Loweero, Uganda -
We have lots of photos but spotty internet access and frequent power outages have made uploading photos and video difficult. We have mostly been limited to trying to use our Blackberry. - Erin
newsnet5.com recently received the attached video blogs and text messages from Northeast Ohioans, Erin Huber, Laura Watilo Blake, Teddy Mwonyonyi and Tom Kondilas who are in Africa.
Day 28 in Africa - from Drink Local. Drink Tap. Director Erin Huber
The Minister of Education for the country emailed me today to join him for dinner this week. We are making waves and haven't even brought the water yet. The mzungus mean some problems may go away. Even ate dinner and drank some local beer with the bishop of Luwero last night; he was thankful for our presence and our love.
That leads me into the love that resists to die with the people here. It is impolite to pass someone with asking how they are and listening. Women drop to their knees to great you and everyone invites you to their home and makes you leave with something. Today, I carried a large bag of tomatoes (that were picked for us as a gift) on my head without thinking twice.
Thinking of back home, I realize how much walking down the street will be different...I can't even imagine what a CVS or Target is like. Heck, maybe I won't ever see one again by choice and maybe I will be the crazy lady who talks with everyone and drops by for unexpected visits -- you know, like the old days.
Everything is an adventure here. Taking a half day to find peanut butter so the team has variety and protein is exciting, not to mention seeing the joy once I enter a room and announce I found it for 5,000 shillings ($4)!
The quiet nights and star-filled sky beat any night on the planet. We laugh while sitting outside at night -- every night. Trying to find a constellation we think we know in the sky is impossible, but the shooting stars are always there as part of the rural Ugandan night sky. It's so beautiful in such a different way here. I can't explain it, I can only feel it.
So, even though my skin is weathered, bitten and dirty, my clothes have seen better days, and my body has developed love/hate relationship with matooke, I'm not sure I want to be gone from here for long. There is such an amazing connection with everything -- the kids, the community, the food, the water, the creative survival (adventuring for us westerners). I feel as if the learning and teaching (the sharing) would be endless.
The other night, after recording the orphans singing by generator-powered light (as a small favor to them so they can make cds) two of our favorites came to talk afterwards. Patricia and Gorette, (the cutest teenagers ever) came to sit on the back porch and cried telling us how much they would miss us. We barely communicate with words, but the little tears in their eyes broke my heart -- it was a moment forever. I love them from the bottom of my heart.
The following day, Friday, the cow we bought fed both schools, some parents, police and others who enjoyed a party put on for us. The kids sang songs and danced all day! Patricia, Gorett, and friends sang a song saying goodbye to us with our names individually included...Gorett and I caught eyes and I had tears beneath my sunglasses -- it was incredibly sweet.
All in all, I want people back home to understand that the people of Mulajje love you even though you have never met. My new African brother who is studying to be a preist, Gonzaga, told me he loved me before he knew I existed (as his sister from afar). The love here is powerful and the energy is contagious -- the kids especially send hugs to everyone back home:)
I suppose my comments can end here, but I want to encourage everyone to ask questions, send love, get updates on facebook, look at our pictures on flickr.com/photos/dldt, and donate if you wish though drinklocaldrinktap.org to help these children get better access to safe water and tell the world their story through film.
Webale nyo (thank you much) and
Have a beautiful week -- see you in Cleveland on Sunday!
Day 27 in Africa
Holy matooke- it's a hot one!
We call today "africa hot" or "equater hot"- the locals laugh.
Everyday we wake to roosters, no alarm clock here-power is a luxury. In fact, right now, I am watching the water crew nap near an outlet waking to the sporadic noise of power coming back on only for seconds. If we get work done today, it will be a miracle. Today, we have already hiked a few kilometers through 3 villages to film water and economics of agriculture, water used in local liquor making, and had the standard trail of random adorable Ugandan children following our every move for each minute of the journey.
In our daily adventures the past two weeks, I have come to see through the children's eyes in many small ways. I will watch a child staring into nothing (maybe hunger or sickness), but I am getting the feeling the gaze into nowhere is for hope. So much responsibility is put on children here, so when I catch their gaze - try to put a little hope back into their hearts. It's all we can do until we figure out the water situation here.
My heart is hopeful but also in pain. The students smile through their hunger pains every time they see us. Coming to school sick with lesions, peeling skin, big stomachs, dirt covered bodies and tattered clothes leaves the day a challenge for the 15 teachers who each manage over 100 students all at once.
Over 25 students have HIV and "have not been told at the most tender of ages" says Father Gerald, who heads the HIV program for thousands of people in the diocese. The ones who are aware try to keep good spirits and attempt to stay in school as the sickness worsens with the love and support of the St. Bonaventure / St. Charles community. Unfortunately, the school buried 2 students last year to AIDS alone.
