Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Back in the United States!


Well I’ve been back in the United States now for about a week. My journey home was alright minus a bit of a delay where I ended up having to stay the night in Cairo. I was actually really lucky though because one of my volunteer friends was on the same flight as me from Entebbe to Cairo. We ended up having to wait in Entebbe until 10am when we were supposed to fly at 430am. We both missed our connecting flights and had to wait until the next morning to get new ones. We were so grateful that we were together. It actually turned out being really nice because the airport brought us to this extremely fancy hotel. It was so nice! They even paid for lunch, dinner, and breakfast, which were all of 5 star quality! We both got our own rooms with king size beds and relaxed and enjoyed the luxury. The next morning we separated ways and I took off on my 12 hour flight to NYC. The flight actually went by quickly. I got some time to nap and watched 2 movies. I was then greeted in the airport by both my parents with welcome home balloons and flowers. It was really sweet. J
Being back in the United States has been a bit weird. People kept telling me I would experience culture shock when I got back but I kind of brushed it off. How much culture shock could I possibly have when I’m coming back to a place I am so familiar with? Now, I really understand what they meant. Being home is so strange. Everything here seems SO NICE!!!!! I always knew we had nice things but I don’t think I’ve ever noticed it the way I do now. I guess I got too used to all the dirt roads, small shacks, and trash everywhere…..
Being back amongst other Americans whose daily lives haven’t changed since I left is also very strange. Many of the things people are talk about just seem so insignificant in comparison to the things I was surrounded by. Then when people start complaining about their problems all I can think about is how much they don’t realize how lucky they are to have the kind of problems we do that are not nearly to the same magnitude as people’s problems back in Uganda. Being home is just weird. I don’t know how else to put it. I feel like I have a new outlook on so many different things.   
Anywho, it is really nice to be back and to have things like hot water, air conditioning, washing machines, and proper showers again! However, it still doesn’t change how much I miss Uganda. I got so used to living without these things that it didn’t matter so much anymore. The only thing I couldn’t stand was showering with cold water!! Everything else I didn’t mind. The joy of being surround by children and teens who loved me was the only thing I cared about. I think one of my favorite things would be when I first came into the center. So many of the children would get so excited to see me; they would run up to me with open arms yelling my name with a big smile on their face. It was really so nice and made me so happy to be there. Gosh. I miss those kids so so so much. L I know that I couldn’t say goodbye to them forever so sometime in the future, when I have the opportunity, I plan to go back and be with them again.

So what now you may ask? The next step in my life is to head back to Northeastern for fall semester. After fall semester I have another 6 month Co-op (internship). This time I think I’ll stay in Boston for it. After that I just have half of a semester to finish off and then I graduate!!  J

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Almost at the end 7/17/12


Well, the past three months have been the most rewarding three months I think I’ve ever had in my life! J I’ve been spending almost every day at M-lisada for almost the entire day. Most days I go in at around 9 to 10am then I stay until 9pm! Granted I do often leave for lunch or to run a few errands. I stay so long because it is where I want to be. I enjoy so much spending time with the children and teenagers that are around. They also have an evening program that runs from 730 to 830 where I’ve been “teaching” the younger children. Really I’ve just been reading a lot of stories book and doing different songs and games with them. I’ve stepped into the older kid’s class and gave them a break from their usual teacher a few times just read them story books as well. They absolutely LOVE it and I really think they need a break from being constantly in class. During the day I’ve been doing school work, games, arts and crafts, and reading with the handful of kids that do not go to school because of a lack of school fees (there is basically no public school system here). I also help out with the kid’s choirs and really just hang out with them. Sometimes it is difficult to think up of different things to do with all of them, especially because of their age and ability range and the lack of resources.

The time has flown by so quick and it is unbelievable to me that in two weeks I will be on my journey home. Leaving all of these children that I have grown to love and care for will be extremely difficult, especially when they keep telling me to stay! If you don’t already know, I’m a very maternal person and I really feel as if I care for some of these children as if they were my own (especially the small ones).

