floor, ants spread about, and mozzi net-less. No problem really though I was blessed to have a soft yet uncomfortable surface. The children cooped themselves in the sitting room scattered about on the sofa and mattresses and each morning their 5am routine of waking for early tea before school proved to be a better wake up call then the usual roosters crow. By 5am this family was yelling, laughing, arguing, joking, a complete mix of emotions about the night, the future day, and other mysteries I couldn't comprehend, I was utterly amazed by the energy they had. Luckily 7am found the space quiet as everyone left for school and work...this leaving Mama and I to our own devices.

Mama served me chipati's tortilla like oil soaked bready breakfast food and sugar induced milky tea. I couldnt find the courage to ask for milk free and although I tried to refuse sugar for the first week, she then began adding it before I could prevent. And forget my gluten free attempts, I suffered for my 3 week stint with them as they tried to convince me that rice and veggies wouldn't keep me alive and their pride wouldn't allow me to return home thin. What a kind gesture, or maybe a hideous ploy to fatten me up so I would want to stay. Mama and I tried to talk, but her little english and my minute swahili background allowed for a few minutes of conversation each day ending with us frustratingly laughing.

The 2nd week, I spent hours researching and planning because Tuesday was the big biz day. I would be supplying 45 family representatives with a 3 days business training that I found on the internet. The training focused on business in Africa and although I have not biz background, the complete facilitators guide provided pictures and activities for even the novice like me. I was excited and although the stress of planning tea breaks and catering food was overwhelming, we somehow figured it all out and luckily the laid back manner of the Congolese made it all ok.

Day one was a breeze, everyone was excited and ready to enjoy their free informational meetings and they loved the discussion on the topics of business management, time allocation, and income/revenue expenses. I was so amazed by how in depth and intuitive the group interacted together. I of course had hired two men to present the information in the local tongue so I was just a sideline player which was fine with me. The catered food arrived two hours late but provided a luscious dish overflowing our plates and everyone happily walked home talking about the days events and tomorrows promises.

Day two of training was extremely stressful as the class seemed apprehensive for the topics of the day. Much of the training for day two was based on record keeping, bank deposits, cost flow and analysis. They seemed very put off by paper work, invoices, etc. I can sympathize with their feelings as I know it can be overwhelming with idea of recording every tomato sold and onion loaned, but the worst part is that started to target me as if I were pushing useless information on me. We had planned an activity to help them learn how to use the techniques but unfortunately the language proved to be a huge barrier and we lost the attention of all but maybe 5 of our group by the disorganized discussion. A few men even tried to challenge me in saying that the information was not fit for Africa, until I showed them the Kenya specific packet I was using and they finally shut up. Anyway day two ended in fifty percent useful information and 50percent of 'will never be use' information...at least it was over....As for me, my day was not yet done.

I had to rush to the cyber to print off the certificated of completion that I would be presenting in two days. Of course I arrived when the power was off. Being exhausted, I curled up on the chairs and slept droolily for an hour and upon waking found still no electricity. Luckily the owners helped me by buying fuel and using the generator to run the printer, after an hour of preparing it, the magical electricity fairy arrived and we had power. This however meant that a huge flock of customers crowded the 8by10ft room where 8 computers were crammed and I was hot, heated and ready to leave as soon as they were printed. Unfortunately after certificate number 22, the printer broke. By now the sun was setting, I had no phone to call home and I was burnt out. 2 hours of trying to fix the printer ended in vain when I just had to give up and I left the cyber when Pastor Phil came looking for me in the dark night.

My sullen mood could have found me rushing to bed without talking to anyone had it not been for the next 15minutes of events. Walking quietly through the busy market, I saw a large shadowy shape near a fence. In fact two large shapes, I crept closer to find two huge camels. Mounted on their backs were riding saddles. I looked at Phil and said lets go. After a 1 dollar payment, we were lifted 15 feet into the air and on our way home atop a camel. I must say, a very uncomfortable and less than graceful ride, but what a sweet animal. The children welcomed me home and before I could go inside they were already atop of the animals 3 on each and asking for me to pay, how could I say no. Everyone got a ride that night and we laughed and enjoy evening tea with lifted spirits.

Early Thursday I arrived to get the certificates and after 2 hours of recap, we were able to present the group with completion papers which they accompanied by a serenade of song and dance and laughter cheersed by sodas and biscuits which I provided. I felt fulfilled and relieved that it was all over. In two days I would travel on.

