19 October Fort Portal Road en route from Kampala to Kibale Forest, Kyaninga Lodge
A new day. Two showers later. Traveling on Saturday morning, so the typical traffic and congestion is absent. Brick and mud buildings line the paved road – some are quiet and seemingly vacant, others have doors open with young children playing or old men sitting or women and babies selling fruits and vegetables. Often single middle aged women carrying their wares atop their heads or babies on their backs walk along the road, as do families carrying jerry cans. Groups of children with sticks and tires in hand are clearly out for a good time. As our guide David just added when asked, the omnipresent yellow jerry cans most often are used to carry water from a source to the home, but are also used to transport milk, paraffin, gasoline.
Large swaths of green hilly land appear, populated by mango, papaya, cassava, Egyptian papyrus, avocado, Eucalyptus trees (used in construction or to make fences).
Yesterday, Dr. Robert Kalyesubula, the founder of ACCESS (African Community Center for Social Sustainability) met us at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, after we spent the morning in the craft markets with Esther and Jamillah.
Esther was in her element, as this is her livelihood and it was lesson to listen and watch her negotiate and manage as we looked, assessed, identified and ultimately purchased straw bowls, paper jewelry, soap stone small plates, batik aprons and pillow cases, coconut purses, bone earrings and a few necklaces for Clover craft sales. We saw the babies being nursed, the toddlers playing with wears, the school age children not in school because their mothers cannot afford it.
Later on Friday, we finally arrived in Nakaseke, along Kiuwero Road, after what was clearly a longer ride than we expected, although I had the honor and joy of somehow sitting in the jump seat in the back of the jeep with Dr. Robert, himself. Robert’s wife Esther Loy drove, with Peter in the passenger seat, Rachel (journalist) and Gloria (photographer) from the newspaper The Daily Monitor. Bumping up and down, we talked about Access and Clover, and the importance of growing vertically to have and show impact as well as the problems of growing horizontally before you achieve this impact, and we touched upon the disappointments and challenges that seem to be a part of the fabric of doing this work.
Dr. James Ssewanyana director of ACCESS and Dr. Robert kindly led us on a tour of their campus, served us lunch in what will be a full fledged nursing school in Nakaseke within a year, and took us into their clinic that serves the village, as well as to Nakaseka Hospital. We also had were introduced to a community health worker trained by ACCESS and visited with 2 families living in the village.
I thought I had an understanding of the poverty I would see upon coming to Uganda to do Clover's work. I had read, spoken to others, seen photos. With each direct encounter, however, the stain of injustice and inequity grows larger and deeper. As humans, particularly many who have accessed the compassion and joy within, no one, should want for food in their bellies, a safe place to sleep, an education to reach the potential within them and a place to have help when sick.
We returned from Nakaseke to Kampala as the night took over, jostled incessantly for hours upon hours along the dirt and dusty, rutted road, with speed bumps the size of what seemed to be 3’ fences. It was Friday evening and the streets filled with masses of people, families, cars, motorcycles and bicycles. That night's sleep wasn't.
21 October Will return when I can as the past two days in Kibale Forest, at Lake Kyaninga, and in bush of Queen Elizabeth National Park have have revealed the pearl of what we understand to be Uganda.