Wednesday, December 31, 2008
After hours of dancing and celebrating we gathered around the large heap of garbage and as the New Year arrived, the fire was lit. We watched as the children grabbed burning materials from the bonfire (particularly the tree) and run towards the more populated area of the village.
As I stood there watching them parade around with flaming branches (surprisingly relaxed, considering), a fellow volunteer asked, "What were you doing one year ago?" I couldn't help but smile as I recalled the previous year and how it had progressed; it was amazing. As another year is about to begin I smile as I look back upon this one as well.
And yet, this New Year's I am focusing on what is to come.
With BULA's return to Uganda only nine days away, there is much to look forward to. We will construct a kitchen at the school to provide a consistent food source for the students who go through an entire school day without. We are also installing water filters to improve the health and productivity of the children at the school. Also at St. Kizito, we are going to improve the solar panels and battery system so we will be able to utilize lap top computers that were donated and introduce technology into the curriculum.
We will also prepare for the fellow who will be living in Uganda for one year and assisting BULA with after school programs to enhance the children's educational experience. Along with this, we are also sending over thousands of donated textbooks for the students who currently do not have any.
This is all very exciting, but that is not all. We are also very excited that we will begin the plans for our second school.
Thank you for all your support over the last year and stay posted to learn more about our progress while we are in Uganda.
Have a wonderful New Year!!!!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
I hope you are in the midst of a wonderful holiday season. I just wanted to take a moment to remind you of the Hope for the Holidays Gala in New York tomorrow night.
The party is hosted by BULA & Mission14. It will be held at AVEvenue Social Hall & Event Loft - 15 West 28th Street (10th floor)New York, NY 10001 US on Monday, December 29, 7:00PM to 10:00PM.
Delicious hors d'oeuvres and drink selections will be served from Sherwood House Vineyards and the Blue Point Brewery.
Tickets cost $60.00 and all proceeds will go to BULA and Mission 14 for upcoming projects.
I hope to see you there!!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
(This takes awhile to download, but is worth it and will only be available until January 15th!!)
To all the volunteers who were there to celebrate Christmas in Uganda... this is for you.
To every one else, please enjoy.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
The children finally retired to their dormitories around 12:00AM. Myself and the other volunteers closed our doors as if we were doing the same thing, and we waited and waited. Around 1:30 we decided it was safe to bring the 27 hidden basins filled with gifts from my room. Slowly, slowly we carried each basin from the volunteer house to the all-purpose room.
Silently we crept through the night, more out of fear of waking the cow; one wrong move and her bellowing could wake the village.
The stockings the children made weeks earlier were carefully filled with sweeties and a stuffed animal. Everything was arranged perfectly for the following morning.
A few minor scares - rustling from the dormitories, the cow shifting in its sleep - caused small delays as we all froze in nervous anticipation of being discovered. But scares are all they were and Christmas was successfully delivered.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
For instance, "Sister, where is my Christmas?" ... "It is cooking," I would reply.
This just happens to be my favorite meal.... yummmm.... This is what we had....
matoke (steamed plantains)
g-nut sauce (made from peanuts)
greens (bitter - yuck)
Then fresh, delicious pineapple for dessert!!!
The children walked around that night with stomach's protruding from their Christmas clothes and smiles beaming on their faces.
Bulging belly and fast asleep...the signs of a wonderful Christmas.
Friday, December 19, 2008
The donations, that were given specifically for Christmas, made this possible, but we were still on a budget. We were off to Owino Market. Owino is a massive market near the taxi park area in Kampala where you can, if you are willing to work for it, buy anything you want. It is a narrow maze of shops and booths that are covered in tarps. The floor is comprised of mud and/or broken, unsturdy and sometimes treacherous planks of wood. If your foot goes through or you can’t make the jump, beware of the bog of eternal stench that lies, unassumingly, beneath.
The pathways are winding and branch off in all directions in what seems like an impossible labrynth of people - grabbing you, yelling prices, throwing their garments. The market is always packed; you are always uncomfortably close to many people and there is always a man with a massive parcel on his head sucking his teeth behind you (much like Wal-Mart on Black Friday).
Armed with the shopping chart and measuring tape, this is where I spent several days a week until Christmas. I quickly learned to strategically maneuver through the chaos, bargain for fair prices, and dig through the mounds of second-hand merchandise that lie in piles on the ground.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
One of the older boys approached me, "Sister, I have many problems… can you fix my problems?”