There is one small girl that came to us about 3 weeks back who is only about 3. She was terribly tortured by her mother and step father. She has wounds all over her body from something like a stick or whip. Her belly is also extremely bloated from malnutrition. The neighbors had reported her to the police and they took her but with nowhere to bring her at first. She slept on the floor of the police station for the first few days they took her away from her family until they asked M-lisaada (who usually takes older children) if they could take her in. After Bosco (the director of M-lisada) went into the station he could not say no. This little girl is so precious and beautiful; when she smiles her entire face lights up. I really do not understand how someone could be so cruel to something so innocent and helpless. She now has adjusted to m-lisada so well! Her face lights up every time someone she is close to walks into her sight. She runs up to them with open arms, giggling all the way. The only sign I see of her past abuse is that when she starts to cry she tends to keep crying for a long time. She also can be very temperamental; if she doesn’t want to be touched and another kid does so, she will hit them away and start to cry. Other than that I’m so impressed by her. Leaving her will be very difficult to do as I feel such a strong connection to her. Here is a few pictures of her:






William is another boy who is younger than most that I also feel a strong connection with. William came to M-lisada the week after I started working there. He was also brought to us by the police after they took him away from the woman who was watching him. Every night this woman would lock William up in a bar that her friend owned and go out to do whatever she pleased. William would stay locked up in the bar alone until the morning. When William first came to us he was very quiet and reserved. But that only lasted for about two weeks until he completely opened up. Now he is a bit crazy (in a good way) but also a little misbehaved. Although, his misbehavior makes a lot of sense because he is growing up entirely around older children who are unsure of how to treat him properly. They also show him a bit of a bad example at times: hitting, kicking, and pushing their friends. However, when William is being good, he is just wonderful and I love him so much. I never know what he is saying to me though because he only knows luganda! Everyone at the center absolutely loves him as well. He is always getting called over to someone to play.

The other day he actually really broke my heart. I had someone helping me interpret but he first called me his mommy, then he told me he wished I would be his mom and that he loved me. It makes me so sad to know that I have to leave this little boy and he is too young to understand why I have to leave. 

I often feel like volunteering at an orphanage is a double edge sword. On one hand it is really good for the kids to be around someone from another culture who shows them a different kind of love and care. But then on the other hand, I feel like I am making them fall in love with me to then just abandon them like almost everyone else has in their lives. They all have HUGE issues with abandonment that I feel as if I am almost hurting them instead of helping sometimes. I know that they really appreciate the time I spend with them and the different things I teach them but is it worth it to break their hearts in the end?? There is no way to go around doing so. I’m abandoning them and that is that. I really do overall know that it is better for them to have had time with someone like me then not to at all, but it still doesn’t stop my awful feelings about what I am about to do to them . 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Pictures

M.L.I.S.A.D.A.'s facebook page! Check it out and show your support :D

Me in some traditional Ugandan wear for an Introduction (similar to an engagement party) 



Some of the kids at MLISADA:







Brass band after a performance at the Ugandan Cranes soccer game


 The girls doing some traditional dancing 

 Boys doing acrobatics 

 Me helping out with the dishes

Funny rasta drummer 

Really interesting local instruments 


M.L.I.S.A.D.A.


Wow. So it’s been a long time since I wrote a blog and so many good things have happened!! I FINALLY got a project that is exactly in line with what I really want to be doing!!!! I’ve now been working at a youth center called M.L.S.A.S.A. created for street children and orphans. They have so many really great programs and activities going on for these kids. They have a few different bands, choir, a cultural dance team, acrobatics, arts and crafts, girls + boys clubs, homework help, and sports. They also have sponsors who help send most of the kids to school. There are only about 8 children who aren’t at school. They house about 80 kids ranging in age from 5 to 16 (with the exception of one boy who is about 2 ½) at the main center and then about 8 young adults at another house they own ranging in age from 16 to about 22. With street children who still have parents their main goal is to rehabilitate them and integrate them back into their homes. For the past month and a half I’ve been spending the mornings with the kids who don’t go to school and giving them a bit of school work so that they are doing something educational. I also have been keeping them busy with different games and art activities. Some of the younger kids come back at 1pm but most of them don’t get out of school until 5pm! So late! And they go to school at 6am! It’s quite excessive in my point of view. Anyhow, when they get back they normally rest a little, play, have band or dance practice, and/or just hang around until 7pm when they start their homework and review. After dinner, which is usually around 8:30pm, they have assembly-like meeting about different things like hygiene, safety, good behavior, and how to be successful. So far I’ve just been doing a lot of one on one work with the kids; showing them love, affection, and proper ways of treating others. The kids are barely supervised most of the time and roughhousing is a HUGE problem. I’m sure verbal roughhousing goes on as well but I don’t know because they prefer to talk to each other in Luganda.  It actually quite overwhelming sometimes because I feel like I’m the only adult that is really trying to get them to stop roughhousing each other. They are also so used to doing so that it feels impossible to change their ways plus not knowing Luganda makes it even harder to get their stories straight sometimes. However, just last week I held a meeting with all the staff about all of the things I have been noticing about how things work there and the things that could really use improvement. So, I’m trying my hardest to guide them on how to properly raise vulnerable children. It’s a bit hard for most of them because they were all street children themselves so they literally are clueless as to what to do. The other things I’m trying to do is come up with some programs to run with the kids to help them out emotionally and with their relationships with people but it’s been proving to be really difficult. I have no training in how to do such programs and trying to figure out which ones to even do is difficult for such a large age range of children. I’ve been doing research on the matter and I’ve found a few things that I’m working on organizing.  

