Today is my last day in Uganda and I have made a full circle and am sitting right where I began 7 weeks ago at Green Valley in Entebbe, waiting for my red eye to depart. Today I walked through the market, drank a Stoney, ate a rolex and had my last conversations with Boda drivers – all things about this beautiful country that I will miss very much. I am on my way back to Canada to stand up with my best friend on her wedding, but I am leaving a place and a project that has become very dear to me, so currently my feelings are a mixture of excitement and sadness. This is also the first time I have been without at least one of my travel companions, and I sort of feel like I am doing everything with my left hand – I sure will miss our little family! But before I get too sentimental, I would like to recap some very good days we had last week on the Project.
The day after our goat pass out we made our way back to the FAOC demonstration farm and conducted paravet refresher training. We had 14 of our current paravets attend the training and we discussed some of the issues they are facing such as dealing with not getting paid and not being respected in their communities.
After our initial discussions we made sure everyone was on the same page regarding payment and then revised the price list
The most exciting part of the meeting was when we gave out bags of colostrum donated by Saskatoon Colostrum (www.saskatooncolostrum.com), a company founded by Dr. Debbie Hanes who is also a professor at WCVM. The women were very interested in the product and we spent about an hour answering their questions and explaining how, why and when to use it. We would like to say a big thank you to the staff at Saskatoon Colostrum for their generous donation and to Katie Nicol for carting it all the way from Saskatoon!
When the colostrum bags came out, many women put on glasses and took out notebooks. We were encouraged to see their eagerness to learn and impressed by all the questions they asked.
This is Margaret, a paravet and chairperson for the Akatete group. She is also my self-proclaimed mother-in-law since she has decided I should marry her son.
So once the paravets had left with their colostrum we were free for the evening, which was lucky since we had to celebrate the birthday of my a special Ms. Dedden. We went out to a local hotel for supper and afterwards, while watching the Confederation Cup semi final soccer match between Uruguay and Brazil (yes, I just had to Google the tournament name); we met 2 veterinarians from Brazil who had been working with dairy cattle. The evening flew by since the Brazilians were in a very good mood at the end of the game and everyone was happy to “talk shop” for a while.
Awkward family photo number 2
The next morning we prepared for community training and headed out to Kabelebele, the main village in the district we work in, to spend the night with our good friend and translator Shafiq. He and his mother have a lovely house and they were excellent hosts, with our only complaint being that we could not even come close to eating as much as Shafiq’s mom expected.
Here is the kitchen where our many large meals were prepared, one of which was a beef stew made with the typical stewing beef, plus rumen and intestine – it was a first taste for everyone and, as usual, Elad did the best at cleaning his plate.
We DID manage to finish one meal, but only because we strongly suggested that we did not need to have any matooke to go with our rice and beans.
On Friday afternoon we held a training session where we invited the communities within walking distance of the FAOC demonstration farm to come learn more about goat production. We also encouraged the paravets to attend the training and called on them to give their perspective on each of our main points while we presented “the seven steps of raising a healthy goat”.
About 60 beneficiaries and 6 paravets attended the training. We hope to hold another training day for the more distant communities later in the summer.
We hope that having the paravets teach will help build respect in their communities and give them confidence to continue this type of training with individual beneficiaries after we leave.
The night ended at the FAOC office rather ironically with a goat barbeque. To quote Elad, “we treat ‘em, then we eat ‘em”. We celebrated the successful Day of the African child, Ilse’s birthday and the end of my time in Mbarara with food and some dancing. The FAOC staff sang and used water bottles as drums and showed us some “dancing strokes”, and, naturally, we got Cadillac Ranch playing on Youtube and showed them how to line dance.
I had planned to leave Mbarara early on Saturday morning to start the long trek home, but typical of African “planning”, we ended up on another adventure. One of the paravet’s baby girls was sick, and needed our help to get a referral letter so she could go to a hospital in Mbarara. We travelled to the farthest community in the Isingiro district to find a very understaffed health center. Being Muzungus, we were immediately allowed to see the doctor who quickly wrote the letter we required, but it was a hard moment to walk by a line of a many women and children waiting, in order to get better care for just one. However, we were very happy to see the little girl and her parents to a hospital where she was admitted right away and started to receive the care she needs.
My last Ugandan activity was to travel north to Mukono to find the Kibooba Village Memorial Orphanage Care Center where students from Global Vets spent a week last summer. My mission was to deliver their gift of a digital camera and see how the orphanage was fairing. I met with the headmaster and it seems the school has many funding challenges and cannot afford scholastic materials or teacher’s salaries. Their goal is to provide education for the many orphans in the area, but it is difficult to obtain school fees from such children who often have very little financial support from their caregivers.
These teachers at Kibooba teach about 93 students
Last year, the Global Vets students helped construct a building for chickens and provided them with chicks, but unfortunately all the birds died before they could start generating income. The orphanage would like to start raising chickens again, but lacks the capital for the initial investment.
I did, however, find one very cute resident in the chicken barn.
The orphanage also owns 2 cows and 3 pigs and gets some income from them, so I suggested they could use some funds to begin buying some laying hens.
I hope that next year, students from global vets can return to the orphanage to support these people since they have great potential for success, but face many challenges.
So overall it was a busy week but I think it was the most rewarding time I spent in Uganda since we were able to spend a lot of time in the communities and accomplished many of our summer goals. I thought I would leave with a picture of the 5 of us in the back of a car. It is a bit blurry, but just so typical of our experience here- not always the most comfortable, but look how big our smiles are!