Water Aid


Over the past two weeks I have written about my travels in East Africa last year and what poverty in Africa is really like and shared the views of folk I work with on the ground. In the last thread I wrote about the folk in Ruhanga  and the search for clean water

Leaving Ruhanga behind I headed to Kampala the capital city of Uganda and I reflected on a statistic, I had read in that days’ paper

it said “the gap between the rich and the poor has widened in Uganda and life expectancy has dropped to 43 due to HIV and AIDS

If that is the case where is the country headed I wondered and being 43 myself (at the time) that means I am considered very old here whilst the UK where I live  I potentially have another 30 or 40 years of life ahead of me!

Once in Kampala I called in on the Mbuya Charity who are based in the slums of Kampala and support women affected by HIV and AIDS.

Mbuya is a suburb of Kampala and on the face of it is pretty affluent, it is home to some in the expat community, local celebrities as well the rich of Uganda. But dig deep and you come across appalling slums especially with an area referred to as zone 6.

The Chair person of Mbuya charity Jolly Wako lives in zone 7 this too has pockets of slums especially where Jolly lives incredibly her house borders a trendy bar is separated by a fence ironically called Zone 7, this bar belongs to a local celebrity and his brothers.

Jolly’s husband died in a motor accident and she has had to bring up their children single handily and against all odds  2 have made it to University and she expects the third to follow suit.

I came across this charity through an online registry calling itself Uganda Women’s network. As it was not possible for me to visit in person a company representative went to check them out and reassured me that this is a group that we could work with

I am therefore here to meet the group for the very first time and learn about their work, hopes and fears, successes and challenges. When arrive Jolly is at home alone and explains that this being a Wednesday it is a day for outreach work and as such most of the women are out in the field.

Jolly in Blue with a straw mat weaver

Jolly in Blue with a straw mat weaver

I ask what is involved in the outreach work.

Jolly: most of the 120 women are HIV positive and are on medication as well as receiving counselling. The out reach workers ensure that the women take their medication correctly,  are well fed as well as encouraging slum dwellers to go for HIV tests.

The group aims are to encourage peer support especially as regards to income generating activities. Jolly informs me that they have no support from anyone.

I ask her what sort of support/help the group is looking for?

Jolly: our biggest challenge is lack of counselling skills! Most of the women we work with need a trained counsellor to help them come to terms with their diagnosis. We do our best but we are hardly qualified for the task at hand. It would be great if we could access such training so that we can do the much needed work.

We are grateful to our friends who are helping us access external markets with our handcrafts and beads. Are aware that as soon as people realised that we were making beads suing old calendars and magazines they started selling them to us?
No I wasn’t aware I was surprised but realised too how naïve I was. Of course old calendars and magazines are raw materials for Jolly and her group who require them in their business in order to produce beads for sale and quite rightly those that have this raw material would sale it to them as this is income for them too. This got me thinking about all the magazines and old calendars that are thrown away in the UK perhaps a subject for another article

Before I left Jolly, I put in a call to a contact of mine at the Saatchi and Saatchi branch of Kampala who agreed to give Jolly and her group the free paper they need for the beads.

He was surprised when I told him where I was calling from the owner of the trendy bar next door is his best friend but he had no knowledge of the poverty beyond the perimeter wall!

housing poverty Mbuya zone 6 Uganda

housing poverty Mbuya zone 6 Uganda

The contrast between the homes of the poor and the rich here is astounding. The rich people’s homes are set in large grounds with perimeter walls along with large dogs to keep the undesirables out. over the fence are rusty tin houses with no running water or inside toilets, the people in these slums share a  communal latrine, (the two door shed in the above picture)  children run around with shoes on their feet these are the very people that clean and scrub the homes of the rich they  are grateful to have such work as it brings in a much needed income and they are fed

better housing beyond the perimeter wall

better housing beyond the perimeter wall

It is hard not to be overwhelmed by some of the things I see during the course of my work, but my visit to this Ugandan Charity pulled a few heart strings. As an individual there is very little I can do to change these women’s circumstnaces. What they asking for is simply someone to shae skills with them  is that too much?

If you would like to help Jolly and the Mbuya charity please get in touch. If you have views or thoughts you would like to share regarding any of the issues raised here, it will be a pleasure to here from you

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Last week I wrote about my visit to Dar es Salaam  Tanzania and conversations I had with Omari from the Investment Facility for Africa, as well as Ethnic Supplies textile producersFlotea and Elihaika. In this post I will present the points of view from folk in Uganda

I was in a contemplative mood as I left Tanzania for Uganda and tried to take in the conversations I had, had with Omari, Flotea and Elihaika. They all appeared to agree that change is necessary in order for circumstances of the desperately poor in Tanzania and indeed elsewhere in Africa to change to change.

What was interesting to note was that all three are doing there bit to end poverty be it from a different angle/approach but more so that this change or ending poverty was not necessarily about money, instead that the environment in which business is transacted needs to change, skill shortages, property rights for women need to be addressed and that access to international trade is vital in the fight against poverty.

In Uganda I headed to our project in Ruhanga in SW Uganda, where the community is in dire need of access to clean water. Currently the women and children walk for up to three hours just to access clean water. The water they have access to is disease causing, the children and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk. After the women collect the water they return to the bottom of the valley to collect firewood to boil the water on an open fire to rid it of disease causing germs.

This routine leaves no time for any thing else and time for income generating activities is certainly reduced. What tends to happen is that the women often fore go the boiling of the water step because of exhaustion and consequently this leads to illness which means they can’t go out to work! Catch 22! This water is especially dangerous for the young, elderly and those with compromised immune systems and ultimately ahs implications for healthcare budgets.

It may not be easy to associate the lack of clean water to poverty but there is a real and clear link, water is an essential part of life and therefore like us folk here cannot do without. What compounds the situation in this village in particular, 9 out of 10 households have no access to electricity, this means that most chores have to be completed during day light. This means that women for instance cannot do their embroidery or basket weaving in the evening which are some of the income generating activities that they are able to participate in.

One man in this village is doing his very best to change the fortunes of his village. He was given some land by his father and he decided to put this land to some good use. As the village is on the main road to Rwanda and DR Congo he decided that he would make all these people passing through his village stop and spend some money in his village. He embarked on a project that has become known as Uganda Lodge http://www.ugandalodge.com/ . He soon run out money to make his dream a reality but as luck would have it he bumped into an English woman Ann McCarthy who was on holiday in Uganda, Ann was so taken in by this part of Uganda that 5 years on she has made this project a way of life.

Ann came across me, when she read an article about my work in the same part of Uganda and we have since registered a charity LET THEM HELP THEMSELVES OUT OF POVERTY so that we can raise some money to bring clean water to the people of Ruhanga. We have not achieved this yet, and if you are able to help us please get in touch.

What has been achieved, so far, is that this village was virtually unknown to the outside world, but today thanks to Ann’s efforts, Ruhanga is a place for people in the west to visit and share their skills with the local community, these visitors have been able to help out in local schools, work on the construction site and as a result there is a space for village people to learn about computers as well as sewing machines for women to use.

There is a nursery school that has enabled children from the village to start school before age 7 as was the case before. the challenge now is to get more people from the west to come in and experience life in atypical African village, but also learn about what can be achieved through joint efforts that are not necessarily about charity but rather HELPING PEOPLE HELP THEMSELVES OUT OF POVERTY

Will you take up the challenge? We would love  to hear from you and I can guarantee that this would be the most fulfilling holiday you will ever take!

In the post  head to Kampala the capital of Uganda where I visited a slum right in the middle the richest part of the city.