Rachael’s volunteering (Part 7 of 7): The Countdown

Hi All

Hope everyone is well? The countdown to leaving Patongo is starting now – I am finishing work in 6 weeks time and will be home in London in 7 weeks. Michele, the Italian lawyer who has been working on the “Justice 4 Children” national project, is leaving on Saturday, and Alex the engineer is leaving in 3 weeks time on completion of the construction of our new centre – it’s starting to feel very strange!

We had a leaving BBQ for Michele last Sunday evening with roast pig, and nice food made with ingredients shipped in from Lira. In true Ugandan style there were a few small issues on the way but it was fun.

As there is no refrigeration, the pig had to be killed that morning but went missing in the town and it took a while before it was tracked down by its owner. Grace, the wonderful lady who owns the restaurant where we eat all our meals, did all the shopping, but got stuck in Lira for an extra day as the truck she was travelling on got stuck in the marram as the road conditions are even worse than usual following the rainy season!

So the 4pm start became an 8pm start but that’s not really too bad for Uganda (where every event seems to start at least 3 hours later than scheduled!). Afterwards we went to watch England lose to Italy which was painful to watch (even more so since the match finished at 12.30am).

I returned “home” to Kurnget to find 4 soldiers (one with a machine gun) and a tied up prisoner sleeping right outside my door on my verandah. Because I was quite shocked, I just stepped over them but had to get up at 4.30am and go outside in my PJ’s and tell them to stop talking so I could sleep. Was very tired the next day!

I’m continuing to have mixed feelings about Patongo/North Uganda. I felt a bit depressed this week to hear that the local health centre is treating patients under lanterns, even though we’ve had continuous power in the town for a week now. They’re using lanterns because it seems that no one is paying the electricity.

It was also difficult to read in “New Vision” (the main English language national newspaper), that 50 young teenage girls in just 4 schools became pregnant this term alone, in a single sub-county in the Lamwo District.

The only positive thing about the article is that the story was considered shocking enough to make the headlines (although New Vision really marketed to the more affluent Ugandans). Sooo much work to do in this part of Uganda.

On a more positive note, the youth centre continues to provide valuable support to the local community. Last week they were looking at child negligence cases (mother dies; father remarries and abandons children); an abduction case; providing training to try and reduce stigma around HIV/AIDS and dealing with individual cases of depression and land wrangles, (a huge issue here as post war folks go home to their land after years in IDP camps and find that others have occupied the land. It’s also a problem where parents die and the children are supposed to inherit the land but neighbours try to seize it).

We’re also planning a big training event in July to educate Elders in the town. They’re important members of the community who know the history of land ownership, legal aspects of land wrangle cases to try and reduce police involvement and protracted proceedings as the process can be dealt with more quickly and efficiently if handled by the Elders.

For Saturday we’ve also been planning a strategy day to review our organisational objectives and activities for the next year or so. There will be 7 of us working on this – David the director, his wife Agnes who is the psychosocial manager, Godfrey and Jeneth the 2 counsellors, Joseph the IGA trainer, Emily the accountant and me.  I’ve been doing some prep to try and make the day as productive as possible and hoping we can at least get a draft of the first P4C Strategy.  Fingers crossed!

I’ve included a few photos of Patongo above –enjoy!

PS. Thank you so much to everyone who has already donated money to the youth centre. If anyone else would like to donate, please visit www.justgiving.com/patongo-youth-centre. Even small amounts go a long way and are very much appreciated!

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