I simply shrugged my shoulders and made a face that clearly read, “I don’t know, tell me more”.
“I am the time keeper at school,” he continued, “and my watch, it has no technology.” I looked briefly at the sad shell of a digital watch; the face has no numbers, behind the clear plastic barrier I see his skin.
I nodded in understanding, “what are your other problems?”
“Sister, I have too many shirts and not enough pants. Sister Endie, this Christmas, can you fix my problems?”
“Yes, I can fix your problems.” I pulled a pen from my bag and wrote the time on his wrist below the empty watch face. “And now you must find a man who has too many pants and not enough shirts; then trade. All your problems are solved. Anytime you need anything, I love you and am always here to help.”
I walked away, the young man laughed, knowing my sarcastic nature. Little did he know in a few days, all his problems would be solved.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
There was also a golf tournament, sponsored by Black Bird’s Bar and Grill. This was held on the surprisingly beautiful day after Thanksgiving and 88 golfers arrived at the event for a wonderful day of golfing, great food, and fun. The response was fantastic and the support was amazing.
We also had a 5K run, which was the inspiration behind BULA’s new slogan – From Blue Point to BULA - a tribute to the wonderful community that has supported BULA since its initiation. The walk/run was a complete success, more than 150 arrived to support BULA and to participate. With the tremendous generosity from the Blue Point Brewery, a good time was had by all, especially upon completion of the race. We hope to make this run an annual event, so look for us next year, and join us to support our school construction projects in Africa. In addition to this, we have been selling our cookbooks and sweatshirts outside of Bayport/Blue Point school district’s holiday concerts. The school has, once again, shown its amazing support by allowing us to speak briefly and show our video before the concert. We have been able to sell boxes of cookbooks in this manner and are slowly getting closer to meeting our financial needs to construct the second school.
We have also had a wine and cheese get together. A neighbor who has been hugely supportive organized this event. This was a wonderful opportunity to talk to new people in the area who did not know a lot about BULA, but knew they wanted to learn more and support the cause. We showed the video, which I have attached the link to help provide a better understanding of life in Africa; again the support was tremendous.
Finally, a friend of ours from Mission 14 helped organize a happy hour fundraiser in the city. This was a very low key event, but was a lot of fun and carried on well into the evening. At this fundraiser BULA and Mission 14 decided to hold a joint event to support both organizations, and this was the beginning of the Hope for the Holidays Gala discussed in the previous blog.
Thank you to everyone who helped organize an event and to everyone who attended - we couldn’t do this without you.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Location: AVEvenue Social Hall & Event Loft 15 West 28th Street (10th floor), New York, NY
When: Monday, December 29, 7:00PM to 10:00PM
Phone: Melissa: 631.375.2790 or Brian: 631.804.4857
The pleasure of your company is graciously requested to attend Hope for the Holidays 2008 Gala Event hosted by BULA & Mission 14.
We would like to reflect upon all the great work done in 2008 and to discuss our future plans & projects for 2009. We would also like to take this opportunity to say,"thank you" for all of your support and efforts over the past year. Delicious hors d'oeuvres will be served along with drink selections from Sherwood House Vineyards and the Blue Point Brewery.
Ticket Cost is $60. Please Vist the following website to register for the event: http://2008hopefortheholidays.eventbrite.com/
The website accepts both credit card & pay pal payments.
*All proceeds go to the funding of future BULA & Mission 14 projects
*Please RSVPby December 27th
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The support has been amazing. We have held a golf tournament and a 5K run, Cookbook Release Parties and Happy Hours in Manhattan, along with several meetings, lunches and gatherings all to benefit BULA.
We have been zigzagging our way from Long Island through Pennsylvania and D.C. all the way to Virginia and back (in two days) spreading the word about BULA as we go. Friends and family members are pulling together to help us host these events and to sell our products in anticipation of our return to Uganda on January 9th.
Throughout the next few days I will let you know about each of these events and what else is happening to make up for my deficiency in blogging, get you caught up on the last few weeks and keep everyone informed about the month prior to our departure.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The cookbooks are $20.00 and all proceeds are used to support BULA's school construction projects and afterschool programs in developing countries in Africa. The first cookbook was a tremendous success and allowed for the completion of BULA's first project, St. Kizito Primary School. The Second Edition contains all new recipes and will support upcoming projects in 2009.
