Thursday, June 28, 2012

Time to meet the youth! [Project Progress Report]

I’m blogging today to update you on the progress of my development project!  Everything is moving along great and I have been receiving so much positive feedback from everyone back at home.  That really makes what I’m doing feel so much greater, to know that I have people 9,301 miles away supporting my work.

So, this week I finally got to meet the out of school youth that I will be working with! I was nervous at first to meet them because as an outsider I didn’t know how they would respond to me or my idea, because after all it is ultimately up to them if they want to work with me or not.  I learned that 6 of them are Muslim so instead of raising pigs, I will purchase hens for them to keep!  I’m excited for this addition and glad that we are able to accommodate for other religious faiths.

At this meeting I started it by asking the same questions that I asked the community leaders and community facilitators the previous week.  At first they were shy and needed some encouragement to answer these questions, but once their peers started to contribute, the atmosphere opened up and they felt more comfortable.  All in all, the answers they provided about the problems they faced and the reasons why they left school were the same as the answers of the community facilitators.  Reasons being lack of school fee’s, no parents to support them, not enough jobs, and lack of skills. 

When I asked them what current activities they were involved in is when I actually got to hear from their mouths, the life of an out of school child in Uganda.  One boy shared that he fetches water for money and each time he makes 2,000 shillings ($.80) but he doesn’t do it everyday because he can’t always find work.  Another boy said that he cares after other people’s cattle and makes 10,000 shillings ($4.00) a month.  His friend next to him raised his hand and said that he takes after sheep and makes 5,000 shillings ($2.00) a month.  As the interpreter whispered this in my ear I had to hold back my facial expressions of disbelief, but I honestly couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Even in Ugandan currency, making this amount of money is next to nothing. 

I then asked how an income generating activity could assist them and they eagerly raised their hands.  One said that if he is given pigs, he could buy soap, have clean clothes, and even buy sugar!  When he said sugar the group including him laughed.  But when you think about it, this 17-year-old boy was looking forward to buying basic necessities. Nothing extravagant like most 17 year olds we know would have on their wish lists, he just wanted soap, clean clothes, and sugar. Other kids were even thinking farther and BIGGER than I was!  They shared that with the money they were raising; they would use it for vocational school fees or hair dressing lessons.  This income generating activity can give them a foundation for their future careers!  When I heard that I felt so happy and proud. 1 – because they were reaching far beyond a piggery and 2 – because they dreamed up ideas that I hadn’t even thought of!

Today we had another meeting where an agriculturist and farming expert from Kitovu Mobile came in and taught the kids about basic piggery and chicken rearing.  The youth were eagerly taking notes, asking questions, and engaging with the instructor during the whole lesson.  Even Professor Moreno was in attendance all the way from San Francisco! I was glad he was able to sit in and see what I was doing here in Uganda.  After the session he told me that even though he was raised in the countryside in El Salvador with many pigs, he learned more today than he had growing up.  The youth were happy to see him and cheered for him many times, even asked him when he planned on coming back to the motherland!

Tomorrow I will meet with them again for another training session and will distribute nails for them to use when building their pigsties.  They will provide all other materials needed to build the pigsty's and all materials can be found locally at very low costs, they can even find some materials in their own back yards!   This cost sharing gives them the opportunity to contribute to the project to create mutual ownership and pride in their new endeavor. 

This week has been great and again I couldn’t have done it with out the support of people back home!  You guys give me extra motivation everyday and I’m always sure to remind the youth that they have people back in the US rooting for their success.

Special shout outs to:
Professor Griffis
Professor Huxley
Robbyn Ayala
Lara Sidhu
Jessica Lovingood 
Melissa Barnett 
Camille Watts 
Lyndon Regalado
Manuela Vasconcelos 
My Mom
And Nicole Keenan who is SO freaking amazing and left me speechless!!

They helped me raise 465!!

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