Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vivacious Vital Volunteers at Home and Abroad - Uganda part 2

Yesterday I started a series of blogs honoring the important work of the amazing volunteers who have dedicated their time and their lives to support the children in Uganda through BULA's many projects.

Today I would like to talk about the directors of the children's home - Uncle Steven, Uncle John and Uncle Dan. These three men have truly made the ultimate sacrifices to protect and honor the rights of the children who were abused and neglected. This was no easy task for the men, as they persevered despite cultural norms that look away from such abuses and misunderstandings that complicated the efforts to secure the well-being of the children.

But persevere these men did and because of their hard work we were able to place the children in a safe environment, register with the necessary legal authorities, reunite the children with their families, and begin to plan for the futures of the children in our care.

Because of their constant sacrifices and hard work we are proud to say that BULA Children's Home is a happy, healthy environment for the children. And we thank them endlessly for all they have done to make it the wonderful place that it is.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vivacious Vital Volunteers at Home and Abroad - part 1 - Uganda

Dear Readers,

Wow, it has been awhile and once again I apologize for my lackadaisical blogging - and by that I mean my lack of blog entries. I would like to use this time to talk about the people who work behind the scenes and often go unnoticed but are an essential part of the BULA team and without them BULA would not achieveing their amazing accomplishments in Uganda.

I would like to talk about one of those who are on the ground in Uganda, working tirelessly for the protection of children's rights to education and security.

Mackenzie Brown is the 2009 Elrod Fellowship Winner. She came to Uganda a few months back and spent her first 3 months living at BULA children's home. She came with 3 flourescent pink suitcases and the drive to design and implement after school programs at St. Kizito Primary School. She began her lessons on September 7th, when the new term started and despite the difficulties that she endured moving to a totally foreign country Mackenzie has persevered and things have been amazing for her.

The teachers are involved in the daily activities, learning new and insightful ways to educate children. And the children are learning through practical applications to improve their English skills and also to reinforce the lessons learned throughout the day. We are so proud and excited about Mackenzie's efforts!!! This is just one way volunteers are making BULA the amazing organization that is changing people's lives and securing brighter futures for children.

Stay tuned as there will be a new vivacious vital volunteer in the spotlight each day!!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

St. Kizito Primary School - Namungoona

Well, now that things are settling down at BULA Children's Home, it is time for BULA to focus on its original mission of improving educational facilities, materials and programs in Uganda. Our next project is in the preliminary stages.

St. Kizito Primary School in Namungoona is a primary school a few kilometers from the first St. Kizito. It may seem slightly odd that the schools have the same name, but St. Kizito was a child martyr and hence the namesake for countless primary schools in Uganda. The school is home to 120 students from nursery to P7. The students study in a scrap wood, dirt floor, leaky tin roof structure and are completely exposed to the elements such as wind and rain. There are no desks for the students, who sit on benches and kneel on the floor to participate in lessons.

I have recently met with local officials who are ecstatic about the project. They are all familiar with our work and are eager to get things started. The process in the beginning is slow and involves making plans, getting approval, meeting with officials, etc. But things are progressing very well. Tom Harrison, our architect from England will be joining me in Uganda at the end of August to begin the building plans.

Stay tuned for more information as plans unfold and finalize. As well as for information on upcoming fundraisers to support our projects.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Shipment from America

I almost forgot to write about the huge shipment that arrived in Uganda a few months ago. I wrote about the 200+ boxes of donated clothing, books, school supplies, etc. and after I posted that blog about 50 more boxes were added to the cargo.

When the children shifted homes, they lost a lot of their clothing and belongings. But thanks to the donations of countless people, the children hardly missed their things. In addition to that, nearly every classroom at St. Kizito Primary School is now stocked with Health, Math, Science, Literature, and Writing text books and the Nursery class has toys and musical instruments.

So many text books were donated that we have enough to stock our next school construction project which we are currently in the process of planning. BULA's schools are probably the only one's in the area with the resources necessary for educational growth and overall development; providing the opportunity to be successful students and therefore helping to secure brighter futures for these children.

These photos show the huge truck we used to transport the massive shipment from Entebbe airport to Gganda and the Nursery School children playing with the musical instruments.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Connecting Classrooms Through Creativity Update

I am very excited to tell every one that our Connecting Classrooms Through Creativity Fundraiser is proving to be a complete success. Melissa has just returned to Uganda with a suitcase filled with artwork. One art teacher had a wonderful idea to create murals; massive posters were sent over and hung on the walls. The funds from this fundraiser are used to continue our support of St. Kizito Primary School, namely to update the solar power at the school and to create shutters for a few classrooms and the teachers' offices.