Please join us on December 7th from 2:00-4:00 at 301 N. 26th Street in Camp Hill, PA for a Cookbook Party. Enjoy delicious food and drinks from the book, learn more about our organization, and have a wonderful time for a wonderful cause. Cookbooks will be available for purchase at this event.
If you cannot make on December 7th, there be another Cookbook party in Blue Point, NY on December 11th from 6:30-8:30 at 102 Park Street.
If you cannot attend either of these events, but are still interested in purchasing a cookbook, please contact us at 631-419-3090 or at email@example.com.
Other options are to send $20.00 +$5.00 shipping/handling to PO Box 147 Bayport, NY 11705.
Remember, these books make excellent holiday gifts, house warming presents, bridal shower gifts, and birthday presents.
I hope to see you this December, please feel free to bring friends and family members to the events!!
Thank you in advance for your support!!
PS: If you are interested in selling cookbooks for BULA among family, friends, and coworkers, please contact us and this can be arranged.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The village of Gganda, lies about 7 miles north east of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. It is a small area, and not well known, as it is just another village on the outskirts of town. Even in the bustling new taxi park, where a regular stream of matatus runs from Kampala to the neighboring villages of Jenina and Kibando (and almost anywhere else you would want to go), people looked confused when I asked where the minibus to Gganda was. Many times the men whom I asked would look around at the chaos of hundreds of unmarked matatus that comprise the taxi park and declare, “Gganda? Sister, you are in Uganda!!”
No kidding, I would I think as I walked away in search of more informed assistance.
These stories came to mind yesterday, when out of curiosity I decided to search Gganda on Google Earth. I began the search in Kampala and followed the satellite images of roads that made the all-too-familiar route from the city to Gganda. We could clearly see the streams of traffic through old Kampala, and the wide circle where Hoima Road intersects with the Northern Bypass. We laughed as we recounted the story of the “Walker Special” - a way to get into the city via bodaboda and bicycle. Continuing further, we would turn into the village and we could see the swamps that frequently flooded the road, but were also home to the frogs whose chirping at night is a pure symphony. We would continue, using the satellite images all the way to the orphanage, and further to images of the old school. We could even see the amazing mango tree that once stood outside of St. Kizito, who was unfortunately uprooted despite our desperate attempts to preserve it.
Earlier in the year a friend said this area could not be found using Google Earth; anything outside of the city was black. Today, the images are amazingly clear and detailed, right down to the bodaboda stage on the corner and that magnificent tree. Gganda is, quite literally, on the map. I look forward to checking back in several months and seeing updated images of the area and looking down, proudly, at the completed St. Kizito Primary School.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
PS: Sending invites with the correct dates are also imperative. WOOPS!!!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
He states, that in the year 2000, the 400 richest U.S. taxpayers had a combined income that exceeded the income of Uganda, Botswana, Nigeria, and Senegal - COMBINED.
400 people earned 12 billion dollars more than 161 million people.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I use this example time and time again to demonstrate the flawed practice of rote learning. The children in Uganda wait silently as the teacher writes on the black board, they recite the information then copy it into notebooks. The children are never given an opportunity for practical application of the subject matter learned.
One of our workers presented this problem to us one day when a pulley system was made to dig the latrines. "Ah," he says, "so this is how you make a pulley. I have drawn one many times and I know how one works, but have never made one. This is the problem with Ugandan education... There are no practicals."
Realizing this obvious problem in the education system, we have decided to create after school programs for the children in the schools we build giving them the opportunity to reinforce the information learned in school with hands-on, creative, independent, and fun projects. The children will not only learn a practical use of that information, but will strengthen their communication and English language skills. We are very excited about these programs and are working closely with several retired teachers in the Blue Point/Bayport area to develop lesson plans and project ideas for when it is time to implement the programs.
I can only hope to teach the children to independently think through problems and generalize their education to all aspects of their lives. These programs will help them realize that, yes transplantation is the movement of the baby plant from the nursery to the main garden, but it is also the movement of a plant from one place to another.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
What an amazing activity to get students of all ages involved and increase cultural awareness in both countries.