Other sickness affects this community regularly and is a part of life for now. Malaria is the most common "fever." Two of the priests are coming down with it as we write; they also had it last month twice.
Typhoid is caused by dirty water and is very common. In fact, one of the teachers sons has this 'fever' right now.
Meds are hard to come by even if you can afford the ride on a boda boda to a clinic, which is many kilometers away through dusty-rocky roads. Even if you somehow manage to get there, the government-promised meds are not in stock a majority of the time. We learned this yesterday while speaking with the head doctor at a clinic who toured us through filthy rooms with open syringes, unfamiliar smells, and extremely sick people; it was a "slow" clinic day, but I saw enough.
I can't help but wonder about so many problems that have infected this community. And somehow, we still see smiles everywhere we go because "the mzungas have come."
Day 25 in Africa
While we've been raising funds for safe drinking water at the St. Charles School in Mulajje, Uganda, they've been going through a growth spurt. The school, which once included primary through high school, split into two schools on July 15. The school for the upper grade levels kept the name St. Charles, while the primary school is now called St. Bonaventure. Both buildings are located in the same compound in the rural village of Mulajje.
"We're growing," says Father Matthias Jjaggo, the parish priest, who oversees education at the two Catholic schools.
More people means a greater need for access to clean, safe water for the students. We have seen school children drink dirty water because they don't have fresh water when they get thirsty.
Our purpose in Uganda has been to identify the key players in coordinating the construction of a dedicated water source for the school.
Thanks to Affinity Consultants for making it possible to have a site visit, which was conducted by the engineer consultant, who is hydrologist; the minister of water for Luweero; and our project manager, who works for the regional planning office. The team spent six hours taking ion readings around the compound looking for the most reliable source of water. The report should be issued in a few days. We will let you know when get it.
Day 23 in Africa
We are currently experiencing a downpour, which has interrupted our second water meeting because people must walk from their homes.
Erin had to push the meeting back to 5pm because she got stuck in Kampala trying to open a bank account, then got stuck in traffic because the king of Buganda was coming through.
People lined the streets to catch a glimpse of him. In these parts, the king has more clout than the president of Uganda.
Day 20 in Africa
We are at the St. Charles School where again the electricity has gone out.
Since we've arrived, we've witnessed first hand the ways the local chiildren actually drink their water.
We have witnessed children drinking directly out of the bore hole. We have witnessed children drinking used, soapy wash water and dirty cooking water.
And we were told today that school kids often skip out of class when they are thirsty and go to the nearest ditch -- using their hands -- to take a sip of water to quench their thirst.
So please enjoy your tap tonight.
Day 18 in Africa
A jerrican is one of the most important things that Ugandans have.
While we just turn on the faucet in our homes, the students at St. Charles fill their jerricans at a bore hole down the street twice a day. A half-mile doesn't sound that far, but try carrying 5 to 10 liter jugs filled to the top with water for that distance. We did.
It wasn't easy. And we aren't 9 years old. Under their watchful gaze, we struggled to carry even half the usual amount these kids can manage out of necessity.
And what happens when that bore hole dries up, as it does during the dry season? The kids must go further afield looking for water.
Day 16 in Africa - from photographer Laura Watilo Blake
Day One at the St. Charles school in the Mulajje parish:
We arrived at the parish school at 2 p.m., and were greeted by an entire army of school children all dressed in their blue school uniforms.
What an amazing sight to see them singing and waving leave-covered branches and some real pom pons.
The children lined the long dirt road that leads up to the parish house and as we walked past, we were swallowed by the group and swept along the path.
It was an emotional moment for us. I wish I could have put down the camera to take it all in.
Day 8 in Africa
Finally we are staying in one place long enough to wash our clothes the local way.
The Indian Ocean is just steps away.
On the ferry ride over, we watched people chucking their water bottles over the side of the boat. It was hard to accept.
Water is life...wish everyone would treat it with respect.
Day 6 in Africa
Today has been a travel day as we headed to Tanzania en route to the island of Zanzibar.
We are staying overnight in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak and the only mountain on the continent perpetually covered with snow.
That may not be the case in just a few years as the snow is slowly leaving.
Water is life!
Day 4 in Africa
We're in Kenya and appreciating everything back home.
The air quality here is very very poor and we all know how that affects water quality.
I'm thankful for the E.P.A. and for flushing toilets.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Latest News Headlines
About 30 firefighters from five departments battled a two alarm fire in North Ridgeville Saturday evening.
ADAM SANDLER was recently horrified to discover his maid had been rubbing poison ivy all over his body as he slept as payback for having to handle the actor's dirty underwear.