Teachers tell us that the students in America have a wonderful time creating this artwork, but most importantly they learn about life in Africa and increase their global awareness. Not to mention, they are helping those in need.

Students in Uganda are thrilled to see the new artwork arrive. Their classrooms are bright, colorful and decorated just as American classrooms would be. They also enjoy the rare opportunity to create artwork of their own, which Melissa brings back to America with her when she returns.

The end of the American school year is quickly approaching, but please keep this fundraiser in mind over the summer. It will continue next year as well. There is more information about this fundraiser to the right as well as a link to our video to inspire and educate children.

Monday, June 1, 2009


It is possible!! I found a great internet location that will allow me to upload photos. I inserted some photos into the blogs that I wrote over the last few months, please feel free to go back and enjoy!!


obulamu bulungi!! - Life is good!!

Sunday, May 31, 2009


"The civil conflict in northern Uganda has led to severe disruption of learning. 63% of all schools are displaced or abandoned. Close to 505,343 children have fallen out of the education system due to insecurity and the challenges of surviving in a war environment." - Save the Children in Uganda publication

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Breaking News: Read All About It!!!

News just came in from the NGO Board, part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and BULA Children's Home application to become a registered NGO in Uganda is approved - it is now an official NGO!!!

This process began almost 5 months ago as soon as the children were removed from the unsafe environment in which they lived. It has been 5 months of hassles and headaches (to say the least), but we did it. We collected recommendations from every legal entity in Uganda that could possibly relate to the well fair of children and our hard work is actualized with the official registration from the board.

This is really exciting news for us and we are over joyed to know that our efforts to keep vulnerable children safe are being recognized and appreciated!!!

Congratulations BULA Children's Home and to every one who worked so hard to make this happen!!!

"There is No Life Without Water" - Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

“The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. An adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, reduce the risk of water-related disease and provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements”.

(General Comment 15, CESR, 2002 as quoted from the World Water Council website

- 1.1 billion people live without clean drinking water. (World Water Council)

- 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation. (2002, UNICEF/WHO JMP 2004)

- 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases. (World Water Council)

- 3,900 children die every day from water born diseases. (WHO 2004)

In BULA's small corner of the world, we are doing everything we can to provide clean water for drinking and sanitation to decrease disease and dehydration among the children and communities we assist. At St. Kizito Primary School, BULA built a 30,000 gallon underground water tank to store rain water from the roof. This tank provides a consistent source of water for the 150 students at the school, even during the dry season. The water from the tank can be pumped into jerry cans and then poured into Bio-sand water filters for treatment. We use a color coordinated system: yellow jerry cans for the water from the tank and blue jerry cans to indicate water that is safe for drinking. This clean water is also used for cooking the food in the new lunch program that began last term. There is an additional water tank near the latrines that also collects rain water from the roof. This water is primarily used for hand washing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

You Know You've Been Living in Uganda for a Long Time When...

- You don’t say goodbye when you are done on the phone.
- You drive over curbs and sidewalks to avoid the jam.
- You raise your eyebrows instead of nodding your head or responding verbally.
- You consider how many cows or bunches of banana you’d be worth should you get married.
- You eat at really nice restaurants and wonder why beans aren’t on the menu.
- You laugh when a mini bus crashes into the side of your car… or when you crash into your friend’s car… or when you are rear ended by a tractor trailer… or when…
- You are no longer afraid of diseases like schistosomiasis, sleeping sickness, malaria, etc.
- You use grammar like: “you take,” “we go,” or “I fear.”
- You have to go on safari… again.
- You yell "muzungu" at other westerners, especially the really pale ones.
- You are writing about living in Uganda for a long time and a friend suggests, “when anything fried tastes good” and you respond, “oh, definitely” … you know you’ve been in Uganda for a long time.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Vacationing in the Pearl

Tomorrow I am heading out of town and north to Murchison Falls with a couple of friends who are visiting. Murchison Falls is the largest National Park in Uganda and home to animals such as elephants, buffalo, leopard, giraffes, hippos, lions, etc. and the location of one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, where the massive Nile River is squeezed through a six meter gorge.

I am always writing about the day to day affairs of BULA, but in honor of this much needed vacation I'd like to talk about the splendors of Uganda. Once called the Pearl of Africa by Winston Churchill, Uganda consists of a natural environment so green and plush I can't figure out why Ireland gets all the credit for its rolling hills.