Saturday, 21 April 2012

4/16/12


 I’m going to have to say that being here is by far one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. I really don’t understand how everyone I had talked to before I left that had traveled to Africa before raved about how awesome it is here. I don’t really see it. I mean yes, many places here are beautiful and really I have met some great people but overall this place is a nightmare. I feel like the people I talked to beforehand maybe just saw the surface layer of Africa or something, I don’t know. But many of the people here just literally don’t understand common curtsey, respect, patience, responsibility, non-violence, and really much more. After working in a preschool for the past month or so, I’ve really come to learn why people are the way they are here. It all stems from the way they were treated as children. It is absolutely horrendous how children are treated here are and what their idea of good education is. First off the only reason parents send their children to school here is so that they can learn to speak English and write. So, teachers here solely focus on getting these children to write in English starting from age 2! At the nursery center I’ve been working at (ages 2 to 4) each day consists of the same two lessons. First they go over some numbers and copy them down in their composition books. Children in the baby class just have one big number they are supposed to color in, children in the middle class have to write 1-20, and children in top class have to write 1-30. Or sometimes in middle and top class they have to match the number with an amount, or count how many circles there are and write the number. Almost all of the children, except in top class, need one-on-one help to write and/or guess the numbers properly. So, often times this will take a long time and children are just sitting waiting for help or waiting for the others to finish. (In baby class there are 13 students to 1 teacher, in middle class there are 12 students to 1 teacher, and in top class there are 25 to 1 teacher) Their second lesson of the day is English. Where they go over the alphabet and the sounds and then copy and write letters. The kids in top class get a bit more complicated task sometime in that they have to match words with pictures. Everyday this is what the children do, over and over again. More than half of their time in class is spent waiting around for help and for everyone to finish. Often times the teachers will not have prepared their composition books either, so they will do so while making the children sit quietly at their desks. As you may know, children this young have a very hard time staying still and quiet. The middle class teacher is a bit more lenient and allows the children to play around with each other and get up and move about the classroom a bit until it gets too out of hand. However, the top class teacher (whom I hate) won’t tolerate any of that and forces the children to put keep their heads down on the desk. If they do not do so she gets her stick and beats all of them until they comply. Also if they are not speaking up or doing their work in their composition book correctly she does not hesitate to beat them. I remember one time when a child wrote down a letter incorrectly and brought his book up to her to be checked she slapped him across the face, erased his answer and sent him back to do it again. After he came back with it correct she turned to me and said, “You see you have to beat these kids. Before I beat him he wrote the answer incorrectly, then I beat him and he did it correctly”.
They way the teachers interact with the children is extremely shocking as well. They are so quick to get nasty with these kids. They have such unrealistic expectation of these kids along with no patience. They insist on talking in English most of the time as well, which yes is good to an extent, but the younger kids don’t understand it fully yet and are just confused half of the time. They also get yelled at for silly things as well. For example, I was monitoring the swing with the head teacher and some of the children were looking at the ground while they swung. The head teacher then in her nasty tone yells at them to not look at the ground and look up ahead of them…. What the hell! Why does it matter where they look? I literally think that they just enjoy yelling at children.
The last thing that absolutely drives me crazy is that they completely do not supervise these kids nor do they use any sense of logic. In the beginning of the day, while they are waiting for all the children to arrive, they have all of the children wait in the smallest of the three classrooms barely supervising them. They run around, push, hit, and shove each other to get about the classroom. This classroom is also used for top class which has the greatest amount of students. The kids literally have to climb onto the desks in order to get to their seats. I asked why they didn’t swap classrooms because the middle class classroom is huge. The answer I got was, “Oh well, we realized after we put up all the posters that there were more students in top class. Maybe next term we will switch”. There are about 8 to 10 posters in each classroom!!!! Seriously?!?! They just don’t give a shit about these kids and their safety. When there is break time the kids get to go out and play in the front lawn where there is a slide (which is way too big for kids this age) and this kind of carrousel-like contraption that has a bunch of seats quite high off the ground and spins in a circle. When the children are out playing maybe, just maybe a teacher will stay and supervise. But normally not, they just leave these kids to themselves. They push and shove each other to get up on this slide, some are going down while some are trying to climb up, they spin around in this carrousel extremely too fast while kids are trying to jump on and off while it is going. It drives me insane! Accidents happen all the time and I’m really surprised I haven’t seen anyone break any bones yet. When I attempt to instill order it really doesn’t work too well because first off, they don’t understand me fully and second, they don’t understand how to behave well. These kids are never really taught not to hit, push and shove their friends. They play fight all the time and it often gets out of hand and someone gets hurt. They do not understand the concept of being nice and sharing with their friends. The teachers just stand by and watch all of this happen without a concern. Although, yes sometimes they will punish kids for hitting their friend, but only sometimes which teaches these kids nothing and only just confuses them more!
Often times thinking about the way these kids are brought up brings tears to my eyes. It is just horrendous. Children are supposed to feel safe, loved, and cared for. This is the age where kids should be learning how to behave, please and thank yous, how the world works, and how they fit into it. 