The final night, we had a meeting with the RIP board which is composed of 3 women and 6 men who will counsel, meet, and plan events for small business start up in the group. They will be the ones to votes on money allocation and plan for families to be sponsored as loans are repaid. We have used micro finance techniques to create a revolving fund of a loan at 5percent interest to be repaid withing one a half year at which time a new family can be sponsored. For now only one family was sponsored with my 800dollar start up program and will hopefully be paid back within a 9 month plan so a new family can participate. The group is eager and I have already been emailed with a half dozen project proposals for businesses which I must seek sponsorship for. Again this is overwhelming but I know this project will end in successful prosperity for the Congolese Refugees in Kenya.

Next day, I traveled to Nakuru which is halfway to the boarder where I met my friend JOJO in his new home...not really a house, but home. It was a tin walled and tin roofed hut with cement floors and a surprisingly comfortable bed.  Luckily we only spent 1 day there and we were off to Kisumu, the halfway mark to the boarder. We arrived very late and spent 3 hours waiting for the next van to depart. For the next 5 hours, we rode on a what should be 3 hours trip. 2hours were spent on a rough, bumpy, pothole filled dirt highway that was being constructed by the Chinese. Like most road projects in Africa, they plow the entire road rather than just part, and work for a week on a small strip of it to be completed, leaving the remaining road a treacherous path to travel. And it was horrible, thank god I hadn't eaten since breakfast because my stomach churned. By dark we were in Kisumu and I counted my blessings as we found a cheap guest house and 24hour supermarket. I got very back tasting oats and soured juice and slept for a good 6 hours before we set out for the Uganda transport.

Midday found us on our way and by 1pm we had crossed the boarder with ease. I even sneaked out by confusing the officer with a story about why I did not have a Kenyan visa, and extra 50bucks found me well so JoJo and I took a day to hang out on the Nile River in a small backpackers hostel. The river was glorious and the monkeys were amok. Night one was horribly hot and no power or water was available, they didn't even bring us a bucket to wash our hands in from the river, the service was shit and I will never go back there again,,, but the river itself fulfilled my goals of serenity for the time being.

At 8am I snuck down to the shore where nearly 20 monkeys and babes roamed around me not frightened by my presence. I tried to do  yoga but was distracted by a few who knocked a huge jack fruit from the tree above which landed 10ft from me. They jumped down and continued eating it as I watched a series of monkeys of differing stature in the clan battle it out for their turn. 30minutes later a fight broke out and all the monkeys scampered to see the battle leaving me time to do yoga in the sand. After a series of nature poses, I stripped to my swimming costume and dove into the river which I had earlier scene a large 4 foot lizard swimming in...I was so scared, but felt so clean and thew water although maylayed by river flies, was gloriously cleansing. By midday we took off to Kampala town.

As night arrived, the town came more alive than ever. Kampala is a huge town built on hills and taxi parks are in the center of it all in lower sections. We alighted transport at the top of a hill where city lights and shiny shops lit the town to midday equality. Cellphone shops displayed lit glass cases, men selling sugar yelled "sukar moja mbili (sugar 2000 shillings)" on the side of the street, preachers took their chance to chant down babylon with bible in hand, and we rushed speedily through the maize to the taxi park.

We finally made it to Kin and were welcomed by our Kin family for a great reunion. We sat with Uncle for a very long time discussing the years successes and the new well development which was providing them with the daily food money for our kids. I found out that 2 past volunteers were now sponsoring our children's education and they were beginning seminary training and vocational school in a few months. What a great accomplishment. Sitting with uncle really brought me back to life as I felt comfortable, at ease, and in a great spirits with this wonderfully gifted leader who's life revolved around creating other peoples happiness. What a blessing we all have in Gganda village to be a part of this mans life creation.

Tomorrow, I begin work in this glorious compound with my brothers and sisters.

quote of the day:

children dance, before they know there isn't anything that isn't music

peaces and loves,


Tags: business training, congo, kampala, kin initiative, kisumu, micro finance, nile river, travel, uganda



I'm glad you had an marvelous experience... A couple of questions: (1) Monkeys were fighting? (2) What did you teach the numbers in RIP?

  Rashaad May 11, 2012 6:21 AM

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