The geography in Uganda is dramatically different depending on the area, but in central Uganda, where I live, the rich soil is the perfect contrast the lush vegetation that grows abundantly. And, for those who love summer time, the sun shines almost everyday and the evenings cool to the perfect sleeping temperature.

Uganda hosts a plethora of landscapes for the nature lover in us all. The beaches in Entebbe and the Ssesse Islands are beautiful places to relax. Jinja, a breathtaking 2.5 hour drive from Kampala through fields of sugar cane and the Mbura Forest, is where the Nile River begins. Here you can enjoy some of the best kayaking and white water rafting in the world or sit by the Bugagali Falls and enjoy the beautiful and exotic birds of this region. One of Uganda's most popular attractions, and rightly so, is the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the west of the country. This intense forest hosts the impressive and highly endangered mountain gorillas. This treck is an expensive, but amazing and worthwhile venture; if you have the chance to stand feet from a silverback gorilla, please don't pass on the opportunity.

The list of Uganda's amazing attractions could continue on for pages - Sipi Falls, Rwenzori Mountains, Kibale National Park, Lake Bunyonyi, Mburo National Park, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, or canoeing in search of the rare shoebill near Entebbe, and Queen Elizabeth National Park are a few other noteworthy places to visit if in the country.

Uganda's central location also makes it ideal to travel to other countries namely Tanzania, Kenya, and Rwanda, but Uganda's most wonderful asset are the people. I was told before arriving two years ago that the people of Uganda were the nicest in Africa and they have lived up to that reputation. Funny, kind, welcoming and generous, the people of Uganda are what set it apart from other countries in the area.

Coincidentally, I just saw an article in the New York Times about white water rafting and traveling in Uganda. The link is too left in the News in Africa section, but here is a link to the slide show that accompanies the article If you would like more information about traveling in Uganda, I know of two excellent travel books. Bradt produces a travel guide specifically on Uganda and Lonely Planet prints one focusing on East Africa. Both books can be purchased at any book store that sells travel books or online at Lonely Planet also has this informative website


According to a Save the Children in Uganda (SCiG) publication, "The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a major root cause of childhood poverty. HIV related death accounts for about 50% of the orphans in Uganda, where one in four households hosts at least on orphan."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What is Family Planning and Why is it Important?

In all countries across the world, there are a lot of myths and criticisms that go along with "family planning," but this is especially true in developing countries where people rarely receive advanced education or accurate information in regards to their sexual health and reproduction. One of the leading problems in developing countries is that this lack of information leads to massive families for which parents are unable to provide. Children are frequently undernourished, uneducated, and impoverished as a result of large, unmanageable families.

Family planning encompasses everything from deciding to wait to have sex or deciding to use contraceptives or deciding to have a small family that you can support. Family planning also entails more controversial aspects such as sterilizations and abortion. Often family planning is synonymous with contraception or abortion, but involves many other important aspects that are overlooked because of this misunderstanding. Spacing children is family planning. Sexually transmitted disease testing is family planning. Sexuality education is family planning. Pre-natal visits and parenting programs are also family planning.

It is a growing concern that these misconceptions and false information are the leading causes of child neglect, abandonment, malnourishment, disease and lack of education creating a cycle of suffering and extreme poverty from which it is difficult to break free.

But there is hope for the future. After his holiday visit, one young man from BULA, told me he was concerned about his mother, "She does not know about family planning, and she keeps having babies. Everyone there is suffering, the conditions are bad". Because of good eduction and countless opportunities that have been given to him, he sees the problems of having too many children and not being able to support them. He, like many others young people who I know, is planning on a small, manageable family so all his children can go to school.

Please read the article from the New York Times entitled, "Where Life's Start is a Deadly Risk" about the health risks to women in Africa related to childbirth. More than 500,000 woman die annually due to complications with childbirth, half of which are in Africa; a number that would be significantly lower with increased reproductive education and pre-natal care - two important aspects of family planning.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Successful Fundraiser Update

I just received exciting news from my friend and a kindergarten teacher from the Camp Hill School District in Pennsylvania. In her elementary school, the teachers conducted a fundraiser to raise money for St. Kizito Primary School and BULA Children's Home. Knowing the importance of reading in a child's education and development this teacher encouraged others in the school to get involved to raise money for books for the children in Uganda.

Her students watched our video (there is a link to the right) and learned about life in Africa. Parents began to call this teacher to inform her that their kindergarten students ran home from school and could not stop talking about helping the children in Africa. How exciting to think that students at such a young age are developing a sense of social responsibility and global awareness.

The children were encouraged to contribute money towards a book label which they could donate in honor or memory of someone else. Teachers also put piggy banks in the classrooms so students could donate their spare change. A few weeks later, the funds were counted and the result was 4X the anticipated goal.