Monday, 16 April 2012

4/9/12


For the Easter weekend we went to help out the other volunteers with an event they organized. At a school that requires no school fees in the second biggest slums in Uganda, they arranged an Easter celebration for the children. There was face painting, dance competitions, a story from the “Easter bunny”, and an egg hunt. Because the school requires no school fees it is extremely basic, so the children were extremely excited to have something special going on and they all had a great time! It was really nice to see.
The next day one of our friends took us to go see some traditional dancing. It was absolutely incredible!! They had dances and music specific to each region in Uganda. Some of the things that these dancers can do is extremely impressive! For one of the dances all then men came out with these huge wooden drums on their heads! They looked so heavy and here they were drumming, signing, and walking around with them all at the same time. Another dance the girls put pot by pot on their heads until there was something like 10 of them on each of their heads!!! All the while they were dancing and shaking their bums but not a single one even looked like they might drop one of them. I can’t imagine how many times they’ve had to practice and how many pots they might have broken in the process! It was truly an amazing experience. 

3/30/12


Today we had one of our Ugandan friends took us to Owino Market which apparently is the biggest market in Eastern Africa. It is absolutely crazy there!!!!!! It is like a huge maze that just keeps on going forever. We really have no idea how big it actually is because the layout is quite confusing. All the Ugandans rave about it because you can find absolutely everything you need there from food to cloths to basic household needs at a very good price. Pretty much all the clothes and shoes are also second hand. They really did have a lot of nice things but I was not a huge fan of being there. Much of the way they sell the clothes and shoes is very difficult to find anything you like. You have to be willing to sit and pick through a huge pile in order to look at what each vender has. Some of them have their cloths hung up on hangers but they don’t have so much room so it is very difficult to see and there are SO many venders! It is also a very very crowded place. People there are very excited to see muzungus (white people) that they are always touching you and calling you over to try and get you to buy from them or even just to talk to them. Also, many times men would be caring heavy sacks on their heads or attached to a bicycle walking at a fast pace down the aisles and they just come through yelling “Move! Move! Move! Get out of the way!!!” in Luganda but not really giving you any time to move. They just kind of shove past you with no care. It is extremely very hectic and I was very glad to be leaving.