Archive for February 28th, 2012

Last year in October, I was privileged to coordinate the intercultural visit of 10 Dutch women (as they preferred to be called so) who came to Uganda to interact with fellow women  in Lwangosia, Namayingo District. Offcourse this came with its own challenges of  hosting big number of ‘Bazungu’ white people  in a typical village setting with no electricity, no running water and no proper accommodation  which called for serious preparations  to make sure that the visitors  feel at home and comfortable.    To the hosts in Namayingo, there was a lot of excitement, anxiety and high expectations from the Bazungu because this was their first time to host them. them. We held a lot of planning meetings to come up with interesting activities and site visits which included visiting the widows and orphans, schools, health centres and prisons in Namayingo district and Sigulu Islands in Lake Victoria. The first visit was to the widows in Bukhemba village which is 45 minutes drive from the place where we were staying.

As part of the gifts to the widows, each widow was given a matress and a blanket. We left when they were all smiling and the fact that a “muzungu” visited their homes was good enough to give them joy and happiness and restored their hope that someone out there is concerned about  their plight.

The visit to the Islands on Lake Victoria

Arrival in Sigulu Islands

Another exciting and almost tragic trip was the journey to Sigulu Islands. We left Lwangosia in the morning at 10:00am looking forward to a boat ride to the islands. To me , I thought we were going to use a modern boat. To my surprise, when we reached at the landing site which is about 30 minutes drive from Lwangosia I asked Rev Simon Peter Ongango who had arranged for the boat that where is the boat, he pointed at a wooden canoe boat, my heart jumped but I kept quiet since every body seemed comfortable with it including the Dutch women.  At the site, we managed to get 9 life jackets for a group of over 20 people and we were not bothered with them.

We set  off  for Sigulu at around 11:00am and the journey was so smooth and within an hour or less, we were  already in Sigulu. We were received well by the local leaders  and the natives there who were also excited to see the Bazungu and their expectation too were very high. The chairman LC1 gave a speech where he mentioned  problems  faced by the islanders  which was mainly lack of services like health, education and high prevalence of HIV and AIDs as well as  violence against women.

In sigulu, they  wanted us to visit a  widow  who was  a few kilometers  away from the centre where we were received and this  was not on the original plan. At the same time we were warned that we have to leave the Islands well in time because in the evening the lake gets rough.

As a leader and Coordinator of the group, I had to take a decision and we concluded our journey without visiting the widow because it was not in our original plan. We set off from Sigulu at around 3;00pm. We had carried some snacks which we ate on our way back. After we  had moved for  over 45 minutes just  in the middle of the journey on the lake, the boat engine went silent. At first the boat owners  tried to  re-start  it and  it failed. We thought it was just a temporal problem only to find out that the engine failed completely.

All of a sudden the boat started swinging from one position to another and it started moving on the free flow of the waves. Our hearts jumped. Remember we did not have life jackets and  we were right in the middle of the lake. I knew I was going to meet my creator there and then. Everybody on the boat trembled. I could see fear in the eyes of the Dutch women. This was my first greatest scare I have ever encountered in  life.Fear swallowed me and I immediately I started thinking about my eight months baby and my two year old son and how life will be without my presence.

We were stuck on the lake for an hour. Thanks to the advances in new ICTs especially the mobile phone communication. Amidst this crisis, we were able to make telephone calls to the owner of the boat and a rescue boat was sent with another engine which was fixed and that’s how we managed to get out of the lake. Otherwise we would have made the news for the day with the Dutch women on board.

After we had reached Lwangosia, many questions kept coming in my mind; what If we had left Sigulu Island late in the evening and we were stuck in the lake at night? What if there was no mobile telephone communication, what were we going to do? How many people die on the lake die in the same circumstances like we have been in? Only God Knows.

Our next  field trip visit was in Lubango primary school, a place known to have crocodile  orphans and widows and a hard  to reach area with  poor road network.  We had to walk  for  three kilometres or more because the car could not reach the school where we were going. In Lubango we were warmly received by the Mothers Union and the school administration. Mothers union  taught the visitors how  who to make mats out of papyrus  and beads out of paper. The Dutch women carried small gifts which included scholastic materials and mattresses and blankets for the widows.

Prisoners sitting outside the cell

The last visit was the Uganda Prisons, Namayingo where we found horrible conditions of prisoners. There was one small cell that accommodated over 20 male inmates and it was filthy. When we asked about women’s section were shown another tiny room which formerly a kitchen and it had no inmates and we were told that there was no female inamtes by the time we visited

All in all the change visit was very exciting and at the same time a shock and an eye opener to the Dutch women as most of them could not imagine how people manage to  survive especially such conditions especially the widows, orphans and prisoners.

Nevertheless, they appreciated the beauty of our country and the climate  and urged the Ugandan women to work hard and utilise the resources that God gave us. We hope this relationship will be maintained and  we hope to see more visits and collaboration.

Jesca at the widows’ home in Lubango

Two of the widows we met in Lubango

Orphans we met the the widows’ home

Below are a few shots from the visit

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