The labels are being printed and will be sent to Uganda. I will purchase the books here, insert the labels, and distribute the books to the home and the school. This fundraiser was easy, it was fun, it was educational, and successful. Think what this one small school accomplished and how it will benefit the lives of the children at the primary school and the children's home in Uganda who have limited exposure to books.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family. ~Thomas Jefferson

The whole process of starting BULA Children's Home has been... well, it has been quite a process and I've learned a lot along the way. I've learned loads of Luganda, I've learned a lot about Ugandan government and the legal system, I've learned how to twist the knobs on my car battery before starting the engine, and I've learned that the children who are in our care have families.

We've known the children for years but in their previous orphanage they were forbidden to talk about their families. Some of the children even lived a few feet away from the houses where their families reside and were not allowed to talk to them. Now that they are in a safe environment the children started to talk. You can only imagine our surprise when the children spoke about brothers and sisters, Aunties and Jjajja (grandparent), even mothers and fathers.

Immediately BULA Children's Home set out to find the families. The process took time, but was relatively easy. About half the families live in the village of Gganda where St. Kizito Primary School is located. The other half of the families live in a village called Ntuuma, about 2 hours west of Kampala.

Contact was made... mpola mpola (Slowly slowly) and arrangements were organized for the children to go home for one or two weeks over their school holiday. Parents were overjoyed. Children were ecstatic. It was an amazing experience to be there while families were reunited after years of separation - in some cases guardians had not seen their children in 5 years.

I felt as if I was relearning the children who I thought I knew so well. Family resemblances were amazing. Tears of joy, hugs, and laughter filled the moments when guardians saw the children who they love and brothers and sisters were together again.

Keep checking the blog, as I will be writing more about reuniting the families. I will discuss child policy, vulnerable children, and describe the conditions of life for some of these families.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Webale nnyo! - Thank you very much.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

... but, tekisoboka (it is not possible). I have been trying to post photos and videos to go along with my blogs, but unfortunately, my internet connection will not allow me to do so. I will keep trying to upload them to give you a better understanding of life in Africa, but part of that understanding is patience with impossibly slow internet!

Monday, May 4, 2009


I am happy to tell everyone that all school fees have been paid for the upcoming term. This is exciting news as this expense is the largest cost we have at BULA Children's Home and the most important.

I am also pleased to announce that the children in secondary school are all changing schools to make sure that they are receiving the best education possible. The children all did very well in the first term of school after the shift to the new home. There are a few children who struggle academically and in the second term of the year they will receive additional help to ensure success in their studies.

Most of this was accomplished through the generous donation of one amazing supporter right here in Kampala. The support from our contributors has made all that we've accomplished possible. From everyone at BULA we cannot thank you enough.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Happy Belated Earth Day

One of the biggest problems facing the world, especially developing countries, is the abuse of the natural environment. BULA recognizes that successful development begins with the protection of the Earth and is committed to using environmentally friendly building techniques in all of its construction projects. Recently we were recognized for our efforts.

A representative from the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT, came to visit St. Kizito Primary School. UN-Habitat "is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all" ( They were in Uganda studying the use of Interlocking Soil Stabilized Blocks (ISSB) in East Africa and through our connection with The Good Earth Trust ( and Makerere University heard about our school.

ISSB is a way of making bricks that deviates from the traditional methods which are very harmful to the environment because of deforestation, the burning of firewood, and the large amounts of carbons released into the air. ISSB are made from a mixture of soil, water, and cement. This composition is then compressed with a hand press machine. The blocks don't require any firewood and they dry in a matter of days. All the soil used to make the blocks came from digging the underground water tank at the school. The interlocking feature on the blocks makes them more structurally sound than traditional bricks and they require less mortar between the blocks. Using less cement decreases carbon output and makes construction more cost effective.

The representative from UN Habitat was extremely pleased with our school and stated that it was the best project he had seen on his travels. He was also impressed with the overall design of the school, the water filters that were installed, the solar power, our commitment to quality education, and the underground water tank which promotes good health and gives back to the community. What will come of his visit is yet to be seen, but St. Kizito Primary School could be used as model project for the UN to promote this technology throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. We will have to wait and see.

I have also posted a link to an article in the New York Times on April 16th expressing concerns about developing countries connection to global warming. This link is a slide show to accompany that article

Please know that BULA is continuing its commitment to preserve and protect the earth and is now looking into environmentally friendly cooking technologies for future projects. Visit The Good Earth Trust website or that for UN-Habitat to learn more.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"I Say Goodbye and You Say Hello"

It is always amazing to be completely submerged into a different culture. After living in Uganda for over a year I have come to realize one difference that unfolds with every interaction - I say goodbye and they say hello.