The collective $1 donations will be used to fund the after school programs and to continue the construction projects that we have planned for 2009.
We are looking foward to speaking at the New York State United Teachers Leadership Conference for Nassau County this Friday. We are excited to be presenting this fundraiser to representatives of every school district in that county.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
The reality is: people do care, and they care ALOT.
Countless friends, family members, community members, and complete strangers have expressed their desire to learn more and to help in some way whether it is material donations, financial contributions, or offering their time. The response has been amazing and I cannot thank you enough for your seemingly endless support. We still have a long way to go, but we are proud of our accomplishments. We couldn't have completed the school, nor can we continue to support that school and begin our next project without the assistance of so many caring, compassionate, generous people.
I thank you, on behalf of BULA and the Gganda community, for all you have done to make our dreams a reality.
Friday, October 31, 2008
This is by Adam Smith from his book, The Wealth of Nations, (1776) as quoted in The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs (2005, page 253).
"Adam Smith called for the public provision of education: 'An instructed and intelligent people... are more disposed to examine, and more capable of seeing through, the interested complaints of faction and sedition...' Smith argued therefore, that the whole society is at risk when any segment of society is poorly educated."
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Don't worry if you are not athletic, the run begins and ends at the Blue Point Brewery so you can hang out there and still be part of the fun. Registration begins at 9:30, the walk/run will begin at 10:30.
Every one is welcome to attend this event, a good time will be had by all.
Thank you for your support, we hope to see you there. If you cannot make it, remember, donations can be made on our website. I will keep you informed of any other events that are coming up.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I often envision the 13 year old gate keeper, locking the doors and keeping these children sheltered from the realities of their environment. By turning the key he is keeping them free from sickness, corruption, and abandonment. By moving the latch to lock the gate, he is offering a world of happiness, stability, and health.
But alas, reality creeps through the cracks and up from under the doors and the children are exposed to a world from which I cannot protect them. It is impossible to guard any child from all the horrors of the world, but my predicament is particularly difficult. I live thousands of miles away and I am foreign to the complex systems and culture that effects these children.
If this sounds like surrender, that is not my intentions; this is not the end of the fight. It is just the beginning. My plan is to give these children the only commodity that cannot be taken away – an education. Bettering educational opportunities for these children is the only way I know to protect them from their environment and empower them in the future. If I cannot keep them from the difficulties currently in their lives, I can only give them the human capital to cope with troubling circumstances - either how to avoid them or how to remedy the situation when the time comes.
By teaching them to think through problems, to question the status quo, to look for solutions that fall outside of the box these children will have the power to fight a corrupt system and have better lives in the future. Through education they will learn about health and safety for themselves; and then pass the knowledge to their children. Without a proper education they will grow up and perpetuate a cycle of hopelessness and desperation.
For now, they are just children. For now, they are innocent pawns in a game that has continued for countless years. But they will not be so forever - they are the future. There are no worries in BULA because BULA is the hope of a better future for children in need. And where there is education there is always hope.
Monday, October 27, 2008
The support was overwhelming. Countless teachers approached us to brain storm ideas on how to get their classrooms involved with BULA.
We inspired so many teachers to care about our cause, but I was inspired by one second grade teacher who told me about a year long project that he does with his students. Each year, his students write every world leader a birthday card. These 9 year old children ask these leaders to please, on their birthdays, make a wish for world peace. I was moved by his dedication and unique idea to teach young students about the world around them.
I cannot wait to hear what wonderful ideas come from next week when we present BULA to 200 teachers and union representatives from Nassau County.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Tip #1: DO NOT hold happy hour fundraisers that continue late into the evening, the night before a really big, very serious, super important conference.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
As I walked around the town I saw it differently than I ever had before - I saw it through the eyes of someone from the village of Gganda. With these lenses on, I suddenly realized how beautiful my home town was. Everything I saw was amazing: the houses, the yards, the flowers, the wide open spaces. I was in awe.
Since my return from Uganda I am constantly amazed by what surrounds me: HOT WATER is available by simply turning a facet and TOILETS - but we'll just leave it at that. WIRELESS INTERNET that is unbelievably fast and doesn't turn off at the most inopportune time. Oh, and GASOLINE that only costs $3.30 a gallon. Or highways that are paved, without massive potholes spanning the entire road and drivers who actually follow traffic laws or CELL PHONE connections that come in clearly and hassle free. And there is so much more.
