Saturday, January 29, 2011

Back at site

Equipped with more knowledge about organizational/project planning and development from Peace Corps, in-service training and great memories and laughs with other PCV's from rafting the Nile, I returned to site on Tuesday burnt to a crisp. Training was far better than I expected it to be. It was refreshing to see 44 other familiar faces, some of whom I haven't seen for three months. Amazingly, my training group still has a 100% retention rate, setting a Peace Corps record for training groups in Uganda. Ted, our PC Country Director, informed us that no group, to his knowledge, has ever had a 100% rentention rate for the duration of the full two years. I really think our group has the potential to be the first! The new group of PCV's arrive in Uganda on February 11th.

As of writing this blog post, I am meeting with my supervisor and counterpart on Monday to outline and develop a workplan. Along with my supervisor, I will be leading Life Skills sessions in the nearby primary and secondary schools in Kachumbala every week. Life Skills is "a comprehensive, behavior change approach that concentrates on the development of the skills needed for life" (communication, decision-making, thinking, managing emotions, assertiveness, self-esteem building, resisting peer pressure, and relationship skills). Instead of merely going into classrooms and teaching Life Skills to youth, I am thinking of creating an afterschool, Life Skills club. To make the project sustainable, my supervisor and I will first train the schools' teachers in Life Skills so that 'they' can teach it to their students. Ultimately, the goal is for Life Skills to be a long-standing program taught regularly in the academic curriculumm long after I leave. I still hope to teach English and grammar/editing/writing in the schools as a secondary project.

My other major project in the foreseeable future is to help Kachumbala Mission Dispensary with organizational development. I recently found out that my organization had no documented budget for 2010, and currently no projected budget for 2011 (record-keeping is poor in Uganda). As an organization, we can't even begin to fundraise (to donors) for potential projects until we have a projected 2011 budget that stipulates where/how much money is coming in monthly, our projected expenses, and where we will spend our money (staff pay, drugs, medical supplies, building maintainance, etc). Second, due to poor staff retention at the health clinic, I hope to create an incentive plan for the workers. The best way to do this is to simply talk to them (about their needs/wants/issues). Finances aside, what would make their work more enjoyable? A fellow PCV came up with the good idea of introducing an 'employee of the month' contest/program to increase staff motivation. Any other ideas?

In other news:

Presidential elections in Uganda are in three weeks (February 18th). All PCV's are on standfast starting Feb. 11, meaning that we have to remain within the vicinity of our sites. For good reason, we are not allowed in Kampala.

I am looking forward to watching (yes!) the Super Bowl in Iganga, if only a day late. Go Pack.

I am amused when I hear just how much the East Coast is getting plummeted with snow. The dry, 70-degree Ugandan weather could not be more different right about now.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My bad...

Peace Corps service is all about embracing new experiences. Here is a running list of the bad (new) experiences, some from my owndoing, that have challenged me, deflated my spirits, and utterly grossed me out. Upon the conclusion of my Peace Corps service (October 2012), I can look back on them all and laugh. Nothing else can provide me with such fascinating, challenging, self-reflecting experiences as the Peace Corps.

1. I dropped my cell phone in a 10 ft. pit latrine. I had hopes of digging it out through whatever means possible. However, this was not meant to be. To the best of my knowledge, the light on my cell phone is still shining bright in the pit.

2. While visiting Sipi Falls near Mbale with other PCV's, I dropped my camera in, well, Sipi Falls. Luckily, my stupidity did not fry my camera. Unluckily, I had to pay $60,000 Ugandan schillings to fix it.

3. My Mac computer got stolen on a bus traveling from Kampala to Mbale. The thief snatched the computer from my pack. I was not aware that it was stolen until I arrived back at site. Mbale police were notified, but I'm 99% certain my computer is long gone. Thanks to my parents, I bought a new computer in Kampala, switching to HP and back to PC.

4. Due to the Ugandan diet/lack of variety, I had nausea and vomiting for a week. It was not a pleasant experience.

5. Last week, I got 3 mango flies on my left leg. A mango fly that had landed on my clothes laid 3 eggs on one pair of pants, attaching and entering my skin (once worn). The eggs/maggots were eventually extracted from my leg. This also was not a pleasant experience.

6. Three weeks ago, I got Nairobi Eye on my left eye. I was bitten by a beetle ant on my eye while I was sleeping. A day later, my left eye had extreme sunburn, skin irritation, and roughened/pasted skin. Until my eye was fully healed, Ugandan children were utterly terrified of me. "Ahh, look at the mzungu..."

In spite of all these experiences, I still have a very positive outlook on why I am here, my reasons for joining the Peace Corps, and the potential for great work at site in the upcoming 20 months. I cannot wait to see what the future holds. Bring on the mango flies!!!