In Buganda culture, greetings are paramount. The typical greeting seems to go on indefinetely.

"Oli otya"
"Gendi, Oli otya"
"Belungi, Jeebale"
"Kale, Jaabale Ko"

etc. etc. etc. This literally means, "Hello, how are you?" "Fine, How are you?" "Fine." "Thank you for the good work." "OK." "Thank you for the work." "OK."

After this continues on for a while, you can finally say, "Do you have mineral water?" or address whatever is needed.

Coming from the fast paced western world, I would just walk into the store and ask for water bypassing all the formalities that consume so much time. But I have quickly learned how rude this behavior is, have changed my evil ways, and despite the rush I may be in I politely greet every one and ask about the day.

However, at the same time, goodbyes hold little importance. People will just hang up the phone without saying "goodbye." Often, I will be in the middle of a two part conversation and they will hang up and I'll still have things to say. If I drop some one off, they will usually just get out of the car and walk away. If I leave a location, no one seems to notice...

I often stand there dismayed by what has happend. Are they mad at me? Did I do something wrong? Why didn't they say "goodbye?" You see, for me, it can often take 5 or 6 sentences to complete my fairwells (if not more) and when some one cuts me off without offering me this opportunity I feel as though the conversation is not completed or as though something is missing.

As I have learned to politely greet others, I have learned not to take offense when I feel as if my parting routine was ended prematurely and have adjusted to this cultural difference along with countless others.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ensonya wa

This simply means "forgive me" in Luganda. A phrase I hope you will take to heart as I ask for your forgiveness in my lack of posts to my blog since I have returned to Uganda. I promise to do better, but as they say in Uganda, "A promise is a debt," so I am not foolish enough to promise daily posts (mostly because of my unreliable internet connections because I certainly have lots to tell). But I can promise to try harder, I hope you understand. I also apologize because there will rarely be photos as my connection is too slow to upload pictures.

Things have been very hectic since my return to Uganda. What was supposed to be a six week trip to finish St. Kizito Primary School and begin plans for the next school construction project turned into a 9 month (at least) journey through the establishment of a new children's home. I am proud to say, that despite the many setbacks that we have endured, the children who were once neglected and abused are now safe, healthy and happy at BULA Children's Home.

My goal in the next few posts is to update you on everything that has occured over the last few months in regards to the school construction, the children's home, and life in Uganda. Please keep checking the blog and I will not let you down!!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Over the last few months we have been collecting supplies to take to Uganda. With the help of a few amazing people and schools I am proud to say that we will be stocking St. Kizito Primary School and the next school that we build with the following:

Books - 139 boxes - mostly text books
Music - 1 box
Toys - 12 boxes
Educational tools/supplies - 28 boxes
Reading rods - 9 boxes
Clothing - 27 boxes
Personal care - 1 box
Medication - 3 boxes

Thank you to every one who has contributed and who is helping with the transportation of these materials. These will be the first text books these children ever had; our children will truly have brighter futures thanks to your efforts!!!


Wasuze otya. - Good morning, but literally, how was your night?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Connecting Classrooms through Creativity

I am very happy to say that our "Connecting Classrooms through Creativity" fundraiser is proving to be successful. A third grade class on Long Island has sent in 81 original pieces of artwork to display in our classrooms in Uganda along with a $1.00 donation each. The art varies from under the sea themed pieces to drawings of children holding hands around the world. My personal favorite is the drawing of a lion at a black board teaching a group of students.

This teacher also sent letters from the students stating why they wanted to participate in this fundraiser and how they raised the money. One letter read, "I was very excited about earning this $1.00. I wanted to be part of raising enough funds for a new school in Uganda. I earned a $1.00 by helping my dad rake the leaves in front of our house. I really hope that my $1.00 helps BULA." Or, "I want to help all people in need. I hope the money I am sending will help you get medicine, food, and clean water or anything your community needs."

What a wonderful opportunity for children in America to develop cross-cultural relationships, help provide brighter futures for African children, and acquire a better understanding of life in developing countries.

And think, children in Uganda are receiving improved educational facilities, programs, and materials, decorations for their classrooms, and an opportunity to learn more about life in America.

If you are interested in participating in our "Connecting Classrooms through Creativity" fundraiser please contact BULA at

And thank you to all those students and teachers who are already participating!!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Embeera y'obudde eri etya? - What's the weather like?