For many of us, we are experiencing the transition of seasons and the beautiful colors of the fall foliage. As I was driving through the town in which I live, all I could think about was someone arriving from Gganda during this time and encountering fall for the first time. How exotic and astonishing the leaves would seem to someone who never experienced anything in seasons but wet or dry.
Seeing this amazing gift of Mother Nature, for what seemed like the first time, I felt blessed to be surrounded by such magnificence.
Someone once said, “Look at everything as if you were seeing it for the first or the last time. Then your time on Earth will be filled with glory.”
This is what my time in Uganda has taught me.
PS: The cookbook will be available in November!!!
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Puck Fair at 298 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012.
There is a great drink special, it will be a great time and it supports a great cause (must be 21 years or older).
I hope to see you there!!!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Uganda, the land of freedom,
The pearl of Africa, the land of John,
I am happy to be Ugandanese,
Uganda is my motherland.
Now, I was able look past the obvious error in the song which calls the wonderful people of Uganda, Ugandanese rather than Ugandans, but when she sang about the land of John, I just had to stop her and ask, "Wait, land of John, don't you mean the land of JOY?" Clearly, this is the proper lyric for the song, I KNOW it is the land of joy.
She stood there in all seriousness, reciting the lyrics in her head (lips moving, a pensive expression on her face).
She stops singing, and says, "No, sister, it is the land of John," and continues on to the next verse.
For me I am calledee ___,
I am happy to be Ugandanese,
Uganda is my motherland,
Uganda is our motherland,
Monday, October 6, 2008
These are the stories of two yound women with whom I lived.
At the orphanage the girls tended to be quieter than the boys. They kept themselves busy in the kitchen; they prepared most of the meals, did their other chores, completed their homework and hung out in their dormitory.
So we knew something very peculiar happened when a 15 year old young lady, approached Melissa and asked, “Sister, what is the meaning of fed up?”
Naturally, a little confused and worried about this question, Melissa couldn't help but to ask why and who she would say this to.
“Well,” she continued, “I said it to teacher; please tell me what it means.”
Despite her curiosity, Melissa explained, to be fed up means that you are tired of something, you are not going to tolerate an action any more, you will not put up with it any longer, and then, of course, she asked, “What happened?”
The girl replied, “Sister, in school today, teacher was going to beat me, and I said, ‘no, I am fed up’ and I ran out of the classroom and came home.”
Not long after, the jjajja (grandmother) who prepared the lunch time meal left the orphanage. The men who run the children’s home refused to prepare the meals for the students. Instead, each day one girl had to stay home from school to complete the cooking; the older girls often missing 2 or more days of school each week, and at times, missing their very important end of term exams.
It was during this exam week, that another young lady, 13, was taking her turn to stay home from school. She began preparing the lunch in the morning as usual. For half an hour she remained in the kitchen cooking posho and beans over the wood fire stove, until, suddenly a loud crash was heard from the kitchen, we ran out to see what happened, and there she is, storming to her dormitory, proclaiming, “I am wasting my time!!” She continued to put on her school uniform and march to school just as her exams began.
You may be asking the significance of these two stories. Both these young ladies inadvertently recognized that their cultural hierarchy is flawed and stood up to a system that is constantly trying to keep them down.
You cannot teach someone the resolve to take control over their lives, but can only help them build upon the values that you instill. You cannot expect someone to risk grave consequences, unless you have built a support system where they are loved and cherished. You cannot make someone stand up against their adversary, but can only encourage them to build the confidence to do so one day.
Change is possible; change is happening. It is often slow and hard to recognize, but it only takes one or two people to plant the seed of equality in the minds of others. These two young ladies are role models to the girls in their classrooms, and should be to anyone who has ever been taking advantage of, abused, harassed, disrespected, or belittled. May we all have the courage that these young ladies displayed in the face of our aggressors.
Needless to say, I am proud of these girls.
BULA is hoping to develop programs that will continue to empower women. We are currently planning courses for the women in the village so they can learn English, health, and math. These educational opportunities will be greatly valued as the majority of women do not attend school past the primary level. Continued education will not only provide these women with greater employment opportunities, but also empower the women so they lead more fulfilling lives. These women will receive more respect from their community members and pass the value education and the importance of learning on to their children.